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blog: ITP's approach to vision-led transport planning

Author: Jon Parker

Something needs to change. Transport and land-use planners have been creating the same car-dominated developments for way too long. ITP’s approach to ‘vision led transport planning' (often referred to as 'Decide and Provide' or 'Vision and Validate') allows us to shift away from this status quo, and create places for people, built around a healthy, safe, prosperous and carbon neutral vision for our new communities.


Our approach builds upon our work with the Chartered Institution of Highways & Transportation (CIHT) and partners to develop the ‘Better Planning, Better Transport, Better Places’ advisory note, which identified a clear need to change the way we plan new developments in order to secure more sustainable outcomes. In essence, this demands a shift from the traditional ‘predict and provide’ approaches which have dominated thinking for the last 40 years, towards a more collaborative, inclusive and people-centric approach.

The CIHT work identified a notable gap in the methodology and tools available to practitioners to deliver alternatives to ‘predict and provide’ – in essence it concluded that there is a need to convert the philosophy of vision led planning into more tangible and defensible tools to support future development plans. The latest TRICS guidance on ‘decide and provide’ provides a really valuable addition to the methodology for carrying out a technical transport assessment, that allows for uncertainty and future visions to be assessed. But for early-stage master-planning we have often found that strategic and forward-thinking clients require more creative ways of reaching out to stakeholders and articulating a new vision for a future development, before any technical assessment takes shape.

Therefore, following our work with the CIHT, we co-funded a pilot study called Our Future Towns, led by the Royal College of Arts, to understand how we might deliver better sustainable transport outcomes using more progressive engagement and visioning techniques. We learned some valuable lessons from this pilot study and have developed and refined ITP’s approach to ‘vision-led' transport planning below based on these learnings.

Vision and validate flow diagram V3

We have since stress-tested the approach ‘in the field’ through the application of our approach in real-world developments. The results are so far promising, and we are starting to bring planning and development control officers, as well as our clients, along with us on this new approach to transport planning.

So, in the spirit of growing the knowledge base, we felt it would be useful to articulate our approach into a standard framework, which is set out in seven sequential steps - as follows:

Vision and validate step by step table v2

Within each of these steps we have developed bespoke tools and techniques that allow us to deliver projects in both creative and robust ways, based on real world comparator evidence (both from within the UK, and overseas) to underpin the expected outcomes. It is important to note that this doesn’t replace or duplicate the ‘Decide and Provide’ approach advocated through the TRICS guidance, but in our experience is best used when a project needs a vision (or alternative visions) to be created and tested using a paradigm shift, which is hard to achieve when stakeholders are limited in their ability to consider options beyond the status quo. It builds on our work using ‘back-casting’ approaches (for example, as set out in the Government Office for Science Future Toolkit and applies them in a way that allows us to demonstrate likely future impacts of those visions drawn from comparator experience from across the world.

Case study: Our Future Towns

ITP was a co-funder, Advisory Board Member and expert stakeholder in the Our Future Towns project delivered by the Royal College of Arts. The study applied visioning techniques to understand ‘utopia’ and ‘dystopia’ futures, which were co-created by residents across 3 different communities. To do this, it set out a methodology for allowing greater community involvement in decision making, using a 4-stage process of: listening to each other, learning together, imagining the future, and creating change that matters. The study created and tested a playful set of online and offline tools that allowed communities and transport planners to imagine their future towns together.

For more information on ITP’s approach to ‘vision-led transport planning’ please download our information sheet, visitor our Local Plans & