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The draft London Plan – what next for transport?

Martin Reed, Arup

12 July 2018/Categories: PTRC News

The London Plan is the Mayor’s primary mechanism through which to coordinate London’s evolution and development over a 20-25 year period. 
A full review of the 2016 London Plan was commissioned shortly after the election of Mayor Sadiq Khan. Following this review, the latest London Plan was published in draft in November 2017. This reflects the Mayor’s priorities for London over the period up to 2041. Following the recent public consultation, the Plan will be examined in the Autumn and published a year later.

Given the Mayor’s transport remit, it is no surprise that transport issues form an important part of the London Plan, both at a strategic infrastructure level and as part of the Mayor’s focus on air quality and health and wellbeing.

Good Growth
The impact of growth in London and accommodating additional citizens will create immense economic, as well as social, challenges and pressures. The draft London Plan places a focus on ‘Good Growth’: a range of cross-cutting objectives that seek to ensure that growth “benefits all Londoners”, covering the following themes; strong and inclusive communities, making the best use of land, creating a healthy city, delivering the homes Londoners need, growing a good economy and increasing efficiency and resilience. 

Air Quality
Improving air quality is a priority for the Mayor who states the aim for London to have the “best air quality of any major world city by 2050”. Air quality is an important factor in shaping the Mayor’s approach to transport strategy, something that we have already seen in relation to investment in electric buses, the ultra-low emission zone (ULEZ), and proposals for Oxford Street (which is another story…).

Spatial development and transport infrastructure
The overarching approach is to 'work' existing developed areas harder to deliver the housing and economic growth desired. The sacrosanct nature of the Green Belt is reinforced and there is a focus on small sites and measures to increase density in well-connected suburban locations. 
The draft Plan acknowledges the important of transport infrastructure to support growth. Specific growth corridors are identified which dissect the majority of London, encompassing the major designated opportunity areas, linking growth directly to transport infrastructure investment. The funding is expected to be raised from a range of sources, including developer contributions, borrowing, and central government support.

Healthy Streets
A key policy in the draft Plan (Policy T2) is the Healthy Streets approach which is designed to improve air quality, reduce congestion and help make London’s diverse communities greener, healthier and more attractive places to live, work, play and do business. The Mayor’s aim for 2041 is for 80% of Londoners’ trips to be on foot, by cycle or by using public transport. 

Development proposals will need to deliver patterns of land use that facilitate residents making shorter, regular trips by walking or cycling. Specifically, development proposals will need to demonstrate how they will deliver improvements that support the Healthy Streets Indicators, such as, pedestrians from all walks of life, shade and shelter, places to stop and rest etc. Proposals will need to reduce the dominance of vehicles on London’s streets, whether stationary or moving. And they will need to be permeable by foot and cycle and connect to local walking and cycling networks as well as public transport. For developers, this means high quality, attractive public realm which designs physical activity back into our everyday lives. 

As well as significant health benefits, the Healthy Streets approach can reduce air and noise pollution, improve mental health, help combat social isolation and bring economic benefits to local areas. By doing all of that it makes developments more attractive.

The Mayor’s air quality and Healthy Streets priorities contribute to an ongoing focus on low car parking and higher levels of cycle parking than in previous versions of the Plan.

The Plan continues to support car-free development, but now makes it the starting point in more accessible locations, with low levels even in outer London. Hand in hand with the low (to no) car parking approach, the Mayor proposes to increase levels of cycle parking, especially in commercial developments and for residential units, with higher levels in designated areas.

The transport proposals represent some of the most progressive transport policy measures in the UK, building on the progress made in London to improve public transport capacity and cycling facilities in recent years. The focus on walking and the connection to health and wellbeing could be transformational. At the same time, there should be some sensitivity about the way in which these strategies are managed across London’s 33 local authorities, where there are a range of different political and local considerations to balance. It will be interesting to see how much altered the final Plan will be on publication.

Related publication
The London Plan: Ten things you should know identifies ten of the most prominent issues explored within the London Plan. It provides insight and commentary from our technical experts on the opportunities and challenges that the Plan presents to those that live and work in the city.


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