Garden villages such as Harlow and Gilston are locking-in car dependency, says report

Communities / Wed 17th Jun 2020 at 08:32am

Garden villages locking-in car dependency, says report

ENGLAND’S new garden villages and towns risk becoming car-dependent commuter estates, a report has warned.

The government promised the sites would be thriving communities – with jobs, shops and recreational facilities reports the BBC.

But research has suggested the garden villages may be little better than the reviled edge-of town estates they were supposed to supersede.

The government said the report was unfair because the settlements were still in their early stages.

But the researchers said they believed the 20 garden communities they assessed – still in various stages of the planning process – would create up to 200,000 households dependent on driving.

The report has come from Transport for New Homes, a group promoting alternatives to the car.

It has been supported by the RAC Foundation, which said most drivers did not want to need a car to visit the corner shop.

Walking routes that abruptly end are highlighted as features of developments that make car use more likely

The garden village concept was devised to overcome problems of local resistance to housing estates bolted on to small towns.

The government’s prospectus said these should be largely self-sustaining and genuinely mixed-use, with public transport, walking and cycling enabling access to jobs, education and services.

But the report found that:

All settlements but one failed to provide access to amenities with safe walking and cycling routes and a railway station within a mile of all new homes

Residents in one garden village may have to walk up to seven miles to buy a pint of milk

None of the 20 settlements would provide all-week bus services to all households through the day

Cycle routes from the garden villages into nearby towns would often be long and dangerous.

One author, Jenny Raggett, said: “Garden villages were put forward as an alternative to characterless estates – but they may well end up with more tarmac than garden.”

She said this was especially regrettable as the coronavirus outbreak had prompted more people to walk and cycle – a move that was being encouraged by the government.

Walking and cycling would be easier on well-designed and maintained routes and paths

Steve Gooding, RAC Foundation director, said: “The vision is laudable but is at grave risk of being missed. The reality looks set to ingrain car dependence.

“Many of us will still wish to own and use our cars… but we don’t want to be forced to get behind the wheel for every trip we make.”

The report’s authors singled out Long Marston, a proposed 3,500-home Garden Village in Warwickshire. As a former airfield it was categorised as a “brownfield” site, which would help secure planning approval.

The developers’ prospectus said: “Long Marston Airfield will provide opportunities to live, work and socialise, all within 10 minutes of historic Stratford.”

The report’s authors agreed the trip to Stratford was indeed 10 minutes – so long as you had a car.

They said there was no evidence the village would create employment, and they believed it would not be big enough to support a full range of facilities.

Mike Emett from Cala Homes told BBC News: “It’s on a brownfield site in the countryside, so by definition it’s not near any town.
“We are having a debate ourselves whether the settlement will be big enough to support higher facilities such as a secondary school”.

Homes with little or no garden space were highlighted as being against the ethos of a garden village or town

A government spokesperson said: “Many of these settlements are in their early stages and we are continuing to work with local partners to get the right infrastructure in place.”

He said the majority of new garden communities on green field sites would have more than 40% of their area given over to green space accessible to all by foot and cycle.

A spokesman for the Garden Town commented: “Harlow & Gilston Garden Town is still going through the planning process but we’re delighted to see that Transport for New Homes share our vision of prioritising cycling, walking and public transport over regular car use.

“Harlow & Gilston is unique and different to the developments highlighted in the report with five councils working in partnership across the project, ensuring the very best in masterplanning, transport and active travel expertise.”

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9 Comments for Garden villages such as Harlow and Gilston are locking-in car dependency, says report:

2020-06-17 09:41:41

This is a really damning report on what is actually happening across the country, trying to overcome local objections by calling these Garden Towns when in reality they will be just urban sprawls. The Local Plans are really led by Council's having to meet Government house building targets and developers looking to make massive profits from greenfield sites. If the new residents in The Harlow and Gilston Garden Town Plan are to be persuaded not to use their car, it is acknowledged that alternatives have to be put in place at the outset otherwise they will not change their habits to use these alternatives when they become available. In view of this, the building of the proposed tramway and enhancements to create transport corridors around the town need to be started in the very near future otherwise the towns roads will become even more congested. As for trusting town planners to get it right, Church Langley with it's one road in and out and what looks like the same for the new hospital site ..?

