Draft Local Plan Review
8. Improving Accessibility and Encouraging Sustainable Travel
236. To make provision for sustainable communities and to realise the future economic ambitions of Solihull it is critical there is an integrated approach to transport and development across the borough. Easy access to services and facilities such as jobs, education, fresh food retailers and open space by all modes; and an efficient, safe and attractive street and highway network are crucial to supporting these ambitions. The development of policies in this section of the draft local plan have had regard to Solihull's role in the wider area recognising that both national road and rail networks cross through the Borough.
237. The Borough Portrait and Challenges identify the local transport issues in the Borough. This includes the difficulty in achieving sustainable modes of transport in the rural parts of the Borough, due to the number of small settlements and dispersed population, whilst many of the Borough's roads suffer from congestion during peak hours. As well as creating social exclusions these issues can in turn detract from Solihull's attractiveness as a place to live, work and learn whilst also supressing its economic potential. Effective land use planning can, however, make a positive contribution towards re-balancing the transport system by influencing the location of development; supporting rural transport and encouraging take up of sustainable modes of transport.
238. Solihull Council is embarking on a strategy of 'Managed Growth' through the promotion of 'UK Central'. UK Central brings together all of the Borough's key economic assets, including regional business parks, town centres, Jaguar Land Rover, the Airport, future HS2 interchange station and the NEC. A key component to making UK Central a reality will be a balanced approach to transport - one that recognises the need to cater for cars and places appropriately as well as increasing emphasis on alternative transport modes.
239. The West Midlands Combined Authority, has through its 'Movement for Growth' strategy set out the strategic direction for the region, while the Council's transport strategy 'Solihull Connected' (adopted 2016) sets out the strategic vision for managing the quality and performance of the transport system within Solihull and connections with the rest of the region and the UK.
240. Solihull Connected has five primary objectives:
- Ensure that major transport investment enables and manages growth to achieve the Council priorities for homes and jobs;
- Support and enable the integrated delivery of sustainable and efficient forms of transport like mass-transit, cycling and walking;
- Contribute to the council priorities to support people's everyday lives and improve health and wellbeing through the promotion of smarter choices programmes linked to major and local infrastructure investment;
- Identify a prioritised short, medium and long term delivery plan to achieve the overarching vision and objectives whilst recognising the specific needs of the different parts of the Borough;
- Ensure that the objectives of Solihull Connected are embedded in Local Plan and Health and Wellbeing policies to support walking, cycling and public transport use.
241. Both 'Movement for Growth' and Solihull Connected set out a vision of an inter-connected network of rapid-transit for the region, comprising Metro (light rapid transit) and SPRINT (bus rapid transit). In addition, Midlands Connect, of which Solihull is a partner, will, through its strategic transport strategy, identify the key road and rail infrastructure with the greatest economic impact across the whole (East & West) Midlands region.
Policy P7 Accessibility and Ease of Access
All new development should be focussed in the most accessible locations and seek to enhance existing accessibility levels and promote ease of access.
The Council will expect development proposals to fulfil the following:
•demonstrate how access to the site will be achieved in a sustainable manner by a range and choice of transport modes.
•for residential development over 100 dwellings, provide access to a bus service offering at least a 30 minute daytime, evening and weekend frequency within 400m of the site;
•for all other development, provide access to a bus service offering at least a 30 minute daytime frequency within 400m of the site;
•provide on-site transport infrastructure that promotes ease of access and enhances accessibility levels;
•provide, contribute to and/or enhance off-site transport infrastructure schemes where appropriate and viable;
•are consistent with, and contribute to, the implementation of the 'Solihull Connected' strategy;
•for offices, retail and leisure development, are directed to locations in town centres, or other established locations including Birmingham Business Park, Blythe Valley Business Park, Birmingham Airport and NEC, as defined in Policies P1, P2 and P19;
Access to all development will be required to demonstrate that:
•it is safe, attractive and suitable for all people by all modes.
•opportunities for sustainable transport modes have been taken up.
