Working together; a common narrative
A well-respected figure in the Thames Valley property development sector, Director Laura Fitzgerald has successfully steered transport and highways negotiations on behalf of public and private clients. Insight caught up with her to discuss current and future challenges.
What are the key changes on the horizon in transport planning?
LF: Chiefly, the shifting political landscape at local and national level. The council elections in May brought in a new wave of planning committees and there are several key changes of approach from central government which have an impact on planning. Active Travel England also means we have a new set of criteria to consider for major schemes, to help make walking and cycling the default travel mode for short trips.
Have behaviours shifted much when it comes to active travel?
LF: There are two main drivers here. First, there are the lessons learnt from our experience of the COVID lockdowns. Nowadays, the public is much more aware of what amenities are available on the doorstep and working habits have also changed. Second, there is growing understanding of the contribution of motorised transport towards greenhouse gas emissions.
What challenges do you foresee with implementing the new guidance from Active Travel England?
LF: Walking and cycling has always been a priority for Motion. However, the issue will be delivering the necessary infrastructure, such as footways or cycle lanes, into a site when the surrounding land is not owned by the developer.
And the opportunities?
LF: The guidance sets out an ambitious framework yet within the constraints of each land parcel, we are dealing with the art of the possible. As transport planners, our role is to help develop pragmatic solutions to make the most of what each site can offer, within the context of the new guidance.
What message do you have for clients in property development?
LF: Preparations need to begin as early as possible – I cannot emphasise this enough. Even greater effort will be required in communicating with the various stakeholders, especially during public consultations when a site’s assessment against the new criteria may come under additional scrutiny. The whole design team also needs to be working together towards the same objectives, with a common narrative.
An abridged version of this article first appeared in Issue 24 of Insight