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Place-based solutions to net zero carbon transport: the role of spatial planning

This research explores the contribution of spatial planning to the decarbonisation of surface transport


The Department for Transport’s document Decarbonising Transport: Setting the Challenge (March 2020) recognises that measures to reduce overall travel demand and increase the use of sustainable transport modes must accompany technological change, such as vehicle electrification, in order to meet the UK’s carbon emissions reduction commitments. The DfT has defined ‘place-based solutions’ as one of six strategic priorities for its Transport Decarbonisation Plan, which focuses on England.

Spatial planning can help to reduce travel demand and enable modal shift by integrating place-based approaches to transport decarbonisation into long-term visions for the physical, social and economic development of different parts of the country. Strategies, plans, policies and guidance can help to ensure that planning, development and investment decisions support the delivery of this vision.

The research project

To understand this in more detail, the RTPI has appointed LDA Design, in partnership with City Science and Vectos, to carry out bold and innovative research on the contribution of spatial planning to transport decarbonisation in different types of place, and address barriers to implementation.

The project will first create fictional areas which represent typical places across England, from rural counties to city-regions. By using data and innovative software, the team will model the carbon impact of different land uses, activities and transport modes, and consider how barriers to decarbonisation can be overcome.

The research will consider a variety of potential solutions such as increasing density, restricting car use, promoting mixed development and mobility hubs, and creating integrated active and public transport networks. The research will also consider the potential impact of Covid-19, and the role of planning policy and culture in ensuring that decarbonisation delivers wider benefits to health and wellbeing, inclusion and the delivery of strategic green infrastructure.

The project will culminate in the production of ambitious vision plans for each of the fictional areas. These will illustrate how combinations of solutions can achieve a zero carbon transport network at different scales.

To carry out the analysis, LDA will work with City Science, an independent firm of software developers, data scientists and infrastructure experts – drawing on their award-winning modelling and decarbonisation tools. Vectos will contribute by drawing from their extensive research, sustainable transport planning and place-making activities across the UK and Europe.

The project will support the Department for Transport’s emerging decarbonisation plan by clarifying where planning can reduce transport emissions in different types of place. It will also inform the Institute’s work on planning reform, following the publication of the government's Planning White Paper.

Project documents

If you have any questions about this research, please contact James Harris, Policy and Networks Manager

Tel: 020 7929 9483 / Email:

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