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Walking infrastructure ‘not a priority for developers’ LGiU argues

Access to walking infrastructure is not a priority for developers building new homes, according to a report by the Local Government Information Unit and the Ramblers.

The report, “Building Connected Communities,” found that nine out of 10 councils say that access to a walking infrastructure is important for new development. However, the report also found that half of respondents felt developers also shared this view.

Of the 118 officers who took part from local councils across England, 89% felt that walking access is a key consideration for their council, with 94% stating that they had a local plan in place to encourage walking and active travel.

The concern that developers do not prioritise walking was more pronounced in the north, with 50% of respondents in the north west and 40% in the north east expressing doubts, compared to 25% in the south west.

The government has recently called for a resurgence in house building, but according to the report, four out of 10 councils have struggled to meet their walking and active travel priorities when delivering large developments.

Eight out of 10 councils surveyed felt that viability assessments make it difficult to meet priorities.

Seven out of 10 felt that influencing developers was a challenge. Half of the respondents also highlighted a lack of resources in planning departments as a barrier.

Although most developments over the past five years were in line with targets, there were concerns that around one in ten were not in line with health and wellbeing strategies.

As a result of its findings, the report recommends that councils should have strong policies to require connectivity in new developments and improve their engagement.

Johnathan Carr-West, chief executive of the LGiU, explained the importance of having conversations about the location of new homes, as well as their numbers - ensuring good connectivity.

He said: “We need places for people to live healthy, happy, active lives. This means they need to be well connected, with good access to walking, cycling and green infrastructure.

“It is clear from the research that we carried out with the Ramblers that local authorities want to build places that encourage walking and active travel.

“However, developers do not always share these priorities in the rush to build new homes, and many councils feel the mismatch is a challenge in achieving their goals.”

Policy and advocacy manager for the Ramblers, Adrian Harvey, added that there were a lot of benefits to improving walking infrastructure.

“We know that walkable places are better places, they are healthier, greener and much more pleasant to live and work in,” he stated.

“This research is encouraging – it highlights the fact that local authorities are working hard to make sure that new commercial and residential developments deliver those benefits, enhancing people’s connectivity with the area they live in and giving more back to communities.

“In many cases they are achieving it, but there’s still much more we could do.” 


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