Pickles’s new national planning policy threatens motorway chaos

Analysis of the government’s National Planning Policy Framework shows journey times will rise from 3.6 minutes to 6.4 per 10 miles on a 175-mile stretch of the M1.

By Sian Berry of the Campaign for Better Transport

An important change in the National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF) to remove the ‘town centre first’ principle from office developments has had little attention so far but is extremely serious in its implications – not least for the nation’s motorists who could be stuck in Bank Holiday-style jams every day of the working week if this leads to new business parks dotted along the motorways.

Our study, commissioned from the Metropolitan Transport Research Unit (MTRU), modelled new developments on the M1, and added just one new business park to each suitable junction between St Albans and Leeds.

Using a range of conservative assumptions (such as excluding all short trips), we found that just 34 business parks close to this 175-mile stretch of motorway would increase traffic by 16 per cent and nearly double the average level of delay – from 3.6 minutes to 6.4 minutes per 10 miles.

To put these figures in context, last August Bank Holiday Friday saw a 17% increase in traffic levels along the same part of the M1, so the level of extra traffic predicted by our model would effectively mean Bank Holiday conditions every working day.

The congestion caused would cost approximately £250 million a year in due to the extra delays alone, and the total extra journey time from Leeds to St Albans would be 50 minutes. With the government planning to spend billions on a high speed rail line to shave 36 minutes off a rail journey to Birmingham, it’s madness to be adding delays to hundreds of thousands of daily road journeys with badly thought through planning policy.

What needs to change in the NPPF for this not to happen? Key to the business park problem is that the ‘town centre first’ sequential test for commercial and office developments needs to be restored. However, these kinds of issues run right through the NPPF, which has downgraded a wide range of specific protections in the NPPF in favour of a “presumption of sustainable development”.

In transport, this means any congestion effects would need to be very severe for a development to be turned down. But the point our study illustrates very well is that lots of separate developments – each with measurable but not ‘extreme’ effects on congestion – could sail through this new planning regime and have a cumulative effect on the road network that was extremely serious indeed.

The same problem has also raised concerns about green field sites – see the National Trust’s reaction here. Opposition to the NPPF now threatens to move far beyond the range of civic, conservation and environmental groups who have spoken up so far. Today’s Telegraph includes both the director of the RAC foundation and a spokesman for the AA sharing our concerns about this new evidence of the dangers posed by the NPPF.

While we need to encourage new jobs and developments, we need make sure they go in the right places.

This is not about being against development, it is against a policy that will lead to empty sheds on bypasses, and in housing terms, potentially create the slums of the future.

30 Responses to “Pickles’s new national planning policy threatens motorway chaos”

  1. Clive Burgess

    Pickles’s new national planning policy threatens motorway chaos: http://t.co/kLCBOrk writes @SianBerry

  2. Shamik Das

    Pickles’s new national planning policy threatens motorway chaos: http://t.co/kLCBOrk writes @SianBerry

  3. Jane Leach

    RT @leftfootfwd: Pickles’s new national planning policy threatens motorway chaos http://t.co/CkFnxR9

  4. Daniel Elton

    Pickles’s new national planning policy threatens motorway chaos: http://t.co/iJqoKPY @jossgarman @cpre @GreenJennyJones @RupertRead

  5. Daniel Elton

    Pickles’s new national planning policy threatens motorway chaos: http://t.co/iJqoKPY @CarolineLucas @zacgoldsmith @wwwfoecouk

  6. Laird Ryan

    @SianBerry #NPPF shift of traffic from town centres to sheds http://t.co/5hWtFUi will widen life quality gap between haves and have nots.

  7. Political Planet

    Pickles’s new national planning policy threatens motorway chaos: Analysis of the government’s National Planning … http://t.co/60SKvWq

  8. Maps Man

    RT @leftfootfwd: Pickles’s new national planning policy threatens motorway chaos http://t.co/VL9zcC9 (HT @sianberry)

  9. sianberry

    Pickles’s new national planning policy threatens motorway chaos: http://t.co/kLCBOrk writes @SianBerry

  10. sianberry

    @SianBerry #NPPF shift of traffic from town centres to sheds http://t.co/5hWtFUi will widen life quality gap between haves and have nots.

