Policy Option 18: Sustainable Transport in New Development

Sustainable Development Principles

  1. How development is planned and delivered impacts on the transport choices that new residents will make. Put simply, if development is planned around providing for private car use, with limited opportunities for residents to walk, cycle or use public transport, then less sustainable travel choices are locked in from the outset, and very difficult to change in the future. Given the contribution of transport to carbon emissions, this would make it very difficult for new development to both achieve required carbon reductions, as well as achieving wider objectives in particular on health and wellbeing.

  1. The NPPF (2019) makes clear that development plans should look to prioritise sustainable transport options where possible. Paragraph 102 (c) states that plan-making should ensure that ‘opportunities to promote walking, cycling and public transport use are identified and pursued,’ whilst paragraph 103 states that, ‘significant development should be focused on locations which are or can be made sustainable, through limiting the need to travel and offering a genuine choice of transport modes.’

  1. Unfortunately, historically much development across the country and indeed parts of Oxfordshire has been planned and delivered with a focus on providing for and mitigating the impact of car-based travel. The RTPI Net Zero carbon report makes clear that there is therefore a need to re-examine how land-use and transport planning are integrated, if we are to achieve our zero carbon vision. In particular, the report notes there is a need to move away from a predict and provide' approach centred on planning for forecast transport movements (often based on past examples) to one very much focused on planning and delivering a vision (with targets) of what needs to be achieved. Once the vision and targets have been set, a hierarchical approach to planning for transport movements can then be undertaken, ensuring that supporting transport and land-use measures are prioritised.

  1. Planning for transport also needs to be integrated into and support wider place-shaping principles. Paragraph 104(a) of the NPPF (2019) states that planning policies should, ‘support an appropriate mix of uses across an area, and within larger scale sites, to minimise the number and length of journeys needed for employment, shopping, leisure, education and other activities.’ 

  1. More recently, the concept of 15 or 20 minutes neighbourhoods has come the fore, and is about creating places where resident's everyday needs, such as education, employment, community health and wellbeing facilities and recreation opportunities can be met within a short walk or cycle ride. Both the planning guidance and 20-minute neighbourhood concept supports the hierarchical approach to planning for transport and movement, through reducing the need for longer-distance travel, particularly by private vehicle. To enable this, there will also be a need to ensure that the street and movement network for new development is well designed, taking on-board key principles such as those outlined for 'healthy streets' to encourage take-up of more sustainable travel options

Planning for Zero Emission Vehicles

  1. The UK government announced in November 2020 that the sale of diesel and petrol cars and vans will be phased out by 2030, with the plan for all new cars and vans to be 'fully zero emission at the tailpipe from 2035.' Between 2030 and 2035 all new cars and vans will need to 'have the capability to drive a significant distance with zero emissions.' . The main way to enable this switch will be the sale of Electric Vehicles, including plug-in hybrid vehicles, with the proportion of new cars sold that are defined as 'ultra-low emission' now increasing year-on-year. To support this, there is an acknowledgement of the need to roll out significant further charging infrastructure at homes, on local streets and along strategic roads.  

  1. Oxfordshire is already starting to plan in detail for the required charging infrastructure to support the move towards zero-emission vehicles. The Oxfordshire Electric Vehicle (EV) Infrastructure Strategy was signed-off by the County Council Cabinet, and most of the district councils in March/ April 2021 and sets out key policies and actions for roll out of EV infrastructure over the next 5 years. The strategy recognises that forecasts predict sales of EVs to significantly increase in the run up to central Government timescales, with Oxfordshire forecast to be ahead of the rest of the country based on sales to date.

  1. The NPPF (2019) recognises that planning has a key role to play in ensuring the roll out of appropriate EV charging infrastructure in new development. Para 115 notes that any local parking standards should take into account, ‘the need to ensure an adequate provision of spaces for charging plug-in and other low emission vehicles,’ whilst para 110 states that applications for development should ‘be designed to enable charging of plug-in and other ultra-low emission vehicles in safe, accessible and convenient locations.’ In July 2019, the Government also consulted on proposals to set minimum requirements for EV charging in new and existing residential and non-residential development, proposing chargers in every new car parking space for residential developments with at least 10 spaces, and 1 in every 5 spaces for non-residential development with at least 10 spaces. 

  1. The recently adopted local plans for Oxford and South Oxfordshire both have policies that support introduction of EV charging points, with the Oxford City policy specifying the need for EV charging points at each residential unit with a parking space, and for at least 25% of non-allocated spaces to have charging points. Non-allocated spaces can not only provide for both residents and visitors, but they can also help enable shared mobility options such as car clubs. EV charging can also be integrated into the energy networks for new development, with smart charging of vehicles aligning with energy demand and power supply from renewables.

Policy Option

  1. The preferred option for the Oxfordshire Plan takes account of the Oxfordshire EV strategy which recommends that future planning policies should seek to meet or exceed those targets set out for Oxford City. Building on national planning guidance, the recent local plan policies and the Government proposals for building regulations, there is an opportunity through the Oxfordshire Plan to set out a common minimum standard for all new developments that supports the move towards 100% uptake of EVs. There is also an opportunity to plan for this provision alongside the energy and digital networks within any development.

  1. The Preferred policy option seeks to set a standard framework for considering these matters across development in Oxfordshire.

Preferred Policy Option

Policy Option 18: Sustainable Transport in New Development

In this approach, all development proposals should consider and plan for transport and access against a vision, focussed on enabling people to travel by active and sustainable means. In particular, plans should be considered in a hierarchical way as follows:
Reducing the need to travel - ensuring that high quality digital connectivity is provided to enable working and access to services from home, and that necessary services and facilities are planned and provided in close proximity to new housing areas which can be accessed through safe and direct walking and cycling routes.Planning for sustainable travel modes - ensuring that new development is primarily designed to enable movement by active travel and public/shared transport, and that sites are well connected to surrounding sustainable transport networks. The street and movement network should be designed to focus on enabling residents to be able to walk and cycle, and easily access public transport options.Providing for zero emission vehicle use - ensuring that any essential vehicle travel for people and goods is prioritised for zero carbon emission vehicles, with adequate charging and other supporting infrastructure provided as per the following standards:For residential development, each new residential unit with an allocated parking space should be provided with an electric vehicle charging point. At least 25% of non-allocated spaces (with a minimum of 2) should be provided with an electric vehicle charging point.For non-residential development, at least 25% of spaces should be provided with electric vehicle charging points.
Provision of EV charging instructure should be integrated in the masterplanning for new development form the outset, alongside provision for full fibre broadband, 5G mobile networks, and sustainable energy provision.
The spatial context of any proposed development would also be important in determining the detail of proposals within the sustainable travel hierarchy, and certain measures will be more suited to certain locations than others. However, at all times measures at the top of the hierarchy should be robustly considered first, before moving on to measures further down the hierarchy. Provision and management of parking should also be considered in this context, recognising priority for zero emission vehicles.  It will also be important that planning and development takes into account relevant more detailed guidance such as the walking and cycling design guidance as part the LTCP and accessibility guidance, as well as ensuring connectivity with existing walking/cycling networks identified in Local Cycling and Walking Infrastructure Plans.
The diagram that follows sets out key questions to consider through the hierarchical approach.

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