Housing is one of our greatest infrastructure challenges. It is widely recognised that the UK is going to need to build 300,000 new homes every year for the foreseeable future to address the housing crisis.
Planning and investment in sustainable transport will be key to unlocking the benefits of housing investment. Previous research for the Transport Knowledge Hub has demonstrated that new developments in urban centres well connected by public transport can stimulate 50% more economic growth than similar developments located at the fringe.
There are, however, some major barriers to integrating sustainable transport within new housing developments. For example, the planning and delivery for local public transport and new housing too often operate in silos. Moreover, a fragmented, short-term funding regime prevents Local Areas from planning strategically.
A report by KPMG for the Transport Knowledge Hub, Integrating the planning and delivery of sustainable transport with new housing development,* sets out potential reforms to the current system that would support central and local government, transport operators and private developers to achieve better integration. There are three main themes to these proposals:
The first is the need for a clear commitment from Government to promote sustainable transport as a means of realising the economic, social and environmental benefits of new housing, as well as acting as an enabler of economic growth in its own right.
A joined-up approach to housing and transport is required, encouraging the development of higher density housing in locations that are, or could be, well served by high-capacity sustainable transport such as rail and bus.
The forthcoming National Planning Policy Guidance should clarify expectations for sustainable transport provision with new development, and should provide Local Authorities with the necessary backing to put policy into practice.
The potential benefits of integrated sustainable transport and housing development should be considered at the earliest stage in the plan-making process and appraised holistically in terms of their economic, social and environmental impacts when determining value for money.
Second, Local Areas should be enabled to invest and plan for local transport and housing on a more strategic basis.
The report proposes consolidating the current capital and revenue funding for local transport and complementary policy areas, such as development-related grant funding, into a longer-term, devolved budget to Local Areas. In parallel, Local Areas would be able to develop spatial plans that integrate planning for transport, housing and employment and where appropriate, these could be developed by Local Areas over a single economic area.
These reforms would provide significant benefits compared to the current funding and planning systems. Local Areas would be able to more effectively prioritise investment according to their strategic priorities and better align public and private funding.
Third, as a result of the proposed reforms, we would see practical improvements in the design and delivery of sustainable transport solutions to local communities.
Local Areas and transport providers could work collaboratively to deliver innovative and cost-effective sustainable transport solutions for new housing, such as digitalisation of information and payment systems, and new forms of demand responsive transport. The ability for Local Areas to pursue more innovative funding or pump-priming of private sector solutions would be further strengthened by having devolved budgets.
Local Areas could engage more closely with transport providers at the design stages of new developments. As a result, sustainable transport provision could be designed-in from the outset in order to support the introduction of public transport services.
*The recommendations will be discussed at a TKH parliamentary event on 14th May. If you are interested in attending please RSVP to [email protected] or call 020 7592 9490 if you would like further information.