Two decades of mayoral policies aimed at focusing denser development nearer public transport hubs have produced new developments that are mostly compact and well connected. Despite this, residents in new developments are more likely to own a car, more likely to use it frequently, and have access to more off-street parking than people living in London’s older housing.
This chapter brings together the best available evidence on London’s recent developments – to ascertain whether they are well prepared for New Urban Mobility, or simply locking in 20th-century urban transport patterns.
In every single year since 2006, less than seven per cent of developments approved across London have had densities below the London Plan’s expectations, which have been set according to urban form and public transport accessibility levels (PTAL). Instead, developers have been seeking to maximise value by building denser than is recommended in the Plan, as shown in Table 2.
London’s new developments are better served by public transport than the existing housing stock – particularly private market housing, which is twice as likely to be located in a high-connectivity area than the city’s existing housing stock.
London’s new affordable housing units have lower public transport accessibility on average than new market housing, but are still better served by public transport than London’s existing housing stock. Figure 3 compares the public transport accessibility of new developments, completed since 2012, and pre-existing housing.
As highlighted in the previous chapter, and in Centre for London’s 2019 Fair Access: Towards a transport system for everyone report, it is crucial that new employment is located in places that are well connected to public transport. 13 This is also a strategic matter for London, since the city created 1.1 million jobs since 2006.
Most new commercial floorspace delivered in recent years has been in areas that are well connected, but this is a recent trend. Between 2006 and 2010, only one-third of new commercial space was located in areas of high PTAL; since 2011 this has risen to two-thirds, as shown in Figure 4. We expect that forces of economic
agglomeration, planning policies favouring density, and strengthening opposition to “out-of-town” retail have contributed to this shift.
Investment in mobility
Beyond the location of what is built, development shapes future mobility through the investment it generates. Every substantial development invests in mobility –
whether it is new parking space for cars or bicycles, public realm improvements such as new walking routes, or contributions to public transport upgrades. But what sort of transport investments have been made by new developments?
We know little on how developer contributions are spent but we do know that developer contributions will make up around five per cent of funding for Crossrail
one and 25 per cent of funding for the Northern Line extension to Battersea (with future tax revenues from the development expected to contribute the remaining 75 per cent).
However, London developments also make major investments in enabling car travel. A case in point is the Battersea Power Station development, permitted in 2013, which will have a car parking ratio of 0.43 spaces per new residential unit, above the maximum of 0.25 recommended by the Opportunity Area Planning
Framework. The development will also provide 1,500 car parking spaces for non-residential uses, despite its location on the future Northern Line extension. 14
This is not an isolated example: overall, new developments have been making generous investments in car parking. Comprehensive evidence for this comes from a large postal survey undertaken by Transport for London in 2011 on car parking provision in new developments, which gathered 3,022 responses from residents living in 839 new developments across the capital and was weighted to be representative of residents living in all new developments.
15 Given residential
parking standards were only overhauled in 2018, we expect the 2011 survey to be representative of new developments until very recently.
The survey revealed that residents of new developments were more likely to have off-street parking than people living in existing housing stock, despite the shift towards apartment buildings. 33 per cent of respondents lived in developments with more than one parking space per unit, and a further 48 per cent lived in developments with between 0.5 and one parking spaces per unit.
Despite having better public transport access than average, residents of new developments are more likely to own a car than the general population. They are also more likely to have more than one car, as Figure 5 shows:
Regardless of public transport accessibility, where parking provision in new developments was generous (at least one parking space per unit), car ownership was also high – running at 75 to 80 per cent of residents. 15
Of course, there are also model developments when it comes to car parking. A senior transport planner at Transport for London noted a recent increase in the number of “car free” developments in the inner city – that is, developments with no car parking provided, and where residents cannot obtain long-term on-street
parking permits, in conformity with the new parking standards introduced in the draft London Plan. 17 This change is welcome, but the challenge of implementing less car-reliant forms of development in outer London is likely to remain a serious one.
Bicycle parking, on the other hand, is rarely provided with the same generosity. A 2016 monitoring survey of 71 new developments in west London conducted by WestTrans found that 45 per cent of the “bike parks” promised by developers were missing, and that none of those provided were user-friendly: for instance, many required cyclists to lift their bike up a steep ramp or to go through narrow doorways.
Trips generated by new developments
We know less about how residents of new developments move around the city, but the aforementioned 2011 TfL survey again sheds some light on car journeys made by this population. Not all car owners living in new developments use their car frequently, but the majority do – even in the best-connected parts of Inner London for public transport. 60 per cent of car owners living in well-connected Inner London developments use their car at least twice a week, and 30 per cent use it most days. In both Inner and Outer London, frequent car users say that they are on the road at peak times.
So although London’s new developments are more compact and better served by public transport than the city’s older housing stock, they are also more accommodating in terms of car parking, and often not very bike-friendly. Additionally, residents living in new developments are more likely to own a car, and the majority of car owners use it several times a week – regardless of public transport accessibility.
Rather than preparing for New Urban Mobility, developers and planners are locking citizens into 20th century patterns of car ownership and use by allocating
space and investment to private car parking spaces.