Policy I3: Sustainable transport for new developments

GBC Policy

Policy I3: Sustainable transport for new developments

We will expect that new developments will contribute to the delivery of an integrated, accessible and safe transport system, balanced in favour of sustainable transport modes, to facilitate sustainable development. 

We will expect new development to: 

  • provide high-quality, safe and direct routes within permeable layouts that strengthen, facilitate and encourage short distance trips by walking and cycling 
  • provide secure, accessible and convenient cycle parking 
  • protect, enhance and improve existing cycle and walking routes, to ensure the effectiveness and amenity of these routes 
  • secure appropriate improvements to public and community transport, including infrastructure and park and ride requirements 
  • provide off-street vehicle parking for both residential and non-residential developments at a level which reduces the likelihood of overspill parking on the public highway where there is a clear and compelling justification that it is necessary to manage the Local Road Network 
  • within areas of on-street parking stress, as identified by the Vehicle Parking Supplementary Planning Document, planning permission for residential developments resulting in a net increase in housing will be subject to a planning obligation to require that future occupants will not be eligible for on- street residents parking permits 
  • provide a Travel Plans where significant amounts of movement are generated 
  • facilitate the use of ultra low emission vehicles 
  • provide for the needs of people with disabilities by all modes of transport, wherever possible, and 
  • contribute to the delivery of the route of the proposed Sustainable Movement Corridor in the town of Guildford where appropriate. 

We will expect new developments to demonstrate adequate provision to mitigate the likely impacts, including cumulative impacts, of the proposal on both the safe operation and the performance of the Local Road Network and Strategic Road Network. This provision should include the mitigation of environmental impacts, such as noise and pollution, and impact on amenity and health. This will be achieved through direct improvements and/or Section 106 contributions and/or the Community Infrastructure Levy (CIL), to address impacts in the wider area including across the borough boundary. 

We will expect all applications for development that generate significant amounts of movement to be supported by a Transport Statement or Transport Assessment in accordance with the thresholds set out in the Council’s Local Validation List.

GGG Response

Summary

We support the concept and aim but OBJECT on the grounds that the practicalities of sustainable transport have not been properly considered, it is not sustainable to build dormitory towns and call them sustainable. Not everyone can cycle all the time.

How can large developments outside the town centre maximise sustainable travel? This is a matter for the planning process - the further from the town centre, the less sustainable the development will be.

Reliance on cycling discriminates against vulnerable members of the community.  How can the disabled, those with small children, or the very old, or the infirm, or those who are ill, cycle outside the town in order to commute, or even inside the town? Only some people cycle – and Guildford has some steep hills, especially going out of town.  Park and rides are slow – how can those with a 3 hour commute add 1 hour to their journey from using park and rides?

The only sustainable mechanism for new developments is to have them in the town centre close to the railway and the main shopping links where a hoppa bus can provide satisfactory links for those who cannot walk or cycle.

While we welcome the intention to encourage rail travel by adding two new stations there could be unintended consequences.

Detailed response:

Once again we see the word “expect” used which means the policy has no teeth.   The word “expect” must be replaced with the word “require” so that this policy is enforceable.

There are a number of problems with this policy.

Congestion is a widely recognised factor in the local area of Guildford, and this is a major factor in the public response to the proposed housing numbers, which represents more than a  25%  increase in housing numbers in a borough that is already profoundly congested.  [Source: SHMA p61: itself sourced from ONS for 2013.] Residents recognise that to increase the population by this level within the existing transport provision is not feasible, and this informs much of the public response to the proposed level of housing accommodation.

It is not clear that this recognition, which is widespread through the borough, is shared by those who have drafted the Local Plan. 

Guildford is a commuter town, which (compared to London) offers better quality of life and lower house prices, so it will continue to be a commuter town for the foreseeable future. As a result, access to the stations for commuting is of significance. It is not realistic to assume that traffic to stations for commuters can be replaced either by bus services (slow, intermittent, expensive, and in many cases absent completely) or by cycle.  There is a capacity issue of car parking at the station, which effectively creates an absolute constraint on the feasibility of commuting from Guildford.

