Shaping the Future – Case Studies in UK Accessibility Planning

Shaping the Future – Case Studies in UK Accessibility Planning

WINNER OF The Planning for Sustainable Land Use and Transport Award


Derek Halden, DHC


There has been an extensive academic debate about the theory of accessibility planning but far less discussion of the practice. This paper illustrates how accessibility planning has succeeded in delivering more sustainable solutions yet failed to change mainstream transport delivery, and what this means for future transport policy directions in the UK.


The best way to predict the future is to shape it. Transport planning has a poor track record in predicting travel demand, so accessibility planning emerged in the 1990s as a promising approach to help shape travel demand so that a more optimal balance between supply and demand can be achieved, consistent with sustainability. This paper describes the results of three recently completed research projects, two in England and one in Scotland.

Accessibility planning emerged in UK government policy in 1992 and since then there has been a steady expansion in the number of businesses and other employers planning access for their staff and in local authorities improving access to local services and facilities. The experience of project delivery has shown that unless incentives are created that encourage a broader approach, organisations still tend to seek narrow goals than are desirable for sustainability. Accessibility policy has therefore been characterised with increasing requirements for audits, funding, and legislative requirements.

The paper presents a typology projects to provide and promote solutions overcoming accessibility barriers, and organising and managing the joint cross-sector working needed to deliver these solutions. By illustrating how audits, funding and legislation have been used to prompt action, the paper shows the strengths and limitations of the toolkit. The practical projects have changed land use plans, invested in new safe routes to shops, devised new ticketing and payment approaches for passenger transport, and developed new solutions for sharing of cars, taxis and cycles to make transport more available to more people.
The progress, processes, outcomes and impacts of these projects will be set in the context of the evolving policy debate about the relationship between transport and accessibility planning in the UK. The paper will reference key elements of the current UK Parliamentary Inquiry into accessibility planning. The Inquiry has taken evidence from transport and non-transport sectors, and its terms of reference have been to review what progress has been made since 2003 and make recommendations for future action. The Inquiry findings should be available in the late Spring of 2013, so this paper will review the evolving role of accessibility planning in the UK and the prospects for the future.


Association for European Transport