Policy T1: Sustainable transport accessibility and design
Development proposals will be required to demonstrate best practice in respect of sustainable transport accessibility and design.
Approach routes to the site, and access within the development should be accessible to all, giving the highest priority to walking, then cycling and public transport, and should meet the travel needs of people with mobility impairments.
Adverse transport impacts should be avoided where practicable. To mitigate adverse impacts, proposals should be made to improve access by walking, cycling and public transport in the area around the development, and thereby contribute to modal shift towards sustainable transport.
By following best practice, new access roads and residential streets, and alterations to existing ones, will include:
- permeability for sustainable modes with safe, direct and continuous routes for walking, cycling and public transport users within the site, connecting with surrounding paths and highways; and
- measures to minimise car traffic, exclude through-routes for motor vehicles, and to discourage vehicle speeds exceeding 20mph; and
- a family-friendly environment in a high quality public realm, with opportunities for play in residential streets, and a safe environment at day and night.
4.240 Among the adverse impacts of transport are:
- poor air quality, noise and congestion
- greenhouse gas emissions
- loss of habitat and severance of wildlife corridors
- increased danger to vulnerable road users, especially children, which is seen not just in casualties, but more significantly in loss of freedom compared with previous generations
- unattractive visual effect of highways and car parking
- opportunity cost of devoting land to enabling vehicle movements and storage
- damage to social cohesion through reduced social interactions
- inconvenience or severance effects for existing users
- impaired health from reduced physical activity
4.241 For many developments the impact will be small, but there is often scope to reduce these impacts. For example, careful design of vehicular entry to properties will protect the safety of pedestrians and safeguard their priority. Placing car parking at the rear of premises rather than in a forecourt prioritises sustainable access and reduces the visual impact of developments.
4.242 The Planning Authority will give pre-application advice on the level of assessment required, which might be a full Transport Assessment, a Transport Statement, or a statement of accessibility within a Design and Access Statement. Durham County Council’s thresholds based on the scale of a development proposal are published in the ‘Planning Validation Requirements’ (Durham County Council, 2017b) and are drawn from the national ‘Guidance on Transport Assessment’ (Department for Transport, 2007a). It should be noted that full Transport Assessments may be required for sites falling below the guideline thresholds if a development is proposed within or adjacent to the Air Quality Management Area or if local transport infrastructure is judged to be inadequate. The Guidance on Transport Assessment (Appendix B, p. 49) indicates that this should apply where there are substandard roads, poor pedestrian or cyclist facilities or inadequate public transport provisions. With respect to pedestrian and cyclist facilities, the context maps (see Maps 8 and 9 in Appendix D) and the detailed paper produced by the Neighbourhood Plan Working Party (Durham City Neighbourhood Plan Working Party, 2019b) should be used to help identify inadequate facilities. Over time this information base may be revised by the City of Durham Parish Council or in the course of production of the Durham City Local Cycling and Walking Infrastructure Plan.
4.243 Paragraph 4.14 of the Guidance on Transport Assessment (Department for Transport, 2007a) stipulates that “an assessment should be made of the available capacity of the existing cycleway and footpath network in the area of the development” using “appropriate analytical tools and methodologies”. This assessment should inform the development of any Travel Plan, the assessment of modal split, and should indicate any enhancements to the local cycleway and footpath network that may be required. Objective 1 of the ‘County Durham Strategic Cycling and Walking Delivery Plan 2019-2029, Action Plan 2019-2024’ (Durham County Council, 2019e) sets out a range of audit tools which are considered suitable, including Appendices B and C of the ‘Design Guidance: Active Travel (Wales) Act 2013’ (Welsh Government, 2014).
4.244 It will not be acceptable for Transport Assessments and Transport Statements merely to illustrate the potential walking and cycling catchment areas for a development. The current conditions and deficiencies in the networks are material considerations which must be included in the analysis.
4.245 Potential will often exist for development proposals to encourage accessibility by foot, cycle or public transport through the provision of off-site improvements. Funding to remedy deficiencies in the transport network, or to provide capacity enhancement, may be sought via planning obligations by the Planning Authority. Improvements may include, but should not be limited to, the following measures:
- widening footways and improving road crossings;
- providing cycle infrastructure, and addressing conflict with pedestrians;
- improving accessibility for those using wheelchairs and mobility aids, for example by provision of at-grade crossings or dropped kerbs;
- improving the lighting, surface or drainage of footpaths;
- contributing towards construction of new public transport infrastructure;
- subsidising public transport services for a number of years until they are viable.
