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Statutory consulting role for Active Travel England in new housing

08 June 2023

Active Travel England (ATE) has been given statutory consultee status on all planning applications for large housing developments. This will mean it can help planning authorities ensure new developments include good active travel infrastructure such as walking, wheeling and cycling links to schools and local amenities.

Under planning law, councils are required to consult specified bodies before deciding on an application. However, ATE will not have powers to direct the outcome of planning applications.

The Town and Country Planning (Development Management Procedure) (England) (Amendment) Order 2023 (DMPO) identifies ATE as a statutory consultee for planning applications with effect from 1 June 2023.

The body has been working with the Department for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities to ensure its thresholds as a statutory consultee are set at an appropriate level.

As a statutory consultee, ATE will look at all proposed developments equal to or exceeding 150 housing units, 7,500m2 of floorspace or an area of five hectares. It expects to review around 3,100 applications a year, equating to 60% of new homes.

Building in active travel at design stage will also help to avoid big increases in vehicle traffic and reduce the need for costly upgrades to major road junctions or other corrective action in the future, said ATE.

The establishment of ATE’s statutory consultee status follows a pilot project. This saw it work with 30 local authorities to assess more than 60 developments over a nine-month period up to November 2022. ATE said that feedback from a survey at the start of the pilot saw 80% of respondents agree that it should have a role in the planning system.

An ATE spokesperson told LTT: “We will consider a range of criteria to help ensure that new development properly considers active travel, and that any new development has high quality, safe and inclusive active travel provision embedded from the outset.

“ATE’s role as a statutory consultee is to review and provide recommendations on large planning applications to help planning authorities embed high quality active travel infrastructure into new developments from the outset.”

This could reduce the need for upgrades to major junctions or corrective action at a later date, said the spokesperson.

Active Travel Commissioner Chris Boardman said: “Designing activity back into our neighbourhoods and creating places where children have transport independence is achievable – it just needs smart planning.

“As a statutory consultee, Active Travel England will work with planning authorities and developers to help them ensure new estates give people what they need to get fresh air and exercise, save money on petrol and help fight climate change.”

ATE is the Government’s executive agency responsible for making walking, wheeling and cycling the preferred choice for everyone.

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