Cycling is attractive, and, for the urban young, especially students, it is both practical and cheap, and can be quick. However, as noted, those en route to work cannot be assumed to be able to cycle in working clothes. Elderly members of the community, those transporting small children, and the disabled cannot participate in cycling except to a limited extent. Effectively the "average" person deemed to be capable of cycling to substitute for car trips is an able-bodied adult not travelling to somewhere where smart clothing is required, not needing to arrive clean (or with showering facilities on arrival, not provided by all employers); this is not sufficiently widespread in terms of the local demographic for travellers that it should be allowed to determine policy – and of course, not needing to transport, for example, supermarket shopping after the trip. What about the disabled? the elderly? those looking after more than one child? Are they to be housebound? This is not a reasonable strategy.
Before transport and buildings are determined on the basis of such a policy, it is also imperative that safe cycle routes are implemented through the borough.   Cycling in winter on rural roads is inherently more dangerous. Upgrading these roads would not be feasible in terms of cost nor desirable in terms of local character.

Cycle lanes which disappear into normal traffic lanes , which travel over potholes and which allow cyclists to be threatened by HGVs are not conducive to wider cycle usage, nor should wider cycle usage be encouraged until it can be demonstrated that it is safe, which currently, locally, it is not.  The A25 cycle corridor scheme (Part of LRN1) will exchange the risk between cyclists and vehicles sharing space for the risk between cyclists and pedestrians sharing space. Much of the A25 has no pedestrian area anyway outside the urban space.  Many cyclists travel at high speed and they will be put into conflict with pedestrians including mothers with very young children and schoolchildren many of whom need to cross the road and hence cross the cycleway. This is likely to lead to accidents and pedestrians are being disadvantaged.

Road capacity reduces as average speeds come down due to congestion. Where proper cycle lanes or off-road lanes are not provided then it is inevitable that safe driving will lead to reduced average motor vehicle speeds and gap development in the traffic stream. Both these effects act to reduce the capacity of our local road network.   This loss of capacity has not been recognised in the Transport Strategy.

The concept of the park and ride with access into the town limited for those who live outside the town, is similarly flawed. Park and Ride is expensive, cumbersome and slow. It should be noted that in Oxford it has had a disastrous impact on small local retailers which is a retail segment that it is important to retain and support. 

Use of park and rides increases the use of the strategic road network by local users, which is not what it is designed to do.

This proposal is combined with aggressive exclusion from the town of those who are living in peripheral communities, which will increasingly resemble housing estates. This is a strategy for sink estates through Surrey instead of the Green Belt - this is not a strategy for growth. Head offices will choose to go elsewhere, because highly skilled staff and management in the cutting edge industries that GBC wants to encourage, will not choose to live in a dense housing estate.

The existing extent of traffic congestion has not been fully recognised. As a consequence the impact of the various development scenarios has been understated and the infrastructure costs are an understatement.

The transport studies are incomplete and unpublished and this should have led to deferral of consideration of the Local Plan consultation process until it was possible to revise the plan post publication of the studies.    This matter was raised by a number of councillors at the Full Council meeting on 24 May 2016 when the consultation was approved, but a motion to defer was overturned by the majority party. 

Cross-subsidy in terms of infrastructure is envisaged .  The infrastructure deficit needs to be resolved before there are large numbers of new residents exacerbating the current congestion. The funding of the new developments through CIL and S 106 is expected to contribute to the transport impacts across the borough, and there is negligible concern for the transport problems created within those new developments or in areas adjacent to them. This is not acceptable to existing residents and is likely to cause some problems with the future residents too, who may arguably feel aggrieved that the road funding associated with their developments is being subverted to other areas. While this may be permissible under the revised CIL regulations it is questionable whether it is morally acceptable to grant planning permission to build on the Green Belt in order to cross subsidise the building of roads or other infrastructure in the town centre or elsewhere across the borough or outside it.

Insetting of villages and the proposed relaxation of planning restrictions anywhere outside settlements (Green Belt or not), implied in P2,  will lead to substantial infilling that will not require traffic assessment but will contribute a highly significant amount of additional car journeys overall - by a more insidious process than the large developments proposed.

