Planning Objections: Traffic and Parking
When it comes to a planning objection, one of the most contentious areas that often incite a storm of planning objections is the impact on local traffic and parking. For community members and local authorities alike, a poorly conceived project can spell chaos for an area’s transportation system. As we’ll see, the devil is often in the details, making the Transport Assessments (TA), Transport Statements (TS), Traffic Surveys and Travel Plans critical documents in the planning process and planning objections in particular.
The Role of Transport Assessments and Statements in Planning Objections
Before delving into the specifics of crafting an effective planning objection letter, it’s essential to understand the role of documents such as a Transport Assessment and Transport Statement. These documents, which should align with guidelines such as the Department for Transport’s ‘Guidance on Transport Assessments’, aim to provide a comprehensive understanding of how a proposed development will interact with existing transport infrastructure. These assessments cover aspects like reducing the need for car travel, environmental sustainability, and managing existing networks. Simply put, these documents can make or break a development project.
If you have concerns, for example, on whether the roads in the wider area are safe and have capacity for the development you will need firm evidence to support your comments; generalised concerns about an increase in traffic, or that there is a new junction onto a road are unlikely to carry much weight.
Traffic Congestion – A Common Grievance in Planning Objections
One of the most frequent concerns raised in planning objection letters is the potential for increased traffic congestion. Increased congestion doesn’t just create delays; it also affects air quality, safety, and the overall quality of life. As stated in government’s guidelines, considerations such as areas of existing traffic congestion and road safety problems need to be tackled. If you find that a proposed development falls short in this area, it would be a pivotal point to include in your objection letter.
Large applications will usually be accompanied with traffic surveys. These surveys aim to establish the baseline traffic levels within a specific area. This used to involve counting the number of vehicles using a road or collecting journey time information for example, but these days are many other types of data that traffic surveys collect including recording traffic using video cameras, and then analysing the video footage later in the office.
The Predicament of Parking
Equally compelling are objections centred around parking. Whether it’s residential or commercial development, inadequate parking provisions can lead to on-street parking problems, affecting both accessibility and safety. An effective planning objection letter should question whether the TA or TS has sufficiently managed access to the highway network, as well as the availability of on-site parking.
Local Authorities will usually set out the minimum or maximum Parking requirements withing parking standard documents. These documents set out the suggested approach to car parking provision within each area and by development type. They also explain how parking can be achieved without compromising the high quality design required for new developments.
Be aware that parking requirements can be low (one space per dwelling) or that Local Authorities may be requesting a car free development, in which case a planning condition worded to that effect would be added to the decision notice.
But even with low requirements, the application may still be seeking to provide fewer spaces (the more parking provided the less developable space is left), in which case the applicant will argue why a lower provision should be acceptable. If you think there should be a higher number of spaces then you need to explain why. Is there existing high pressure in the area for on-street parking? If the proposed houses have no parking is it really feasible that they can get around without a car, i.e. are there bus routes in the area and local shops?
Planning applications might be accompanied with travel plans, in which case you should have a look at these documents when crafting your objection letter. A travel plan is the development will generate significant amounts of movement. It comprises a package of actions to encourage safe, healthy and sustainable travel options. It’s used to manage the specific transport needs of a new development. The travel plan must include an action plan that shows how sustainable transport such as buses, cycling or walking, will be made accessible at the development and their use increased. The aim is to minimize single occupancy car travel to and from a new development.
Crafting an Effective Planning Objection Letter
To craft a persuasive planning objection letter, aim to be as specific as possible. Merely stating that a project will cause “increased traffic” is far less effective than pointing out, for instance, that the TA does not adequately address the potential for added congestion at a specific nearby junction. The same goes for parking—instead of broadly stating that parking will be an issue, point out the exact problems in the planning documents. This can include the lack of clear measures to manage parking demand or the absence of specific provisions for different modes of transport like bicycles and public transport.
Mitigating Impact – Sustainable Solutions
While the focus is often on objections, offering constructive criticism can also be beneficial. Developers are encouraged to reduce car usage and improve public transport options. Suggesting viable alternatives in your planning objection letter not only demonstrates a balanced viewpoint but also signals to planning authorities that you’ve carefully considered your objections.
In the convoluted realm of development planning, well-structured Transport Assessments and Transport Statements are vital for community well-being. However, even the most meticulous assessments can overlook crucial aspects, making public scrutiny essential. Crafting an insightful planning objection letter that focusses on traffic and parking considerations can serve as an invaluable tool in ensuring that a proposed development does not steer a community down the road to perpetual inconvenience.