new houses in the process of being built

Car Dependency is Not a Myth

Seriously, imagine the disappointment; saving up to buy yourself a nice, shiny new-build past the ring-road of the town, you’ve moved in, you’ve hung all your pictures up, you get the point…

But then, the reality hits. You want some milk, some bread, or maybe just to nip to the pub.

You can’t. You don’t drive.

This is a tragedy (worthy of being made into a film actually) which is occuring more often and is crushing the dreams of those young, first-time buyers who have been super excited to move into their first home.

What if you do drive?

The location of many new-build estates poses difficulty even if you do drive, because you become strongly dependent on your car.

Want to do anything other than sit in the garden? You’re gonna need your car!

Car, petrol, money, traffic, time.

You’ll likely spend hours and hours in traffic to get yourself (and maybe children) around, since your area has no shops, no pubs, no schools, no jobs, and no doctors.

What is causing this increasing problem?

Housing planners are allowing more estates to be built on the outskirts of towns, where car travel is the only method of transport.

Transport for New Homes, a new green group, have done some research by visiting 20 new housing developments in England.

The research has been backed by the motoring group, the RAC Foundation.

Researchers found that the rush to build new homes is the main reason for the transport problem, as lots of them are being built next to bypasses which are simply too far out of the town centre to walk or cycle.

Furthermore, the bus links are also poor.

 

What do the pros think?

Transport for New Homes researcher, Jenny Raggett, said: “We were appalled to find so many new housing developments built around the car with residents driving for almost every journey.”

Jenny is also concerned by the extra traffic congestion that these cars are causing, lengthening commuter times.

“Car-based living of this kind is not good for our health or quality of life,” she added.

Steve Gooding, director of the motorists’ RAC Foundation, expressed his worries about the issue of having to drive everywhere and ‘ferry’ your children around, only to drive straight into a traffic jam.

He also emphasised the importance of developing new housing estates with a variety of transport options.

Steve said: “It’s not much fun in one of these new estates where there’s nowhere to park out front, so there are cars all over the pavements.”

Here are some examples of poorly-developed housing

  • Castle Mead near Trowbridge, Wiltshire – residents who want to visit the shops or community centre have to use an underpass when it’s dark, or even walk along the by-pass which doesn’t have a footpath, which is dangerous with cars and lorries whizzing past.
  • Great Western Park near Didcot, Oxfordshire – people have to climb over a fence to get where they’re going because the footpaths are so poor.

Now THIS is how to do it right

Poundbury in Dorset… spot on!

On the outskirts of Dorchester and built on land that is owned by the Duchy of Cornwall, Poundbury is a model example of how new developments should be built; it was designed around people, rather than cars.

This town has shops, businesses, cafes and 35% affordable housing.

The researchers said: “The secret is the layout of connected streets with interesting squares and courtyards, coupled with the way that offices, small shops, cafes, pubs and even a garden centre were integrated with the homes as in an authentic small town.”

 

Why exactly are these new sites being built in these inconvenient places?

Ms Raggett shone some light upon the thinking behind building new estates in inaccessible areas, although she disagrees with it, of course.

“The problem is that planners are measured by whether they hit their targets for new housing. At the moment, they just approach developers who are sitting on greenfield sites and end up peppering housing around towns without any regard as to whether the land is accessible or not,” she explained.

Councillor Martin Tett, transport spokesman for the Local Government Association, strongly believes that councils should be given powers to ensure that house builders contribute to the local community, improving infrastructure and services as part of new development.

A government spokesperson said that its revised planning rulebook does actually tell developers to create high quality areas which promote more sustainable ways of transport, such as walking, cycling and using public transport.

Cllr Tett is on the same notion, as he said: “councils are determined to do more in planning for new places in ways that improve air quality and promote more sustainable forms of travel.”

So, why are developers and councils not ensuring these standards are met?

Cllr Tett explains that “a lack of funding is a clear barrier to such investment.”

Councils simply need more money if they are to ensure that new developments are up to the standard; with good links to nearby towns and preventing as much air pollution as possible.

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