Costs for rail or bus travel could be substantially reduced and would incentivise their use; but these are outside the remit of GBC and so cannot be encouraged by them.

It remains to be seen whether the proposed new stations will be delivered as they are not entirely within the council’s control. While we welcome the intention to encourage rail travel by adding two new stations there could be unintended consequences as the roads local to both sites are heavily congested. If parking facilities are inadequate this could lead to a need for onerous parking restrictions on roads nearby – possibly affecting small businesses adversely. 

If parking facilities are adequate this will encourage more traffic onto local roads and commuters tend to be hurrying to catch a train or anxious to return home after a day at work. That does not bode well for the safety of pedestrians needing to cross those roads. House prices near to stations tend to attract higher prices and this will increase the profit motive to developers wanting to build on greenfield sites nearby. It will also mean that so-called affordable housing will be even less affordable at these sites. It may also lead, over time, to an undesirable loss of social-rented housing in the vicinity. A minor issue is that stopping at the additional stations will increase the train journey times to and from Guildford town centre on the lines affected.

Detail in Policy wording – flawed drafting:

The policy begins and ends with the weak and totally ineffective word, in planning terms, “expect”.

Contributing through CIL will not necessarily address needs local to the development concerned, and created by it, but may involve solving existing problems elsewhere in the Borough.

Bullets 4 & 5 – improvements to park and ride facilities imply increased car usage from outside the town and the parking provision acknowledges that most journeys will be by car.  

Bullet 6 - Has the Vehicle parking Supplementary Planning Document been published? It is not listed as key evidence but the policy refers. How can a policy have been determined with reference to a non-existent part of the evidence base?

Bullets 7,8, 9 & 10 are weak & aspirational with let-out words such as “facilitate the use of”, “wherever possible”, “contribute”  and “where appropriate” (and poorly bulleted!). How will the use of ultra low emission vehicles be facilitated? This is such a vague aspiration as to be meaningless.  

The policy only “expects” new developments to contribute, demonstrate adequate provision, etc – it should enforce them. A transport statement AND assessment ought to be a fixed requirement – not a matter for negotiation – while the policy implies that this might be waived even for sites that generate significant amounts of movement.

The construction traffic, noise and pollution generated by meeting the proposed housing number will be excessive.  It will have a highly significant impact on the amenity and health of those residents living close to the development sites and those who live on the routes that will be taken by the construction traffic.

The last paragraph says nothing new in planning terms but does mean that the Local Plan has not fully and properly considered the traffic impacts of the proposed sites. We have experience of how misleading the TAs produced by developers can be – using averaging techniques and understated baseline figures, days when schools are not operating and many other devices to pull the wool over the eyes of planning authorities. This aspect is a denial of responsibility by GBC. The result is that Green Belt and countryside will be released for development when fuller consideration of traffic impacts at the Local Plan stage should have prevented that. If the planning authority is taken in by developers’ TAs then wholly unsuitable developments will be permitted. 

Introduction:

The spatial development strategy (paragraph 4.6.20 and Policy S2) does not address the development needs of the borough ensuring distances are practical; this is certainly not the case with all the development sites. For example, the Wisley airfield site will generate a massive increase in vehicle journeys; developments in West Horsley will lead to greater car use, as will the proposed developments at Garlick’s Arch and in Send.  The obvious site choice for sustainable development would be on brownfield sites in the town but the Local Plan proposes allocating those sites to the declining retail industry instead. 

Paragraph 4.6.21 suggests that sustainable transport is promoted.  Far from providing sustainable transport this Plan will generate a massive increase in motor vehicle journeys. The Plan cannot force residents to ride bicycles or walk everywhere.

Justification:

Paragraph 4.6.22 seeks to set out a reasoned justification and alleges that development should offer real travel choice by sustainable transport modes. There is little sign that this is being taken seriously enough now. 

