A New Age for Walking, Wheeling, and Cycling in England


November 10, 2023



In 2020, the government published Gear Change: A Bold Vision for Cycling and Walking [1]. Recognising that higher levels of active travel would lead to healthier, happier, greener, and safer communities, the government want to see half of short journeys in towns and cities to be walked, wheeled, or cycled by 2030. To help achieve this goal, it was announced that an executive agency called Active Travel England (ATE), sponsored by the Department for Transport, would be established. Two years later, in August 2022, this goal was achieved, and it is now better understood how ATE will interact with local authorities across the country.

In addition to increasing their capability to promote active travel through the provision of support, training, and technical expertise, as of the beginning of June 2023, ATE is now officially a statutory consultee on all planning applications for major new developments and land used for highways. Major developments, which make up 60% of new homes, are defined as those equal to or exceeding 150 housing units, 7,500 m2 of floorspace, or an area of 5 hectares, and land used for highways [2]. Alongside their engagement with local authorities, ATE will undertake data analysis, modelling and data visualisations to provide insight into national strategies and policies.

ATE have recently released three guidance documents which local authorities should refer to when reviewing planning applications including the ATE Planning Application Assessment Toolkit, a development management procedural note, and the Active Travel England Standing Advice Note [3], [4] & [5]. These documents pass comment on the contents of Transport Assessments and Travel Plans, access to local amenities and public transport, accessibility, street design, safety at junctions and crossings, and cycle parking and facilities.

Although national planning documents such as the National Design Guide and National Planning Policy Framework have underlined the importance of access to local amenities and public transport previously, ATE have introduced the most clear and comprehensive definition of access to date, and one that is measurable.

“[A] Mix of local amenities should be provided within an 800m walking distance of all residential properties or staff entrances for workplace facilities, while a bus stop with regular service(s) should be located within 400m. Local amenities may include but not be limited to a food shop, park or green space, indoor meeting space, primary school, post office or bank and GP surgery.” [6]

Through urban network analysis, PLACE LOGIC can support assessments of new developments against these criteria by utilising open data sources such as OpenStreetMap and existing data science tools and methodologies to undertake isochrone analyses along network constrained paths. These types of analyses go beyond more traditional isochrone analysis where 15-minute walking circles may have been drawn over maps using a compass and they better reflect the reality, enabling designers to better understand the impact of introducing or removing links within a network. Should you be interested in in discussing this further for one of your projects, please don’t hesitate to get in touch.

 

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