We’re striving to make it easier for people to lead a healthier and happier lifestyle without the need for a car. That’s why Sustrans is petitioning for transport and land-use planning systems in England to be much more integrated. New homes should be built within 800 metres, or 20 minutes of walking round trip, of public transport links and basic amenities.
We’re striving to make it easier for people to lead a healthier and happier lifestyle without the need for a car. ©2021 Kois Miah
At Sustrans we believe that everyone should live within a 10-minute walk from local amenities.
This goal aims to make it easier for people to embrace a healthier and happier lifestyle in their area, without the need for a car.
Our charity is calling on the government to incorporate walking and cycling infrastructure and walkable neighbourhoods into planning law and policy in England.
If successful, all new homes in the country would be built within 800 metres of amenities like primary schools, shops, bus stops and GP surgeries.
With less vehicles on the road, this initiative would promote healthy living for everyone and would in turn help prevent ill-health.
High quality and safe walking, wheeling and cycling infrastructure should be the standard
We want the National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF) to recommend refusing planning permission for new homes that do not contribute to national net zero targets, which are on track to be reached by 2050.
The infrastructure and location of new sites should facilitate walking, wheeling, or cycling instead of driving to have a positive impact on air quality and people’s health.
We’re calling for transport and land use planning systems to be much more joined up and within 800 metres, or a 20-minute walking round trip of where new homes are built.
High quality and safe walking, wheeling and cycling infrastructure should be provided to help create 20-minute neighbourhoods.
Findings from our Walking and Cycling Index 2021
We recently released The Walking and Cycling Index, the biggest ever survey of walking, wheeling and cycling in the UK and Ireland.
The Walking and Cycling Index is the new name for 'Bike Life'.
The report, which has data from 18 urban areas in the UK and Ireland, highlights the importance of providing high-quality and safe walking, wheeling and cycling infrastructure, along with pavement parking bans to help create 20-minute neighbourhoods.
Portswood High Street in Southampton has all the essentials — a greengrocer, hardware shop, supermarkets, pharmacies, and more.
Sue appreciates being able to walk there.
“I go about twice a week. I don’t really want to drive to do my shopping, I’d much rather walk.
“It’s brilliant that there is such a variety within walking distance, Portswood Hardware has a bit of everything.
“Often I pop down for one thing, but on the way I run into people and get chatting!”
A 20-minute neighbourhood in action
A recently built example of a development incorporating aspects of a 20-minute neighbourhood is Eddington, on the outskirts of Cambridge.
It has a primary school, nursery, civic centre, large supermarket, and access to green space all within a short walk.
On-street parking is minimal, and homes do not automatically include parking spaces.
Instead there are cycle paths, daily buses every 20 minutes and free car club memberships for residents.
Eddington is a new development on the outskirts of Cambridge which has embraced the elements of a 20-minute neighbourhood.
What do local authority officers think of this model?
We surveyed planning authorities across England to discover if they take 20-minute neighbourhoods into consideration when deciding on where to site new developments.
This was as part of a new report called Walkable Neighbourhoods.
Nearly two thirds (64%) of the council planning officers asked said a lack of robust planning guidance or regulation prevented them ensuring facilities were within walking, wheeling or cycling distance.
Just under half (43%) stated political priorities and lack of buy-in from local politicians were barriers to decision-making based on 20-minute neighbourhoods.
One in five (20%) reported that they rarely rejected sites that are available for new housing, regardless of distance to local amenities.
The planning system can be problematic
Rachel Toms, Director of Urbanism at Sustrans, said:
“The planning system is part of the supply chain of carbon emissions, locking many people into car dependence.
“Currently there is no legal duty for the planning system to deliver on net zero targets or healthy, inclusive environments.
“For the UK to meet its legally binding net zero targets – and to improve the health of the nation and level up communities – the planning system has to make it ultra-convenient for people in new developments to walk, wheel, cycle and use public transport.
“This is also what people want, as research shows 66% of residents support low-traffic neighbourhoods.”
At Sustrans we believe that everyone should live within a 10-minute walk from local amenities. ©2016 Ageing Better/Sustrans
Improvements to be made
At the moment guidance exists to encourage planners to ensure developments are within 800m of amenities.
But fewer than half of councils use this as a maximum.
It’s neither consistently applied, nor is it a legal duty.
There’s also no consensus on how to measure this consistently - distance is measured by some councils from either the centre or the edge of a settlement, with some following the road and path network, and others measuring as the crow flies.
Rachel Toms added:
“This has to change, and with upcoming revisions to the NPPF we have a significant opportunity to put it right.
“We’re recommending practical steps for national and local government to take so that new communities can be healthier and happier and generate lower carbon emissions.”
Sustrans is also calling for the National Cycle Network to be safeguarded and enhanced in planning policy as an asset of national importance, like National Trails.