Paragraph 4.6.23 proposed to bring forward a Vehicle Parking Supplementary Planning Document.   It is not clear what to make of this. Failure to provide off-street vehicle parking will not prevent residents owning cars and finding somewhere else to park but it may make life difficult for key workers to commute to their place of work. How can a consultation take place relying on non-existent background documents which are key parts of the Evidence Base?  How can anyone comment on non-existent documents, and even if brought forward part-way through the consultation, any comments will be prejudiced by the absence of this informing the start of the consultation.

Paragraph 4.6.24 refers to the Sustainable Movement Corridor.  Bus services are aspirational but economic reality may mean that they fail to persist. There is not enough detail published on how the SMC will be delivered – suggesting that it is aspirational rather than fully thought through. 

Paragraph 4.6.26 refers to reviewing existing transport facilities and likely transport generation as part of assessing the amount of incremental travel demand.   That consideration should have taken place in a robust and detailed manner on a site-by-site basis before the sites were allocated in the Local Plan. It is not sufficient to leave that until the planning application stage as intended by GBC and SCC, given that all sites will be subject to “permission in principle” under the Housing and Planning Act 2016 and so will not be capable of subsequent rejection on these grounds. 

Paragraph 4.6.27 notes that Development must mitigate its transport impacts.    The measures described rely entirely on people taking them up and not dumping their travel information packs in the nearest bin. It is clear that GBC, in response to concerns about elderly and disabled people failing to be coerced into riding bicycles are now suggesting tricycles to overcome this obstacle to their aspirations. They should be aware that while tricycles may help with balance issues they are heavier and harder to ride uphill.  While the policy (unusually) notes that mitigation must be provided, in fact this is then diluted to suggest that facilities for electric car charging points and encouragement to car-share can be sufficient; all are optional and therefore meaningless.

However well designed a development is it will make matters worse during construction and  if on a greenfield site, it is hard to see how it will achieve environmental benefits. On the other hand, replacing inefficient buildings on a brownfield site could lead to benefits in the long term.

Paragraph 4.6.28 notes “Developers should have regard” to the “Infrastructure Schedule at Appendix C”. The only thing that developers have regard for is forcing their application through and maximising their profit – that is the business they are in.  Appendix C is lacking in detail. It notes, for example that there will be new town centre bus facilities at a cost of £5-10 million – such vagueness make it clear that no real costing or analysis of proposals has been prepared, and that the Infrastructure improvements proposed have not been properly considered.  Having regard to fluid and uncertain proposals is effectively meaningless as a constraint or a requirement.

Paragraph 4.6.29 requires that applications need to address the transport implications of the proposed development.   Experience with recent planning applications suggests that developers will do everything in their power to understate transport impacts and we have no faith in GBC and SCC taking a sufficiently robust line on this.

Key Evidence is missing or inadequate.

The Strategic Transport Assessment (SCC 2016) is listed as “forthcoming”, but this plan has been produced in the absence of any strategic transport review.

There are further inadequacies in the Evidence Base, highlighted in the following annexes, which include examples of deficiencies, ambiguities and inadequacies in the transport and infrastructure evidence. This is not a comprehensive list of deficiencies, but serves as an illustration of the poor evidence on which decisions have been based.

Annexe 1

Comments on Guildford Borough Transport Study 2016

Page 2 – “address the historic infrastructure deficit” - developers are not required to do this ?

Page 2 – It is wrong to claim that the cycle infrastructure along the A25 is good – and many cyclists are not careful, so putting them in contention with pedestrians is not a good idea.

Page 5 – The decision on Heathrow or Gatwick has yet to be taken but airport expansion in the south- east  cannot be regarded as sustainable development and, although GBC has no control over such external decisions, its own growth agenda will drive a need for that expansion. 

Page 6 An additional weakness is alternative “road closure diversion” routes for the SRN on the LRN 

Page 6 Are the “Committed Improvements” actually committed and guaranteed to be delivered ?

Page 7 The rail strategy does not provide for Wisley (residents would drive to stations)

Page 7 How long will it take to deliver Crossrail 2 ? “We hope that Crossrail 2 could be operational by 2030, but we are in the very early stages of planning and no decision to build it has been made.”

Page 7 Guildford platform capacity still many years away if ever.

