Theme 5: A City With a Modern and Sustainable Transport Infrastructure

4.5.1 Vision and Objectives

4.171

Vision

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.

4.172

Objectives

  1. To ensure that new developments are well-served by sustainable transport;
  2. To make transport healthier and safer for all;
  3. To improve the integration of public transport services;
  4. To avoid unnecessary travel resulting from new development;
  5. To reduce vehicle exhaust emissions in order to meet climate change commitments and national air quality objectives;
  6. To create pleasant and healthy streets, public places and areas of natural environment.

4.5.2 Context

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.

4.5.3 Justification

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:

  1. Walking;
  2. Cycling;
  3. Public transport;
  4. Specialist services, e.g. emergency vehicles, waste collection;
  5. 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

4.187

  • 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

11 Responses to Theme 5: A City With a Modern and Sustainable Transport Infrastructure

  1. Sebastian Pałucha says:

    I support these great aspirational policies. We need to see some serious Council commitment with attention to a quality of new walking and cycling provision as proposed in the plan.

  2. Durham City Access For All Group says:

    Although we agree with much of what is said in this Theme, we take exception to the claim that the refurbishment of paving in North Road is completed. The paving in part of North Road remains un-refurbished and is difficult to use, uncomfortable, and sometimes unsafe for users of pushchairs, buggies and mobility scooters, as well as for wheelchair users. Given the debate about the siting of as new bus station, it would appear unlikely that this part of North Road will be improved in the foreseeable future.

  3. Mathew Teale says:

    The dismissal of the potential benefits to the urban environment of relief roads such as reduced pollution and the potential for restoring some of the historic street pattern is in my view unfortunate.

  4. Milena says:

    There need to be better information about buses routes and timetables. At the minute the best way to find out which bus to use to get form A to B is google maps! this is disgraceful. There should be a website containing accessible, clear and up to date info about all public transport provisions within the county.

    There need to be better and cheaper connection to villages around Durham. At the minute parking in Durham is cheaper than using a bus from villages in 5miles radius form the city. That encourages unnecessary driving of village residents wanting to go to the city and dis-encourage people to live in the villages resulting in huge disproportions in property price between e.g nevilles cross and Bearpark which are less than 2 miles apart.
    Bus connections within the city is also not good enough for public to be able to use it as general means of moving about.

  5. David Cummins says:

    I support the policy of improving provision of walking and cycling networks. Durham has poor infrastructure for both. In places the pathways for pedestrians are too narrow and at busy times people are forced to walk on the road, examples; Durham School, Church Street, and North Road viaduct, and more;
    The provision of cycle networks is patchy at best and non existent at worst. There needs to be continuous safe routes into the city if people are to be encouraged to cycle.
    Where there are shared paths, these need to be wide enough to allow both walkers and cyclists to pass each other freely without conflict. Examples of paths being too narrow are at Whitesmocks & Southfield Way, where there is ample room for widening.
    Innovative use of one way systems could be used to reallocate road space for walking and cycling; eg past Durham school and Church Street/Hallgarth Street, and possibly other locations.
    Although the topography of Durham does not lend itself easily to casual cycling, the increasing popularity of e-bikes, could open up the opportunity for those people who would otherwise consider Durham to be too hilly.

    • Mathew Teale says:

      Strongly agree with the above comments.
      I would suggest that with the rapid increase in the use of electric cycles there is the prospect of much increased cycling even in a hilly city such as Durham. Secure parking for cyclcs is also necessary.

  6. Geoffrey Bromiley says:

    The bus station proposal badly needs re-consideration. Potentially it could do much more harm than good. The transport priorities seem quite right. Traffic problems during the Lumiere period demonstrated yet again the need for ambitious measures to cut down the number of private vehicles seeking to enter and cross the city.

  7. Helen Cannam says:

    A trifle fanciful perhaps (particularly in view of the cost involved), but if the recent suggestion that some railway lines closed by Beeching should be reopened were put into effect in the Durham area, then commuters and shoppers might be encouraged to use rail transport rather than their cars.

  8. Lucy says:

    I support these policies and the widening of pavements and creation of one-way streets.

  9. Ian Spencer says:

    I quote two of the Objectives:
    To make transport healthier and safer for all;
    To reduce vehicle exhaust emissions in order to meet climate change commitments and national air quality objectives;
    Despite this I can find no proposals in the Plan that will enhance air quality from vehicle emissions and thereby improve the health of both residents and regular commuters. It is now more than 5 years since a formal declaration of high air pollution levels within Durham City was made as they had been found to be so high to require legally mandated action. After even further reassessment of levels and a very prolonged public consultation, the Council chose the new SCOOT traffic control system as its primary means of decreasing emission levels (it probably helped that this system had already been chosen, and funds set aside, to speed traffic flows through the centre; limiting vehicle emissions was not, then, a factor!). Prior to this consultation a small group of council officers chose to reject a proposal to limit access to certain vehicles, primarily diesel, despite their own data showing that this would be the most effective means of achieving a healthier atmosphere and this was not included in the subsequent consultation.
    Since then there is little evidence that things have improved, particularly on the main
    route through the city that is regularly used by commuters and school children, both walking, cycling and in vehicles. Although vehicle emission control zones are increasingly being used in UK cities our Council has failed to display a ready willingness to address this issue responsibly.
    I would therefore ask that this matter is considered for inclusion in the Draft Neighbourhood Plan.

  10. tom mccully says:

    Stop taxis parking on double yellow lines on North Road in the city.Insist that all taxi switch off engines when parked waiting for fares .
    The current situation where some times up to 15 taxis are waiting to join official rank lower down North road causing road congestion and pollution.The road outside the bus station is very busy anyway with buses exiting ,the taxis illegally parked only add to the dangers .