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Concentrating on development

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Bringing transport policy and planning together could encourage more proactive high-density planning action

In line with the recommendations of the Urban Task Force, a recent Royal Institute of Chartered Surveyors report, Transport Development Areas: a study into achieving higher density development around public transport nodes, produced with the support of the Department of Environment, Transport and the Regions (DETR), examines the factors permitting a greater density of development around significant transport hubs.

At its launch, RICS spokesman Michael Chambers said: 'Take-up of the TDA [Transport Development Areas] approach by local authorities and others could be crucial in directing development to the most accessible locations, creating a virtuous circle linking sustainable land use with better public transport. The research shows that higher density development can be achieved without detriment to the urban environment. It fits well with new concepts of urban living.'

Within a TDA, the local authority would allow higher-density development, compared with existing development plan policies, provided the developer contributed to the provision of public transport and other local transport objectives.

Implementation of the original PPG13 (Transport) has been inconsistent. This is due in part to a reactive approach by local authorities to new development, with little attention being paid to promoting development on sites where these principles can be more effectively applied.Against this background, the RICS report recommends a more proactive approach. This is the key, perhaps, to an otherwise fairly obvious proposition: the opportunity for the planning system (integrating land-use and transport), the development sector and public and private landowners to initiate higher-density development in appropriate locations. Within this overall context, many of the institutional and regulatory mechanisms necessary to permit the TDA approach to function effectively are already in place.

However, a more formal mechanism is needed, to bring together developers, transport operators and local planning interests. The systematic introduction of the TDA approach could bring the current planning policy guidance to life.

Recognition of the benefits could cascade down through regional planning guidance, unitary development and local implementation plans.

There are already a number of examples of TDA-style development in Europe, North America and the Asia Pacific region. However, using detailed case studies in the UK to explore the feasibility of introducing TDAs into the existing planning system, the report concluded that:

The existing system can deliver, but only in certain circumstances, usually within major urban areas. It needs greater clarity, more positive policy direction and detailed guidance on identification and delivery.

Delivery often fails because of various stakeholders' preconceived ideas of what is, or is not, needed.

The existing system works through the interaction between development plan and supplementary planning guidance or development control mechanisms, now supplemented by local transport plans. The TDA approach could be applied in a wide range of different locations and circumstances without having to make major changes to the existing land use/transport planning system.

Implementing TDAs requires a firm policy steer from government, with recognition of the TDA approach in the new PPG13 presently in draft and in regional planning guidance. There should also be backing with detailed guidance and good practice advice - especially on funding issues and the enabling role of local authorities.

The principle of concentrating development in certain, mainly urban, locations must be supported by steps to maintain the quality of the built environment. The TDA concept works well in this context as it promotes mixed-use development and offers opportunities to exploit new models of urbanity, consistent with the findings of the Urban Task Force report.

According to the report, the TDA approach should provide a comprehensive basis for the formal introduction of TDAs into the existing planning system. It should clarify its purpose within the planning policy framework at national and regional level, with a consistent yet flexible application of TDAs at the development plan and development control levels. It must involve all stakeholders in the TDA process within the existing arrangements for consultation and participation, with a particular focus on stakeholder participation within enhanced arrangements for implementation and ongoing urban management.

The formal recognition and introduction into the existing planning system of the TDA approach would greatly assist the attainment of current integrated land-use and transport planning objectives. Good practice guidelines should be implemented as soon as possible.

Brian Waters is principal of the Boisot Waters Cohen Partnership, tel 020 7828 6555 or e-mail brian@bwcp. co. uk

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