Joanna Clayton (LLB (Euro) Hons), Sustrans' Planning, Consents & Legal officer is a barrister specialising in planning and highways law. She works with Sustrans’ Routes and Design teams and external stakeholder partners to obtain consents for new walking and cycling infrastructure.
Jo is passionate about using the law proactively to deliver high-quality walking and cycling schemes leading to greater health benefits and improved wellbeing for all. In this article she shows how using statutory powers can help achieve a real step change in the provision of cycling and walking infrastructure.
As Transport for London's delivery partner for their Quietways programme from 2015-2018 we worked collaboratively with London boroughs and other stakeholder partners to project-manage the delivery of Quietways. Quietways are well signposted quiet routes on back streets, through parks and along waterways across inner and outer London, connecting with other cycling infrastructure in the capital. When people think about what's involved in developing a new route they often think it is just about physical changes on the ground. The truth is that there can be months or even years of vital work behind the scenes before a shovel can be lifted.
Planning and legal expertise is vital for scheme delivery
“ Without Sustrans I don’t think this would have been completed! I hope the path is a great success. ”
Quietway 1 was a challenging scheme to deliver, driven forward over a three year period. We used our in-house planning and legal expertise to help resolve complex issues, working with many stakeholders and their legal representatives, including Network Rail, the London Boroughs of Lewisham and Southwark, Millwall Football Club and Millwall Community Trust.
Land assembly negotiations
The land required for this scheme was originally in five separate legal ownerships, with the majority of land required for the scheme comprising derelict railway land parallel to the busy Thameslink line. A number of multi-party legal agreements were necessary to assemble the land, including an Agreement for Lease (coupled with a temporary works occupation agreement), a Lease, an Underlease and a separate Path Licence Agreement. We brought all the parties together and worked with the landowners’ solicitors, Dentons UKMEA LLP and Lewis Silkin LLP, together with LB Lewisham’s legal department on the composite legal documentation. In so doing, we were able to maintain momentum in the project and ensure that all the relevant legal agreements were signed.
“ We’re delighted that we can act as a 'one stop shop', offering in-house planning and legal expertise along with design, engineering and project management to deliver these kinds of large walking and cycling infrastructure projects. ”
Navigating the planning application process
Our team applied for and obtained planning permission, for the proposed development including the new public space around South Bermondsey station and a landscaping scheme linking the new path with the East London Line Extension walking and cycling path. The scheme then required alteration and we were successful in persuading LB Lewisham planners that the amendments were ‘non-material’ and fell within the scope of section 96A of the Town and Country Planning Act 1990 (as amended). This avoided the need to apply for a further planning permission, saving costs and time. We also secured two further consents for non-material amendments and obtained the approvals from LB Lewisham needed to satisfy the planning conditions.
A sound knowledge and understanding of the law relating to planning and highways can direct you to the right legal mechanisms for delivering walking and cycling schemes more quickly and easily. These legal mechanisms exist and we need to use them where necessary to achieve a real step change in the quality and quantity of walking and cycling provision in the UK.
Seeing results is so rewarding
The time, energy and legal effort in negotiating with the many parties involved to make sure the project reached completion was certainly worth it. The Millwall walking and cycling path has been a major factor in the success of Quietway 1 and receives high praise from those using it. It has encouraged those new to cycling to get on a bike and was commended by the New London Architecture Awards 2016 (public spaces category).
Following completion of the delivery agent contract with TFL in 2018, we continue to work in partnership with boroughs directly to deliver Quietways throughout, making a real difference to the health and wellbeing of people of all ages living, working and visiting the capital.