Planning for Sustainable Travel

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The prospects for achieving integration between land use and transport planning depend on the institutional context in which professionals and decision-makers operate. Formally this consists of the legal and administrative framework set by Government which defines the scope of the public sector to influence and control new development and supporting infrastructure. The inherited institutional framework is being modified almost continuously. The main features of the current framework are summarised below, including those aspects which have recently been changed (or are expected to) and their implications for land use/transport integration.

Institutional and Procedural Context

The duties of local authorities were redefined under the Local Government Act (2000) to fulfil more of an ‘enabling’ role, including:

The Act placed a new overarching statutory duty on authorities ‘to promote the economic, social and environmental well-being of their areas’. Reform was carried further as a result of the Local Government White Paper (2006) and the Local Government and Public Involvement in Health Act (2007). The large number of performance indicators applied to individual service areas was replaced by a single national set of 198 indicators from which authorities could select a small sub-set which would be used for performance assessment. These include NI186 CO2 emissions (in a local authority area) and NI167 Congestion (vehicle delay during the AM peak).

Responsibility for producing a (renamed) Sustainable Community Strategy is placed with local authorities (county, unitary and district councils and London Boroughs). All local authorities are now also subject to a new statutory duty to ‘involve’ their local populations (workers, visitors and businesses as well as residents) – a requirement which supplements any consultation arrangements already specified for individual functions.

Local Area Agreements (LAAs) are a three year mechanism for delivering revenue-funded improvements in line with the Sustainable Community Strategy. The selection of indicators and the setting of targets are negotiated with partners and the Government Regional Office. These form the basis for receipt of a new single Area-Based Grant which subsumes a number of individual grants previously ring-fenced to a particular function (e.g. rural bus subsidy, road safety and school travel advisers).

Multi-Area Agreements (MAAs) can be negotiated between public and private sector partners to coordinate action over a wider area – they can involve the transfer of greater responsibilities to local authorities from central government in over 30 policy areas covering employment, skills, transport, regeneration, housing and planning.

Regional Scale

In 2004, consequent upon the abolition of structure plans, Regional Planning Guidance (RPG) was renamed as Regional Spatial Strategy (RSS), and given statutory development plan status. Currently RSS provides the strategic spatial framework for both local development documents (prepared by unitary or district councils) and local transport plans (prepared by county or unitary councils). The RSS also includes the Regional Transport Strategy (RTS).

In London the equivalent role of regional planning bodies is performed by the directly elected Mayor who is responsible for preparing a Spatial Development Strategy and a Transport Strategy. These provide the framework for the preparation of local development plan documents and local (transport) implementation plans by the individual London Boroughs.

In 2005 the programming of major publicly funded transport schemes costing more than £5m outside London was enhanced through the introduction of a procedure for advice to Government from regional stakeholders on the use of a year by year Regional Funding Allocation (RFA). Typically this involves the selection and prioritisation of schemes referred to more generally in the regional strategy. The allocation applies to schemes on trunk roads administered by the Highway Agency which do not form part of the ‘national network’ (e.g. A38 and A303) plus local authority major schemes. DfT’s consideration of schemes for funding is based on the New Approach to Transport Appraisal (NATA) and a linked process of cost-benefit analysis; much of this process is described on the transport analysis guidance website WebTAG.

In 2008 a second round of advice was requested focussing on priorities for 2009/10-2013/14. From 2011/12 the scope of RFA is being extended to include the Central Government funding of so-called ‘integrated block’ (minor schemes) and highway maintenance by individual local authorities.

By 2011, following changes proposed in regional governance, including the Sub-National Review, it is expected that the Regional Spatial Strategy and Regional Economic Strategy will be combined into a single ‘Regional Strategy’. This will need to identify policies having development plan status in order to set the statutory context for the preparation of local planning documents. As yet however it is not clear whether there will be a continued requirement for a separate transport component. The strategy will be centred on a vision of ‘sustainable economic growth’.

The Planning Role of Local Authorities

Local planning authorities are bodies with statutory duties and powers in the fields of development planning and development control. They are mostly unitary or district councils (acting individually or jointly) but also include county councils, national park committees and development corporations in relation to particular functions or areas.

When the comprehensive statutory system of development planning was established in 1947 its role was conceived as the preparation of land use plans whose prescriptions were to be realised through a combination of coordinated public investment (including transport) and the regulation of private sector development. Over time, the regulatory function assumed greater importance, although highways and traffic management continue to be public responsibilities. However the importance of planning authorities preparing and using development plans as the basis of their activities was re-asserted in the so-called ‘plan-led development’ clause inserted in the 1991 Act and retained since.

