Friday 19 October 2018

Waterbeach New Town - People First Vision.

South Cambs District Council have released for consultation a document which outlines the masterplan for how the Waterbeach New Town will be developed.  This document is called the 'Supplementary Planning Document' and can be found here.

The consultation is currently live, and we need as many people as possible to have their say on the plans - this is the only opportunity we have to influence the layout and high-level design of the New Town that will be built to the north of Waterbeach

The deadline for comments is
26th October 2018 - 5pm.

We at Waterbeach Cycle Campaign are disappointed with the vision presented in the document and have published our consultation response on a blog post published earlier in the week.  We encourage you to read this and use any (or all!) of the text in your personal consultation responses.  The more responses that are submitted, the more likely we are to be able to influence the plans.

We have developed a new vision for the  how we would like the New Town to be developed, and we have called this the "People First" Vision, as it puts the needs of people before the needs of motor vehicles.

People First Vision for Waterbeach New Town

We have published this plan as a pdf on our website here and have published an explanatory document explaining the design principles we have used herePlease include these documents as attchments or links in your consultation response if you agree with our vision.

Our vision is for a vibrant, thriving, healthy community, with cycling and walking used for all everyday journeys.  

Transport for New Homes

The Foundation for Integrated Transport have recently carried out a study on new developments around the UK - titled ‘Transport for New Homes’.  This study has visited over 20 large scale housing developments, looking at transport provision.  The findings are stark.

Many new developments are built around ‘car based living’, with a high proportion of people using cars for everyday journeys.  Indeed many new towns are advertised on the basis of easy access to major roads.  The report mentions ‘an almost US style of planning’ for cars in some of these developments.  Many of these new development have ‘minimalist public realm dominated by the needs of the car’.  There are barren streets, little room for green space and there are streets where car parking has taken over.  Areas of affordable housing seem particularly hit by this trend.  This can already been seen in Waterbeach – around the ‘affordable’ blocks in the new Charles Church development off Bannold Road there is very little green space, and outside space is dominated by car parking.

We have fears that Waterbeach New Town will become a copy of the other developments outlined in the Transport for New Homes report if it is built as described in the consultation SPD.  We live in an area which prides itself of innovation and evidence based science, and we know we can do better than this.

Waterbeach New Town offers an opportunity to build a development which embodies high levels of active and public transport use. We live close to Cambridge, which has the highest levels of cycling in the UK. Additionally, the area is flat. We want Waterbeach New Town to become the development with the highest level of cycling and walking in the country.  It is critically important to get the design of this new development right from the outset. Developments of this nature cannot easily be rebuilt in the future – the infrastructure designed now will determine the residents travel decisions and other lifestyle choices for decades to come. This is our chance to get the design right.

Our Design Principles

The People First vision is in many aspects very similar to the vision presented in the SPD.  Our vision reuses a lot of the work which has been carried out to date, but with entirely different approaches to transport infrastructure.
  •          Our new town has the same quantum of housing as in SPD
  •          We have structured our development around existing landmarks and features (‘inherited assets’) on the site, to result in a unique town.  We agree with the SPD in the identification of these features.
  •          We have loosely based our development blocks on the RLW ‘Stead’ concept.
Our key design principles are as follows:

1.      Cycling and Walking is quicker and easier than driving

For any given trip within the new town (e.g. – from any dwelling to the local school, nearest shop, train station and leisure facilities), taking the trip by walking or cycling should always be quicker than taking the car.  We recognise that some people are reliant on cars (e.g. people with disabilities, or people carrying large amounts of luggage), and do not want to make car driving around the site impossible, but we want to make sure that it is always easier and quicker to cycle or walk to common everyday destinations, such that this becomes the norm.  A dense network of cycle routes provides active transportation options for everyone.  A range of bikes are available for carrying children and cargo, and adaptive bikes are available for disabled people.  More than a quarter of disabled people’s commutes in Cambridge are by bike.

2.      Peripheral ring road

Vehicular traffic is kept on a ring road, with two connections to the A10.  This road provides car access to individual development blocks, with cars able to drive to every house.  Cycle and pedestrian crossings of this road are in underpasses, designed to Dutch standards given in The CROW Manual.

3.      Segmented development

Development is in blocks, containing housing, some employment and other facilities, each developed with their own architectural identity.  These blocks are well connected to each other for cyclists and pedestrians, but only have a single point of access for motor vehicles, with each block connecting to the ring road.  For a car to drive from one block to another, a trip out to the ring road and back into another block is required.  Cycling and walking is quicker.  For some blocks which are not directly adjacent to the ring road, vehicle traffic has to pass through another block to reach the ring road – but the same principles apply.  No through routes are allowed.

4.      Highly Connected Cycle/Pedestrian Network

All development blocks are to be connected by direct segregated cycle and pedestrian routes to other development blocks, schools, local centres, the railway station and places of employment.  A wider network of strategic routes provides access to Cambridge, Ely, Chittering, Lode, Cottenham and beyond.  These routes should be designed with separate segregated provision for equestrians alongside cyclists and pedestrians.
Cycleway design parameters should be taken from ‘Designing for Cycle Traffic’ by John Parkin (Institute of Civil Engineers Publishing, 2018) and Interim Advice Note (IAN) 195/16 by Highways England.

5.      Remote car parking

Car parking in each block is remote from housing to make streets safer, and to make a more attractive, social public realm.  Each house has covered bike parking by the street entrance.  Using cycles and walking is designed to be easier than driving.  A small number of blue badge car parking spaces would be made available in local centres.

6.      Cars, people and cyclists are to be segregated

To make the development safe and to reduce conflict between people, cycle ways and pedestrian paths should be segregated, running parallel to each other.  Cycles have priority over cars at any road crossing.

7.      Schools are kept away from roads

To encourage fewer car journeys (and to change the mind-set of the next generation of children such that they consider cycling and walking to be the normal modes of transport), schools need to be located away from the primary street network with a ‘no parking’ zone around them.   This is commonplace in Europe and is becoming more popular in UK – e.g. in Hackney  This approach has considerable air quality benefits for school children both in school, and during their journeys to and from school. Studies have found that people are exposed to higher levels of air pollution inside a vehicle than those cycling or walking outside because particulates build up inside the vehicle.

8.      Social centres should be people oriented

No cars in public spaces allows more space for people to meet in safety and without traffic noise, and more room for green spaces and wildlife.  Lower levels of traffic along streets result in better connected neighbourhoods, with people forming connections with more neighbours, and people becoming less social isolated.

9.      No direct vehicular access between existing village and New Town.

To make walking and cycling the quickest and easiest modes of transport to get from the existing Village to the New Town, there should be no direct vehicular access between the settlements, with cars having to drive out to the A10 to get between the two settlements. There should be no access between the existing village and the New Town for construction traffic.  The two settlements will be well connected with safe segregated cycle and walking routes.

The design principles outlined in this section have been used with great success to develop towns in Europe which have high proportions of active transport modal share.  Houten is one such example in the Netherlands which has a lot in common with Waterbeach – a small village was developed to become a New Town.  Waterbeach should be developed to become its own place, not a copy of a town in the Netherlands, however the design principles used to develop this town (ring road, segmented road network, highly connected cycle/pedestrian network) has led to a vibrant community being built, with very high levels of active transport.  More can be read about Houten at the here and here.

If you would like to get in touch to discuss any of this further - please contact us.