Press Release

New developments risk locking residents into car ownership and use

Centre for London Press release 

Under embargo: 00:01 28 January, 2020 

For more information contact: / 07734 937 978 / 02037575555 


Developers and planners are at risk of “locking Londoners into 20th-century patterns of car ownership” by failing to design new homes that enable residents to make sustainable and healthy travel choices. This is according to Building for a New Urban Mobility, a new report by think tank Centre for London which recommends that walking, cycling and public transport should be at the heart of planning new neighbourhoods. 

The Mayor is aiming for 80 per cent of all trips in London to be made on foot, by cycle or using public transport by 2041, but based on the rate of progress over the last five years the report forecasts that London would only reach this target by 2070.  

The report argues that new housing developments – which could provide a 20 per cent increase to London’s housing stock over the next 10 years – present unique opportunity to help meet this ambitious targetBut the report highlights that many new developments are failing to do so: 

  • While new builds are generally well connected, new affordable housing developments have lower levels of public transport access on average compared to market housing; 36 per cent of the market rate housing completed in 2017/18 was in the best connected areas of the capital, compared to 8 per cent of the affordable housing developments. 
  • A Transport for London survey found that residents living in new developments were significantly more likely to have off-street parking than people living in existing homes, and were more likely to own a car than the general population in Greater London (47 per cent compared to 40 per cent).  
  • 60 per cent of car owners living in well-connected Inner London developments use their car at least twice a week, and 30 per cent use it most days. 

The report finds that development decisions can be based on out-of-date predictions about the travel choices and patterns of future residents, an issue which is compounded by under resourced planning and development departments in local authorities. It also found that some developers and local authorities lack expertise to build new homes which are sustainable and adaptable to future transport innovations such as automation, electrification and shared mobility services.   

The report argues that concerted action is needed across the sector to address these barriers and enable Londoners living in new developments to travel more on foot, by cycle or using public transport.  

It recommends that where a lack of alternatives means that car parking spaces must be provided, this should be with an explicit plan for transition to a car-free future. Residents should be offered short-term renewable membership of parking and charging schemes, rather than permanent ownership of spaces. Parking spaces should also be located and built to allow conversion to alternative uses (such as storage, delivery collection points, additional bicycle parking or even new housing or workspace), as private car use declines in the future.   

New developments would also benefit from the creation of “mobility hubs” – public spaces with covered waiting areas, green spaces and wide pavements which provide space both public and shared modes of transport such as car, bike and taxi hire or drop-off, rail and bus interchanges, and parcel pick-up stations. The report recommends that Government and the Mayor of London should match-fund development receipts to help local authorities and developers create these hubs.  

Nicolas Bosetti, Research Manager at Centre for London and co-author of the report, said: 

For decades the way Londoners travel around the city has barely changed, but we now find ourselves on the brink of a “new age” of urban mobility.  

“Greater vehicle connectivity, automation and electrification and other transport innovations have the potential to be as transformative as the invention of the private motorcar.  

“But rather than preparing for these transport innovations, developers and planners are at risk of locking citizens into 20th-century patterns of car ownership and use by allocating space and investment to private car parking spaces.  

Developers and planners should design for New Urban Mobility – favouring flexibility, supporting walking, cycling and public transport use, minimising car parking and enabling its adaptation over time.  

Fatema Karim-Khaku, Senior Transport Planner, Arup, said: 

“While planning for the future is essential, trying to predict it is another matter entirely and could result in infrastructure that will rapidly become obsolete. We should aim to design streets, places and neighbourhoods for all people that can have a positive effect on behaviour – but they should also be able to adapt and evolve over time.”  

Navin Shah AM, Chair of the London Assembly Transport Committee, said: 

  “We welcome the ambition to support Londoners in making more flexible, sustainable and healthy travel choices. 

“Greater access to travel choices such as walking, cycling and public transport use across the capital will not only benefit the environment, by reducing the number of car journeys that are made, but also help Londoners become more active and healthy. 

“By prioritising access to flexible and sustainable travel choices in new housing developments, we can help make a positive difference to the health and wellbeing of Londoners and the environment as a whole.” 

Roger Madelin, Joint Head of Canada Water, British Land, said: 

“Whilst car ownership in London for some age demographics is falling fast, our city still needs to reduce car usage dramatically if we are to make London more productive, safer, cleaner and a place where the percentage of journeys by bike, foot and public transport are dramatically increased.   

At our major new Canada Water development where around 3000 new homes and workspace for 20,000 people is planned, we will be working closely with Southwark Council, Transport for London and others to trail new ideas that will encourage and facilitate the modal shift away from the car. Great new streets and public spaces designed for the pedestrian and the cyclist first, combined with car free homes will ensure that this new urban area gets off to the best start.” 

Prof Matthew Carmona, The Bartlett, UCL, said: 

“This valuable report raises profound issues for our city.  London is surely the pre-eminent testbed for the new forms of mobility that we will soon be seeing globally, but as things stand too often we continue to adopt a business as usual drivable urbanism model rather that a 21st century walkable one.  The report presents a powerful case for change.”  


Royal Town Planning Institute (RTPI) Head of Policy Richard Blyth said: 

“The RTPI agrees wholeheartedly that more work must be done to integrate public and active transport into the planning process with the aim of improving overall accessibility to new housing schemes by sustainable modes of travel, and to reduce car-dependency. 

“A more joined-up approach to transport and land use planning is vital if we are to reduce carbon emissions, improve air quality and deliver sustainable patterns of growth. 

“Last year, we joined up with the Chartered Institute of Highways and Transportation and the Transport Planning Society to provide advice on ways to embed sustainable transport through plan-making and development management, and we will continue to work towards making sustainable modes of transport more accessible to all.” 




Notes to editors: 

  • Centre for London is a politically independent think tank and a registered charity. The Centre develops new ideas to help tackle London’s challenges. 

This report was funded by Supporting Sponsor, British Land; Funder, Kusuma Trust UK.  

  • Statistics on residents living in new developments comes from Transport for London (2012). Given residential parking standards were only overhauled in 2018, the report argues that this survey is likely to be representative of new developments until very recently. 
  • Data can be retrieved from: Residential Parking Provision in New Developments: Travel in London Research Report. Retrieved from: