Area Transport Plans

This article was published in 2003, in Newsletter 47.

Any new development of significant size has a major effect on its surroundings, and calls for modifications to the infrastructure. These could be a new school, other social provision, or improved transport. Under Section 106 agreements, local authorities negotiate financial contributions from the developer towards the cost of these changes. Negotiations can be protracted, leaving local people uncertain of the likely effects on their environment. The problem is compounded where more than one development is proposed for an area.

To simplify negotiations and to clarify the position for potential developers, the County Council has formulated ‘Area Transport Plans’. They are based on a ‘trip generation’ methodology and the land uses that have been approved in the Local Plan. The journeys (trips) stimulated by different types of development, such as housing, offices, warehouses, and leisure facilities, have been well researched nationally over a number of years, so predictions can be quite accurate, although estimating the ‘modal split’ (especially in Cambridge) may be more difficult. From this data, the transport infrastructure required to support new developments can be costed and a ‘contribution per trip generated’ calculated. When formally adopted, such plans can give developers a clear expectation of their obligations, as well as giving legal weight to securing contributions. Another benefit of these plans, I’m told, is that they tend to produce greater Section 106 revenue than if each development were considered in isolation.

The Cambridge area already had ‘Area Transport Plans’ for the south and the east, and now two new ones, for the north and the west, are about to be adopted as ‘Supplementary Planning Guidance.’

I believe ‘Area Transport Plans’ are a recent innovation, and Cambridgeshire has been one of the pioneers. Our Area Transport Plans aim:

  • not to increase car traffic in the area, particularly during the peak hours
  • to increase the proportion of journeys made by bus, cycle and on foot
  • to manage the transport network efficiently, and minimise delays to public transport users, pedestrians and cyclists, and
  • to minimise the environmental and economic impact of transport.

These aims are supported by the Government’s Planning Policy Guidance Note on Transport (commonly known as PPG13), which was last revised in March 2001.

The big weakness I have noticed is that these are ‘corridor plans’ concentrating on radial journeys, with little provision for ‘sustainable modes’ of travelling transversely across the areas. Proposed changes in the planning laws may well make such schemes more common. We review some of the items in the Western and Northern Corridor Area Transport Plans below, as consultation on these has just finished.

Western Corridor Area Transport Plan

This area covers that part of the city from a line between Histon and Huntingdon Roads, west of Queen’s Road and west of the River Cam, the proposed north-west and West Cambridge University expansions, as well as the parishes of Girton, Madingley, Coton, Barton, and Grantchester. Expansion of housing may occur on both sides of Huntingdon Road as well as off Barton Road.

Around 24 000 extra daily trips could be generated if all sites in this area are developed, and a contribution from developers of around £170 per daily trip will be required.

The plan provides for bus subsidies of £1 million over five years, a similar sum for bus priority, and cyclists will get nearly £900 000 for improvements to existing routes, including the Coton path and route to the City Centre. Also in the list is a Barton Road to Huntingdon Road cycle route at £750 000, and we’ll be very interested to know what is proposed here.

Coton Path
The Western Corridor Area Transport plan might see the Coton path improved, among many other developments.

Northern Corridor Area Transport Plan

This covers the area from the Cam to a line between Histon Road and Huntingdon Road, going out to encompass the parishes of Milton, Histon and Impington. It includes the proposed ‘Northern Fringe’ developments, both at Chesterton Sidings and south of the A14 near the Histon junction. It also includes land to the west of Histon Road that may be considered for development.

Around 21 000 extra daily trips could be created, and a developer’s contribution of around £400 per daily trip will be required.

The plan proposes that:

  • buses will get a subsidy of around £3.5 million over five years, as well as £1.5 million for bus priority and a contribution to ‘real-time information’
  • a number of traffic calming schemes costing £500 000 that should benefit cyclists
  • cyclists get some £2 million in total for Histon Interchange, Kings Hedges Road to Riverside, and Histon Road to Trumpington Road as well as upgrading existing cycle and pedestrian links to the city centre. There is also £1.2 million for a cycle and pedestrian bridge at Chesterton Sidings, but without a bridge over the Cam I don’t see where such a structure gets you.

Major infrastructure developments such as the guided busway, Chesterton Station/Interchange and the ‘Outer Ring’ Park and Ride sites (rural interchanges) may also be funded in part by contributions, but this would be on top of the £400 per trip.

We will be asking for further details of all the schemes that affect cyclists.

My main criticism is that we have some five miles of the Cam from Elizabeth Way to Clayhithe without a single cyclable crossing. People living in the new housing off Newmarket Road who work in the Science Park will, of course, just drive, yet they are less than two miles apart as the crow flies.

Jim Chisholm