Harlow and Gilston Garden Town
2020-06-17 11:04:30

In reference to the reply left by Tenpin, the principle developer of Gilston is Places for People who have a not for dividend model so all profits are reinvested into homes and communities. You're absolutely right about alternative transport options being put in place and you can find out more via the quick read link below. The proposal is to have rapid, reliable and frequent bus services (some on dedicated roads) rather than a tramway plus improved/new walking and cycling routes connecting the Garden Town. Harlow & Gilston is separate to the Church Langley build with five councils working in partnership so a fantastic wealth of planning/transport expertise. LINK: http://www.harlowandgilstongardentown.co.uk/wp-content/uploads/2020/01/transport-leaflet-combined.pdf

2020-06-17 11:23:22

Looking at the PDF there, i'm pretty concerned that one of tenpin's points has not actually been answered. If bus only routes are going to be put in place, where exactly is all the extra traffic going to go? The town is already maxed out at times, you only have to drive anywhere near the station and the A414 in the morning to see the length of delays that are here. Imagine putting a whole new town next to that very stretch of road, and then reducing the capacity on those new roads. Is that not just upping the usage of existing roads? Now unless there is some new route directly to the station for buses, which i can't see on here, i don't see how having a percentage of 10,000 homes trying to get to the station to commute is going to ease the problems. It looks to me like it's creating a new bottleneck and forcing everyone onto existing roads without any thought of how to improve those roads. While the intention to get people to use public transport is a really good one, i don't think the actual outcome and behaviour has been thought out. Nor has the carrot and stick really been thought through, looks more stick with well this is all you've got. Has anyone asked the question of, what happens to all those who don't use the public transport and what happens when we reduce the road capacity? Where do all those cars go? Or does that not matter about what happens around the site, because the site plan itself looks ok?

2020-06-17 12:32:35

Well I think you (Harlow and Gilston Town) need to talk to Harlow Councillors, who have made it very clear to me that they are expecting a tramway to be constructed from the Gilston development through Harlow and onto Latton Priory. I took this matter up with Mr Steptoe at the public exhibition held in the Harvey Centre, who made it clear that what was being proposed was electric buses. However, at a public meeting in 2019 a Councillor in front of about 140 residents stated this would be a tramway and the same person in February this year gave me copies of draft drawings of what is being proposed. Someone is trying to pull the wool over the eyes of Harlow residents in an attempt to 'sell' how good the overall plans are for Harlow. As for 'profits' am I not right in saying that the head of your organisation is the highest paid such officer of such an organisation in the country earning over half a million pounds per year?

2020-06-17 18:12:07

If you follow the link you get the same old cartoon that has been Hawked around exhibitions over the last year. Three pink lines on a plan and a few wishful sentences is not going to give anybody any confidence that they have this right. What we need is detail. Where are these routes going to be? What existing roads will be used? These are the questions asked at their exhibitions. They couldn’t answer them then and they can’t answer them now.

2020-06-17 18:40:37

You are spot on gilbernuk, all the exhibitions held have explained a lot about what a great place the Gilston development will be but have given little if any explanation about what the sustainable transport corridors actually mean for the residents already here. However if you look in more detail of the Local Plan documents (which run to hundreds of pages) you will find more information. Just one example, the 'tramway' will cross Southern Way near to the Latton Bush centre and within a few feet of the play area of Commonside School and then alongside Fernhill Lane. Modelling of traffic flows by ECC has shown that hundreds more car journeys will take place each day, taken by residents living on the new Latton Priory development, put together, traffic congestion at junctions onto and along Southern Way can only get much worse. But Hey Ho, both the local Labour and Conservative Parties support the expansion of 'Harlow' which in reality are just housing estates in a field, built on green belt land, not in Harlow, indeed much of it not even in Essex.

2020-06-18 08:27:10

Readers may again note that when put under scrutiny, there is a deafening silence from politicians locally. Don't forget this is all part of the local Labour Parties plan for the future of Harlow, one that most Harlow residents have not been made aware of because of the totally inadequate consultation with residents undertaken by the Council.

Harlow and Gilston Garden Town
2020-06-18 12:09:52

Hi Tenpin - We consulted on our transport strategy back in Feb and pleased to hear you popped along to visit the display. As you know, that proposal features a bus service network with an aim of being fast, frequent, reliable and affordable. I can confirm that no officer earns a salary of half a million pounds at the Garden Town, I can't comment on other organisations.

2020-06-18 15:27:06

Well as I said earlier, Harlow Council are clearly 'on a different page' as far as the transport is concerned. As for a fast, frequent, reliable and affordable bus service, try telling that to those that use the service now. Unless new lanes are put alongside existing routes throughout the town, then roads which are now clogged with traffic for much of the day will only hold up buses, and with thousands of homes planned around the Harlow boundary, even if the target of only 40% of journeys are taken by car, this still means a huge increase in the number of cars on the roads of Harlow. The reason it has taken well over 2 years to get the road widening done at 'The Gates' roundabout is because of the need to move drains and other services in the verge. If numerous other roads in the town need to have work done to create new bus lanes, the same problems and time scales will be involved. Hence the need to start construction work well before any homes are built on the new sites and hence the reason for the outcomes of the report referred to.

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