Access All Areas: Integrating Accessibility Planning into the Local Transport Planning Process

Access All Areas: Integrating Accessibility Planning into the Local Transport Planning Process


S Bishop, B Lockwood, Steer Davies Gleave, UK


This paper examines the extent to which social inclusion and Accessibility Planning have been embedded into the local transport planning process in England.


In the last 10 years, the United Kingdom has experienced major decentralisation of power with various functions of Central Government, including many transport functions, passed to the newly created Scottish Parliament and the Welsh Assembly. Simultaneously, many of the same transport functions in England have been decentralised to eight Regional Governments and their Local Authorities. In England, the Transport Act 2000, overseen by the Department for Transport, required all authorities in England outside of London to submit five-year Local Transport Plans to cover the period 2001/2 to 2005/6. The plans were to address the shared transport priorities as agreed by Central and Local Government, ?[to meet] local transport needs more effectively through improved access to jobs and services, particularly for those most in need, in ways which are sustainable: improved public transport, reduced problems of congestion, pollution and safety?.

In 2003, the Social Exclusion Unit, established in 1997 by the newly elected Labour Government to address problems of social exclusion, published its findings on the relationship between transport, accessibility and social exclusion. The report "Making the Connections" concluded that improved accessibility was central to reducing social exclusion, with accessibility not just concerning transport, but the location, design and delivery of key services and people?s perceptions of personal safety. With such a clear message, the Department for Transport was charged with leading a cross-Government strategy for improving access to key services ? those that have greatest impact on life opportunities ? jobs, health care, learning and education, and food shops. Consequently, for the second Local Transport Plan covering 2006/7 to 2010/11, Local Authorities were required by the Department for Transport, to work in conjunction with other Central Government Departments? local delivery agencies, and embed Accessibility Planning into the local transport planning process. The result was an Accessibility Strategy submitted with the second Local Transport Plan by every Local Transport Authority to the Department for Transport in March 2006.

This paper assesses how the Department for Transport and Local Transport Authorities have embedded Accessibility Planning into the local transport planning process, and how these agencies have worked across government sectors to address problems of social exclusion and poor accessibility for those ?most in need?.

Our experiences bring light on these important questions ? Steer Davies Gleave was commissioned in October 2005 to run the Department for Transport?s Accessibility Planning Training and Advisory Programme (branded withinreach) as a 27-month project to assist all authorities to develop their Accessibility Strategies. The programme not only supported authorities with training and advice, but also led research streams into the integration of accessibility planning in Local Transport Authorities, their partners, delivery agencies and other Central Government Departments. The sources we will draw upon here are:

three status surveys sent to all Local Transport Authorities
a survey of Government Departments and their delivery agencies
feedback received from the Department for Transport on progress and issues

The Department for Transport has now assessed Local Authorities? second Local Transport Plans and Accessibility Strategies, and we will analyse the results and support this with the findings of our research streams. The sources here are:

Local Authority Settlement Letters
Cross-tabulation with status survey results

Our findings show the complexity of the policy integration. Where there has been success, there is always room for improvement and barriers to surmount. This paper will explore these intricacies and extrapolate what we can learn for local transport planning in the UK and beyond:

Local Authorities now employ full time accessibility planners ? it is a recognised professional discipline and this professional integration has succeeded in delivering integrated planning.
Within Local Authorities, differing levels of support and understanding are found from senior officers and council members for the promotion of social inclusion.
Some Central Government Departments have taken a more proactive role in promoting Accessibility Planning to the local level than others.
Consequently, forging partnerships with the delivery agencies of other Central Government Departments at the local level has been difficult.
Measuring accessibility and social inclusion, through targets and indicators, is problematic, especially if from a solely transport perspective.

We are at a very early juncture in engraining Accessibility Planning into and addressing social exclusion through the transport planning process, however good practice is emerging and the above research will show the extent to which the appropriate political and planning environment has been established.


Association for European Transport