4.246 In all cases, solutions should respect the urban or rural context of the routes being adapted. Policy G1 covers footpaths.
4.247 Current best practice, in terms of design, can be found in ‘Design Guidance: Active Travel’ (Welsh Government, 2014), which is one of the design guides mandated by the County Durham Strategic Cycling and Walking Delivery Plan (Durham County Council, 2019e). It is currently the most comprehensive and up to date walking and cycling design guide to have received approval through a UK legislative process, and is in accord with UK highways practices. It gathers in one document best practice from earlier publications such as the ‘Manual for Streets’ (Department for Transport, 2007b), ‘Inclusive Mobility’ (Department for Transport, 2005), and ‘Cycle Infrastructure Design’ (Department for Transport, 2008). Designing walking and cycling infrastructure in accordance with this, or similar, guidance will enable the fullest uptake of walking and cycling in Our Neighbourhood. The guidance should be applied to all types of roads and off-road routes so that a network of consistently high quality can be developed.
4.248 The ‘Design Guidance: Active Travel’ (Welsh Government, 2014) covers topics such as surfaces, lighting, the need for seating, for managing street clutter, and for good maintenance, along with advice on determining how pedestrian and cyclist priority at side roads should be handled, and facilities at bus stops. A full range of design elements is provided, which embody best practice, including minimum dimensions. Highly congested pavements are a particular problem in Durham. Objective techniques for assessing footway capacity are provided (para. 4.7.5, page 38) which will determine what level of enhancement is required.
4.249 An important consideration in Our Neighbourhood, which came through strongly during the public consultation, is the need to separate pedestrian and cycle facilities. This is in part prompted by the poor design of existing routes, which are noted on the context maps (see Maps 8 and 9 in Appendix D), exacerbated by the potential for high speeds obtained by cyclists travelling downhill. Section 6.11 (pages 117-120) of the ‘Design Guidance: Active Travel (Wales) Act 2013’ gives detailed advice on segregation of pedestrian and cycle routes, and lists factors that should be used to determine the best design solution. The gradient of the route is an important factor to consider within Our Neighbourhood.
4.250 As transport is a key issue in Durham City, travel plans and transport assessments accompanying development proposals should incorporate local detail, rather than being desk-based exercises. Developers and their consultants are encouraged to engage from the outset with local groups such as the Durham City Cycle Forum (a focus group convened by the County Council), Durham City Access for All Group, and other relevant bodies. The NPPF (para. 128) states that “applications that can demonstrate early, proactive and effective engagement with the community should be looked on more favourably than those that cannot”. Applications should include walking and cycling provision in the design brief at the inception of the design process, as recommended by the Chartered Institution of Highways and Transportation (2018, para. 4 to 10) in their response to the Cycling and Walking Investment Strategy Review.
4.251 In assessing the transport impacts of a development, a holistic view is required if the application forms part of a larger development zone, or part of a larger estate in the City. For example, car parking levels provided across the zone or estate should be compared to the prevailing car parking policy, and a commitment made to reduce any excess provision which is not justified.
4.252 As acknowledged in the ‘Durham City Sustainable Transport Delivery Plan’ (Durham County Council, 2018b, p.7), the relatively small, compact nature of the City suits the promotion of sustainable modes of travel, and thus higher standards and a stronger emphasis on good design are required in Our Neighbourhood. Regarding land use planning, the Sustainable Transport Delivery Plan (p. 33) recommends the highest possible design standards should be applied to development sites and to access on foot, by cycle and by public transport. Chapter 12 of the NPPF sets out how to achieve well-designed places, particularly emphasising that local and neighbourhood plans should set out a clear design vision, including recommending design guides. These provide clarity to developers at the earliest stage of the design process. To meet climate change commitments, and to build a healthier, more liveable environment, a sustained shift towards sustainable transport modes will be required, and new developments present an opportunity to increase the proportion of sustainable transport journeys over the average in the local area.
Next section: Policy T2: Residential Car Parking