Page 7 The rail strategy anticipates many improvements that have not been secured and may have unintended consequences if they proceed (see above)

Page 7 The Southern Rail Access to Heathrow ##[see the feasibility study dated December 2015 – although other proposals may be put forward (e.g.by  Hounslow)]## is still in its early stages and would have significant impacts on open space beyond our Borough. For example, all options in the feasibility study would use Staines Moor SSSI and Option 4 would use Bedfont Lakes Country Park (a Local Nature Reserve and SNCI).

The various options would use existing commercial, residential and highways land in varying degrees. It seems unlikely that a solution will be delivered within the Plan period and removal of highly valued open space with high biodiversity (wherever it is in South-east England) cannot be regarded as sustainable.

Page 10 and 13 There is a stark contrast between the plans for the town centre which involve encouraging a reduction in traffic by reducing roadspace and the plans for the SRN and parts of the LRN which involve increasing capacity. While increasing capacity may reduce some areas of congestion in the short term, history suggests that traffic will rapidly grow until the improved roads are congested once again. This can hardly be regarded as sustainable. A sustainable option would be to apply a very substantial traffic infrastructure constraint on the housing number.

Page 10 While the A3 Guildford Tunnel aspiration has some environmental advantages over widening (in particular for residents living close to the A3), the environmental burden of the construction phase will be far higher and aspects such as location of ventilation stacks and their local effect (in all weather conditions) do not appear to have been considered.

Page 14 Under Weaknesses the point about A roads in Guildford Town also applies to surrounding areas in the Borough and beyond.  The anticipated improvements ignore existing congestion to the south and east of Guildford – presumably because SCC’s transport assessment methodology only identifies the tip of the iceberg. The current Plan will see increased congestion and a resultant reduction in air quality in many areas beyond the town centre.

Page 16 “Largely commercial bus services” is seen as a strength whereas it should be seen as a weakness with a trend to reduced subsidies and the provision of bus services, especially in rural areas, being increasingly dependent on commercial gain. It is difficult to see this changing under the current Government cuts philosophy. The point “Subject to business case including funding” under Aspirations demonstrates this point.

Page 18 We welcome the aspiration to “Expand the public realm through significantly extended pedestrian-priority areas”

Page 19 Guildford is well behind other areas in monitoring air quality let alone attempting to reduce it.

The introduction talks about reductions in some pollutants. This may be the case for pollutants such as Sulphur Dioxide, which contributed to the visible London smogs, but it is not true of diesel vehicle emissions which have increased as a result of Government policy including its aggressive growth agenda and population increase through immigration.

30 accessible electric vehicle charging points are only an aspiration and will be nowhere near enough if there is a real shift to electric vehicles.

It is clear from the “Strategy outcomes” that GBC would prefer not to follow other areas in pro-actively tackling air quality.

Page 22/23/24 The timescales indicate that the main rail improvements (Including the two new stations) are unliklely to be delivered until the end of the Plan period or even later. The sites that are supposedly justified by their inclusion will generate a major increase in road traffic in the interim and it may be more difficult to achieve this aspect of modal shift in the longer term. The same can be said about the other traffic infrastructure proposals. Residential development is being scheduled before the infrastructure that it will need.

Page 24 Monitoring – “Increase” needs to be in proportion to population growth  as otherwise failure will taken as success. “An Increase in average vehicle speeds” is inconsistent with the desire to reduce the number of persons killed or seriously injured.  For example, some A roads pass through residential areas where pedestrians, including schoolchildren, are trying to cross the road at peak times. It is noted that increase in vehicle speeds is only desired in the morning. Going home from work does not seem to matter!

Annexe 2

GTAMS 

NPPF and NPPG The Plan ignores the points concerning Green Belt and protecting the environment. GBC have tried to get round this by spinning their messages and using misleading statistics including a major understatement of the area of Green Belt to be removed.

Planning Update (March 2015) – The point in this update concerning Green Belt has been ignored

Monitoring Indicators:

Ten years is far too long to wait for  information on whether the approach is working or not. The target requires only an increase. This would permit an increase  less than that in line with any population growth to be regarded as success. The bar has been set well within the failure range.

 

 


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