Many transport consultants and their clients are sure to take an interest in the recent publication of a new research and analysis paper addressing the connection between land use and transport planning. 

The paper was released after a convening of the Department for Transport (DfT) Science Advisory Council (SAC) on 2nd October 2023. 

This session, to which additional Government officials and external experts provided input, was aimed at assessing the scientific and technical evidence that supports policies on land use and transport planning, and the extent to which current implementation reflects this. 

In the words of the department, the meeting sought to “provide an independent perspective on the opportunities for science and evidence to encourage land use and transport planning decision-making which supports policy outcomes as well as commercial imperatives.” 

What expert views emerged from the discussion? 

A variety of perspectives were shared in the DfT SAC session. The below are just a selection of the expressed views by contributors: 

  • Many larger housing developments can, by certain mobility measures, be regarded as being “in the wrong place” as far as transport is concerned 
  • Developments frequently lack comprehensive internal pedestrian and cycle networks, and may not be well-connected to high-quality public transport services and regional cycle networks 
  • There is a need for greater visibility of case studies showing what “good” or “different” looks like, encompassing robust data on how design and planning subsequently influence travel patterns, lifestyles, and wellbeing 
  • In order to achieve the above, it would help for designs to be based on a “triple access planning” model, incorporating support for sustainable mobility, access to residents’ needs within a short walk or cycle ride, and support for universal digital connectivity. 

What recommendations were put forward in the paper? 

The DfT SAC paper went on to set out a number of science and evidence recommendations. These included, but were not limited to:

  • There is a need for more robust datasets bringing together evidence that shows the impacts of building sustainable transport networks and local facility provision into new developments
  • An opportunity exists to quantitively evaluate how higher-density residential developments might contribute to supporting better-quality public transport (including demand-responsive) services and a broader range of local community facilities 
  • A study should be commissioned into the governance arrangements that underpin the land use planning process and how it operates in practice 
  • The national planning policy framework should be reviewed to make sure it fully reflects the present science and evidence in support of delivering sustainable developments 
  • Training that incorporates the most recent data and evidence should be provided so that important actors – across local and national government, the private sector, and relevant agencies – are able to better address sustainability factors and work collaboratively. 

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