Select Committee on Environment, Transport and Regional Affairs Appendices to the Minutes of Evidence

Memorandum by the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors (IT 130)



  RICS has over 90,000 members, many of whom are involved in property development and developing related infrastructure or advising on planning requirements. Property valuation forms a significant part of their work. The quality of infrastructure and accessibility of sites and centres will have a critical impact on land values and uses.

  In July 1996 the RICS launched a strategy paper called "Shaping Britain for the 21st Century" which sets out our land use and transport strategy. A copy is attached. One of the central themes was the need for an integrated land use and transport policy. We are, therefore, pleased to see that at the heart of the Government's policies on transport is the commitment to develop an effective integrated transport policy which provides genuine choice to meet people's transport needs.

  The RICS welcomes many of the aims of the Integrated Transport White Paper. In this memorandum we will focus on areas related to the operation of land and property markets and the relationship between transport infrastructure and land use in which our members have special expertise.

  We note that responsibility for implementing key aspects of the White Paper, particularly relating to congestion charging, falls on local authorities. It is essential, therefore, that local authorities operate within a broader, more strategic context firmly established by central government to prevent conflicting policies being pursued by neighbouring authorities. Without a broader national or regional context the adoption of measures by individual authorities could be ineffective or even be self-defeating.


    —  The Need to Travel—Reducing the need and distance to travel is the key to relieving congestion. The strong emphasis on this aspect in the White Paper is a welcome development.

    —  Best Use of Existing Infrastructure—The need to make best use of existing public transport infrastructure is essential, for example by allowing well designed, increased development densities around existing transport nodes. The RICS has published a paper in support of such an approach (see Appendix 1) and joint RICS/DETR research on this issue is now underway. This would also facilitate access by walking and cycling.

    —  Access—The accessibility of town centres is the key determinant of property investment in traditional urban cores.

    —  Mobility of Property Capital—If charges are inappropriately applied there is a danger of increasing the value of out of town or off-centre sites and, thereby, increasing development pressure for them. This would be to the detriment of traditional centres and increase the difficulty of providing and accessing a public transport infrastructure to serve the population's needs.

    —  Regional Guidance—The differential application of measures (particularly charging mechanisms) between local neighbouring authorities could prejudice investments made within existing urban centres. Strong regional guidance is essential to ensure that competition between neighbouring centres does not work against the aims of reducing social exclusion, reducing car dependency and promoting sustainable development. Current guidance is often not applied by local authorities very rigorously.

    —  Rural Areas—The situation in rural areas is especially acute. Rural residents have become dependent on the ability to access a range of centres in order to make use of facilities which are often provided by single centre in more urban areas. The problems of providing a network by public transport is further exacerbated by this trend.


  One of the most welcome aspects of the White Paper is the recognition that funds raised by congestion charging or by taxes on car parking should be hypothecated to fund improvements in transport provision. Funds raised which are subject to hypothecation, however, must be used as additional resources to fund improvements to public transport. Existing support should not be reduced in order to take account of any new resources raised.

  Detailed research into pricing mechanisms will be imperative so that detailed guidelines can be published to inform local authorities of the implications of varying levels of charging. It would be necessary to explore, for example, at what level would a charge become a factor affecting the choice of mode of travel and at what level would a charge begin to enhance the value of "off centre" locations rather than acting as a revenue raising measure?

  The application of congestion charging must be balanced with other measures already in place, for example existing car parking charges and the provision of public transport. If congestion charging is considered in isolation, traditional centres in urban and suburban location could become less attractive. This would run contrary to PPGs 6 and 13.


  If charges are applied inadvisedly there exists the possibility that out of town sites will become more attractive and their values will be increased. This would have the reverse effect of the Government's stated intention of revitalising town centres by increasing development pressures in out of town locations. If investment is discouraged from traditional centres it could prove very difficult and costly to reverse the decline.

  The application of "sticks" before "carrots" may have a similar effect. If, for example, road pricing is introduced at a level that deters car use before improvements have been made to public transport, then once again this will enhance the value of out of town sites and greenfield locations, whilst decreasing investment in central property locations.

  Further decentralisation of property investment would also increase the problems of public transport provision as remote and disparate locations do not allow for provision of a network easily served by public transport. This would increase employees/consumers dependence on private transport. It would further also add to the social exclusion experienced by those without access to a car; again, this would be against the stated intention of the Government.

  The mobility of property finance within an increasingly global economy means congestion charging would have implications for competing centres at all levels and may deter some centres from levying charges. This problem would be especially acute where competing centres are in close proximity. For example, Newcastle might be reluctant to apply charges if Gateshead chose not to do so. Regional guidance would be needed to guide the application of new charging measures in such situations just as National guidance would be needed on how competition and charges would be managed between regional centres such as Birmingham and Manchester.

  National government would also need to examine the impact of charges on the competitiveness of the UK's cities against those in mainland Europe.


  The RICS would wish to see a greater role for regional policy for two main reasons:

    —  Journeys are often commenced in one local authority and concluded in another; and

    —  Those making investment decisions are not restricted to one centre but will wish to examine competing sites in similar areas.

