Every month there are around five or six planning applications that we feel require a response from Portsmouth Cycle Forum to make sure that people riding bikes are considered when developments happen where we are riding.
Responding to a planning application can seem daunting - but really it’s easier than it can first seem. This handy guide explains:
- How to find planning applications on Portsmouth City Council’s website
- How to respond to a planning application - including the things to look out for both in support, and in objection to a planning application
Responding to planning applications is all part of the democratic process and is a chance to have your say on things that affect where you live, or where you cycle within the city - it can also help make good use of developer funding to improve cycle infrastructure, and make your local representatives aware that their residents want to see improvements.
Support or Object
Reasons why we might support an application could be that the developer has taken a really positive approach to improving walking and cycling infrastructure and we want to support that so the Council’s planning panel knows it will get a positive response, and they can be brave in accepting it.
Reasons why we might object could include:
- The developer isn’t proposing to install enough cycle parking (this happens quite a bit)
- New proposed cycle routes are too narrow (this happens quite a bit too)
- The cycle parking is inaccessible e.g. down a set of stairs, or the bike racks are so close to a wall that you couldn’t easily use them
- The new development requires a new road access or changes to junctions that would negatively impact existing cycle infrastructure
- The new development fails to understand where people walking and cycling would want to go and blocks these routes or fails to provide for them e.g. routes through into existing estates next door, or putting cycle parking for a supermarket really far from the doors to the shop with no CCTV
The Council’s planning panel takes into account all the responses they receive and have to balance these to decide whether to grant or deny planning permission, or sometimes make conditions that the developer has to stick to in order to achieve permission.
Where to find the applications
Developers upload their planning applications to the “planning portal” and can be found on the Council’s website. You can find them here.
The page looks like this:
You can find the application you’re interested in you can type in its name or code in the search box, or search the map on the tab circled above. You could search here by the street name, postcode or the planning application number.
Or to see all the applications listed in any week or month, select “Weekly/Monthly Lists” tab, then the “Weekly” or “Monthly” list tab and the month or week you are interested in. This search is really helpful as you can then pick out applications by ward, so you can see what’s being proposed on your doorstep!
We also circulate a list of current applications to anyone who offers to help out – including the planning application reference. It could look like this: 18/00152/FUL
The 18 means the year 2018; then you have 5 numbers which just give it a unique number; then some letters. The table below shows what these labels mean – there are lots more (here) but these are the ones we see most often:
|Listed building consent
|Planning regulation – e.g. for a shed
|Household (this could also be FUL depending on the scale of the application)
|Tree preservation order
|Variation of conditions – e.g. a developer looking to change something they were conditioned to do when they had their application approved
|Minor material amendment
|Outline permission – the details will come later but the principles will be established now
|Full – the whole application and all of its details are being submitted for review now
When you find the application site there will be a whole list of documents under the documents tab
Which documents should I look at?
From this “documents” page the documents you should be checking through are:
- Location Plan and Site Plan (a map)
- Design and Access Statement (a basic overview)
- Transport Assessment or Transport Statement (the good stuff)
- Travel Plan (how the developer will encourage people to walk and cycle e.g. information and vouchers for local bike shops)
- Routing Strategies and conditions on deliveries (mainly for lorries, but might be “left turn only” exits for example)
Watch out – there may be several versions of the same document – particularly for a big development, so check the dates to make sure you get the most recent ones. Not all applications will have all of these documents – for instance, travel plans only tend to be required with larger housing or business developments.
A transport assessment would be required of something that’s going to affect highway traffic, and a transport statement would be a light version of this. They can be huge, but normally most of the document is appendices, and you don’t need to go through these (unless you really want to!)
A routing strategy would be needed for sites that have HGVs like distribution centres but they could also be added for smaller sites to set the route Heavy Goods Vehicles (HGVs) must follow – e.g. to avoid schools and residential developments. Conditions on deliveries serve a similar purpose e.g. if HGVs have to go past a school to get somewhere, they could be restricted so they can’t deliver around the start or end of the school day.
