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Conference explores strategic importance of transport and planning

26 November 2015

High speed rail, the major roads network, the devolution agenda and the Northern Powerhouse are issues which are blurring the line between transport and land use planning. Key speakers from government, academia and the public sector debated these transport  issues at Monday’s  RTPI – TPS Transport Planning Network conference, chaired by Alan Wenban-Smith.

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Jas Mahil, Chair, RTPI-TPS Transport Planning Network, said:

“Properly planned transport infrastructure can have a transformative impact on urban regeneration and sustainability. As the devolution agenda gathers pace and we see more major infrastructure projects coming through the pipeline, it is critical that we understand the strategic importance of transport and the wider benefits that it can bring to an area”

 151123 TPN Event _v2Over 80 planning professionals heard from experts presenting a range of transport planning issues, including (pictured to the right, left to right: Martin Tugwell, Ian Wray, John Worthington and Alan-Wenban Smith). Graham Pendlebury, Director of Local Transport at the Department for Transport, described how the government’s commitment to the devolution agenda was shaping investment in transport investment, and noted a more uneven pattern of regional development across the country could emerge.

Steve Melia (UWE Bristol, pictured speaking below) then looked at how European cities like Lyon had been transformed through investments in sustainable transport. However, he rejected the notion that they possess a “magical sustainable transport gene”, claiming instead that they had simply maintained consistency in the face of political change, local opposition and economic downturns, reaping the long-term benefits.

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David Quarmby noted that, despite a widespread belief in the link between transport, development and economic growth, there isn’t a proper understanding of this complex and dynamic relationship. However he said that this shouldn’t prevent regional actors from cooperating on their housing, transport and employment strategies – they just need to be alert to the risks of unintended consequences.

John Worthington (Independent Transport Commission), in discussing the impact of high speed rail on regional growth and development, called for major railway stations to be seen as public places and placed at the heart of bold regeneration strategies – reminding delegates that it is “highly risky to have zero risk”. While Professor Ian Wray (University of Liverpool) described how his idea for High Speed 3 was co-opted by the government as part of their Northern Powerhouse agenda, and how the shift towards more knowledge-intensive industries was changing preferences for transport and housing across the region.

Martin Tugwell noted the strategic alliance between Buckinghamshire, Oxfordshire and Northamptonshire was helping them lobby for the regional transport investment needed to deliver new housing and jobs. He concluded that Local Planning Authorities should press on with integrating transport and spatial planning using the significant powers already in their hands, and not wait for permission from government to act.


Read a full description of the conference

Find out more about the RTPI-TPS Transport Planning Network

Read coverage in The Planner