On 9th March 2021, York Civic Trust hosted a Zoom workshop on Sustainable Communities and Sustainable Transport. The Workshop was intended to develop the Trust’s thinking in order that it might develop policy and make recommendations to City of York Council on the sustainable development of new communities.

The Trust sought to gather Members’ views on desirable attributes for these communities, and to feed in relevant ideas to the new Local Transport Plan (LTP4).

The discussions took place in the context of the Draft Local Plan. This envisages a 20% increase in York’s population over the next 15 years and proposes accommodating it in several large new communities, mainly outside the outer ring road.

Our approach to sustainable development recognises that the social, economic and environmental aspects are integral, and must be considered together. Sustainability needs us to embrace a long-time horizon. What we build now could still be in use in 50 or 100 years, but the problem of Climate Change and responding to the impact of new technologies require more pressing actions.

It takes a long time to get approval for, and to construct, new settlements, as well as to maintain them thereafter. Much of the city’s current planning is based on already outmoded assumptions. New developments take time to develop and mature as communities.

The workshop was preceded by a ‘Briefing Note’ for attending Members.

The workshop itself was divided into two sections, the first dealing with sustainable communities in general; the second focusing on sustainable transport in new developments.

In the second, participants were asked to consider application to three case study developments: York Central (up to 2500 dwellings), Clifton Gate (1350
dwellings) and Elvington/Langwith (3340 dwellings).

The full workshop report can be downloaded here.

Key Recommendaitons

  1. On balance, the workshop concluded that it was appropriate to specify maximum travel time by sustainable modes, but that these could vary by location and mode. We suggest that one possibility would be to define York as a whole as a 30 minute city in which any part could be reached by bus or cycle in 30 minutes, and individual communities as 20 minute neighbourhoods, in
    which all local facilities and jobs could be reached within 20 minutes on foot or by cycle.
  2. The workshop concluded that, while York Central could be made sustainable at its planned scale, the proposed developments in outer York should ideally be replaced by two new communities, each with a population in excess of 15,000, to ensure that the full range of community facilities and services can be sustained.
  3. New settlements should be built round a core of facilities and services, including a community building or ‘hub’. Each settlement should have a primary school and appropriate health, leisure and retail services, as well as attractive public realm and open space. We should try to build new buildings to be flexible with multiple uses in mind. Land owners might be encouraged hand over the freehold of any community assets to community organisations.
  4. We suggest that the planned new settlements should have a mix of tenure and dwelling types, in order to attract a diverse population. If possible, Buy to let and AirBnB should be discouraged and controlled.
  5. We recommend that the new settlements should have multiple opportunities for employment within the community or easily accessible by active or public transport. We should support working from home and using community business ‘hubs’. Each development should have a number of live/work units, as appropriate.
  6. We suggest that new homes should have more space, enabling work and/or learning to be separated from day-to-day living. Each home should have easy access to outdoor space. More attention should be paid to internal and external noise transfer.
  7. We recommend that the new townships should include a
    variety of different densities and house types
    to meet different demographic and lifestyle groups. A minimum average density of 50 dwellings per hectare will be appropriate, except on developments nearer the City Centre, where 100 dwellings per hectare may be acceptable. Density should vary across the site,
    being higher round the centre/transport hub – to give a varied character.
  8. We suggest that reducing travel is both necessary and achievable. It will require an integrated package of measures to support home and community working and learning, land use planning in line with our proposal for York to be treated as a 20-minute city. A major effort will be required to effect behavioural change.
  9. We suggest a target be set for the proportion of non-car travel at the new settlements. This should be the TCPA standard for Garden Settlements, which is a minimum of 50% of all trips by active or public transport, rising to 60% over the plan period. New settlements should be linked to neighbouring communities and to other parts of the urban area by a network of excellent quality footpaths and cycleways
  10. We recommend high-quality bus service access to and from the new villages. A frequency of every ten minutes, 7am-7pm, should be adopted; and every 30 mins at other times. No home should be more than 10 minutes’ walk from a bus stop. Further research should be carried out into the applicability of ultra-light vehicles to the York situation.
  11. We suggest that the Council works with local employers and other interested parties to develop a campaign of education and incentives designed to reduce the use of private vehicles throughout the city, but especially in the urban core. This could be accompanied by improved management of the main radial routes, and by diversion of traffic to take advantage of planned improvements to the Outer Ring Road.
  12. We recommend that new communities be designed to give priority access for walking and cycling, with limited access for cars and limited parking, based on tight maximum standards, provided on the fringes. Roads within the community should not be designed for parking, and need to be adopted rapidly by the Council so that parking can be controlled. New communities should aim to provide a delivery hub, rather than expecting commercial vehicles to service every dwelling.
  13. We suggest that consideration be given to following up a number of identified topics in the field of Sustainable Communities and Sustainable Transport in future workshops to be organised by the Trust.

The full workshop report can be downloaded here.