Extract of an article about transport provisions for new “garden communities” points to a continuing car dependency and debunks claims that new communities’ residents will make only 30 per cent of their journeys by car instead of the 70 per cent of the existing population.

Garden Cities will encourage less car-dependent lifestyles. Really? Pull the other one.

The disappearance of “Garden City principles” from the new draft National Policy Planning Framework does at least seem to have succeeded in provoking more people into wondering whether the currently intended mass of huge developments in the countryside, hitherto masquerading as something unchallengeably beautiful, will really be such a wonderful thing.

The five developments being proposed in North Essex constitute (in combination the NEGC)) are much the largest of all the current proposals in Essex. Like the majority of ‘garden communities’ nationally, every one of these five is actually a scheme (mostly predating the Garden City idea) drawn up by consortia of landowners / developers for their own benefit, the location and size determined wholly by their property boundaries, and not the result of any rational consideration, taking the wider impacts into account, by the councils that have ‘adopted’ them.

But let us turn to the transport aspects. The whole programme has been generated in an atmosphere of panic by a Government department [the Ministry of Housing, Communities & Local Government] not responsible for transport matters, and apparently happy to approve schemes without reference to the already existing transport problems of the areas in question.

In North Essex, as in many other places, there are already major traffic problems caused by car-dependence. Into this already-failing car-based mess the Government wants to impose massive increases in population / car numbers. The technique being used to bridge the chasm between proposals and physical possibilities is, of course, greenwash. We are assured that the new communities’ residents will make only 30 per cent of their journeys by car, instead of the 70 per cent of the existing population. This is despite the fact that the council’s own demographics show that the new developments will, for the first 20-30 years, be inhabited largely by 25-45 year olds with families, i.e. the very people whose lifestyles make them much more car-dependent than the population at large. (North Essex already has a 1990s ‘garden community’, Great Notley near Braintree, which replicates the 70 per cent average, and has just lost its main bus service.)

What is very noticeable about most ‘garden communities’ nationally is that the promoters have made sure to locate them next to motorway (or major trunk road) interchanges, and shown little concern to have them anywhere near a rail station.

Of the five in North Essex, only West Tey and North Uttlesford would have a station nearby, and at the former a new station is really required, whilst the latter’s detailed plan would make walking to the station unattractive. The situation demonstrates very clearly what transport choices the developers really expect the residents to be adopting.


BY Peter Kay and first published in the magazine, Local Transport Today. Peter has a longstanding involvement with northeast Essex local transport matters as secretary of theColchester Bus Users Group, and has also been much involved with transport aspects of the new local plans and their ‘garden developments’.