Active Travel SPD

Ended on the 4 October 2023

3. National Context

Climate and Transport Strategy Context

In December 2015, the UK joined 195 countries in signing an historic global deal to tackle climate change. The UK has long-term, legally-binding targets to bring greenhouse gas emissions to net zero by 2050.

The Governments Net Zero Strategy: Build Back Greener (October 2021) sets out policies and proposals for decarbonising all sectors of the UK economy to meet the net zero target by 2050. The strategy recognises the importance of the planning system to common challenges like combating climate change and supporting sustainable growth. The Strategy aims to increase the share of trips taken by public transport cycling and walking, making these modes the natural first choice for all who can take them. It recognises that as more journeys are cycled or walked, the carbon, air quality, noise and congestion benefits will be complemented by significant improvements in public health and wellbeing.

The Governments Transport Decarbonisation Plan: Decarbonising Transport A Better, Greener Britain (2021) sets out the governments commitments and the actions needed to decarbonise the entire transport system in the UK and includes the wider benefits net zero transport can deliver.

The Government's first Cycling and Walking Investment Strategy (CWIS1) was published in April 2017. It aimed to 'make cycling and walking the natural choices for shorter journeys, or as part of a longer journey'. It stated, 'we want more people to have access to safe, attractive routes for cycling and walking by 2040'.

The Government published 'Gear Change: a bold vision for cycling and walking' in 2020. The plan set out a vision for cycling and walking in England, recognising that to make England an active travel nation, 'we need to take action to tackle the main barriers. We need to attract people to active travel by building better quality infrastructure, making streets better for everyone, and we need to make sure people feel safe and confident cycling. To deliver this, we need to ensure active travel is embedded in wider policy making..'

The actions to achieve this were grouped under four themes: Better streets for cycling and people; putting cycling and walking at the heart of transport, place-making and health policy; Empowering and encouraging local authorities; and enabling people to cycle and protect them when they cycle.

The second Cycling and Walking Investment Strategy (CWIS2) was published in July 2022 and covers the period from April 2021 to March 2025. The aims and targets in CWIS1, alongside the vision set out in Gear Change, informed a revised set of objectives to:

  • Increase the percentage of short journeys in towns and cities that are walked or cycled.
  • Increase walking.
  • Double cycling.
  • Increase the percentage of children aged 5 to 10 who usually walk to school.

Local Transport Note (LTN) 1/20 'Cycle infrastructure design' was published in July 2020 and provides guidance on delivering high quality, cycle infrastructure including:

  • Planning for cycling
  • Space for cycling within highways
  • Transitions between carriageways, cycle lanes and cycle tracks
  • Junctions and crossing
  • Cycle parking and other equipment.

Active Travel England(ATE) was established in July 2020 with the overall objective to enable achievement of the vision set out in the governments walking and cycling action plan, 'Gear Change'. The strategic aims of ATE are to increase levels of walking and cycling in towns and cities by:

  • Creating better streets and networks for cycling and walking that are built to the 'key design principles' as set out in Gear Change and Local Transport Note 1/20.
  • Putting walking and cycling at the heart of transport, place-making, and health policy so travelling without a car is easy and accessible utilising a long-term walking and cycling programme and budget.

Active Travel England became an executive agency of the Department for Transport (DfT) in 2022 and act as a statutory consultee in the planning system and will review active travel provision in all major planning applications (developments that meet the following minimum thresholds 150 residential units; 7,500m2 commercial area; or site area of over 5ha).

Active Travel England have prepared a planning application assessment toolkit to be used by local planning authorities in conjunction with applicants. In addition to the toolkit, Active Travel England have published a Standing Advice Note for Active Travel and Sustainable Development (July 2023) and a Development management procedural note for local planning authorities (July 2023).

The Government's National Design Guide was updated in January 2021 and sets out characteristics of well-designed places and demonstrates how well designed places can be achieved in practice. It sets out ten characteristics of well-designed places, which includes movement, and states that patterns of movement for people are integral to well-designed places.

National Planning Policy

Paragraph 8 of the National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF) makes clear that mitigating and adapting to climate change is a core planning objective. To be in conformity with the NPPF, local development plans should reflect this principle, ensuring that planning policy clearly and comprehensively deals with climate change mitigation and adaption.

Section 9 of the NPPF (paragraphs 104-113) 'Promoting Sustainable Transport' is relevant to this SPD. The NPPF (paragraph 106) states that planning policies should provide for attractive and well-designed walking and cycling networks with supporting facilities such as secure cycle parking. It states that transport issues should be considered from the earliest stages of plan making and development proposals so that opportunities to promote walking, cycling and public transport are identified and pursued; and so that patterns of movement, streets, parking and other transport considerations are integral to the design of schemes and contribute to making high quality places (paragraph 104).

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