7 November: The £500 million Growing Places Fund from DCLG looks like yet another policy to encourage car-based developments.
The spread of the ‘indicative allocation’ of the fund to 38 Local Enterprise Partnerships was announced today, with a press release from the Department for Communities and Local Government that reads like a manifesto for suburban sprawl.
The fund is most likely to be used to push through proposals from developers that will increase car dependency: enabling local councils to speculatively build and expand ‘link roads’ to out-of-town developments, in the expectation that some of the money will be recouped once new housing estates and business parks go up.
The statement puts this intention fairly clearly too. Without a hint of irony it says, "The Fund will put local businesses and organisations in the driving seat," and then gives road-based suggestions for two out of its three example projects:
"Types of projects could include:
- Early development of strategic link roads and access works to unlock major mixed-use developments, enabling the delivery of homes and commercial space – leading to the creation of jobs and securing private investment
- Provision of flood storage capacity to enable development of homes, employment space and retail space; and
- Works to improve local connectivity and reduce congestion through interventions such as extending dual carriageways, enabling developments to be taken forward sustainably."
The new fund is also set aside purely for capital projects, so it can’t be used to support revenue spending for new or improved bus services to new homes and offices, and won't pay for ‘smarter travel’ initiatives like travel planning, which help people and businesses organise their travel more efficiently.
It also can’t be used for other services or incentives needed to push ahead projects in more appropriate town centre locations, unless these require capital spending.
Alongside the disastrously laissez-faire new National Planning Policy Framework, from the same government department (see our Campaign Director’s blog here: What the changes to the planning system actually mean for sustainable transport), we think this is another blow to well-planned sustainable development in the UK, and another step towards American-style sprawl.