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  • Julia Pardoe

Recent DfT guidance on Implementing Low Traffic Neighbourhoods: thoughts on its limitations.

The Department for Transport (DfT)’s publication of statutory guidance, applicable to England only, on Implementing Low Traffic Neighbourhoods  (LTNs) provides a welcome reminder of the importance of engagement when planning and implementing active travel schemes. However, whilst undoubtedly important, this guidance remains incomprehenive and the DfT could build on this work to provide clarity and support to those working towards improving active travel options in local communities. 

Within the ‘Good Practice in Engagement’ section of the guidance on Implemementing LTNs, reissued in March 2024, it is stated that:

‘Via its engagement and consultations an authority should be confident that a scheme is capable of carrying the support of a majority of the community before introducing it’ 

As statutory guidance, the Secretary of State reserves the right to consider the adherence to its contents when considering transportation funding to local authorities. 

This publication, however, leaves many questions unanswered. Any definition of ‘community’ is omitted, meanwhile it fails to provide councils or interested parties with guidance or advice on how to measure a ‘majority’ view. Perhaps most importantly however is that it seemingly ignores the range of factors elected members must consider when deciding on local traffic plans.

The DfT rightly identifies that many councils are already running public engagement programmes though presumably feel these should be used to produce data which demonstrate majority support. 

Data is obviously crucial in understanding communities’ appetite for active travel initiatives. Nevertheless, it is important to note that where schemes have been introduced successfully, there have been deliberate efforts to avoid a simple harvesting of views with yes/no survey questions in favour of collecting more insightful qualitative data.

At HICO we similarly advise clients to encourage communities to engage with traffic reduction schemes early on and to use their local expertise to improve them at design phase. We generally recommend against asking residents to say yes or no to schemes, the decisions for which lie with the democratically elected councillors who must balance existing policy, funding requirements, the environment and Road Traffic Collisions alongside the views of residents. 

The guidance also advises on the regular reviews of LTNs, the impacts of which we will study in a future piece. 

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