31 JUL 2020
Following the release of the Transport for South (TfSE) Transport Strategy last month (June 2020), David Fletcher of Evoke Transport reviewed the strategy and its findings and outlines what the strategy will mean for the region. The TfSE group is made up of 16 local transport authorities, five local enterprise partnerships, 46 district and borough authorities and a range of wider stakeholders with the common goal of providing one voice for all of the regions transport priorities.
Notably the strategy was produced prior to knowing what the implications of COVID-19 are on transport. TfSE state that further work on the long and short term impacts on COVID-19 will be undertaken and fed into the five area and thematic studies, which will follow on from this transport strategy.
TfSE are aiming to become a statutory sub-national transport body in order to have greater powers and funding certainty to deliver key projects within the region. Without becoming a sub-national transport body it is considered that TfSE will not be taken seriously in funding bids and questions would have to be asked as to how much of a voice they will have and how much power they will have in influencing the future of the South Easts transport network. Where they fit into the hierarchy of different bodies and authorities will also be key, especially if their forward-thinking strategy conflicts with policies at a local level.
TfSE have outlined their Strategic Vision with a target year of 2050;
The Strategic Vision is underpinned by sustainable goals with economic, social and environmental strategic goals to create a better connected, more reliable and greener transport network. Its common goals and vision echo those of most policy documents at a local and national level however a regional based multimodal body is welcomed to help deliver key regional infrastructure and help shape the transport network in the South East.
The strategy is broken down in to six different journey types with key challenges and responses outlined for each journey type;
To address each of the journey type challenges various initiatives are outlined within the strategy. These schemes have been outlined below.
TfSE aim to develop the Future Mobility Strategy and the Freight Strategy and Action Plan over the next year with the aim of having a Strategic Investment Plan in place by April 2022. The Future Mobility Strategy will be interesting to see what technologies are seen as priorities. The findings of the Department for Transport (DfT) “Future of Transport Regulatory Review” will be key to understanding what the future holds in terms of micromobility, mobility as a service (MaaS) and demand responsive buses.
The strategy calls for a move away from the traditional ‘predict and provide’ assessment of developments to a ‘decide and provide’ approach actively choosing a preferred future, with preferred transport outcomes as opposed to responding to existing trends and forecasts. This is welcomed and long overdue, however the key challenge will be convincing local highway authorities that this is the correct approach to assessments.
What will TfSE mean for developers in the region? Well at present there are a number of questions still to be answered. How involved will they be at Local Plan stage and at planning application stage especially for large scale developments? Will TfSE become another consultee? Will they become another competing body for Transport Contributions? How will their relationship be with Highways England and Local Highway Authorities? And how will conflicts between the different bodies be resolved?
It evident that the strategy has identified a number of the key transport constraints and challenges that are currently in the South East as well as identifying potential challenges that the region might face over the next 30 years. A key theme is improving east to west connections in the region and making public transport greener, more efficient, cheaper, better connected and future proof. These policies are welcomed as is the need for a more joint up approach rather than the silo based Local Highways Authority strategies that are so often present. It will be interesting to see how TfSE develops over the next 5-10 years and the role they will play. Will it reach the heights and power of Transport for London (TfL) or Transport for Greater Manchester (TfGM)?
02 JUN 2020
During her final year of university Meg (our Assistant Transport Planner) produced her dissertation looking into the readiness of the UK for an EV revolution, focusing on public perceptions and the provision of charging infrastructure. Three focus groups, four interviews, seven months and 9,974 words later... are we ready? Read her views below.
Through conducting focus groups of EV drivers, non-EV drivers and non-drivers, public attitudes towards EVs and their future within the UK were explored. Alongside this, senior professionals from within the transport and planning industries were interviewed to gain their expert opinion on the current state of charging infrastructure across the nation and what the future holds for EVs.
Meg’s research found that:
In terms of public attitudes towards EVs, the UK has seen an increase (albeit very slow) in the adoption of EVs over the past few years. People’s behaviours concerning EVs are gradually changing resulting in the number of EVs on the UK’s roads increasing, but generally, the consumer market appears to have not yet extended beyond ‘early adopters’ that are environmentally conscious.
A number of incentives and positives of purchasing an EV were highlighted during the study, including tax savings, environmental benefits, enjoyment to drive and cheaper fuel than petrol and diesel vehicles. However, there was an overarching sense of negativity towards EVs and more incentives were desired by the non-EV drivers for them to make the switch. Better and honest marketing and longer trial times are two of the incentives suggested.
