Growth Opportunity through Unlocking Planning

What do you view as the current key challenges hindering the delivery of  rail and urban transport networks and infrastructure?

Lack of integration between land use planning and transport provision. At present housing allocations are made without regard for where sustainable transport is available

Development (apart from large city urban regeneration sites) is built around the car. The planning system needs to change and avoid this, with a new emphasis on higher density and mixed use development in the right locations.  It makes no sense in terms of accessibility, decarbonisation of transport, traffic or sustainable economic growth, to allocate hundred of thousands of new homes to rural or semi-rural authorities with little public transport in sight. Yet this is increasingly the current practice.  While our cities try to reduce traffic, elsewhere the nation is building car-based out of town estates by the hundreds. See map below.

These are locations which still have railways, but they have been allowed to wither. However, they are also potential growth locations, away from the pinchpoints which limit rail traffic.

What spatial planning and associated policy and legislative changes would help unlock the delivery of rail and urban transport projects?

The solution is to build differently and invest in new local rail and tram/train initiatives, integrated with active travel and buses by focusing housing and development on rail stations with a good level of service. ConnectedCities integrates brownfield and greenfield development into a unified system based on public transport. The vision is for compact, high quality, walkable developments focused around existing and new railway stations. Groups of settlements - some existing, some new - are linked using existing rail corridors and clustered around a 'hub town'. Together they form a ConnectedCity.

The approach embeds local rail or tram-train routes right into the fabric of a new major growth area, with stations and stops developed metro-style so that they become an essential element in place-making.  This would be a modern departure away from the current model of building on land opened up by new roads, by bypasses, large distributor roads, etc. which forces local authority planners to accept developer-led greenfield sites dotted here and there over the countryside in an effort to achieve housing allocations, rather than a more mature, measured and visionary approach to growing an area around sustainable transport.

New developments should be of sufficient density and mixed use to ensure two-way traffic along the mass transit route, making best use of the uplift in land values as the transport part of the plan is delivered. 

Legislative changes should be

Are there best practice or wider international examples that could be adopted to support growth through unlocking transport network and infrastructure delivery?

In the UK


Locations are classified in terms of the accessibility by public transport. Proactive planning has been used to develop 95 sustainable extensions to towns with over 100,000 residents that are well connected by rail. The VINEX policy increased the housing stock by 7.6% within a decade with only modest funding from central government


The French have connected transport with private development through the use of ZACs (Zones d’ Amenagement Concertes). These are places identified for development where plans involving different Ministries are aligned. Funding from the private sector is tapped through the Versement Transport, a charge on the turnover of those employing more than ten staff. Leadership from local Mayors helps unite both residents and employers around spatial growth plans, a notable example being the area around St Denis in Northern Paris. Public private partnerships are used to assemble land and ensure complex plans are delivered.


Tram-trains transformed Karlsruhe and Kassel by making use of former rural railways.