News

Green light means go

Development planning is at the very core of our business and since the turn of the year we have helped to secure planning consent on a number of projects, providing transport assessments, transport statements and highway design on behalf of clients including St. Modwen, Bloor Homes, Lioncourt, Inland Homes Homes and JG Chatham Ltd.

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For Kitchener Barracks, the mixed use, residential led scheme in Chatham Kent on behalf of JG Chatham Ltd we provided a transport assessment using GIS to demonstrate the sustainable credentials of the site. We also undertook a detailed assessment of the traffic impact of the proposals on the highway network within Chatham Town Centre and provided detailed assistance to the project team to achieve a deliverable scheme which overcame significant level differences on the site.

Planning consent was granted in May for the residential led mixed-use development which will comprise up to 260 dwellings and commercial space.

Elsewhere, we have been working with Lioncourt Homes since 2012, in relation to the development of land at Keresley which falls within the Greenbelt. The development proposals include up to 800 dwellings, a primary school, a local centre and community uses. We successfully secured ‘no objection’ from both Coventry City Council and Warwickshire County Council as well as the Highways Agency. 

Our services included the preparation of written representations for the core strategy and the preparation of a transport assessment, framework travel plan and a mitigation strategy to accompany an outline planning application. 

The transport assessment alone included our full range of services providing advice on the vehicle access strategy, internal layout, public transport strategy and business case, junction modelling and design and travel planning. 

In March we were part of a team that helped to secure planning consent for the second phase of St. Modwen’s Meon Vale community near Stratford-upon-Avon.  

PJA prepared all the transport planning inputs to the project, including detailed PARAMICS modelling of town centre highway improvements and specifying bus service enhancements. PJA director Nigel Millington addressed the committee and responded to the various transport related questions.

Consent was granted for up to 550 more family homes and a primary school as well as highway improvements and the relocation of a holiday village of self-catering lodges, holiday homes and caravan pitches.

Quartet of new commissions

In the first half of 2015 we have successfully secured a number of new commissions from both the private and public sector and across the country. 

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PJA are providing transport advice to Inland Homes on a range of sites across the Southeast of England and have helped secure planning consent on a number of large scale schemes, including the redevelopment of the Bournemouth Winter Gardens and the Former Meridian TV Studios in Southampton. The Winter Gardens project involved detailed design of a shared space scheme for one of the principle arteries through the town and the preparation of a VISSIM microsimulation model to demonstrate the impact.

PJA are currently commissioned on a number of high profile schemes including the redevelopment of the Chapel Riverside in Southampton and the former gas works site in High Wycombe as well as a number of smaller residential sites in Essex, Buckinghamshire and Hampshire. PJA are also utilising GIS software to provide initial access and sustainability advice on the feasibility of taking forward a range of other residential schemes through to planning applications.

Lidl, the German discount food store, has also appointed PJA to provide transport planning advice.  Transport planning and urban design advice was recently provided for a new store in Yardley, Birmingham, high level access advice was provided for a potential store in Dunstable, and urban design advice was provided for a proposed store in Malden, Essex.  PJA have also recently been approached by Lidl to advise on a further seven sites in the Midlands where expansion of existing stores is being considered.

In the public sector, PJA has been appointed to Hertfordshire County Council’s property framework, which will be used by the council to appoint property consultants to assist them in the delivery of key projects across the county until 2019.

PJA has already won the first of these mini-competitions as it has been selected to advise Hertfordshire County Council on seven primary and secondary school expansion projects which aim to deliver state-of-the-art facilities for children in the county.

Also in Hertfordshire, but external to the aforementioned framework, we have started work on a new shared space scheme in Buntingford.

Annabel Keegan, Principal Consultant with PJA, recently presented initial design concepts to Buntingford Town Council the scheme which aims to re-establish a sense of place and improve safety for pedestrians.

Annabel said: "The design concepts address the gradual erosion in the quality of place that has arisen in Buntingford over the years as a result of traffic growth, and present an opportunity to reconsider the approach to the design and management of vehicle and pedestrian movement, allowing the potential to improve safety and liveability."

Double the turnover, double the staff in just two years!

It’s been a record two years at PJA. Since 2013 we have doubled our turnover and the size of our team; the number of new projects has increased by 30% and the size and scale of these projects has risen too.

