Progress in UK
- Hi All,
Dave Morris and Ed Beale sent me the following article from the UK.
We're on the map now.
The fond farewells to four wheels
New, car-free developments are catching on fast. Even petrolhead Oliver Bennett is impressed
It's a wrench giving up your wheels. Just ask Fiona Cameron, a planning officer, who had to let her cherished Nissan go to move into Servite's Carlton Drive development in Putney, south-west London. It is a condition of living there that you relinquish your car. No ifs, no buts, no parking permits for a sneaky jalopy kept around the corner.
'Sacrifice': Fiona Cameron and a residents' car she shares at her apartment block
"It was a sacrifice," says Ms Cameron. "I'd lived in Clapham and used the car all the time." On the other hand, she mused, the flat was in a great neighbourhood, and this shared-ownership, key-worker estate was good value for Putney. In addition, the residents of the Servite scheme had been provided with two VW Golfs by Streetcar, Britain's largest car club, which they can rent if necessary.
"It suddenly didn't seem so bad," says Ms Cameron, who moved in late last year. "I've already been to Ikea in one of the Golfs and it was easy." Now, she is not missing her car at all, but her friends remain astonished. ''They can't believe I moved to a place that bans cars," she says.
A neighbour, Kay Jones, a PA, didn't realise cars were not allowed until she had already fallen for the flat. "When they told me, it was off-putting. But when I looked into it I thought: 'Let's do it.'" She took her beloved MG to her parents' house in the North, where it continues to languish, waiting to be sold.
Ms Cameron and Ms Jones are part of a new generation of homeowners being lured away from their cars. It's a fast-growing trend. There are already quite a few developments - mostly urban new-builds - that aim to diminish car use among their residents, if not to phase it out entirely.
Philip Igoe, of the charity Carplus, an information centre for car clubs and lift sharing, says that property developers are finding it the vital key to gaining planning consent. "Residential developments have to have a travel plan, and are finding that the fewer parking spaces they include, the more likely they are to get permission," he says. "It's particularly the case with city-centre and waterfront developments."
Indeed, he adds, the London Borough of Camden has established about 400 agreements stipulating that there will be "no resident parking permits available for the occupants of the units", which cover about 3,500 homes.
Servite believes that it was first to prohibit cars. "Other schemes have introduced car pools and car sharing," says David Campbell, of Servite. "But I believe ours was the first to have it laid down by the planning department of the local authority.'' Possibly, although Wilf Parsons, of the pressure group Car Free Developments, says that motors are being discarded across the nation's new-builds at a dizzying rate.
"It's the Section 106 agreements," he says, referring to the planning legislation that allows a development to be built only on the proviso that it cuts out the car. "They're catching on all over the place, from Brighton, Bristol and Portsmouth to Edinburgh and Leeds."
In Ealing, west London, Barratt Homes' Iconica Development - where prices are hardly cheap at between £336,995 and £424,995 for a two-bedroom flat - just 30 parking spaces are available at a cost of £10,000 each, which encourages drivers to use its appointed car club (Whizzgo).
Section 106 is backed by the Department for Transport, which requests that "planning applications with significant transport implications should be accompanied by a travel plan. This applies to residential developments as well as workplaces, and includes any new development or redevelopment which requires planning permission."
Mr Campbell recalls that Servite was somewhat miffed by the car-free stipulation at first. "We had to tell people that they can't have a car, and we worried about its sale-ability," he says. "But we realised that, as the flats are in a high-value area, they'd be attractive even without cars. So we had to give it a positive spin, by emphasising environmental friendliness."
Sales were ''slightly slower'', he admits, but the 22 flats, which went on the market six months ago, have been sold. "There are quite a few single people among the residents, and I understand that without the burden of running a vehicle they can free up a bit of cash," says Mr Campbell. "Also, I think a lot of them bought into the ethical aspects."
Of course, there are still plenty of British houses being sold to unreconstructed petrol-heads, with carports, electric-door garages and personal bays galore. But this is increasingly the past, reckons Philip Igoe, who claims to be "frantic" with calls from local authorities and property developers looking for ways to decrease car use. "It's primarily an urban phenomenon, but local authorities up and down the country are finding ways to get us out of our cars,'' he says.
Indeed, the 1980s-style twin parking space, as seen in executive estates across the nation, is "already archaic", says Mr Igoe. "From an environmental point of view, it's unsustainable." And in urban areas, where land is prized, the ''footprint'' of multiple parking spaces may be less valuable than space for building or recreation.
Mr Igoe also hopes that the sheer cost of owning a car - in hassle as well as maintenance - will become too high for many people to sustain and tempt them on to public transport, bicycles and - at the very least - into shared cars.
Rural areas are currently less affected. But car-reduction measures have spread far beyond our urban centres, and smaller towns are catching the car-free bug. Horsham, in West Sussex, is a Section 106 hot zone. And the new Poole Quarter, in Dorset, has a travel plan drawn up by the builders Crest Nicholson in which families are encouraged to lose at least their second cars - the incentive being that each household is given two £50 vouchers to spend on any transport mode, be it rail season tickets, bus fares or bicycle.
Meanwhile, at Wayne and Geraldine Hemingway's Staiths South Bank development for Wimpey, in Gateshead, each apartment gets a fold-away bike in its own special locker. The picture, if not car-free, is at least car-lite - and Mr Parsons is optimistic. "I think that once they've made the move, people don't mind that much. Or they go so far as to admit that owning a car was a pain in the backside," he says.
Indeed, one wonders if the cities of the future will allow private cars at all. It is hard to find an urban planner who still advocates car use. One of the most influential planning movements, the New Urbanism, aims to rewrite the nature of urban and suburban communities, with one of its planks being the car-free development: the better to tackle obesity, attract small local shops to areas that rely on driving to ring-road retail sheds - even to encourage fraternisation among neighbours. It's all part of the new social engineering.
As for dinosaurs like myself, who feel secure with the presence of our private cars parked nearby, we'll have to change. "It's certainly a different mindset," says Kay Jones, "and I'm still adjusting to it."
Car Plus (www.carplus.org.uk; 0113 234 9299) has a database of car clubs around the country, as well as details of lift-sharing, whereby private cars are shared.
The club Streetcar (www.streetcar.co.uk; 0845 644 8476) rents cars. The Department of Transport's guidance for residential and workplace travel planning can be found at www.dft.gov.uk/stellent/groups/
Department for Transport
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J.H. Crawford Carfree Cities