The amount of time you can put aside, and the level of detail you want to go into will determine how much you will read of these documents. If you want to do it quickly, look at the Location Plan, Site Plan and Design and Access Statement. If you want to get more technical, go for the transport assessment or statement, and if you want to look at how the developer will encourage active travel and discourage car use through travel demand measures e.g. car clubs, bus vouchers and cycle training for new residents then look at the travel plan. We’re happy for any input from our members so don’t feel you need to do it all!
How does the application fit with PCC’s standards and policies?
If you want to help review planning applications, you’ll need to get familiar with a few documents. This will take a little bit of reading but once you’ve done it, you’ll be much better equipped to challenge the development based on things that PCC already publicly supports. These documents are the Local Transport Plan 3 (LTP3) and the Parking standards and transport assessments document, and hopefully soon (not yet published) PCC’s own Local Cycling and Walking and Investment Plan (LCWIP). If a developer isn’t meeting these, the Council has clout to get them to comply.
Here’s a brief summary…
Local Transport Plan 3: Does the proposed development application that you’re looking at support the goals set out in Portsmouth’s Local Transport Plan 3 (which includes more walking and cycling, and higher uptake of public transport)? e.g.:
- does it have good connections onto existing cycle ways?
- does it feel like a safe environment to walk and cycle or would changes be required?
- can you safely and easily access destinations like schools, doctors surgeries and the local shops by these modes of transport?
Get familiar with LTP3!
Parking standards and transport assessments
Is the car parking and cycle parking in line with PCC standards – often cycle parking is underprovided (particularly in student halls and blocks of flats). Sometimes, new shops won’t provide any car parking but might have a cash machine on the front which would encourage cars to pull up right in front of the store to withdraw cash – sometimes in a cycle lane (like Sainsbury’s on Albert Road). We like to see retail applications incorporate parking underneath them where they can (like Tesco Fratton) rather than taking precious space in the city for car parking.
Check the standard and quote it in your response.
Other sets of guidance such as Sustrans cycle friendly design guide, Design Manual for Roads and Bridges (DMRB) for major roads, and Manual for Streets 2 (MfS2) for local streets will also hold some weight if you want to get really technical with the transport assessment. PCC don’t have their own design guide for cycle routes so will defer to the Government guidance (DMRB and MfS2). We quite like Sustrans’ guidance too, although it has been challenged for not going far enough, it’s still more ambitious than existing government guidance. The easiest way to decide if you think the cycle infrastructure will be good enough is to answer this question:
“Would I be happy for a 12 year old to cycle here unaccompanied?”
BUT keep in mind that the road will need to be safe too; routes considered suitable for children might be shared-use paths, which lots of cyclists don’t like as they’re very slow and they get shouted at by pedestrians.
Documents made by our members
And of course, we have a massive wealth of knowledge among our own members. With our large membership, and years of collective campaigning, it’s likely that we know the city’s cycle routes far better than any one planning officer, and many of our members have been around a lot longer so can remember the history of sites in great detail.
Our key member-made documents is our manifesto: A City to Share. It’s even been endorsed by the Council. We try and push links to this one at every opportunity. Check out how the application compares with our key principles.
Portsmouth Cycle Forum’s cycle tube map
Check out where the new development sits on this map. Is it on a route we consider good? Or one that needs serious improvement – a new development could be a great opportunity to bring in developer contributions (through what are called Section 106 or Section 278 agreements, or the Community Infrastructure Levy - CIL) to fix it. There’s very little money coming from anywhere else at the moment!
Portsmouth Cycle Forum’s project ideas list (available to Planning Application volunteers)**
Same as above - is the new development near some of these sites, already identified by our members, that would be cheap and easy to fix? If the development is counting on people cycling as part of their trip rate (which it will) then contributions may be taken to help pay for these quick fixes. PCC needs good evidence in order to challenge the developers, and possibly doesn’t always push as hard as it could for these contributions but loads of other cities and counties successfully do this – so don’t go quietly! If you don’t ask, you don’t get.
