“New houses must be more than Noddy dwellings in the middle of nowhere”

“….. A report by the campaign group Transport for New Homes reveals a landscape pockmarked with new developments cut off from public transport, forcing people on low and middle incomes into car ownership – often two per household – for the sake of a cheaper house. Researchers visited 20 new housing developments around the country, many of which, in the report’s words, didn’t “connect to anything other than the road network”.

Central government assigns housebuilding targets to councils, which they must deliver purely on the basis of numbers. Local planners ask meekly for funding to integrate new developments into public transport networks and are told to get lost, because properly planned and integrated transport takes time, money and, above all, political will.

Planning incentives ‘lead to housing estates centred on car use’

The net result is that “we are building car parks as much as new homes”, according to the report. Compare this with the Netherlands, where any new development has to have integration into walking, cycling and public transport as a primary priority, and where a nationwide smartcard can be used anywhere in the country on any mode of public transport. (This fact alone makes me want to move there.)

Britain right after the war was better served by public transport than it is now. Until the late 1950s most towns and cities had extensive and cheap tram and trolleybus networks to complement buses. Rural and semi-rural areas were served by an extensive branch railway network until the 1963 Beeching report cut thousands of miles from the national network and closed more than 2,000 stations.

Only in the late 1970s did some councils, facing increasing congestion and pollution, try to redress the imbalance by offering super-cheap bus fares on their municipal services.

While car ownership appears to have peaked, the number of car journeys has risen since the 2008 crash, suggesting more pressured lives, longer and more frequent commutes, and the legacy of public transport cuts. Younger people are increasingly drawn to cities, where public transport tends to be better, and are less likely than ever to own cars. Yet those who live outside cities are increasingly forced towards car use, purely because planners can’t force developers to do anything other than build houses. …”