4.231 Durham City will have sustainable transport access to economic, educational, training, cultural and social opportunities for all, thereby enabling a swifter transition to a healthier environment and a low-carbon future.
4.232 The objectives of this theme are:
- To ensure that Our Neighbourhood is well-served by sustainable transport;
- To make travel healthier and safer for all;
- To create pleasant and healthy streets, public places and areas of natural environment.
4.233 Decisions on transport policy, proposals and investments are crucial in achieving a more sustainable future. Thus it is timely that the ‘Durham City Sustainable Transport Delivery Plan’ for the period 2019 to 2035 has been produced by Durham County Council (2018a) and, indeed, the issues and opportunities identified (p.9 to 14; Durham County Council, 2015b) are the starting point for our the Neighbourhood Plan, which emphasises the role of new development in helping to deliver sustainable modes of transport appropriate to the special character of Durham City.
4.234 The context provided by the Sustainable Transport Delivery Plan is summarised below and influences, but does not necessarily determine, the policies.
- Highways: the need to maintain the highway network remains of crucial importance for all forms of movement, but the need to keep motor traffic flowing freely must not continue to take precedence over the needs of other users. The A690 through the City is a barrier to pedestrians and cyclists, and vehicle emissions have an impact on the health of local people.
- Walking and cycling: in Durham City, where 36% of people walked to work (in 2011), improvements to the pedestrian networks are a high priority. Addressing footway congestion on routes to the University, dealing with safety issues, including conflict with cyclists, wheelchair users and motor vehicles, and improving crossings at major junctions are among the interventions which could help walking reach its full potential. Cycling accounts for a low percentage of travel currently. City Centre routes are complex and incoherent, there is little continuous cycling infrastructure, and no high quality routes to Durham University from the City Centre. Round the outskirts there are many busy junctions with no provision for cyclists. There is a significant opportunity for improvement. The Government’s commitment to a national Cycling and Walking Investment Strategy through the ‘Infrastructure Act 2015’ (UK Parliament, 2015, section 21) presents a new determination to secure greater investment in the future.
- Public transport: the Sustainable Transport Delivery Plan identifies issues which prevent the City from realising its full potential including too many services terminating in the City Centre making many journeys inconvenient, the poor quality of bus stops and bus station, and poor connectivity to Durham railway station. Congestion affects bus reliability and journey times. The Park and Ride service and some other bus services do not run late enough into the evening for some users, and the Park and Ride requires a subsidy despite its popularity. While national rail connections are very good, train services to local settlements are limited.
- Parking: the Sustainable Transport Delivery Plan highlights the extensive provision of free car parking at major employment sites across the City, which might discourage the uptake of sustainable transport modes. The Delivery Plan presents somewhat simplified conclusions on parking in comparison with the full Durham Sustainable Transport Plan Issues and Opportunities Report (Durham County Council, 2015b) which better reflected the diversity of opinion on this issue. In particular there are concerns about the continued economic viability of City Centre retail which could be alleviated by better management of car parking.
4.235 A fuller treatment of the transport context and details of facilities is given in Appendix D (para. D2 to D12). (See also relevant initiatives in the companion document ‘Looking Forwards: Durham as a Creative and Sustainable City’.)
4.236 This justification refers to the Transport theme as a whole. Additional, specific justification for each transport policy is given with the policy itself.
4.237 There is a limit to what the Neighbourhood Plan can achieve with respect to transport, especially when so many people travel to, or through, Our Neighbourhood from other areas. The maintenance and upgrading of the road network is adequately covered by policies that apply across County Durham for assessing the transport impacts of developments. Thus the policies in the Neighbourhood Plan focus on where value can be added, particularly dealing with shorter journeys by walking and cycling, access to bus services, and the design of streets. Car and cycle parking is also covered, to promote effective use of housing land.
4.238 The main justification for prioritising sustainable modes of transport in the Neighbourhood Plan is the County Council’s recognition of the need to deal with competition for road space in its adoption in the Sustainable Transport Delivery Plan of the hierarchy set out in the Department for Transport (2007b) ‘Manual for Streets’. This accords with the NPPF (para. 102 and 103) which has an objective that “opportunities to promote walking, cycling and public transport use are identified” and supported by the planning system actively managing patterns of growth. The Council’s earlier ‘Transport Strategy’ (Durham County Council, 2011b) is also supportive of sustainability. This Local Transport Plan is for the period 2011 onwards and covers the whole of Durham County, with Durham City as a section within this. It is organised under 6 themes, including: Reduce our carbon footprint; Safer and healthier travel; Better accessibility to services; Improve quality of life and a healthy natural environment; Maintain the transport asset.
