4.5.1 Vision and Objectives
Providing 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.
- To ensure that new developments are well-served by sustainable transport;
- To make transport healthier and safer for all;
- To improve the integration of public transport services;
- To avoid unnecessary travel resulting from new development;
- To reduce vehicle exhaust emissions in order to meet climate change commitments and national air quality objectives;
- To create pleasant and healthy streets, public places and areas of natural environment.
4.173 Decisions on transport policy, proposals and investments are crucial in achieving a more sustainable future. Thus it is timely that the ‘Sustainable Transport Strategy’ (STS) for Durham City for the period 2015 to 2030 has been produced by Durham County Council (2016g) and, indeed, the issues and opportunities identified (p.9 to 14; Durham County Council, 2015b) are the starting point for our 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.
4.174 The context provided by the Sustainable Transport Strategy can be summarised as follows:
- 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. The Sustainable Transport Strategy concludes that the building of a Northern relief road would tackle these problems by removing up to 30% of the 48,000 vehicles per day that use Milburngate Bridge. With traffic volumes over the Milburngate Bridge in decline over the last 16 years, our Neighbourhood Plan considers it unwise to invest heavily in constructing new roads before seeking to meet travel needs by improving alternatives to car use. The building of relief roads is beyond the remit of our Neighbourhood Plan as their proposed locations fall outside Our Neighbourhood, but it is nevertheless a decision that could entrench the dependence of the city on the use of the car.
- Walking and cycling: in Durham City, where 35% of people walked to work (in 2011), improvements to the pedestrian networks are a high priority. Cycling accounts for a low percentage of travel currently. The lack of protected space on main roads and an incoherent network mean that most people do not consider cycling to be safe enough for them or for their children, but if this is addressed cycling has great potential in a small city like Durham. 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 Strategy 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 poor connectivity to Durham railway station. There was support for upgrading the bus station on the current site as part of regenerating North Road in the Forum’s priority survey (Durham City Neighbourhood Planning Forum, 2015). Durham County Council’s most recent consultation on its proposals for a new bus station was carried out in the autumn of 2016. The Durham City Neighbourhood Planning Forum submitted views which questioned the desirability of the proposals. The case for building an £8 million bus station in a new location is unconvincing. There are fundamental objections to its location, orientation, scale and materials and in particular the relationship of the building to its surroundings. It has proved to be impossible to satisfactorily integrate a building and its operating area of such a scale and nature into the sensitive and limited site chosen for it. It is therefore contrary to the intentions of heritage Policy H2 in respect of new buildings. There would also appear to be serious and unresolved traffic circulation and pedestrian and cycling problems arising from the proposal. The County Council has developed, costed and consulted on its scheme without providing equivalent assessments for improving the bus station on its existing site and therefore no conclusions can reliably be made of other courses of action. The view of the Forum is that an improved bus station on its existing site is likely to be less costly, less intrusive, more convenient and more popular than the current proposal.
- Parking: the Sustainable Transport Strategy 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 STS presents somewhat simplified conclusions on parking by 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.
4.175 The transport context and details of facilities are give in section E5 of Appendix E.
4.176 This justification refers to the Transport theme as a whole. Additional, specific justification for each transport policy is given with the policy itself.
4.177 There is a limit to what our 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 our 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 our streets. Car and cycle parking is also covered, to promote effective use of housing land.
4.178 The main justification for prioritising sustainable modes of transport in our 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 Strategy of the hierarchy set out in the Department for Transport (2007) ‘Manual for Streets’. This accords with the core planning principles of the National Planning Policy Framework (para 17, point 11) to “actively manage patterns of growth to make fullest possible use of public transport, walking and cycling”. 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.
4.179 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)
4.180 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.
4.181 The second justification can be found in the Forum’s surveys of the views of local people and 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.
4.182 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 evidence on cycling needs was gathered via a meeting of local cyclists (Durham City Neighbourhood Planning Forum, 2016b).
4.183 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.
4.184 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. Air quality is covered in detail in section 4.1.3 of our Plan.
4.185 The Durham City Regeneration Masterplan (Durham County Council, 2014c) and its update (Durham County Council, 2016f) 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): i.e. Modern infrastructure – new relief roads (outside Our Neighbourhood) are proposed. In addition, there are projects to improve the bus station, cycle and pedestrian routes, and junctions on the A690. The Masterplan update notes what has been delivered and outlines key future activities. Completed projects include the refurbishment of the road and pavements in North Road, cycle path provision to the railway station, installation of a SCOOT system at the traffic lights on the Gilesgate and Leazes Bowl roundabouts. However, our Plan can only address issues within Our Neighbourhood and consider ways to encourage cycling and walking and the use of public transport.
4.186 A number of saved policies of the City of Durham Local Plan are relevant to transport (City of Durham Council, 2004; Durham County Council, 2015a: T4,13,19,21; Q2,8) and these policies have been incorporated into the policies below.
4.5.4 Planning Policies and Proposals for Land Use
- Policy T1: Accessibility of Proposed Developments
- Policy T2: Designing for Sustainable Transport
- Policy T3: Residential Car Parking in the Controlled Parking Zone (CPZ)
- Policy T4: Residential Storage for Cycles and Mobility Aids
Next section: Policy T1: Accessibility of Proposed Developments