Spotlight, Transport Assessments
The changing Face of Transport Engineering
The first guidance on Transport Assessments (TAs) was the ‘Guidelines for Traffic Impact Assessment’ published by the Institution of Highways and Transportation in 1994. Since then TAs have become more sophisticated. Now greater emphasis is placed on sustainable transport provision, reducing the need to travel, transport planning policy and travel planning.
The Old Fashioned Way
It wasn’t always like this. In a career spanning over 20 years the Traffic & Transport Group Manager Simon Garner, recalls how planning applications were determined before Transport Assessments were even thought of. Then, the major concern of the local highway authority was to ensure the developer had provided sufficient off-street parking to meet demand. Provided that the proposal conformed to visibility splay standards there were few technical criteria for the developer to worry about.
The biggest concern the developer would have was that an application might be refused on the grounds that it would generate additional traffic, regardless of whether it would have a significant impact on the local network, since this was the easiest excuse to use because it was hard to refute. The needs of cyclists, pedestrian and public transport users were not usually considered. Any proposal near to an accident cluster site usually contained the reminder from the developer that road safety was for the council to worry about.
The Current Approach
In recent years all that has changed significantly. Now there is a presumption that any new development should only be permitted if the TA can demonstrate that the network will not be significantly worse off with development traffic. Site location has become a more crucial factor; with new developments required to be sited where they are easily accessible by public transport, bicycle and on foot. Often the developer is obliged to finance improvements to transport infrastructure to promote and support sustainable travel. Travel plans are required which include design measures and site management measures to reduce the number and length of car journeys to a new development. The impact of traffic on road safety, pollution and congestion has to be considered in more detail.
The Way Ahead?
Increasingly more innovative measures are needed to reduce the demand for travel and to promote alternatives, and at Scott White and Hookins we have been involved in some radical schemes to achieve this.
- We helped secure a car-free apartment block by providing residents with free broadband connection and lap-tops which were pre-programmed with links to local public transport and shopping delivery web pages.
- We carried out walking audits for a primary school accompanied by pupils who gave their views on hazards they perceived, and told us what would encourage and enable them to walk safely to school.
- We worked with local businesses and the council to develop a system for parents to drop their children at off-street car parks within walking distance of a school, who were then escorted the rest of the way by the ‘walking bus’.
- We assisted in developing a ‘park and float’ scheme for a coastal tourist attraction which enabled visitors to park at an out-of-town car park and take a boat trip to the venue.
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» Recent Projects
Sharnbrook Upper School, Bedford; Transport Assessment
Proposals to accommodate 300 additional students and to provide new social and recreational facilities had to be capable of being implemented without causing traffic safety or congestion problems around the neighbouring village. The assessment included traffic counts, parking predictions, and audit of sustainable transport facilities. We worked closely with the school and the local council to identify potential problems and to develop solutions as part of the design. Planning permission was granted in the autumn and the school is now looking forward to occupying their brand new buildings.
Eastpoint Centre, Southampton; Highway Design
We carried out detailed design work of a new access road and car park for a community and conference centre and a Sixth Form College on adjacent Brownfield sites on the edge of the city. The road had to serve both schemes, which were developed by separate clients. Our design included drainage, lighting and highway detail. We represented both clients in Section 278/106 discussions with the city council. Both planning applications were subsequently approved.
Acorn Industrial Park, Crayford; Travel Plan
The procedure was particularly complex as the industrial park was a speculative development for multiple occupiers; many of whom had not yet been identified. We developed a framework plan which the site management company could implement from the outset and then refine and apply in more detail as tenants moved in. The plan was flexible enough to be adapted to different types of businesses. This innovative approach was endorsed by the planning authority which approved the plan.
Portsmouth Housing Association; Parking Study
Affordable and Social housing schemes typically generate fewer traffic movements and require less parking provision than private housing developments. We utilised our broad experience of residential developments to produce surveys, data and design reviews which justified a level of off-street parking far below the local planning authorities’ normal minimum standard.