On Wednesday 22nd October 2014 the Government quietly withdrew the Department for Transport’s Guidance on Transport Assessment. The Guidance on Transport Assessment was the first comprehensive national guidance on producing Transport Assessments, and its publication in March 2007 was intended to assist stakeholders in determining whether an assessment may be required for a development site and, if so, what the level and scope of that assessment should be. For many years leading up to the publication of the guidance, transport planners had called for guidance to be introduced to help standardise the requirements of a Transport Assessment which varied widely between local authorities and often between officers within an authority.
The document was not a statement of Government policy, but it provided a framework around which transport planning work could be undertaken in order to prove that a development proposal met current policy aims.
Some of the more important parts of the guidance included development size thresholds, above which more rigorous assessments were required; timeframes for assessing accident records; trip generation; data collection; and a standard for determining the scope of future year assessments.
The introduction of development size thresholds, above which either a Transport Statement or Transport Assessment would be required, helped Transport Planners to give their clients a reasonable indication of the amount of transport planning work that would need to be undertaken in support of a planning application. Consultants could now more accurately judge the level of input required and were able to start offering lump sum fee quotes for providing professional input.
With the introduction of the National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF) in 2012 and the launch of the Planning Practice Guidance (PPG) in March 2014, all of the planning policy documents which the Guidance to Transport Assessment was written to support were withdrawn and it was only a matter of time before the guidance note itself was removed.
The issue is that there is nothing to replace it.
The transport planning policy set out in the NPPF and PPG amounts to a hand full of paragraphs setting out at the highest level what is required of new developments in transport terms. However, much of the meaning behind the words is open to interpretation and with the withdrawal of the Guidance on Transport Assessment, transport planning professionals are once again left to argue with local authority officers about what might or might not be required in order to satisfy them that a development meets the current policy requirements with regards to transport.
In an ideal world each local authority will produce their own Guidance on Transport Assessment, setting out thresholds and standard methods of assessment. However, anyone who has witnessed the tortuous process of a local authority developing, consulting on, agreeing and eventually adopting any sort of supplementary planning document will know not to expect to see local guidance any time soon.
Welcome back to the dark ages of transport planning!!
PS – Don’t despair, our many years of experience will help steer a course through yet another planning policy vacuum.