Policy P8 Managing Travel Demand and Reducing Congestion
The Council will support development proposals which:
•are located in accordance with the spatial strategy in seeking to reduce the need to travel and that essential travel can be met by forms of sustainable transport in addition to the private car;
•promote linked trips by encouraging mixed use development where appropriate;
•do not result in the reduction of safety for users of the highway or other transport network;
•takes an evidence-based approach to demonstrate appropriate car parking provision, taking account of location, trip rates and, where relevant, travel plan targets and forecast levels of car ownership;
The Council is unlikely to support developments:
•where the impacts of increased delay to vehicles, pedestrians or cyclists, taking account of the residual cumulative transport effects of development, are severe.
•where they will result in a reduction in safety for any users of the highway or other transport network.
The Council will support proposals for local Park and Ride at appropriate railway stations subject to other policies in the Local Plan.
Off-site parking provision proposed in association with economically important sites will be supported, subject to other policies in the Local Plan, where sustainable transport links between those sites and the parking provision are of a good quality, direct and attractive to use.
The Council will require Transport Assessments and/or Travel Plans to accompany planning applications that include proposals which may generate significant traffic volumes or otherwise likely to have a significant impact on the highway network.
Policy P8A Rapid Transit
The Council will support proposals for the delivery of METRO and SPRINT as part of an inter-connected network of rapid-transit lines across the region, particularly along the following three corridors in Solihull that provide access to the UK Central Hub:
•Eastern Corridor Metro Extension to UK Central Hub
•Birmingham City Centre to UK Central Hub SPRINT
•Hall Green to UK Central Hub/North Solihull SPRINT
Justification - Locating Development
242. NPPF sets out the principle that Local Plans should support development which facilitates, where possible, the use of sustainable modes of transport. In addition, local authorities are expected to work with neighbouring authorities and key stakeholders to develop strategies for the provision of viable infrastructure necessary to support sustainable development.
243. Paragraph 34 of the NPPF states that "plans and decisions should ensure developments that generate significant movement are located where the need to travel will be minimised and the use of sustainable transport modes can be maximised". However, it also recognises (at paragraph 29) that different policies and measures will be required in different communities, and opportunities to maximise sustainable transport solutions will vary from urban to rural areas. Careful choice of location and layout of new development, combined with appropriate design and management measures (including adequate provision for pedestrians, cyclists and users of public transport) in all new development can help to reduce the dependence upon private cars, providing a safer, and more sustainable (and in the case of walking a cycling, a more healthy) alternative means of travel for leisure or functional purposes.
244. Improvement to existing public transport such as rail and bus service along with the development of new public transport modes such as light rapid transit and bus rapid transit can offer enhanced access for communities to jobs, service and leisure opportunities. This can reduce reliance on private cars for travel and lead to lowering in traffic levels arising from new development. To be most effective they should provide direct links between main areas of population, and retail and employment centres; complemented by high quality inter-changes with other modes of transport.
245. Without reliable access to local services, healthy and affordable food, jobs, education, open space, medical and leisure facilities; communities can become disadvantaged and enter into a cycle of social exclusion. For example, 18-24 year olds in North Solihull experience high levels of unemployment, but also low car ownership; leaving them reliant on other transport modes to access jobs, education and training opportunities. Further exacerbating their circumstance is the poor connection between North Solihull and employment locations in the south of the Borough, especially Solihull town centre. Together with Solihull Connected and Movement for Growth, the Local Plan will work to improve accessibility and ease of movement within, and from, the Regeneration Area to create opportunities for improved connectivity to key centres for employment and education.
246. Policy P7 directs residential development to the most accessible locations that benefit from realistic, commercially and environmentally sustainable opportunities to access local services and jobs; and non-residential development to locations where it can be readily accessed by non-car modes but particularly by public transport.
247. In assessing access to bus services, access to frequent and reliable services are critical in ensuring the bus is considered a realistic mode of travel. In this respect Policy P7 sets out an expectation that all new development is located within a 400m walking distance of a bus service offering at least a 30 minute daytime frequency.
248. Further to the location of development, consideration must be given to the quality of access to it by sustainable transport modes, and ease of access in, around and to that development for different users. Policy P7 expects high quality access by non-car modes to be designed into developments in order for public transport, walking or cycling to become the preferred modes of travel. Access routes that are well connected, attractive, legible and safe, as well as facilities to encourage travel by sustainable transport modes, such as provision of cycle storage, will be required where they do not exist.
