The National Planning Policy says “Encouragement should be given to solutions which support reductions in greenhouse gas emissions and reduce congestion. In preparing Local Plans, local planning authorities should therefore support a pattern of development which, where reasonable to do so, facilitates the use of sustainable modes of transport.”
However, the findings of the RSS [para 8.16.] found “A key issue in terms of sustainable transport from any such urban extensions is whether it would be realistic to regard them as within walking distance or at worst cycling distance to Sutton Coldfield town centre and station.
The former would seem unlikely, the latter possible from some localities, but the developers have referred to their aspirations to extend bus services into the suggested new development areas.”
You do have to question the merits of providing a shuttle bus service to a rail network or secondary travel plan, compared to the alternative option of a single car journey to a place of employment.
The RSS report agreed “In our judgement, it would be unlikely that a significant proportion of new residents would generally be willing to use two public transport modes for their journeys-to-work or indeed other trips to Birmingham city centre. In that context and given the relatively good access to the Strategic Road Network (SRN) we are not convinced that substantial urban extensions in such a location would not be primarily car-orientated, and therefore perhaps not as sustainable as claimed.”
10,000 houses could generate up to 26,000 new residents on the Sutton Coldfield green belt. The end result will see 1.6%* travel by bicycle, 4.4%** use the train (via a shuttle bus), 17.3%** on the bus and 78.4%** car. Sound Sustainable? Not a chance.
So what of the strategy to build employment adjacent to residential?
If the workers in the industrial areas cannot afford to live in Sutton Coldfield or the new green belt urban extension, then it will increase commuting levels. High skilled residents will commute out of the new Sutton Coldfield green belt residential area and low skill workers commute into the industrial zone.
Another scenario to consider is: 10,000 houses are built and 6,000 homes have the primary breadwinner taking up 6,000 jobs created by the industrial zone. What about their partners and siblings?
You can never achieve 100% people working within walking distance. So a decent local transport system will be required to provide a sustainable development.
* ONS Table CT0015 (2011 Census)
** Centro Future Travel 2011