GEAR CHANGE FOR THE GOVERNMENT, AND FOR DEVELOPERS.
22 / 09 / 2020
WHAT IS IT?
In May the government announced that £2 billion of new funding would be set aside for cycling and walking, representing a six fold increase in dedicated funding for these areas. Alongside this financial backing, the government unveiled a new policy document setting out their vision to get England cycling and walking more.
The policy document, entitled “Gear Change: A bold vision for cycling and walking” sets out the following areas in which the new funding will be used:
- construction of protected bike lanes;
- introduction of low-traffic neighbourhoods;
- creation of bus and bike corridors on some main roads;
- provision of an increased number of e-bikes;
- provision of bike maintenance vouchers;
- provision of free cycling training; and
- introduction of car parking measures to discourage driving.
The government envisions that these measures will lead to “well-designed and uncluttered” streets, but how does that affect those who are going to be constructing those streets, developers?
WHAT DOES IT MEAN FOR DEVELOPERS?
The new policy document will need to be taken into account by developers from the very beginning of the development process, as the government plans to enforce the new required standards of cycling provisions via the planning process, regardless of whether the developer in question is seeking government funding for the site. Enforcement of the new standards will be implemented via supplementary planning guidance, planning briefs and contract procurement documentation.
Planning departments will be looking for innovative ways in which developers can integrate cycling into the layout of their site, including new cycle routes connecting to and through developments. These layouts should make for easy connections throughout the development to encourage cycling and walking and make it simple for those using the connections to route their way through the site.
Developers will also be expected to take cycling into account when dealing with alterations to links and junctions on existing highways, enhancing the provision for cycling in these areas. The government has confirmed that cycle tracks will normally be offered for adoption, along with new highways, to the highway authority.
Thought should also be given to the practicalities of bike ownership. From the government’s published policy documents, it does not appear that the new funding will be used to increase bicycle storage or parking within major hub areas and developers should consider this when designing a mixed use scheme. Even for schemes comprising only residential dwellings, convenient on street or off street bicycle parking could be a huge incentive for those with bikes to keep and use them, and, when coupled with the full government policy, may encourage those without a bike to invest.
The overall aim here for developers should be to give first priority to pedestrian and cycle movements, both within their developments and neighbouring areas.
It should also be noted that contributions may be required from new developments to enable cycling and walking journeys to extend beyond the site. The government has suggested that such contributions could be collected through the Community Infrastructure Levy, section 106 contributions and section 278 highways agreements.
There is little doubt that the popularity of cycling and walking has increased in England during lockdown. There are questions though, over whether this boom will last as the winter months roll in and more people start coming back into offices using their old, much missed commuting patterns.
How this unfolds on the ground, we will have to see, but the government’s commitment to the policy and dedication to implement it should not be overlooked.