Cycle parking in the Local Plan

This article was published in 2006, in Newsletter 67.

Back in Newsletter 64, I wrote about the review of the Cycle Parking Standards as part of Cambridge City Council’s revision of the Local Plan. The Local Plan sets out policies and site specific proposals for the development and use of land in Cambridge. These are then used to develop schemes and assess planning applications, through a process known as Development Control.

The Cycle Parking Standards are one of the main areas of the plan which affect cyclists. They set out the Council’s minimum requirements in terms of cycle parking for new developments and changes in use. They do not affect levels of on-street provision, nor existing developments over which no changes are planned. (Addressing the extraordinarily low levels of provision for on-street cycle parking around Cambridge remains a separate matter.)

Last November I appeared as our representative to the Local Plan Inquiry hearing. This was our opportunity to debate, in front of the Local Plan Inspector, our outstanding objections to the revised Standards. The Cycle Parking Subgroup had written a preparatory briefing, which is available online as letter C06001 or on request via our usual contact details.

The Inspector has now published her findings, which form the basis of changes that the City Council are obliged to make.

The Inspector’s findings in response to our objections

In response to our well-researched and, we feel, entirely valid objections, the Inspector recommended no changes to the Local Plan in this area. None whatsoever.

We are dismayed that the deficiencies we pointed out in the draft have been ignored by both the City Council and the Inspector. We suggested, we believe quite reasonably, that:

  • should have to complete a specially-designed council-supplied form as a means to clarify requirements and to demonstrate that the levels of cycle parking proposed meet the Standards. Existing procedures have been demonstrably inadequate, with application after application failing to meet even the existing standards.
  • parking should be closer to the entrance of a development than any car parking (other than disabled parking).
  • way that high-capacity stands have been included in the Standards is inappropriate – no conditions are set under which high-capacity stands may be used. So developers could get away with cramming stands into a smaller space than they should be allocating. However, the Inspector stated in her report that ‘The Council makes it clear that such racks would only be acceptable in certain circumstances’. Unfortunately such circumstances are not listed.
  • of the Standards downwards in places through the principle of ‘flexibility’ in some circumstances could lead to attempts to provide too little cycle parking. We had no choice here really but to accept the Council’s assurances that this should lead to more effective enforcement as the Standards would be more ‘realistic’, though we will be ever more vigilant in looking at applications that now come in.

Other findings by the Inspector

On the positive side, the Inspector threw out the view of the Cambridge Colleges that there should be a separate cycle parking standard for colleges within the University of Cambridge, that cycle parking should not have to be ‘near’ to main entrances, and that the standard for students should be ‘flexible’, citing insufficient evidence to back up some of the claims made.

Quotes by the Inspector:

‘There is certainly a great deal of unofficial parking of bicycles around the city which points to the shortage of official parking’

‘The level of cycle theft in Cambridge is high’

‘The Plan can only go so far in setting out the standard to be required of developers. It is then up to the City Council to ensure that those standards are adhered to’

‘Cycle parking should be easily accessible and convenient to use’

‘High-capacity racks… would only be acceptable in certain circumstances’

Quotes from the Inspector’s report.

Sadly there is little we can do now, other than continue to press for improvements through the political process, both for the Cycle Parking Standards themselves in the longer term, and the continued immediate need to reduce the tremendous shortage of on-street cycle parking provision throughout Cambridge.

Martin Lucas-Smith, Co-ordinator