Pressure on planning authorities to deliver ambitious housing targets will create substantial pressure on an already stretched highway network, the Association of Directors of Environment, Economy, Planning and Transport (ADEPT) has warned.
Mike Ashworth, chair of the transport board at ADEPT told Transport Network: ‘Whilst councils are already proficient at getting the maximum funding for improvements locally to mitigate traffic impact through section 106 and the Community Infrastructure Levy, there is increasing pressure on highway authorities with reduced resources to manage their existing networks in an efficient manner.’
He added: ‘The New Homes Bonus is also proving to be a prop to existing resources rather than helping deliver new infrastructure. There are opportunities through Local Growth funding but this process is competitive rather than measured. It is important that central government recognise that maintaining and managing the existing highway networks is as equally important as new building.’
Although Mr Ashworth was not aware of the specific case, his comments follow criticism from a bus company of a district council’s proposal for a major new housing development. This highlighted some of the difficulties councils face when asked to ratchet up the delivery of new homes.
Stagecoach Midlands has objected to a proposal from Stratford-on-Avon District Council to support a development of 3,500 homes at Long Marston Airfield, to the South West of the town. The council proposed adding the development to its core strategy after the original strategy was submitted to the Communities Secretary, whose inspector recommended an increase in the number of new homes planned.
The bus company has stated in its response to a consultation on the revised strategy that the current level of road congestion in the area ‘seriously undermines our ability to provide a reliable service’. It says that if this situation were to worsen ‘the overall viability of our wider local network … risks being seriously undermined’.
The company’s response argues that the proposed mitigation measures for the new development, which include a relief road, as well as possible new rail, light rail and bus links, will not prevent increased congestion.
It casts doubt on the developer’s pledge that the new road would be completed within six years of development commencing, and on the viability of the proposed public transport links, particularly in the early stages. Stagecoach says that it believes other options for new housing are more sustainable and economically deliverable.
Stratford-on-Avon District Council is currently holding public hearings in relation to its amended strategy and declined to comment while this is in progress.
Councillor Peter Butlin, Warwickshire County Council's Portfolio Holder for Transport and Planning told Transport Network: ‘Warwickshire County Council appreciates the concerns that the bus operators have in relation to the impact congestion has on their operations. The County Council as the Highway Authority will through its role as a statutory consultee within the planning process ensure that developments will not have a severe impact upon the safe and efficient operation of the highway network. Where a development does have an impact the Highway Authority will work with developers to identify suitable mitigation which resolves the impact to ensure that the highway network operates with minimal delay and congestion.’