Transport for New Homes
The Transport for New Homes Association published a report in July 2018 reviewing over 100 new housing developments across many parts of England and the Netherlands to see whether these live up to our expectations.
“The aspirations for new homes mirror many aspects of modern society thinking. This envisages more physically active and less isolated lives and reduced congestion on the roads. For transport the visions presented by planning documents and literature do not show new residents getting into cars and being stuck in traffic, but rather depict people cycling and walking as part of their everyday life, with bus services often featured as providing an alternative to the car.
The report showed in many cases the reality was far away from these aspirations and this was particularly the case where houses were located in “garden villages”.
“These new urban extensions and “garden villages” by their very location away from larger conurbations promote car based living. They have plentiful car parking but limited or no public transport, limited facilities and services and a lack of safe pedestrian or cycling routes to the town. Not only were homes often built on fields some way from the town but they didn’t connect to existing urban streets. This is a major issue of public policy”.
The report concluded for these new developments the consequences could be wide-ranging:
• Thousands of new journeys on the roads. These generate congestion locally and across the strategic road network.
• Undermining aspirations of active lifestyles, vibrant and less isolated communities. Local shops in the town struggle because there is no walking community of people “popping in”.
• People face longer commutes
• Lack of opportunities for those who don’t drive. Notably teenagers, families or individuals who can’t afford a car, older people and those with disabilities.
• A barren public realm dominated by parked cars and road access with little greenery. Houses packed together with small gardens and often surrounded by a sea of tarmac.
• Stimulating wider car-based sprawl. Even if developers talk about “garden villages” and local communities the context of new homes is car based.
The report did suggest some recommendations:
– Build new housing in existing urban areas or in places that are close to and well connected by public transport, walking and cycling.
– Plan land use and transport together
– Use urban brownfield and regeneration sites
The Reality of the Penrith Masterplan
It is clear that the planners, councillors and consultants who created the Masterplan hadn’t read this report or are aware of the consequences of the implementation of far out of town “garden villages”. If they are then shame on them – they must know their proposal will end in a dreadful place to live for its residents – isolated and only seeing each other when they pass in the car.
Most roads proposed for travel into Penrith town will be steep and treacherous in winter. The plan is to have a bus travelling along the sprawling new town and into Penrith but do we really believe that buses will run up and down narrow roads with gradients of 12%, as will be the case up and down Stagstones Road. Travelling to Penrith with so many people wanting to get into town will lead to terrible congestion down the roads from Beacon Edge. Where will they all park?
One part of the plan is to create homes for the those requiring affordable housing and for the aging population. Unfortunately they will be stuck halfway up a mountain in isolation unable to travel to any shops 2.5 miles or further away.
Of course there is the suggestion is that people can walk to work or to the pub or shops. With the sprawl of the hillside town walking to a bus stop might be a challenge for some assuming there is a bus service, which will be at the whim a private transport company to decide. Clearly they could invest in a bicycle and travel down to Penrith but getting back up those hills might be a challenge. The planners don’t seem to realise that recreational cyclists love going up and down steep inclines of 1 in 8 or more but that everyday users going to work don’t.
The Masterplan concept of a out of town development, miles from Penrith, in so called “garden villages” is flawed based upon this evidence. Building any new homes close to town and re-using brownfield sites makes far more sense. The residents will be close to amenities, have better communities and be able to travel to work and shop in a healthy lifestyle if they so chose.