The Department for Transport has now confirmed that from 1st June 2023, local planning authorities outside of London (where TfL and Borough policy and guidance will still apply) will be required to consult Active Travel England (ATE) on planning applications where the following thresholds are met:
- 150 residential units;
- 7,500m2 commercial use; or
- Developments with a site area of 5 hectares or more.
ATE has an ambitious target of 50% of trips in towns and cities being walked, wheeled or cycled by 2030. To help implement this, in January, the DfT announced that £32.9 million of funding was to be made available for local authorities to train engineers and planners to conduct high-quality engagement and consultation sessions with local communities.
So, what does it mean? Well, going forward, active travel measures will need to be formally considered as part of the pre-application process, likely within a bespoke document, with a full assessment of opportunities and potential measures to be considered within technical planning documents.
Whilst this is already a key consideration within Transport Assessments, and other planning documents, we expect to see a much greater emphasis. In turn, developers could see increased responsibility, and costs, to achieve the wider ATE and government net-zero goals.
For example, where a new simple footpath between communities may have previously been accepted, we would now expect that further details will be required at the planning stage such as, how many benches should be provided? Is the route lit well enough to ensure users feel safe? Can this be built in a way which makes it accessible for all user groups?
We may finally be seeing the planning system move away from looking at the impact of vehicles as a starting point when assessing travel to and from a site, putting pedestrians and cyclists at the top of the hierarchy. As we know, by improving the walking and cycling environments for new and existing users, people are less likely to jump in their car for shorter journeys and in turn traffic impact is reduced. Everyone wins!
Iceni Transport will be engaging with the DfT to ensure we are at the forefront of understanding the latest requirements and to help our clients receive the best possible advice. If you want to understand more about ATE requirements and how this update may affect your schemes, then please do let us know at Iceni Transport.