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Report highlights role of car-dependency in new housing developments

New research has found that greenfield housing estates are adding hundreds of thousands of new car journeys to roads, increasing congestion, carbon emissions and air pollution. The report comes from the Transport for New Homes group, which includes the Royal Town Planning Institute’s (RTPI) Infrastructure Specialist Harry Steele as a member of its steering group.

The report, ‘Building Car Dependency’, echoes similar research from the RTPI’s Location of Development research, particularly the more recent Location of Development iii report, released in December 2021. Location of Development iii highlighted how new housing developments are forcing residents to rely on cars over public transport, particularly in areas outside of London.

“Transport for New Home’s report explores the issue of car dependency within new developments in great detail,” said Steele. “The report raises issues that we have also identified in our ‘Location of Development’ and ‘Net Zero Transport’ reports and it is clear that if planning is to play a key role in addressing climate change then we must plan to reduce car dependency.”

Building on this research, the latest report from the Transport for New Homes group found that new housing developments across England, which are typical greenfield development, are designed in every way around the car. Rather than the walkable, green, and sustainable places that the Government and developers envisaged for future living, the group observed places where residents had to drive for nearly every journey.

Public transport promises were often not in place within these new developments, and in some cases had been reduced. Recent research into the location of new major residential developments by the RTPI’s Policy and Data Analyst Sam Spencer reflected this lack of accessibility, showing that 17% of new approved major residential development is not within 5km of a railway station. “However, travel times to specific amenities are worse than this figure might suggest, representing around 1000 approvals each with 50+ housing units,” said Spencer.

The Transport for New Homes group concluded by recommending, among other measures, that new developments no longer be built around the car. Not only does car-based living risk inactive and isolated lifestyles, but the high percentage of land devoted to parking, driveways undermines the government’s desire to build ‘beautiful places’. Instead, the report recommends new homes be built with easy access to modern public transport networks.

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