'Make Manual for Streets Government policy,' CIHT says

Dominic Browne

The Chartered Institution of Highways and Transportation (CIHT) has called for the seminal ‘Manual for Streets’ design documents to be made government policy 'to improve the integration of planning and transport'.

The professional body made the call in its response to the Government's consultation on revisions to the National Planning Policy Framework and a new draft National Model Design Code.

A groundbreaking document when it came out more than 10 years ago, Manual for Streets (2007) and its sequel in 2010 introduced new ideas of place-shaping to the design of residential roads.

Emphasising ways to lessen the impact of traffic, the documents aimed to help designers make the local environment convenient and attractive to walk in.

The CIHT is currently undertaking a review of Manual for Streets with a view to writing a third version of the much-praised series. Publication is set for January 2022.

Andrew Hugill, director of policy and technical affairs at CIHT, said: 'The ‘Manual for Streets’ is highlighted as key guidance in the National Model Design Code and CIHT is currently working with the Department for Transport (DfT) and the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government (MHCLG) to develop a revised version (Manual for Streets 3 (MfS3)) which will incorporate content and principles from Manual for Streets (MfS) and Manual for Streets 2 (MfS2).

'To ensure high uptake of the principles in Manual for Streets its position must be strengthened and should become clear government policy. This would enable local authorities, developers, the planning inspectorate, and professionals engaged in developing better places to have the confidence to utilise this guidance.'

In its consultation response, CIHT argued the proposed changes to chapter 9 on Promoting Sustainable Transport were 'very minor' in nature.

'Revisions to the NPPF need to ensure that the requirement for sustainable transport provision not only features in some policy statements but is consistently and coherently underpinning decision-making throughout,' the institution said. 

It argued sustainable transport should be included in consideration of the location of developments, the way development is accessed, changes to the basis of refusal of applications.

In a recent survey by CIHT of professionals active in the sector, 80% of respondents thought that proposed revisions to chapter 9 were 'not strong enough to promote sustainable development'.

Mr Hugill added: 'The integration of planning and transport plays a fundamental role in making development sustainable and the siting of this development must be at the core of planning policy.

'The choice and availability of sustainable travel choices is a key factor for sustainable development. This needs to be a fundamental part of the planning process and recognise that transport authorities and operators need to be involved throughout the planning process from initiating the local or strategic plan to the determination of planning applications, thereby becoming part of the solution rather than a hurdle to be overcome.'

CIHT has previously raised concerns about the ‘MHCLG’s Planning for the Future White Paper over the issue of combining planning and transport.

Mr Hugill concluded: 'On this basis - the proposed radical changes to the planning system as then set out will fail to do any better than before. CIHT believe that the white paper should support and require the delivery of a fully integrated planning and transport process, from the policy right through delivery. Importantly this must also extend for the lifetime of the development and related infrastructure and services.'

The importance of Manual for Streets has been recommended by several key reports:

  • The House of Lords Select Committee on National Policy for the Built Environment ‘Building Better Places’ report recommended the use of MfS by all local authorities.
  • Strengthening MfS position was a specific call in the Building Better, Building Beautiful Commission’s ‘Living with Beauty’ report.
  • The Cabinet Offices Policy Lab carried out a scoping study into the use of MfS in 2019 and amongst its recommendations said DfT & MHCLG should align MfS3 with the National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF). 
  • There is the opportunity to make MfS3 one of three types of guidance that sit underneath the NPPF along with Planning Policy Guidance and Visual Guidance.
  • UCL’s ‘A housing design audit for England’.
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