West Suffolk Local Plan (Regulation 18) Issues and Options October 2020

Part 2 - local issues

Part 2 - 5. Transport

5.1. Transport is a far reaching issue for the local plan. In planning for sustainable development and aiming to reduce greenhouse gas emissions we will promote a hierarchy of sustainable means of transport with walking, cycling and public transport (including taxis) at the top, followed by commercial vehicles with cars (fossil fuel-powered) at the bottom. This will ensure new developments offer a genuine choice of transport modes, reducing congestion and emissions, and improving air quality and public health. However, planning 'transport' also includes infrastructure, so this section begins by considering strategic road and rail infrastructure and the local context for transport and travel.

5.2. West Suffolk is a rural district where most people have no alternative but to travel by car. The district has good connectivity to the Strategic Road Network (SRN). These roads connect Bury St Edmunds, Newmarket and Mildenhall to Cambridge, Norwich, Ipswich and Felixstowe, and further via the A14 to the Midlands, and via the A1 to the north. The A1307 connects Haverhill and the surrounding area with the Cambridge Biomedical Campus at Addenbrookes, and Stansted via the A11. The A134, A143, and A1065 are also important road links in the district.

5.3. The current and future needs of the SRN have been identified in Highways England's Road Investment Strategy (RIS). The current bidding round for future funding to 2025 includes proposals for upgrades and a long-term solution to safety issues at the A11 Fiveways junction east of Mildenhall and junctions on the A14 at Bury St Edmunds and Newmarket. At the sub-regional level new transport options are emerging, like the Cambridge Autonomous Metro. New developments can also offer the opportunity for local infrastructure improvements.

5.4. Rail links east-west across the district connect Bury St Edmunds and Newmarket with hourly services to Ipswich and Cambridge and Bury St Edmunds to Peterborough every two hours. There are further stations on the Ipswich to Cambridge line outside but close to West Suffolk at Kennett, Dullingham and Thurston. Brandon is connected to Thetford, Norwich and Cambridge via Ely.

5.5. The 2011 Census reveals that significantly fewer West Suffolk residents use public transport than regional or national residents. Rural bus services and in-town shuttle/linking or circular bus services are often poor or non-existent with opportunities for innovative and bespoke services to come forward using emerging communications technologies. However, the census shows that walking and cycling levels are higher in West Suffolk than nationally. Electric vehicle use is also increasing.

5.6. The NPPF highlights that transport should be considered from the earliest stage of plan-making and development proposals. This will result in a range of benefits such as taking account of the environmental impacts of traffic, consideration of patterns of movement, and parking.

Implications of the sustainability appraisal (SA) scoping report information

5.7. The SA scoping report identifies the following key sustainability issues:

  • It will be important for future development to support reduced reliance on the private vehicle and improved access to sustainable modes of transport.
  • Development should seek to maximise trends for active travel and improve opportunities for walking and cycling.
  • There are opportunities to capitalise on existing transport routes and maximise sustainable access opportunities along key routes.
  • Infrastructure enhancements may be necessary to avoid over-loading the existing network.

Issues for the local plan

Provision of transport infrastructure

5.8. Transport infrastructure is a key element of growth and development in the district and sub-region as well placed and designed developments and settlements can minimise the need to travel by car. Financial contributions can be secured from new development to assist with or provide transport infrastructure and funding walking, cycling and public transport options can help to combat traffic congestion. These alternative modes of transport will help reduce demand for roads and journey times and help improve air quality and reduce greenhouse gas emissions. Walking and cycling and public transport use can also enhance recreational opportunities and meet healthy living objectives.

(High Street, Newmarket)
High Street, Newmarket (2019)

Encouraging sustainable transport

5.9. The poor uptake of public transport in West Suffolk is likely to continue without improvements funded by investment. However, there are ways in which our travel and transport habits can change to help reduce greenhouse gas emissions, for example by reducing the number of journeys we make (working from home), by car-sharing and using electric cars and smart and shared mobility solutions. The higher than average take-up of walking and cycling could be enhanced, and car-use reduced with integrated sustainable transport networks, for example, shared footpaths and cycling routes within developments and by co-locating services and facilities.