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Whilst this is indicative of the recovering property market, it also reflects our growing ambitions. In 2015 alone we have appointed five new specialists to drive work in new geographical regions and new specialisms.

Adrian Lord has joined as an Associate Director and Jon Tricker as a Director. 

Adrian specialises in cycling and sustainable transport work. He is a member of the DfT cycle proofing working group and is retained as infrastructure advisor to British Cycling. He is currently collaborating with PJA founder Phil Jones to update the cycling content of the Highways Agency’s Design Manual for Roads and Bridges and is also preparing PJA’s cycling strategy. Adrian will also be looking to expand opportunities in the North following our recent appointment by Leeds Metropolitan University to review their Headingley Campus.

Jon Tricker is already in the process of establishing a new office in Bristol’s Temple Quay, following a number of new business wins in the South West. Jon brings 20 years’ experience in transport masterplanning, development planning, transport assessment and urban realm design and joins the firm from Parsons Brinkerhoff.

Other new recruits at the Birmingham head office include Joe Wooldridge, a transport consultant with 4 years’ experience who joins PJA from Royal Haskoning, and Antoine Francois, a qualified landscape architect specialising in streetscape enhancements.  PJA has also recruited three graduates into the Birmingham and Reading offices as part of their new Graduate Development Programme.

Nigel Millington, Director at PJA said: “These recruits are a reflection of our confidence in the market and a requirement of the growth of our business generally. We are going from strength to strength with new business wins across the country and are delighted to be able to invest in our expansion both in terms of planners and offices.”

New home for PJA in Reading

A first anniversary is usually celebrated with paper gifts, but we decided to go for bricks and mortar, relocating our one-year old Reading branch to cater for our growing team and workload.

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Over the last 12 months the office has more than doubled the number of retained projects and expanded into new sectors. Now, to coincide with our first birthday in the city, we are moving to larger premises in The Aquarium on King Street to provide space for a forthcoming recruitment drive.

We are working on several high profile projects across the region including Carters Quay in Poole, Church Road in Ashford and Chapel Riverside in Southampton.

Cullan Riley, Director of the Reading office said: “We are doubling the amount of space we have in order to be able to double the size of our team. We have built a strong base of clients and projects and our reputation as a firm that delivers – and punches above its weight to compete alongside some of the industry’s major corporations – is now well established. We are now putting the building blocks in place for a steady expansion to help deliver some of our new project wins.”

For more details contact director Cullan Riley on 07730 032564 / cullan@philjonesassociates.co.uk.  The new Reading office telephone number is 0118 956 0909.

Shared Space......at the crossroads?

Shared Space has been getting a pretty bad press recently – strong criticisms have been voiced by groups representing visually impaired people, as well as cycling campaigners.  Phil Jones gives his verdict.

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Opponents say that such schemes not only are dangerous, with frequent unreported collisions, but also feel unsafe, deterring many people from coming to these places and moving around independently.

A report  by Lord Holmes, the former Paralympian, appears to show that people have an overwhelmingly negative experience of shared spaces, with 63% of the 600 respondents rating them as ‘poor’.  A third said that they actively avoid such schemes.  Lord Holmes is seeking an immediate moratorium on shared space schemes, and solicitors Unity Law are planning legal action against five local authorities under the Equalities Act.

What is in danger of being lost in this round of accusations and recriminations is a recognition of the real benefits that better streets can bring. Shared space is something of a catch-all term, but typically has the aim of improving the quality of the public realm in town centres, reducing the amount of traffic clutter that mars so many places.  It replaces the typical signs and traffic lights with the more basic and natural principles of social interaction and human responsibility. Well-designed schemes reduce drivers’ ownership of the street, lowering speeds and enabling people on foot and cycle to move around more freely – and without having to ask permission to cross the street by pressing a button.  

There is plenty of evidence that less-engineered and more context sensitive streets can reduce injury collisions, improve noise and air quality and improve vitality and economic performance.  It is for these reasons that many communities, local authorities and developers are keen to build more of them, and we continue to receive new instructions.

That’s not to say all schemes are perfect, and some could have done more to take into account the needs of visually impaired people.  These include the means to find their way around; providing areas that vehicles cannot intrude into; and a way of knowing when they leave these safe spaces.  With numerous shared spaces having now been built in the UK, including ones in Preston and Bexleyheath that have been comparatively well received, we have the opportunity to learn important lessons.  

