Car-unfriendly plans for London

Ken Livingstone has unveiled his consultation on policy directions to shape London over the next 20 years with sustainable development as a driving force throughout, and including proposals which are anti-car and encourage greater use of the Thames.

Responses to the consultation document Towards the London Plan, launched on 8 May will guide London’s first strategic plan for a generation, due for publication early in 2002, and has sustainable development as its core. The aim of its proposals is to make the capital “an exemplary sustainable world city”, in the face of the city’s continued economic and population growth, dealing with, amongst other issues, an already overloaded public transport system and environmental pressures. According to the Greater London Authority (GLA), an improved and expanded public transport system is the framework for sustainable development at higher densities, accommodating a rising population and economic growth, meaning that the integration of land use and transport policies underpins the whole plan.

The proposed transport policies for the London plan include:

  • forging a closer relationship between where people live and work through mixed-use developments and ensuring that new development is focused in areas that are, or could be made, accessible by public transport;
  • encouraging the use of transport means other than private cars, reviewing the development benefits of providing better public transport and taking full account of these in determining priorities for longer term transport investment;
  • building “on the benefits of the proposed Central London congestion charging zone”, setting maximum parking standards, which are sensitive to the levels of public transport provision in different areas of London and identifying areas where road space should be re-allocated in favour of public transport and pedestrians;
  • ensuring new development and redevelopment proposals include good access for pedestrians and cyclists and ensuring that all development proposals above a certain scale have undertaken a thorough traffic and transport impact assessment with a view to minimising use of private cars;
  • safeguarding water and rail based systems for transportation where they are, or can be made viable alternatives to road transport of freight, and identifying possible locations of freight interchanges outside the built up area; and
  • reviewing the scope for encouraging commuter coach services and for better coach parking and terminal facilities.

Another major proposal is to encourage greater use of the River Thames and London’s canals, not only for leisure and tourism, but for transport, especially of freight. “The Thames is the heart of London,” commented Mayor Livingstone. “It used to be one of the busiest waterways in the world. Now you see just a few tourist boats and not much else. Towards the London Plan sets out proposals to focus development on the East London riverside. This should mean more use of the river for work journeys and for freight. The same holds for our canals, which could carry much more freight, reducing noise and pollution and relieving our streets of heavy vehicles.”

The proposals also aim to provide a stronger framework for protection of open space, reinforce standards for open space provision and require boroughs to target specific areas of deficiency for the creation and enhancement of open space strategies. Apart from protecting existing Green Belt, Metropolitan Open Land, important wildlife sites and habitats and locally important open space, the plan aims to: encourage the re-use and regeneration of brown-field land; identify a network of strategic open spaces and green chains that should be protected and enhanced; and promote strategic walking routes and encourage the development of links to fill gaps in the current networks. The GLA also intends to work with boroughs to produce a good practice guide for boroughs on how to prepare ‘open space strategies’.

“By 2016, London’s population could be as high as 8 million,” Livingstone commented. “In the past, when London’s population has been at that level, solutions have been sought outside London, through policies of dispersal to new towns. That is not an option today as the environmental consequences are no longer acceptable. It would require massive building on the Green Belt and result in greater increases in long journeys and commuting. The alternative choice I have set out is for a pattern of sustainable growth to revitalise London. I believe that people like living in urban areas, close to the facilities and services they need. We must create an urban renaissance in London by developing at higher densities, in more attractive urban environments.”

The consultation process is open to Londoners, the boroughs, stakeholders and others with an interest in strategic planning and will end on 31 July. It will then be considered by the Assembly and Functional Bodies and the draft will be published late in 2001 or early 2002. It will be a detailed formal planning document and will be subject to a statutory three month consultation period. The responses to this consultation (and the Mayor’s views on the responses) will be considered by a government-appointed panel who will hold an Examination in Public to test it, and then, subject to any direction by the Secretary of State, the final plan will be published.

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