As a result of changes made under the 2004 Planning and Compulsory Purchase Act, the term ‘development plan’ is no longer used to refer to a single document, but rather to a portfolio of documents which have statutory development plan status. (These and other, non-statutory documents are collectively known as the Local Development Framework, LDF). Previous forms of development plan – structure and local plans at county and district levels within shire areas, and unitary development plans within metropolitan areas – have been abolished. However many of their policies have been ‘saved’ and continue to apply pending replacement by new plans. Further details are given in PPS12.

The 2004 Act also introduced a broader ‘spatial planning approach’ to the development planning system:

“Spatial planning goes beyond traditional land use planning to bring together and integrate policies for the development and use of land with other policies and programmes which influence the nature of places and how they function” (PPS1, para 30)

Local planning authorities are therefore charged with seeking to integrate with a wide range of activities relating to development and regeneration. These include other relevant strategies and programmes such as regional economic and housing strategies and Local Transport Plans (LTPs).

Under the 2008 Planning Act a new procedure has been introduced for considering developments of national importance. In relation to transport these are defined as trunk roads, all developments relating to the national rail network and port and airport developments above certain thresholds (plus any individual developments which the Secretary of State may decide to designate). Developers will apply to a new Infrastructure Planning Commission (IPC) which has the power to give ‘unified consent’ in place of separate consents under planning, transport and other legislation previously required from Central or local Government. The IPC is required to assess these applications on the basis of a new breed of national policy statement to be issued by Government in relation to particular types of infrastructure development.

The Transport Role of Local Authorities

Local authorities have a number of roles relating to the form and operation of different parts of the transport system:

Uniquely the London Mayor has responsibility for franchising all bus services and selected ‘Overground’ rail services in the capital. He also has policy control of fares and service levels on the London Underground, Docklands Light Railway and Croydon Tramlink.

In addition, under the Transport Act 2000, county and non-metropolitan unitary councils are required to prepare Local Transport Plans. To date these have been produced to a common five year national timetable. The current second series – LTP2 – runs from 2006 to 2011. These plans have two distinct roles: to establish, in cooperation with other transport agencies, an overall set of policies for the development and management of the local transport network; and to prepare a capital expenditure programme for those transport-related functions for which the authority has executive responsibility.

Until now a single LTP has been prepared jointly for each of the metropolitan areas by the local councils and the Passenger Transport Authority (PTA) – itself a joint board of the constituent councils. In London the Mayor prepares a Transport Strategy with London Borough councils preparing Local Implementation Plans within this framework. For the next round of LTPs the procedural and policy context has been changed (LTP3 Guidance). Authorities are expected to use the new set of national goals which has been identified following consultation on the Department for Transport’s (DfT) ‘Towards a Sustainable Transport System’ (TaSTS) and developed in ‘Delivering a Sustainable Transport Strategy’ (DaSTS). These are to:

Much greater prominence is thus given to tackling climate change. “The DfT encourages local authorities to develop (plans) that take significant steps towards mitigating climate change, by encouraging the development of sustainable transport systems, facilitating behaviour change and reducing the need to travel through, for example, Smarter Choices measures.” (LTP3 guidance, 2009)

The DfT has published a low carbon strategy for reducing emissions from transport that feeds into the wider Government strategy for delivering against carbon budgets as required under the Climate Change Act 2008. Following passage of the Local Transport Act 2008 local transport authorities will in future be required to have regard to Government guidance and policies on the environment when formulating their Local Transport Plans.

As before, the third round of LTPs is to be prepared in the context of broader policies and objectives contained in relevant regional strategies. Reference is also made to the new role for local government explained earlier and to the desirability of consistency between plans for transport and other services coordinated through the Local Strategic Partnership. Particular emphasis is placed on the integration of transport and land use planning and the alignment of LTPs with Local Development Frameworks.

The Local Transport Act 2008 specifies that the metropolitan PTAs will be known in future as ‘Integrated Transport Authorities’ (ITAs) with their administrative areas known as ‘integrated transport areas’. They will have sole responsibility for preparing the area’s Local Transport Plan. ITAs can also be designated in non metropolitan areas spanning more than one authority.

Wider Processes

In taking forward the proposals contained in the Sub-National Review the Government has decided to legislate for an economic assessment duty to be placed on London Boroughs, unitary and county councils, the latter in cooperation with their respective district councils. Mindful of the need for effective collaboration in functional areas in relation to transport and other elements, the Government has also proposed legislation to allow for the creation on a voluntary basis of statutory sub-regional authorities for economic development, these to be known as ‘Economic Improvement Boards’ (EIBs). The Government expects EIBs to evolve out of existing sub-regional partnerships, such as those formed to negotiate Multi-Area Agreements (MAAs).

Further reading here

Summary Guide Summary Guide Background Technical Report Background Technical Report Sherford, Plymouth

North East of England

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