249. The Council is committed to ensuring that new developments are located in locations with the highest accessibility where reliance on the private car is low and take up of sustainable modes is high, thereby not materially adding to existing highway congestion. Planning can influence road safety through its control and influence on the design of new development and consideration should be given to pedestrian and cycle links in terms of personal safety, ensuring neither a sense of fear nor crime encouraged through an isolation of the routes from other activities and street users which may discourage the use of the connecting links. Developers should consider the safety and needs of everyone in the community.
Managing Demand for Travel
250. The expected increase in travel demand arising from population growth, HS2 and UK Central will introduce transport challenges which, without application of effective land use planning, are likely to further compound congestion on the Borough's road network during peak hours. To ensure that transport does not in itself become a barrier to growth, the local plan sets a framework for promotion and facilitation of sustainable development where housing, jobs, local services and facilities are connected through a range and choice of transport modes.
251. Furthermore, increased availability and uptake of public transport, walking and cycling can complement wider accessibility and social inclusion, particularly in helping narrow income and health equality gaps between North Solihull and the remainder of the Borough. Worklessness and health inequalities can be reduced through increasing opportunities to travel via non-car modes through the increased levels of activity involved in travelling by non-car modes. Enabling people to access their local area in a variety of ways can help to provide a sense of belonging and community cohesion as people become familiar with the area and build social networks.
252. Policy P7 sets out a framework under which development will be located in the most accessible locations. It therefore provides the primary step in managing travel demands associated with development from the outset, by ensuring that realistic opportunities are available to travel by non-car modes.
253. Policy P8 seeks thereafter to ensure that the travel demands associated with new development are managed in a sustainable manner and that subsequent traffic generated does not create or exacerbate network congestion to a point of severe highway impact, when taking account of the residual cumulative impacts of development. Provision of safe and secure access to new development remains paramount. Transport Assessments and Travel Plans will be required in association with particular types and scale of development to forecast the transport impacts associated with development, ensure that detrimental impacts are adequately mitigated and secure the implementation of, or contributions towards, appropriate measures to encourage and enable travel by non-car modes.
254. The Council will expect an evidence-based approach in forecasting parking demand and servicing provision which uses established evidences bases and/or, where relevant, first principles.
High Speed 2 Rail
255. Upon enactment, the High Speed Rail (London – West Midlands) Bill will provide the Department for Transport with the powers and land necessary to construct and operate High Speed 2. Detailed matters relating to design and construction arrangements will be submitted to, and considered by, the Council as the approval body (termed 'Qualifying Authority') under the HS2 Planning Regime.
256. However, the Act also 'disapplies' many aspects of national, regional and local legislation and policy, replacing it with that which is more directly relevant to the design and delivery of the railway. Specific grounds are set out upon which HS2 related applications can be considered, conditioned or refused; meaning that the policies set out in this Plan cannot be applied by the Council when considering such applications.
257. There will be, in broad terms, two main sets of grounds upon which works may be considered for refusal or conditions by a Qualifying Authority. These are that:
- The design or external appearance of the works ought to
be modified (and is reasonably capable of being so modified):
- to preserve the local environment or local amenity; and / or
- to prevent or reduce prejudicial effects on road safety or on the free flow of traffic in the local area; and / or
- to preserve a site of archaeological or historic interest or nature conservation value.
- The development ought to, and could reasonably, be carried out elsewhere on land within the Act limits.
258. The Council will continue to work with HS2 Ltd on measures to minimise impacts on communities and the environment as a result of the construction of the railway and associated infrastructure.
259. Other policies in the plan (most notably Policy P1 "UK Central Hub Area"), provide the policy framework for considering development proposals associated with the railway, such that no further policies are required in this chapter.
260. An efficient and accessible inter-connected rapid-transit network can play a vital role in improving the current transport system both locally and regionally whilst accommodating forecast increases in travel demand. The network can also help support wider urban regeneration and, in a more local context, go some way to reducing the transport severance between North and South Solihull.