The key focus of the DfT’s Road to Zero Strategy is reducing the number of conventionally, fossil fueled vehicles on the UK roads, but what about other modes of transport? In order to successfully reduce greenhouse gas emissions and air pollution from the transport sector, there also needs to be a push towards improving and maximizing public transport opportunities*, promoting active travel, ensuring key facilities are located within walking distance of developments and overall reducing the need to rely on private vehicle journeys, as set out within DfT’s ‘Decarbonising Transport’ strategy.
Overall, through her seven months of research, Meg concluded that no, the UK is not currently ‘ready’ for EVs. The UK is slowly becoming more prepared to accommodate an EV revolution, but we have a long way to go in terms of charging infrastructure provision, EV variety, price, better advertising and more incentives to change public perceptions in order for the 2050 Government target to be achieved. However, if these factors remain unhanged without significant progress being made and if the petrol and diesel vehicle sales ban is not brought forward to 2035, an EV revolution is not likely to be seen by 2050.
She leaves you with some questions to think about:
* It should be of note that Meg’s research was conducted before the COVID-19 Pandemic and that current Government advice recommends not using public transport wherever possible.
Please feel free to contact Meg on email@example.com if you would like to hear more, read her dissertation in full or just have a chat.
05 FEB 2020
Following the recent release of the first ever National Housing Audit, undertaken by The Place Alliance (UCL), David Fletcher of Evoke Transport has reviewed the report and its findings from a transport and highways perspective; overall he welcomes the call for less road dominated housing but a radical rethink is required. Read his views below.
The report reviews 142 large housing projects across England constructed since 2007 with the findings showing that the least successful design elements of housing developments relate to overly engineered highways and infrastructure, together with the poor integration of storage, bins and car parking. This has led to residential developments that are unattractive and dominated by large areas of hard standing, tarmacadam and streets dominated by cars.
The report places the blames collectively at planning authorities, highways authorities and housebuilders. Professor Carmona of UCL states that "Highways authorities are really problematic – they’re all about getting roads as cheap as possible that can be maintained cheaply – that means large areas of tarmac with no regard for walking and cycling." It is my view that this has to change through a direction from national Government with an ongoing process of education for local authority officers and Members.
The audit seeks for highways authorities to adopt Manual for Streets (MfS) as a mandatory guidance to encourage better design and stop reverted back to DB32 guidance from the 1970’s. The audit calls for an end to the planning and highways disconnect and urges highways authorities to take responsibility for their part in creating positive streets and places and looks to see highway design and highway adoption functions working in an integrated manner with planning. Notably the Chartered Institution of Highways and Transportation (CIHT) is in talks with the Department for Transport (DfT) for the refresh of Manual for Streets. I agree the time to review MfS is here; is it in itself still fit for purpose and is it guidance that stands up to modern scrutiny, enabling developments that are planned and designed now are future proofed.
The publication of the Building Better, Building Beautiful Commission (BBBBC) ‘Living with Beauty’ document in January 2020 calls for Manual for Streets one and two to be brought together into one combined manual and calls for DB32 to be firmly withdrawn to stop numerous highway authorities continuing to refer to it and its archaic thinking.
It is evident within the UCL report that the inflexibility of highways authorities in their highway adoption criteria has led to unattractive car dominated roads and highways rather than pedestrian and cycle friendly streets. The audit campaigns for a ‘place first’ approach to the design and adoption of highways. Is this the time for the role and remit of adopting authorities to be reappraised? Why is it that 13 years after MfS there can still be a ‘risk adverse’ approach to anything slightly different in some adopting authority areas? Are we all scared of the increasing compensation culture?
The audit also campaigns for the creation of a national level parking design guide which looks at how parking can be successfully integrated to reduce on-street parking and car dominated streets. Does this go far enough? In my opinion any future national guidance has to adopt the ‘sharing society’ approaches to parking demand. It has to now set out a future criterion for autonomous vehicles and how will the key movements of improving our health and wellbeing and the climate change agenda be reflected?
The audit concludes by stating that schemes which do not meet minimum design requirements should be refused on design grounds and this should be supported, without question, by the Government regardless of progress towards meeting housing targets in the area.