  11. nonny mouse

    Have you tried driving around our town centers at 9am or 5pm? Have you tried to find parking spots?

    Your solution replaces motorway chaos with town center chaos.

    How much does it cost in extra parking to work in a town center? I’m guessing a lot more than 250 million/year given that our councils like to charge an arm and a legg for the privaledge.

    Lets assume you push one million cars into our town centers. Ignoring the fact that our roads cannot handle the traffic, lets say that a council charges a fiver per day (try finding parking in London for that price!). That is five million pounds a day. Multiply that by around 200 working days and you get a billion pounds a year in parking fees alone. That ignores the extra polution, extra petrol spent in traffic jams inside the city center and the time lost in those traffic jams.

    The fact is we need a mixture. Some jobs are best done in town or city centers. Some are best done outside in business parks. Some are best done at home so you don’t need a car at all.

    Trying to push businesses into one preferred solution is bound to fail and produce the least optimum use of resources. It is better to let individual businesses and employees find the best mix. Nanny does not know best in transport policy.

  12. Richard Hebditch

    Pickles’s new national planning policy threatens motorway chaos: http://t.co/kLCBOrk writes @SianBerry

  13. Sian Berry

    Apologies this wasn’t clearer – by putting things in town centres first, the key point is that they would then be close to existing public transport services and hubs, so that people could use those for access rather than being forced to drive out of town to go to work.

    The stats for how people travel to office jobs in these different locations backs this up – about 85% of people who work in business parks drive, vs only half of people whose offices are in town centres.

  14. Leon Wolfson

    Absolutely. I’ve seen “local” business parks built with no foot access and no nearby public transport, so no poorer workers without their own transport ended up being employed there (well, one lot of cleaners, since their boss drove them there every day!)

  15. Richard

    “Nanny does not know best in transport policy.”

    Looks like Mickey nonny doesn’t either.

  16. Michael

    Pickles’s new national planning policy threatens motorway chaos – http://t.co/JhBPQn1

  17. Jill Hayward

    Pickles’s new national planning policy threatens motorway chaos – http://t.co/JhBPQn1

  18. Watching You

    Pickles’s new national planning policy threatens motorway chaos – http://t.co/JhBPQn1

  19. Mr. Sensible

    i’m afraid the Coalition are all over the place on planning.

  20. Lee

    If you’re worried about congestion, how about we just introduce road pricing?

  21. checkpointcharlie

    RT @danielelton New national planning policy. Pickles 's motorways threaten chaotic pickle : http://t.co/O2d6UcB @CarolineLucas @wwwfoecouk

  22. Leon Wolfson

    @6 – Great, make it even less possible for the poor to get arround!

  23. RupertRead

    Great piece here by @SianBerry: Pickles’s new national planning policy threatens motorway chaos http://t.co/E01pnL1

  24. Peter Cranie

    Great piece here by @SianBerry: Pickles’s new national planning policy threatens motorway chaos http://t.co/E01pnL1

  25. The Dragon Fairy

    Great piece here by @SianBerry: Pickles’s new national planning policy threatens motorway chaos http://t.co/E01pnL1

  26. Phil Taylor

    Great piece here by @SianBerry: Pickles’s new national planning policy threatens motorway chaos http://t.co/E01pnL1

  27. Relaxing the planning laws – a solution to the housing crisis? | Catch21 Productions

    […] The Chancellor George Osborne, Communities Secretary Eric Pickes and Planning Minister Greg Clark have all been defending the government’s new National Planning Policy Framework, on the grounds that it will enable the construction of more homes, as well as encourage economic growth.  Some in the housing sector have praised the NPPF, on the grounds that increasing the supply of land is the simplest way to lower the cost of housing and reduce homelessness (The UK has some of the worst housing conditions in Western Europe, with the number of homeless households having risen by 17% over the past year).  However, there have also been environmental concerns, with the National Trust, English Heritage and the Campaign for the Protection of Rural England all claiming that the new framework threatens the countryside.  There are also predictions that the framework’s removal of the ‘town centre first’ principle from new office developments will generate more traffic congestion on the motorways. […]

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