In May the Government announced £15 million in funding for the funding to support 43 specific garden cities and villages, with further similar new settlements proposed for in the future. For these new communities to address the issues of meeting net zero, responding to escalating fuel prices and encouraging healthy lifestyles, they must be inspired by a genuinely sustainable transport policy.

National planning policy has long sought to lower emissions and reduce reliance on the private car. Likewise, local authorities, the majority of which have declared a climate emergency, increasingly seek to do so through Local Plans and transport policies. 

And yet surveys of recently built developments suggests that policy aspirations are failing to materialise. Building Car Dependency, a recent report by Transport for New Homes found that residential developments are increasingly car- focused. The research considered twenty schemes and described a ‘car-park to car-park’ approach to development which risks creating sedentary, isolated lifestyles. Aspirations for vibrant communities with local shops, leisure facilities and community services, have not materialised, the report said. 

While these findings are disappointing, they do not reflect the pioneering approach to sustainable travel being made by many environmentally responsible developments throughout the country.

 

Shaptor Capital’s 20 minute neighbourhood

Carter Jonas’s Masterplanning team is working with transport consultant Stantec on the masterplanning of Shaptor Capital’s Winterbourne Fields, a residential-led mixed use community in the Swale borough of Kent. A commitment to sustainability permeates every aspect of this 1,600-home new village. 


Its masterplanning has been strongly influenced by the focus on sustainable living that developed during the pandemic and, in relation to current environmental and cost of living concerns, remains a priority. For example, it focuses on the ethos of the 20 minute neighbourhood, which was initially developed by Professor Carlos Moreno at the Paris-Sorbonne University in 2012. The principle of locating community facilities including shops and other public services in close proximity to homes, and prioritising pedestrians, cycling and public transport acquired new prominence during the multiple Covid lockdowns. While the UK adapts to a post-pandemic world, the benefits of increased sustainability, neighbourliness, reduced congestion, improved mental and physical health, and better community resilience continue to influence the community’s development. 


Significantly, the proportion of the UK population working from home remains high (in January 2022 ONS figures stated that 36% reported working from home at least part-time) and this trend provides substantial opportunities for community development. Shaptor Capital has sought to capitalise upon positive changes in working practices and attitudes towards health and wellbeing, to create greater sustainability within the community. 

 

Transport planning for sustainable development

Transport planning is central to this. Winterbourne Fields’ transport strategy has three objectives: to reduce the need for travel; where travel is necessary, to encourage sustainable travel; and in doing so, create a low-carbon community which, due to low emissions and safe and attractive street scenes, encourages active travel over car use. The variety of centrally-located community facilities is intended to capture footfall to benefit the local businesses located there; a string of open spaces through the core, accompanied by public routes, encourages active travel, and existing public transport linkages are utilised and improved upon, with connections established to surrounding villages and onto neighbouring towns with wider rail links.

The extent of on-site amenities (employment, a work hub, a village centre with retail and leisure facilities, a health centre and a primary school) aims to reduce the need to travel offsite, and a stewardship strategy will ensure the ongoing maintenance and vibrancy of the village centre and open spaces.

The potential for a bike hub and e-bike and scooter hire are currently being explored and former roads are being adapted to provide safer walking routes and separate cycle paths.

A public transport hub in the centre of the new community will link local services with a bus express service to Canterbury and Faversham.  The hub is crucial to the success of the public transport strategy: the high-quality waiting location is in the vicinity of shops and cafés, which will encourage residents to choose the convenience of public transport over the private car. 

Sustainable travel will be encouraged though a movement hierarchy which prioritises walking and cycling in relation to streetscapes, rights of way and efficient, direct routes. 

An electric vehicle (EV) charging strategy will enable a more sustainable form of private transport, and an EV charging hub integrated within the village centre (conveniently located for the A2 and designed to serve surrounding villages in addition to Winterbourne Fields itself), will add to the vibrancy of the village centre: Winterbourne Fields will be one of the first new communities to feature a pioneering electric forecourt with shops, cafés and meeting rooms. 


Reflecting on Shaptor Capital’s innovative work at Winterbourne Fields, the Transport for New Homes report is disappointing, particularly because new communities have a unique opportunity to pioneer sustainable change: it is the ability to design a bespoke power infrastructure, for example, which enables Winterbourne Fields to incorporate an electric forecourt; and only through masterplanning an entire community is it possible to integrate a public transport hub within a village centre and connect it to new community-wide technologies. 

Shaptor Capital’s masterplan for Winterbourne Fields is a flexible one which, in addition to having responded to changing social and workplace trends brought about by Covid, also responds to both the cost of living and the climate crisis. Each is interconnected: the way in which, for example, the homes are energy efficient and comfortable and therefore encourage homeworking. This deep-rooted approach to sustainable community-building permeates every aspect of the development.

The most sustainable communities are those inspired by a holistic, creative and adaptive approach which integrates every aspect of life. And unquestionably, the best starting point is to locate new settlements in sustainable locations, as Shaptor Capital has done at Winterbourne Fields. 

VIEW OUR ARTICLE NEIGHBOURHOOD PLANNING: THE 20MINUTE NEIGHBOURHOOD

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Johnny Clayton
Head of Masterplanning and Urban Design
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Johnny Clayton joined Carter Jonas in July 2018 to head up the Masterplanning and Urban Design practice across the UK. Johnny is a Masterplanner and Urban Designer, with a broad skills base and over 16 years of project experience encompassing conceptual design, masterplanning, urban design, detailed design and project implementation. His particular specialism and passion is for strategic land projects including new settlements, but also urban mixed-use regeneration schemes. Johnny is also a Chartered Landscape Architect since 2008.

Johnny is inspired to create new sustainable communities and places through a well-considered, innovative and forward thinking process of design, with a strong respect for history and place. He is highly focused on pursuing pioneering design solutions and techniques to improve the sustainable credentials of new developments.

Further to his work at Carter Jonas, Johnny is CEO of YEP Global, an events organisation with Chapters throughout the UK and overseas. YEP has over 5,000 members and holds over 50 events per year, focused upon the property and construction industries.

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