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Don’t Build Cowpat Developments – Transport for New Homes

'Cowpat development', and an alternative
A ‘cowpat development’ and a better alternative, from the Building Car Dependency report

Developers should stop building ‘cowpat developments’, says Transport for New Homes. That’s among the recommendations in their new report, called Building Car Dependency.

A cowpat development is a new area of housing dropped on fields and separate from the existing urban area. The proposed West Harrogate developments along Otley Road towards Beckwithshaw are an example of this.

Following visits to areas of new housing in 2021, the Transport for New Homes team concluded that greenfield housing almost always ends up being completely car-based. Housing on brownfield sites in cities is generally more suitable for walking, cycling and public transport.

Discoveries on the Visits

The team travelled to new greenfield housing developments by public and active travel where possible, and walked round them and talked to people there (although they said there were often more cats then people walking in the developments). They noticed:

  • there were few local facilities or small businesses within the developments
  • promised facilities often come years after the first houses are occupied
  • the greenfield sites were disconnected from the urban areas they bordered
  • the developments encouraged car-based lifestyles, with inner ring roads directing people to large supermarkets and eateries on the edge of town (doughnut development)
  • back gardens were often small or non-existent
  • most homes had 2-3 car parking spaces
  • local people complained that traffic had been increasing across the whole area, including on country roads

Cycling

The developments did not provide properly for cycling.

‘It was possible to cycle to some of the new greenfield estates but you take your life into your hands on country roads and on the many large roundabouts and junctions, not to mention dual carriageways. On roads in and around these large greenfield developments, the amount of traffic makes it dangerous and the cyclist feels intimidated by lorries and fast cars trying to overtake. Cycling to a different town only a few miles away is only for the daring cyclist who is prepared to hold up impatient traffic – the country roads tend to be too busy around places where greenfield development has been concentrated.’

p14, Building car dependency report

An Exception: Derwenthorpe, York

Derwenthorpe, on the east edge of York, was an exception.

It was easy to get there from the city centre by bus; car parking was limited and well-integrated into the fabric of the place; and residents walked or cycled to the park.

Recommendations

The report says that where we build is key. New houses need to be in places served by public transport, and where residents are able to walk and cycle within the development and into the adjacent urban area.

We cannot go on building hundreds of thousands of houses that are impossible to serve with sustainable transport, and rural and semi-rural local authorities should not be given high housing targets.

With development in the right location, parking should be limited to one space per home, and include some underground parking.

A network of Dutch-style cycle routes is essential, within the development and linking it to:

  • the urban area and
  • business parks and other employment on the fringe of town

The National Planning Policy Framework needs to be redrafted accordingly.

Don’t Build Cowpat Developments – Transport for New Homes

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