National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF), Para 32 states: “All developments that generate significant amounts of movement should be supported by a Transport Statement or Transport Assessment” and continues to say “Development should only be prevented or refused on transport grounds where the residual cumulative impacts of development are severe”.
But what does that really mean?
Well firstly, the lack of a specific threshold for the definition of ‘severe’ suggests that severity should be considered in terms of the relative setting of an application and should be considered on an individual basis. Secondly, the test has a close relationship with other development i.e. ‘cumulative’. Lastly, the impacts are assessed after mitigation i.e. ‘residual’.
The ‘severity test’ is clearly a step away from ‘nil detriment’ which was historically adopted by many authorities as the yard stick. What is becoming clearer, is that the bar has been lowered and some impact is acceptable, but not severe impact.
More recent advice in Planning Practice Guidance (PPG) reinforces this approach. Its section on ‘Travel plans, transport assessments and statements in decision-taking’ notes: “Transport Assessments and Statements can be used to establish whether the residual transport impacts of a proposed development are likely to be ‘severe’, which may be a reason for refusal, in accordance with the National Planning Policy Framework”. However, unfortunately there is no assistance in interpreting the concept of severity.
Since the publication of NPPF in 2012 there have been plenty of Appeal Decisions which can be used to help with interpretation. Recent appeals indicate that ‘severe impact’ can result from different changes in the performance of the transport network, for example increased junction queueing, longer delay, increased road safety risk, longer bus delay or pedestrian severance.
Having reviewed many appeal decisions, we consider the words of Inspector Stuart Nixon to provide a useful basis for the ‘severity test’. In the decision relating to Whittingham Road, Longridge, Preston (APP/N2345/A/12/2169598) August 2012 (Application for a residential-led, mixed-use development of approximately 250 units, plus a care home), Inspector Stuart Nixon outlined the approach to be followed.
The crux is to evaluate the residual cumulative degree of travel impact and assess whether this would be severe:
- Start with the baseline or ‘as is’ situation;
- Add expected growth, the levels of travel expected from committed development, and the travel demand from the appeal development itself;
- Then look at improvements that will materialise from any highways / Council works, permissions for committed development, and the scheme; and
- Finally look to the design year and assess the expected travel conditions to see if the residual outcome would be severely adverse.
In summary, the Inspector stated: “It is not, as suggested by some, to look merely at the magnitude of the increased traffic generated by the development proposal compared to the existing levels, and to see if the improvements proposed as part of a scheme deliver a nil detriment outcome. It is to assess the final residual implications for the highway and transport network and establish if these would be severely adverse”.
Phil Jones Associates are in business to help promotors realise full development potential and will be glad to discuss specific proposals in the context of the above.
Please contact Jon Tricker for further information on 07917 436933 or by email.