The role of Active Travel England and the rise of Active Travel Zone Assessments in determining planning applications

23 February 2024

Within the planning process, the concept of Active Travel is gaining increasing recognition for it’s role in fostering healthier, more sustainable spaces and, in the process, encouraging a paradigm shift away from historical patterns of car use in England.

In fact, as of June 1st 2023, Active Travel England (ATE) became a statutory consultee for all major planning applications equal to or exceeding either 150 dwellings, 7,500 sqm of floorspace, or with a total site area of 5 hectares.

Now at the forefront of the determination process, and with a central aim of ensuring that 50% of trips in England’s towns and cities are made via either walking, scooting or cycling by 2030, it is crucial that prospective development sites are able to demonstrate that they are not only situated close to popular every-day facilities and destinations, but that they can be accessed efficiently using sustainable modes of transport.

Transport for London (TfL) were among the first Local Authority to formally adopt the principles of Active Travel assessments within planning policy. Their Healthy Streets TA Guidance (2019) contains requires all major planning applications referrable to the Greater London Authority (GLA) to undertake what is known as an Active Travel Zone (ATZ) assessment, prior to submission.

The purpose of an ATZ Assessment is to provide a qualitative assessment of the typical routes which users of a development site would travel to day-to-day facilities and public transport nodes, when walking, cycling or scooting; such as supermarkets, gyms, green spaces, places of worship, bus stops and London Overground/Underground stations. This helps to identify appropriate and proportionate infrastructure improvements, which can include footway/cycleway widening, re-surfacing or re-profiling, the provision of or improvement of pedestrian/cycle crossing facilities, and can even be as menial as ensuring that hedge-rows are maintained to prevent them from encroaching over footways.

With ATE requesting all Local Highway Authorities in England to undertake a ‘self-assessment’ of their own performance on Active Travel in August 2022, and TfL demonstrating that an adoption of planning policy focused on Active Travel can deliver tangible results when used as part of the decision-making process, CampbellReith are confident that Highway Authorities across England will begin to integrate similar principles and requirements as part of future adoptions of planning policy.

In February 2024, ATE released a series of guidance known as ‘Scheme Review Tools’. The main goal is not to ‘pass or fail’ development sites. Rather, its central focus is to act as a way of ensuring that designers are aware of the importance of key active travel policies, throughout the scheme design process, helping to identify critical issues and other problems at the feasibility stage of a development, with a view to designing them prior to construction.

CampbellReith has significant recent experience of undertaking Active Travel Zone Assessments and if you would like to know more regarding the role Active Travel plays in the wider Transport Planning process then please do not hesitate to contact us.