What should my response look like?
Here’s a recent example of a response we submitted for Cobourg House student halls. It’s a page long, but packs in all the key points. We’re not looking for essays, just making our case clearly and concisely. Remember that someone has to read all the responses to every application - they’ll appreciate something that makes the key points clearly.
Subject: 17/02065/OUT planning application. PCF OBJECTION
Portsmouth Cycle Forum would like to OBJECT to this planning application on the following grounds:
- There is insufficient encouragement for residents of the building to make sustainable travel choices
- The bike parking provision is inadequate
- The surrounding road layout is hazardous for walking and cycling
Portsmouth Cycle Forum recognise the benefit the University of Portsmouth brings to the city, and also that this landmark building would increase the diversity of the local population. Therefore in principle we are in favour of this development with the following observations and recommendations.
As with many similar developments, the design and access statement makes a point about ‘good’ accessibility by walking and cycling, avoiding the need to provide parking spaces. In principle we agree active travel should be encouraged over private vehicle use. However, the route from the building to the university faces a huge barrier which is the Holbrook Road/Arundel St junction.
Currently there is a well used toucan crossing south of the roundabout. On the other ‘arms’ there are informal traffic islands allowing two-stage crossing by foot. For such a highly populated area this is insufficient. Most drivers are focussed on vehicles on the roundabout and the road ahead rather than pedestrians waiting to cross. Often these vehicles are close to 30mph if there is little traffic on the junction.
There is a danger that if these hazards are not addressed collisions between cars and pedestrians or cyclists will increase.
As with the roundabout on Winston Churchill Ave, this junction is much larger than is necessary for the type and volume of traffic using it. Each arm should be reduced to single lane, with a tighter turn. This will slow traffic down on approach and exit, to allow pedestrians to cross safely.
Reducing the carriageway width will allow both sides of Holbrook Road to have wider footways, converted to shared foot/cycle use. Such a development would enable safe cycle journeys between this part of Fratton and other parts of the city, reducing the pressure of vehicles on roads. It would also allow the crossings to be upgraded to zebra-type ‘Tiger’ crossings, as has been used in London. These are similar to zebra crossings, but allow cycle routes to cross alongside, without the disruption to traffic flows from controlled crossings.
- Provide secure cycle parking one space per flat
- Provide cycle parking outside entrance for visitors
- Create shared cycle/foot paths either side of Holbrook Road.
- Reduce carriageway width to slow down traffic
- Create shared cycle/foot crossings on each arm of roundabout
Any costs for engineering measures proposed can be taken from the anticipated CIL funds required of the developer.
Portsmouth Cycle Forum
What happens next?
You MUST submit your planning response by the deadline set on planning website, if it’s late, the Planning department doesn’t legally have to take your view into account.
If no one objects then the application can be decided by Planning Officers
If no one asks for it to go to Committee (where the elected members get involved) then a Planning Officer can decide – residents’ requests to send an application to Committee can be ignored but Councillor’s requests cannot be ignored – if you think there’s a risk we won’t be listened to, email the ward councillor and ask them to support you in sending it to Committee.
If the application gets to Planning Committee YOU WILL BE INFORMED if you’ve submitted a response**.** You can attend, and you can (but don’t have to) ask to make a deputation – which is a short speech summarising what was in your response. This is a good idea as it’s possible that the Committee members won’t have actually studied the all objections in close detail. Be aware, these meetings can go on a little bit. Take something to do, and listen out for the application you’re interested in. When you’re application comes up it can be pretty exciting; the Committee will weigh up all the information they have and make a decision. Even if they approve, they might add planning conditions which otherwise would have been missed – you did that – congratulations!
We have some resident gurus – they can be contacted email@example.com Don’t be intimidated – it’s easier than it looks and you’ll learn a lot about city planning and how decisions are made – and have a hand in influencing them too. We’re always there to lend support if you need a hand in getting started. Good luck and thank you for helping make our city safer for cycling!