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NPPF: The future of transport?

Harry Steele is Infrastructure Specialist at the RTPI

The National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF) consultation provides a much-needed opportunity for planners to help shape the industry. While some of the proposals offer immediate change to policy, particularly in the implementation of the Levelling Up and Regeneration Bill, other proposals are more malleable and open to shaping.

As we move towards delivering both the Levelling Up agenda and combating climate change, how we travel around is going to change. The NPPF consultation identified transport as an issue to address once the new planning system is in place. In short, this means that changes to transport policy will be reflected in the National Development Management Polices and any changes to plan making following the consultation.

The consultation outlines plans to assess the changes needed to encourage active travel as highlighted in the ‘Gear Change’ programme. The need to deliver a modal shift in transport planning is something that we have long championed and built our Net Zero Transport report around. This work will feed into the wider plans to reduce the emissions from surface transport through effective planning decisions as detailed in the Transport Decarbonisation Plan.

There are also further plans to update Local Transport Plan guidance and utilize the findings from the Government’s upcoming ‘Future of Freight’ call for evidence to review freight policy as a whole. It is clear that the Government is open to new approaches to transport with a specific view to decarbonising surface transport and providing greener solutions.

While the RTPI supports the plans outlined in the NPPF we would still like to see more from the plans. We believe that the Government should be looking to better integrate plan-making with transport alongside other forms of infrastructure provision. Transport planning has often been seen as operating in a silo, which in turn has limited the effectiveness of the new projects.

However, by ensuring that land-use and transport planning are fully integrated, transport infrastructure can be both sustainable and beneficial in unlocking development opportunities. Our Location of Development series has highlighted the current shortcomings in joining transport and land use planning and the effects that it can have on communities.

Alongside the need to integrate transport and land-use planning, we would also like to see an even greater focus upon decarbonising transport through a modal shift. While the ‘Gear Change’ programme has supported the role of active travel in our communities, more needs to be done to support active travel and also public transport throughout the nation.

Our Net Zero Transport report highlighted the steps that we should take to move away from private car use and embed active travel and public transport within all new and existing developments. The scale of the challenge to decarbonise transport is vast and little progress has been made in the last decade. If we are to successfully decarbonise surface transport and reach net zero, then there must be an ambitious and daring national policy framework which incorporates transport planning at the heart of it.   

NPPF policy roundtables

If you’ve not yet done so, we’d strongly encourage RTPI members to lend us your thoughts at an upcoming roundtable. Take a look here for more details about the consultation and opportunities to participate.

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