The Healthy Streets Approach: What does this mean for Transport Assessments?

What is Healthy Streets? – An Introduction

Healthy Streets as a concept was introduced into London planning policy in 2014 and has since developed into a recognised design approach for streets. The vision links the physical design of the street with both transport and health matters, promoting the uptake of active travel and places an individual’s well-being within and experience of the urban environment at the core of planning the city.

Streets can be used in place-making strategies to form spaces where Londoners interact, where children play, where individuals shop, work and travel and where daily life is the fundamental element. As 80% of Londoners’ trips are undertaken completely on streets, high quality design will have a significant impact on improving quality of the life. Despite this, many streets are still dominated by a ‘road’ mindset intended for vehicles and this is where the Healthy Streets Approach is designed to make a difference.

The Policy Context

As outlined in the Draft New London Plan (2018) and the Mayor’s Transport Strategy (2018), the Healthy Streets Approach is designed to improve personal health and reduce health inequalities through promoting active, sustainable travel throughout the capital. 

Policy T2 in the Draft New London Plan highlights that:

« Development Plans should promote and demonstrate the application of the Mayor’s Healthy Streets approach to: improve health and reduce health inequalities; reduce car dominance, ownership and use, road danger, severance, vehicle emissions and noise; increase walking, cycling and public transport use; improve street safety, comfort, convenience and amenity; and support these outcomes through sensitively designed freight facilities. »

The Healthy Streets Approach – A Summary

The Healthy Streets Approach is supported by the London Mayor as part of the 2041 aim that all Londoners will be able to take part in a daily minimum of 20 minutes of active travel, through reducing car dominance and encouraging walking, cycling and the use of public transport. The Mayor’s long-term vision is to achieve no deaths or serious injuries on London’s streets by 2041, known as Vision Zero. The ambition within the Healthy Streets Approach to reduce the dominance of motor vehicles is key in meeting this target.

There are ten Healthy Streets indicators to reflect the experience of being on streets, as outlined in the adjacent figure (Source: Figure 10.1 of the Draft New London Plan (2018)).  

Future Developments – What’s the impact?

In relation to the approach, TfL are promoting a new type of Transport Assessment (TA) structure, known as the Healthy Streets TA, designed to embed the Healthy Streets Approach in planning applications.

Members of the SYSTRA Development Planning Team attended Healthy Streets workshops led by TfL’s Gavin McLaughlin, concerning the embedding of Healthy Streets in spatial planning. The workshops provided an overview of the key elements of the new TA structure, as well as justification behind the suggested move away from the traditional TA content.

It was evident from the workshops that TfL currently perceive TAs as overly lengthy and descriptive with an insular focus on the development needs ‘inside the planning red line.’ TfL’s suggested changes place a greater emphasis on the users of the proposed development and aim to ensure assessments consider integration with the surrounding area more effectively.

The following paragraphs detail the major changes associated with the implementation of a Healthy Streets TA structure for planning applications.

Production of Active Travel Zone (ATZ) maps

Producing ATZ maps involves the assessment of the area within a twenty minute cycling distance of the site. This includes mapping key destinations such as public transport facilities, bus stops, cycling networks, schools, hospitals and GP surgeries. Key routes to priority destinations will be assessed against the Healthy Streets indicators. Safer junctions and road traffic accident data should be mapped within the ATZ, noting required safety improvements in high risk areas in line with Vison Zero.

A second map should show relevant destinations and routes likely to be used by the users of the proposed development. TfL emphasised in their presentations that these routes should ideally be walked and photographed on a site visit to gain a first-hand experience of future development user journeys.

A third set of ATZ maps should highlight the characteristics of a typical healthy neighbourhood. These could include (but not be limited to) maps showing other planned developments, land use density, public transport services and nearby green spaces. The TA should then detail how each of these characteristics impacts on the well-being of the development’s users.

An example of a full ATZ map prepared by TfL for the Wealdstone area is shown below.

SYSTRA notes that the ATZ mapping approach is similar to PERS and CloS assessments which are regularly requested by Local Authorities (and previously by TfL) for major planning applications. SYSTRA understands that the introduction of ATZ maps will replace and therefore negate the need for full PERS and CloS assessments. There is an opportunity to use ATZ maps to consider more socially inclusive routes, encouraging developments to meet the needs of a wide range of users from all walks of life.

Conclusion & Next Steps

Overall, SYSTRA fully supports the spirit of Healthy Streets and considers the new approach beneficial to future land users.

There is clearly much to be discussed and learned, with processes to be evolved and schemes to be tested before the Healthy Streets approach is truly embraced and integrated into London’s development framework. Notwithstanding TfL encouraging uptake of the new TA structure, Local Planning Authorities will need to be supportive of the change in order for a successful widespread implementation going forward.

As consultants engaged in the London development and property markets, SYSTRA remains fully supportive of this positive and people-led change in policy. Having attended specific TfL workshops on the Healthy Streets approach, SYSTRA are well versed on advising clients what the implementation of such a change in planning policy may mean for future planning applications. If you would like to know more then please do not hesitate to get in touch.

 

Written by Emma Jolly, Chris Denton & Esha Shah