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

Memorandum by the Town and Country Planning Association (IT 132)


  1. The Town and Country Planning Association welcomes the opportunity to comment on the issues raised by the White Paper.

  2. The Association welcomed the White Paper and the proclamation within it of a new deal for transport. However it remains concerned that many of the key actions necessary to achieve a new deal are subject to further clarification, detail or research such that it will be many years before they become effective. In our view the White Paper lacks the urgency and sense of commitment necessary to solve the compounding environmental and economic problems implicit in current transport trends.

  3. The Association's views on the way forward were expressed at some length in its submission to the Government in November 1997. It has no intention of attempting to repeat or even summarise what was then said. Rather we wish to focus on the integration of transport and land use and associated issues.


  4. Integration of transport and land use planning is listed in the introduction to the White Paper (paragraph 1.22) as one of four components of integrated transport policy but specific proposals on this in the main body of the report are weak. We welcome the proposal to review the framework set in planning policy guidance and Regional Planning Guidance to ensure that local authorities' plans and decisions and proposals from individuals and businesses reflect integrated transport policy (4.157) and the general tenor of the following paragraphs aimed at reducing the need to travel and promoting regional strategies for planning that are integrated and sustainable. We also, for example, welcome news of research to provide practical advice for local authorities about growth along public transport corridors and parking standards. However we are disappointed that the White Paper is not more specific about the ways in which the integration of transport and land use can be achieved.

  5. We would urge the Select Committee to place great emphasis on this aspect of transport policy and to determine the policies and actions best required to promote it. To this end we offer the following pointers, including comment on areas in which we feel there is an inclination to place hopes likely to prove false.


  6. We agree that development should not be carelessly dispersed but we believe that it may be counter-productive to equate high density with sustainability. We believe that it is a mistake to assume (as did the EC Green Paper on Sustainability) that travel demand is in inverse proportion to settlement size. The amount of travel, and car travel in particular, generated by development appears to be rather less sensitive to density of development than is commonly supposed. There is evidence, for example (by Banister, based upon Stead and the national Travel Survey) that indicates that care mileage generated per head is lower in towns of 25-50,000 population than in towns of 50-250,000 population, as well as being much lower than in settlements below 25,000 population. Alongside the resource and sustainability issues associated with transport must be considered those associated with building, maintenance of the urban fabric and social issues.

  7. At the local level, the viability of public transport and ease of access from homes to schools, workplaces, shops and leisure facilities, both directly on foot or by bicycle and bus, can be improved by design of new developments, road patterns and traffic management arrangements. Moves in this direction can be achieved by propagation of best practice and by exhortation and also by clear and consistent signals to the development industry that the use of private motor vehicles, particularly for local journeys, is to become, for environmental and health reasons, relatively more expensive and difficult.

  8. At the same time we believe that it is important to remain objective about the merits of personal motor transport, particularly if current plans on the drawing boards of some, if not all, automotive manufacturers for the production of cars of much greater mechanical and fuel efficiency are realised. In such circumstances, air pollution and carbon dioxide emissions may diminish in significance compared with traffic congestion and road safety. This links to (and by no means eliminates) issues relating to trip lengths, car-sharing, area travel cards, etc., touched on below.

  9. There is need for more research about travel characteristics of different types and sizes of community and of the potential effects of restraint of car use.


  10. The UK Strategy for Sustainable Development published by the Government January 1993 set down the Government's belief that the only step which would reduce the underlying traffic growth would be measures which increased the cost of traffic by road, either by raising prices or by otherwise making travel relatively less attractive. We welcomed the fact Planning Policy Guidance Note 13 (PPG13), published in March 1994, stated that "in accordance with the polluter pays principles, the Government is putting particular emphasis on steps which will bring the costs to the user of transport more closely in line with their full costs". We welcome re-iteration in the White Paper (4.118-4.123) of the Government's commitment, together with the European Commission (through its Green Paper "Towards Fair and Efficient Pricing in Transport") to use economic instruments to promote sustainable mobility.

  11. Such have been the diverging trends in the price of private and public transport during the past 20 or more years, the reduction or even elimination of subsidies now benefiting private motorists and company car users is unlikely, on its own, to make much difference to the proportions of journeys made by different modes of travel but is likely to reduce the average length of journeys made by car.

  12. Traffic congestion (and attendant pollution) resulting from lack of road space highlights the need (given that it has been belatedly accepted as impracticable to build our way out of traffic congestion) for the means to rationalise the demand for the use of road space by means of pricing. The Association has long advocated fuel prices, parking charges and road pricing measures as elements of an environmental transport strategy and supported development of methods of congestion pricing of the kind experimented with in Cambridge. We see motorway tolls as but a part of a more comprehensive system of demand management.