  Transport networks often span several authorities. Improvements to a network in one area may be frustrated by the failure to improve the network in a neighbouring location or to charge additional fees for its use.

  When decisions are made relating to property investment the relative values of sites will be affected by accessibility and the level of charges applied.

  The market which would be affected by the application of charges is a complex one. To effectively set charges for a locality the authority would need to have an exceptional knowledge of the land values in its area and the effect of charges in competing authorities. The level of the charge would then have to be balanced against the desired effect, for example influencing the choice of transport mode or raising revenue.

  Any proposed measures must be examined from the differing perspectives of investors, occupiers and developers. If the intention is to enhance values of town centres and promote accessibility there must be a latent market demand that would be stimulated by the measures. Conversely, the latent demand around out of town sites must also be examined to ensure that measures introduced in and around town centres do not enhance the market values of other areas.

  Stronger regional guidance would also be required to ensure that local authorities were not tempted to relax parking standards to allow more spaces to be provided and thereby increase revenue gained from parking taxes.

  The size, location and extent of the zones within which charges would be levied would also have critical effects on the property market and this could bring about changes of use in certain locations and blight in others. For example, areas immediately beyond the "priced" zone might become more attractive. It would also need to be clarified whether charges would be applied to traffic moving within and between urban areas.

  A cautionary note must also be sounded when considering the impact of charges on the values of surrounding areas. For example, areas immediately outside of the "priced" zone would tend to become more attractive. Commuters may be tempted to park away from "priced" areas and then make the final stage of their journey by foot/public transport. This may increase congestion in other areas where it can less easily be dealt with. This scenario may increase the use of residential or minor roads for through traffic and parking, thereby lowering residential values. An illustration of such an impact would the need to create controlled parking zones around District Line tube stations following the closure to private vehicles of Hammersmith Bridge.

  Plans to improve and fully integrate public transport can only be realised with regional governance and if necessary intervention.


  The Government should encourage higher densities of development where they would be well served by existing public transport nodes or corridors. We are pleased to see recognition of this in the White Paper. Such developments would have to be well designed and of mixed use in order to maximise benefits an create attractive areas in which to live and work. This would also help to achieve the Government's aim of locating 60 per cent of new homes on previously developed land as well as reducing car dependency.

  Increasing densities need not lead to high rise developments. The densities of many Georgian developments such as those in Islington or Edinburgh's New Town are above the modern maximum permitted densities, yet are much sought after properties. Good design will be essential to cutting journey lengths and increasing the convenience of public transport.

  Enhancing the standard of infrastructure in and around "brownfield" areas to be targeted for development will be essential to raise values and attract private finance. Recent RICS research[1] has found that the standard of infrastructure is the most important factor in improving the flow of private sector finance by institutional investors, property development companies and property investment companies.

  "Out of town" sites have benefited from the considerable investment in trunk roads in the 1980s which added value to sites with access to trunk roads. By contrast transitional centres, where service and public transport provision are more cost effective, are currently devalued by both congestion and poor standards of public transport and hostile environments in which to walk or cycle.


  Where developers are asked to contribute to public transport infrastructure there is little guarantee it will be directly beneficial to the development itself or that the benefit provided will be maintained at all with deregulated services. For example if a bus stop or interchange is supported by a developer there is no guarantee that it will be utilised by private bus operators or that certain frequencies or standards of service would be adopted.

  The inappropriate application of planning obligations can force development on to more profitable "greenfield" locations where the cost of meeting obligations can be more easily absorbed by a developer.

  The development of leisure facilities is frequently lost to town centres because of the application of stringent planning measures. This is clearly, a dilemma because such facilities are often crucial in revitalising town centres.

  Large-scale leisure developments pose particular problems. They are often crucial components in revitalising town centres but many developers of such facilities are reluctant to provide them in the absence of extensive parking facilities. Without strong regional guidance such facilities will inevitably gravitate towards out of town locations.


  The UK's rural residents have particular problems with transport due to the centralisation of jobs and services, coupled with the pressure for highly priced residential development. A highly mobile population has moved into rural areas, marginalising low income rural households and increasing social exclusion.

  The decline in local services has been highlighted by the Rural Development Commission. Centralisation of jobs retail facilities, social and financial services away from villages has made rural residents dependent on the ability to travel to a range of neighbouring towns to access facilities which are often provided by a single centre in more urban areas. This trend has exacerbated the problem of providing public transport in rural areas. Many low income rural households are now reliant on the use of a car. For the very nature of such rural employment, such as agriculture and forestry, makes that ability to access remote locations essential. This highlights the need for transport and development planning to be integrated. The provision of affordable housing close to employment opportunities and more mixed development to reduce the need to travel is therefore essential. Any measures affecting car will, therefore, have to be applied very carefully in rural areas.

William Tew

Policy Unit

21 September 1998

1   Accessing Private Finance-supported by Joseph Rowntree Foundation, RICS Research publications 1998. Back

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