Through our involvement with the Chartered Institution of Highways and Transportation we hope to be contributing to the production of new Government-endorsed design guidance. We believe that we can achieve more streets that work well for everyone and look forward to working with disability groups to make this happen - watch this space.

 

The 'Severity Test'......three years on

Three years after the publication of NPPF and the 'severity test' set out in paragraph 32, what can we learn from its application thus far?

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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: 

  1. Start with the baseline or ‘as is’ situation; 
  2. Add expected growth, the levels of travel expected from committed development, and the travel demand from the appeal development itself; 
  3. Then look at improvements that will materialise from any highways / Council works, permissions for committed development, and the scheme; and 
  4. 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.

Phil Jones Associates wins place on Hertfordshire Property Framework

Phil Jones Associates is delighted to announce that it has been appointed onto Hertfordshire County Council’s Property Framework as one of its specialist Highways advisors.

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The Framework will be in place for four years until 2019 and PJA’s role will be to advise the County Council, the Districts and other public sector bodies within the County, on the transport implications of their own land development projects.  PJA has also been successful on one of the first mini-competitions to be held with the Framework period, being appointed by the County to advise on a number of school expansion projects.

Copenhagen Study Tour

PJA recently organised a study tour to Copenhagen and Malmo. The trip was attended by officials from the DfT, TfL, Sustrans, Wheels for Wellbeing and British Cycling’s campaigns team led by the Olympian Chris Boardman.

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We were welcomed to Copenhagen by Henriette Lund, a Danish consultant previously employed by TfL to help develop the Cycle Superhighways, which are modelled on Danish routes. Copenhagen is an interesting comparison for UK planners and engineers as its urban form is much more like UK cities, with low density residential areas, shopping malls and out of town developments. Being a northern coastal city it is cold and damp for much of the year, so not the most conducive climate for cycling. 
 
The City Planner, Neils Jensen, provided some background information. Cycle tracks were constructed in the city from 1905 to 1980, with a network of around 250km and around 20% of trips by bicycle. The ‘car boom’ that started in the UK in the 1960s didn’t happen in Denmark until the 1980s, but there was a public backlash against removing cycle tracks to increase road capacity. Consistent investment in cycling since the 1990s resulted in a cycling mode share of around 36% by 2010.

The last few years however have seen another significant rise to around 45% (over 52% in the city centre) as existing facilities have been improved to ‘Superhighway’ standards and extended into the suburbs and villages. 

We loaded 18 bikes onto the train without any problem to visit the Swedish city of Malmo on the other side of the Oresund Bridge. In Denmark cycle tracks are generally one-way adjacent to the carriageway but in Malmo the network is largely two-way tracks that offer complete routes either alongside or away from the carriageway. 
 
In both cities the bicycle is very much regarded as an essential part of creating more attractive places to live and work that are not dominated by motor traffic. This doesn’t mean that the bicycle dominates traffic planning, but it is given equal consideration alongside public transport, freight and car movements.

In addition to lessons about infrastructure design, the delegates were able to learn about some of the cultural and legal background that has enabled more and safer cycling and we hope to follow these up with the Department for Transport to consider legislative change.

Planning consent for Kitchener Barracks

Plans for a residential led mixed-use development comprising up to 260 dwellings and commercial space have been approved as part of the redevelopment of the former Kitchener Barracks in Chatham, Kent. 

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As part of the Transport Assessment process, PJA used GIS to demonstrate the sustainable credentials of the site and also undertook a detailed assessment of the traffic impact of the proposals on the highway network within Chatham Town Centre.
 
Aside from the Transport Assessment, PJA also provided detailed assistance to the project team to achieve a deliverable scheme which overcame significant level differences on the site.

PJA unveils Shared Space proposals for Buntingford

Annabel Keegan, Principal Consultant at PJA, recently presented initial design concepts to the Town Council for a Shared Space scheme.

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"The design concepts presented offer an opportunity to address the gradual erosion in the quality of place that has arisen in Buntingford over the years as a result of motor traffic growth," she said.

"It offers a fresh opportunity for Buntingford to reconsider the approach to the design and management of vehicle and pedestrian movement, allowing the potential to improve safety and liveability."

Further work will be required to refine the designs, establish the cost of the scheme and determine funding sources.