  13. Coherent systems of road pricing clearly cannot be in place for many years. For the time being attention should focus on parking charges and the scope for making travel by private transport relatively less attractive than travel by public transport by increased financial support for bus operations. We urge the adoption of mechanisms for hypothecation of parking, speeding fines and other charges for use to the benefit of public transport and non-motorised modes.


  14. We advance arguments about transport pricing and user charges within the context of the integration of land use and transport through a recognition of the intimate connection between journey lengths and travel costs. We are aware that planned self-containment of communities cannot eliminate commuting to and from distant destinations. Freedom to select from a wide range of job opportunities is clearly desirable and, aided by relatively low transport costs, results in long-distance commuting. However the advantages to the individual has to be weighed against the congestion and pollution to which the long-distance commuter contributes. What must be avoided in future is the need for long-distance commuting simply because of the imbalance of homes and jobs within a locality.

  15. It has been shown that the proportion of work places filled by local residents was, in 1966, higher in New Towns than in other towns but that, by 1981, it had reduced to below that of the other towns. For large measure this was because New Towns had been designed to be car-friendly and had been absorbed into a widening London commuter belt. For this reason, we are of the view that strategic planning should provide for substantial clusters of living-and-working communities at grater distances from London on the rail network; and future transport planning should give greater emphasis to environmentally-friendly modes of travel. Relatively cheap car travel widens the area of search form a given location for employment opportunities elsewhere but, at the same time, leads to the displacement of employment opportunities for those living closer by. Imposition of constraints on travel would tend to increase the self-sufficiency of settlements in terms of the balance of jobs and housing. The Select Committee may consider the trends in home-work patterns and in the opportunities for finding work close to home to be fitting subjects for further research.

  16. We advance these points in the light of the increasing separation during recent decades, particularly in areas such as the West Midlands, of new housing development from places of work, shopping, schools etc.. Also the housing has been developed at densities and in forms of development difficult to serve by public transport. This trend has occurred due to increased wealth (and car ownership), increased demand for new and more salubrious housing, diminished out-of-pocket motoring costs, lack of any imposition upon motorists of externalities (including not only congestion and pollution costs but also such matters as spoiling of land for extraction of aggregates for road building, consumption of materials for vehicle construction at less than their full replacement cost, etc.), higher aspirations and lower tolerance of the constraints involved in using public transport.

  17. Clearly the correction of the development patterns which have evolved in an under-priced, sustainability-free, laissez-faire, un-integrated era will take considerable time and effort. Although a part may be played by improved, subsidised and regulated public transport services, parking charges and traffic management, effective correction of current habits will not be achieved without change, over a long period, in perceptions of cost and environmental intrusion. It appears to be necessary gradually to impose full costing together with environmental and congestion charging. Without the grasping of nettles, the scope for truly influencing the course of transport policy will, in our view, be limited.


  18. The Association enthusiastically supports the adoption by companies and institutions (such as governments offices, hospitals, large schools etc.) of Green Commuter Plans of the kind mentioned in the White Paper. The costs and operational inefficiency of delays to essential deliveries and business travel due to growing volumes of commuting and other relatively inessential car journeys adds to the incentive for companies to adopt such plans.

  19. We believe that there is scope for much further benefit by encouraging companies and institutions to review their operations from the point of view not only of the deployment of their own transport fleets and the means by which employees get to work but also of the types and patterns of movement generated by their customers/pupils/patients/etc. The Association would be willing to participate in the development of these ideas.


  20. Important though decisions are about the form and location of development, it has to be recognised that planning decisions can bear upon only a small part of the transport scene. Proposals in the White Paper for new powers by local authorities to levy charges on workplace parking (4.107) are important in this regard. We consider that there is a strong case to extend such powers to non workplace parking. There exist strong pressures to expand parking provision. There is need for action at Government level to impose fiscal regimes across the board which oblige companies and institutions to adopt policies consistent with Government transport policy.

  21. Another quite different area in which there is a need for a strong lead by Government is in the promulgation of the importance and value of sustainable transport policies to the public at large. In practice, measures of restraint, however much justified in the wider interest, are unlikely to be supported by the public and politicians unless the overall advantages for them personally (and their children) have been identified, spelt out and accepted. We wish, therefore, to underline (as we did in our contribution to the Government's review of transport policy) the obvious point that publicity of, and education about, the issues must form a key part of transport strategy.

  22. In this regard we believe that transport policies involving restraint would be made more acceptable by the allocation (by hypothecation) of parking and other transport charges to the improvement of public transport, pedestrian and cycle facilities and the environment.

  We trust the points made in this memorandum are helpful to the Committee.

September 1998

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