261. A detailed technical study is currently underway by Transport for West Midlands to examine how rapid-transit corridors can be accommodated on Solihull's roads, which will include a recommendation as to what level of priority should be given to public transport in different locations across the network. This study will provide a prioritised list of mass-transit corridors which focus on bringing forward routes which best support the economic growth of the Borough and will comprise of either Metro (Light Rapid Transit) or SPRINT (Bus Rapid Transit). Delivery of rapid transit schemes is subject to further approval by the West Midlands Combined Authority and realising a successful business case. Policy P8A recognises the importance of rapid-transit in delivering wider social and economic transport objectives and supports its roll-out in the Borough as a mechanism to improve accessibility and further underpinning policies P7 and P8.
262. Freight is a major user of our road network and implementing a system that controls and manages the flow of freight will be important for safety, congestion and environmental purposes. It is also advantageous for businesses to have detailed information on road space and loading/unloading slots available in order to optimise their operations and remain competitive.
263. The West Midlands Metropolitan Freight Strategy (2013) includes proposals which affect Solihull directly, including encouraging greater freight use of the M6 Toll, the development of an Urban Road Freight Network and efficient and reliable access to national airports. Other proposals include Freight Consolidation Centres, enhanced local deliveries and strategic rail freight interchanges. This strategy is currently being updated and a key component of this is the ambition to make the West Midlands a hub of logistics best practice, attracting investment while reducing impacts on communities and the environment.
264. The impact of freight movements generated onto the highway network must be managed and minimised by a Freight Management Strategy produced as part of the Transport Assessment/Travel Plan process.
265. The movement of freight by sustainable modes will be encouraged, particularly via rail and canal networks.
Bypass Improvement Lines
266. The 2006 UDP sought to safeguard the lines of three longstanding potential by-passes to Balsall Common, Hockley Heath and Knowle. The 2013 SLP concluded that the need to retain safeguarding of the lines was no longer justified. In relation to Hockley Heath and Knowle, there is nothing to suggest that this conclusion needs to be revisited. However this is not necessarily the case in relation to Balsall Common.
267. The traffic associated with the HS2 Interchange site (and wider Hub area), and growth potential south of Coventry, especially when combined with traffic generated from new housing in the area, is likely to have an effect on the A452 as it passes through Balsall Common. This is expected to justify the provision of an alternative route that could accommodate through traffic, and provide a basis for new residential developments to access the network in an appropriate manner. This alternative route will be pursued through the local plan review, although at this stage a specific line is not being proposed. Further scoping/feasibility work will be undertaken to assess costs, benefits and potential funding/delivery options and timescales for its provision. This work will be taken forward through the later stages of the local plan review.
Motorway Service Areas (MSA)
268. In 2001 the Secretary of State (SoS) was minded to grant permission for an on-line MSA to serve the M42 near to Catherine de Barnes. It was judged that the need for the services outweighed the harm to the Green Belt that had been identified. However, in 2005 prior to the formal decision being made, the SoS was of the view that due to material changes in circumstances since the original inquiry, the inquiry ought to be re-opened.
269. The inquiry re-opened in 2008 and the MSA proposals near to Catherine-de-Barnes were considered alongside alternative proposals for an off line facility at junction 4. At the re-opened inquiry the Highways Agency's (as Highways England was then known) primary concern was to ensure that the safe and efficient operation of the strategic highway network would not be compromised by an MSA; and this included the operation of the Active Traffic Management (ATM) which had been brought into use after the initial inquiry.
270. In 2009 the Secretary of State dismissed the two appeals. Although the SoS concluded that there was still a significant unmet need, this need did not constitute the 'very special circumstances' that would be sufficient to clearly outweigh the substantial harm that had been identified in relation to both schemes. In relation to the Catherine de Barnes proposals, she did not consider that the proposals before her were compatible with the safe and efficient working of the ATM system.
271. Since then revised planning applications have been submitted and are currently being assessed by the Council and Highways England. Whilst the applications are under active and detailed consideration it is not considered necessary to address the issue further through this review of the development plan.
Challenges and Objectives Addressed by the Policy
A Reducing inequalities in the Borough
D Securing sustainable economic growth
F Climate change
H Increasing accessibility and encouraging sustainable travel
J Improving health and well being