Hope for better bike infrastructure as Active Travel England to be consulted on new housing estates

Organisation will help deliver cycling infrastructure on all future large planning applications

Cyclist riding in London
(Image credit: Getty Images)

Active Travel England (ATE) will advise on and help deliver cycling infrastructure on all future large developments, it was announced on Thursday. This will hopefully improve "public health, reducing emissions and tackling the cost of living crisis", according to Chris Boardman, although ATE does not have the power to enforce its planning recommendations.

The quango is the government body responsible for making walking, wheeling and cycling the preferred choice. It has officially become a statutory consultee on all planning applications for developments equal to or exceeding 150 housing units, 7,500 metres squared of floorspace or area of five hectares.

This will see ATE reviewing approximately 3,100 applications a year, equating to 60% of new homes.

“Active travel is essential to improving public health, reducing emissions and tackling the cost of living crisis," Boardman, ATE's commissioner, said in a press release. "That’s why we’re working to ensure millions more people have the opportunity to walk, wheel or cycle from their doorstep to where they need to be.

“Designing activity back into our neighbourhoods and creating places where children have transport independence is achievable – it just needs smart planning.

“As a statutory consultee Active Travel England will work with planning authorities and developers to help them ensure new estates give people what they need to get fresh air and exercise, save money on petrol and help fight climate change.”

The body has achieved its new statutory consultee status after a pilot project, which saw ATE work with 30 local authorities to assess more than 60 developments over the nine months up until November 2022.

Feedback from a survey from the start of the pilot saw 80% of respondents to the survey agree that ATE should have a part to play in the planning system.

The body will not actually have statutory powers to direct the outcome of planning applications, so the consultation will effectively end in advice. Despite this, ATE said that it had worked with the Department for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities to ensure its thresholds as a statutory consultee are set at an appropriate level.

Active Travel England is responsible for parceling out the Active Travel Fund money from the government to local councils in order to deliver walking, wheeling and cycling schemes across England.

However, this money recently received a two-thirds cut, with promised capital investment in infrastructure for walking, wheeling and cycling falling from £308 million to only £100 million for the next two years.

Thursday is the last day to add a letter from cycling and walking charity Sustrans to government calling for these cuts to be reverse, which can be done on its website.

Thank you for reading 20 articles this month* Join now for unlimited access

Enjoy your first month for just £1 / $1 / €1

*Read 5 free articles per month without a subscription

Join now for unlimited access

Try first month for just £1 / $1 / €1

Tom Thewlis

Tom is a News and Features Writer at Cycling Weekly, and previously worked in communications at Oxford Brookes University. He has reported from a wide range of races and events including the Tour de France and World Championships.