In light of the findings of the review, it is hoped that all parties will work more collaboratively to deliver schemes which are less road oriented, less car dominated, more sustainable and more unique to give a greater sense of place.
I am of the opinion that the key transport and highways challenges that need to be resolved in order to create better quality housing developments that are less road dominated and that have a true sense of place are
All of these different conflicting needs can be met by creating a true hierarchy of streets with housebuilders, architects, urban designers, planners, landscape architects and transport planners working collaboratively to design a hierarchy of streets that cater for all needs and soften the dominance of the road in residential developments. Collaboration is key here; it is the only way to design places where people want to live but places that can still be delivered in a commercially viable manner. Education for local authorities is required, especially to move away from the outdated thinking within DB32.
There is a need for highways authorities to show greater flexibility to allow for better quality design, to allow for innovation and to allow for the creation of sustainable communities that meet with the changing society in future years. Highway design guidance and parking standards need to be seen as just that, ‘guidance’ and not overly prescriptive; there should be increased flexibility to allow for greater place making and innovation. The whole raison d’etre of MfS was to encourage this flexibility and to move away from the previous strict standards imposed under the DB32 regime. The report would appear to suggest that the MfS paradigm shift has yet to happen in many areas, even almost 13 years after its first publication.
With the ongoing need to deliver housing, the number of large-scale housing projects and Garden Communities proposed in England it gives us the opportunity to deliver innovative, future proofed developments with a real sense of place. Developments that are sustainable and prioritise sustainable modes of transport over the use of the car. As a collective the region should look to set itself the mandate of leading the way in the provision of exemplar design and planning.
I am of the opinion that Garden Communities provide the perfect litmus test for radical forward thinking and innovative transport solutions and a new approach to design. The opportunity to change the way we live, and our lifestyles and transport choices should be explored through driverless cars, Mobility as a Service (MaaS), demand responsive public transport and increase pedestrian and cycle permeability. Whilst local highway authorities want developers and transport planners to model the worst-case transport impact do we really need to design for the worst case impact? If we design wide roads with significant capacity will we ever encourage people out of their car?
10 DEC 2019
As the 2019 Election approaches, Evoke have provided a summary of some of the parties’ key transport policies for England, taken directly from each Manifesto. This summary covers the four main parties when looking at Transport. We have also extended our review to cover some of the other parties and their interesting transport policy proposals.
05 DEC 2019
Electric Vehicle (EV) specific policies are increasingly being used by Local Authorities within local plans, parking standards and SPDs to ramp up the expansion of EV charging infrastructure and ‘future-proof’ development sites ahead of the Government’s 2040 zero-carbon target for road traffic. Evoke have a sound understanding of the EV requirements to support development and are able to provide pragmatic and tailored advice on the specific charging requirements for a range of land uses across the country.
20 NOV 2019
The New Reading Borough Local Plan was adopted on 4th November, setting out the Borough’s policies to support Reading’s development up to 2036. In parallel, the Local Plan supports the Reading UK 2050 vision; to achieve a smart and sustainable city by 2050.
Reading is a transport hub with comprehensive rail, road, bus and walking/ cycling links to key destinations across the UK. The town has a longstanding history which has evolved and expanded through its transport links; from the Holy Brook transporting water and fish to the monks of Reading Abbey, through the controversial Inner Distribution Road which was completed in 1989, to Reading Station which proudly displays its architectural evolution through the years.
The Local Plan describes Reading as a Borough with extremely limited undeveloped land and its development locations primarily rely on brownfield sites and change of planning use within the central area; with larger residential development and dedicated employment areas primarily situated to the south.
Like all Local Planning Authorities, Reading Borough Council has a responsibility to work alongside neighbouring authorities (in Reading’s case, as part of the Western Berkshire Authorities due to its constrained nature and also as part of the wider Thames Valley and South East region) to develop a wider strategy wherever possible. Transport is key to ensuring the town centre remains an accessible and attractive place to live and work for new developments both within Reading and those in the surrounding areas which rely on the town for many everyday services.
The newly adopted Local Plan recognises the role of transport in the future growth and development of the Borough and transport infrastructure requirements, delivered in a sustainable manner, are a strand that run through almost every Policy. For example, Policy CC6 directly relates Accessibility of an area (by walking, cycling and public transport) with the Intensity of development, whilst Policy CC9 focuses on securing infrastructure to suit development needs whilst mitigating against a development’s impact on existing infrastructure where necessary.
