Liverpool Event: How sustainable transport can unlock the potential of new development

This week saw KPMG hosting the third Transport Knowledge (TKH) event of the series, this time on the dockside of the great port of Liverpool. The focus was again on how sustainable transport can unlock the potential of new development and we welcomed an eight-strong panel of experts from local authorities, bus companies and housing.

The event was opened by KPMG’s head of Corporate Finance, Government and Infrastructure, Gerald Whelan and TKH’s Claire Haigh. Gerard said that he was delighted that so many people were there that they all had in common a desire to see thriving and sustainable communities. Claire, speaking for TKH, reminded the audience that investment in sustainable transport brings excellent returns: every £1 invested in local bus infrastructure for example can deliver wider benefits of up to £8.

Chelsea Dosad at KPMG offered a brief summary of KPMG’s substantial new research project looking at the relationship between sustainable transport and new housing. She said that at a time of fiscal restraint, the importance of a joined-up approach to transport and planning is more important than ever and Chelsea set out the need for an integrated approach to support prosperous, inclusive communities, increased economic activity and reduced dependency on the car. Amongst the challenges identified by KPMG’s research are a lack of long-term funding, pressure on local authority spending and too siloed an approach to transport and planning.
Alistair Hands, commercial director at Arriva, said that technological developments were transforming local transport. Arriva Click, a new app-based demand-responsive minibus service, was rapidly growing its user base. With over 12,000 users it is estimated that Arriva has replaced 48,000 car journeys.

Cllr Liam Robinson, who holds the transport brief for Liverpool City Region, stressed the role transport must play in helping to address the housing crisis. Planning must reflect transport need – and he cited the pointlessness of developers building garages for new homes when they are no longer needed. He also called for developers to do more to invest in transport infrastructure.

Peter Molyneaux of Transport for the North said that by investing over a 30-year timescale it would be possible to address transport needs in an integrated way. He was followed by Ian Palmer of Transport for Greater Manchester who echoed the need for a joined-up approach. He noted that the Greater Manchester Spatial Framework is bringing together transport and land planners.
Stephen Edwards from the South Yorkshire Passenger Transport Executive gave the perspective from Yorkshire and said that in his area the fact that there is not one city centre makes transport planning challenging. He echoed other speakers in saying that transport considerations must come at the start of the planning process, and not as an afterthought.

Liz Hunter of the West Yorkshire Combined Authority said that they plan to build 30,000 new homes a year and that transport links were vital to achieving that. She also highlighted work commissioned with the University of Leeds into a new land value capture model.

Joey Talbot, who has written a report on housing as part of Transport for New Homes said that too many new developments are forcing people into car dependency. He also said that mixed land use, with sites that combine residential, commercial and leisure would reduce the need for people to drive from place to place. John Walker of the Gentoo Group housing association said that high house prices in London and the South were stemming the “brain drain” from the North and that this would put pressure to build more homes in the region. He said that while large developments (over 500 homes) carry obligations to build infrastructure, it is harder for smaller developers to do much more than build the homes.

There followed a very lively discussion, with interventions from Transport Focus and Highways England, among others. There were many examples of the impact of planning-in transport solutions, such as the decision to relocate the railway station in Rochester, which opened up land for a new housing development. The merit of Urban Development Corporations and their possible revival was raised, as was the challenge of enabling modal switch for passengers.
Gerard closed the meeting by summing up the key themes: funding streams, the fragmentation or otherwise of the planning system, the need to create the right incentives for passengers and the importance of effective communication to the public.

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The Transport Knowledge Hub comes at a vital time for our transport networks. As our population continues to grow and our roads become more congested, public transport has an increasingly important role to play in keeping our country moving. Investment in local transport infrastructure, such as rail networks and bus services, can have a huge impact on development and economic growth in local areas, so I’m delighted that the Hub will provide the guidance and expertise local decision makers need to make effective investments.

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