4.239 The national ‘Cycling and Walking Investment Strategy’ (Department for Transport, 2017) aims to make cycling and walking the natural choices for shorter journeys, or as part of a longer journey. Its 2020 objectives are to: increase cycling activity, increase walking activity, reduce the rate of cyclists killed or seriously injured on England’s roads, increase the percentage of children aged 5 to 10 that usually walk to school. It recognises that insufficient investment has been put into cycling and walking and notes that “walking and cycling should be seen as transport modes in their own right and an integral part of the transport network, rather than as niche interests or town-planning afterthoughts”. (p.7)
4.240 Therefore, to meet expectations for a more sustainable City with a modern transport infrastructure, investment in future transport needs will be according to this user hierarchy:
- Public transport;
- Specialist services, e.g. emergency vehicles, waste collection;
- Other motor traffic.
4.241 The second justification can be found in the Forum’s priority survey of the views of local people and study of the views of young people in the City (Durham City Neighbourhood Planning Forum, 2015, 2016a) which reveal a variety of opinions on the transport issues facing us. People appreciate the pedestrianised areas, the compact size of the City and the public transport links, but many raised the poor pedestrian environment, traffic congestion, and parking as issues. The Park and Ride service is valued, but could also be much improved. People would like traffic management and the road system improved, including the pedestrian environment and safe routes for cycling. The Sustainable Communities Strategy for County Durham 2014-2030 (County Durham Partnership, 2014) has the theme ‘Altogether safer’ including the aim of reducing road casualties.
4.242 There were views also on the need to address climate change, air quality, congestion, and active travel (walking and cycling) to bring health benefits. Active travel suggestions included proposals for network improvements that were needed including specific paths to be improved by better surfaces or lighting. Ideas to improve walking were also gathered at the Eco-Festival held at St John’s, Neville’s Cross, in June 2016 and feedback on cycling needs was gathered via a meeting of local cyclists (Durham City Neighbourhood Planning Forum, 2016b) and these findings have been updated in the light of responses to the public consultation.
4.243 A further justification for a sustainable transport approach is to be found in the ‘County Durham Climate Change Strategy’ (County Durham Environment Partnership, 2015b, p.17)
County Durham will aim to reduce CO2 emissions from transport, through the promotion of travel choices and alternatives to private car travel, ultra-low carbon vehicles, walking, cycling and more integrated travel planning.
4.244 As pointed out in the strategy, 23% of CO2 emissions come from the transport sector. Nationally over a third of journeys under two miles, and 55% of journeys under five miles are made by car or van. If people are given more transport options, through improving public transport and the pedestrian and cycling environment, big reductions in emissions and congestion could be achieved. But it is also important to encourage the use of electric vehicles and cleaner, fuel-efficient cars among those who still need to use cars for their daily travel, particularly as an Air Quality Management Area (AQMA) runs through the centre of Our Neighbourhood. Developments which would normally fall below the threshold for requiring a Transport Statement or a Transport Assessment may be required to provide this analysis if the site falls within or is close to the AQMA. This may also lead to transport improvements being required as mitigation. Air quality is covered in detail in Figure 1 of the Plan.
4.245 The Durham City Regeneration Masterplan (Durham County Council, 2014) and its update (Durham County Council, 2016c) have a number of implementation projects and actions relevant to transport in Our Neighbourhood (a subset of the Durham City area covered by the Masterplan). There are projects to improve the bus station, cycle and pedestrian routes, and junctions on the A690, but proposals for relief roads have since been withdrawn. The Masterplan update notes what has been delivered and outlines key future activities. Completed projects include the refurbishment of most of the road and pavements in North Road, cycle path provision to the railway station, and preparations for installation of a SCOOT system at the traffic lights on the Gilesgate and Leazes Bowl roundabouts. However, the Plan can only address issues within Our Neighbourhood and consider ways to encourage cycling and walking and the use of public transport.
4.246 A number of saved policies of the City of Durham Local Plan (T4, T19, T21, Q1, Q2, Q4, Q8) are relevant to the following transport policies.
Planning Policies and Proposals for Land Use
4.247 The policies related to this theme are:
- Policy T1: Sustainable transport Accessibility and Design
- Policy T2: Residential Car Parking
- Policy T3: Residential Storage for Cycles and Mobility Aids
Next section: Policy T1: Sustainable transport accessibility and design