Policy TR1 focuses entirely on 'Achieving the Transport Strategy' in accordance with the Council’s objectives set out in the Local Transport Plan (2011-2026) (with the Local Transport Plan 4 currently being developed).
Major transport projects include the Mass Rapid Transit, Green Park Station, Thames Crossing and development of bus and cycle routes. The Elizabeth Line (Crossrail) and the M4 Smart Motorway are also discussed. The Local Plan supports these schemes (albeit many are ongoing) as key to unlocking development in the Borough.
Some of these major schemes are already planned or partly underway and are therefore realistic for delivery within the Local Plan period. Whilst largely within neighbouring authorities, the ‘Third Crossing’ between Caversham & Sonning remains on the agenda, with RBC working closely with other neighbouring authorities and the LEP. A third crossing would greatly alleviate pressure on the existing two bridges between Caversham and Reading, with vehicle traffic currently causing Caversham to become highly congested in peak times. This would need to be supported by Park & Ride sites to the north of Reading as well as improved public transport links using this crossing (although there is limited ability for significant improvements further north).
The Plan provides broad and strategic transport packages which new development will be supported by, and in turn will support through CIL and Section 106 contributions, although public funding should also be sought where possible. In addition the Local Plan provides general guidance for new development and in particular (in transport terms) with regards to walking and cycling connectivity. Electric vehicle charging also features within Policy TR5, which states that, ‘all new houses with dedicated off-street parking should provide charging points’; and 'within communal car parks for residential or non-residential developments of at least 10 spaces, 10% of spaces should provide an active charging point.'
Overall, the New Local Plan has, in accordance with the NPPF, a presumption in favour of sustainable development at its core. Beth says: "The adoption of Reading’s Local Plan is great news for the Borough, helping to direct development and infrastructure to the right locations. It focuses on sustainability and supports the climate change agenda and our transport needs must follow suit; working towards the 2050 Vision for a smart and sustainable Reading. Transport remains key to Readings’ development and, whilst some major transport schemes have been in the pipeline for a number of years (decades even), their inclusion should continue to raise their profile and help to direct development contributions towards these key requirements for the Borough."
22 SEPT 2019
In our first few week’s trading, each day has been a celebration of the ongoing support received from our clients, professional partners and friends in the industry. We have been busy delivering our first projects, building relationships with new clients and continuing to support existing relationships.
We have also had the opportunity to attend key industry events and seminars in the Thames Valley, London and further afield, engaging with many familiar faces along the way. Our first few projects are extremely important to us and include, for example:
We have been hard at work to provide our clients with pragmatic, commercial and responsive, transport & highways advice and support. We have also been asked to quote for a variety and wide range of potential projects which we are extremely excited to add to our portfolio.
Alongside this we have found time to attend some important networking events including the Thames Valley Property Fest on 12th September where we had the pleasure of sharing a table with some of the leading names in the industry with host for the evening Ady WIlliams, as well as networking drinks at KuPP, Westgate (Oxford). We have also been keeping up to date with transport and planning policy updates, attending some interesting and through provoking seminars and lectures.
Behind the scenes we have been developing our exciting new website which we are extremely proud of, thanks to the unwavering support of our helpful (and patient!) website developers – Dunston Graphics. We are moving into our new office on 1st October at The White Building and look forward to working from this vibrant office in Reading town centre.
Thank you for your ongoing support and we look forward to welcoming you to our new office soon.
The Evoke Team
09 SEPT 2019
We are pleased to announce the launch of Evoke Transport; a highly anticipated new Transport & Development Planning Consultancy coming to the Thames Valley. Formed in central Reading, we provide Transport Planning advice to a wide range of clients across all land use sectors, helping to deliver and shape projects across the UK.
Our mission is to develop strong client relationships through our hardworking and friendly, approachable attitude. As a team we are well known in the Thames Valley and are keen to establish ourselves as a leader in the market with a new and fresh approach.
We have a wealth of experience in delivering Transport Planning advice & solutions through all stages of a development site; from the initial inception and feasibility of a project, through to the planning application stage and on to post application discussions, Section 106 agreements and discharging planning conditions. Evoke are also able to offer Appeal & Public Inquiry support with Expert Witness expertise.
We are truly excited for this journey, and to share these exciting times with our clients and friends in the industry.