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RTPI report challenges London green belt homes over car commuting

Published: Thursday, 20th August 2015

Proposals for one million new homes near train stations in London’s green belt could add up to 7.5 million car journeys every week, according to new research by the Royal Town Planning Institute.

The report challenged the assumption that building in the green belt within easy walking or cycling distance of railway stations would be sustainable as the majority of new residents would use the train to get to jobs in London.

The RTPI examined commuting data for five medium-sized towns within the existing metropolitan green belt, towns which are centred on railway stations and have direct connections to central London.

The organisation said: “We found that in these five towns, only 7.4 per cent of commuters actually travel to inner London by train on a regular basis, despite living within easy walking or cycling distance of a station.

“The majority of commuters (72 per cent) instead travel by private vehicle, mostly driving to jobs within their hometown and to other places not in London.”

The five towns in the RTPI analysis were: Hemel Hempstead, High Wycombe, Watford, Maidenhead and Bracknell.

RTPI president Janet Askew said: “Quite apart from other good reasons why building in the green belt on such a scale might be opposed, these figures demonstrate a fundamental flaw in the reasoning that there is a quick fix and a sustainable solution to the housing crisis by putting large numbers of new homes close to railway stations.

“While it is difficult to predict exactly future commuting patterns, the overwhelming evidence is that people will use their cars and this will result in vastly increased numbers of car journeys in and through the green belt.”

View the press release

Roger Milne