As set out in the Planning Newsletter prepared by the Department for Levelling Up, Housing & Communities (see link) on the 13th January 2023, the thresholds have been confirmed where Local Planning Authorities (LPA’s) are required to have Active Travel England (ATE) as a statutory consultee. This will come into effect from the 1st June 2023 and will be for developments that meet the following minimum thresholds, in London, the individual Boroughs will define this:
- 150 residential units (dwellings)
- 7,500m2 commercial area; or
- Site area of over 5ha.
This may have a large bearing on development masterplanning and the assessment of the accessibility of a site. ATE will be having various roadshow events in March 2023 to engage with local stakeholders, rest assured we will keep abreast of any updates. ATE is a relatively new executive agency that has been set up to make walking, cycling and wheeling the natural choice for everyday trips. An overarching target of 50% of trips in towns and cities are to use these modes of travel 2030. ATE is supporting the Government’s objective to embed active lifestyles and healthy travel principles, and promoting good design is seen as a way to build such inclusive and active communities. The aim is to ensure that when new developments are being considered, the opportunity to build in active travel routes is fully maximised putting people-friendly streets at the heart of planning.
The UK Government announced in July 2020 the creation of ATE as a new funding body for walking and cycling provision in England. The funding body acts as an inspectorate for highway authorities, as well as a statutory planning consultee. Further to this, and in order to increase the amount of people walking and cycling, the Government published “Gear Change: A bold vision for cycling and walking” in 2020 to coincide with the new funding body. This strategy has been brought forward as a result of the Covid-19 pandemic to boost walking and cycling, alongside the creation of the emergency active travel fund (and other walking and cycling funding) to enable Local Authorities to make significant changes to their road layouts - this is highly welcomed.
The creation of ATE will not only help put the Government’s ambitions into practice but also begin to inspect and publish annual reports on highway authorities; grading performance of active travel measures and identifying any particular failings in respect to walking/cycling infrastructure. The commissioner and inspectorate will in this regard perform a similar role to that of Ofsted for schools in raising standards and challenging failure with poor performance, potentially resulting in less funding for the highway authority.
How much planning weight can be given to the recommendations of ATE will be interesting to see, with planning rules becoming more of a light touch with further deregulation on the way. However, ATE’s influence on the highway authorities budgets will likely have a more dramatic effect on their statutory consultee role giving more weight to the planning authorities. It is expected that there will be an increased demand on highway authorities to provide and/or upgrade appropriate infrastructure in addition to looking at new developments to assist in funding and delivering localised walking and cycling infrastructure. It will also create a need for a higher standard of Travel Planning to promote and monitor travel behaviour, so it is expected that more Section 106 agreements will have tighter monitoring regimes.
Please contact Ingleton Wood LLP where our Associate Pre-development Engineer Raymond Long can provide assistance on appraising your site or advise on ATE.
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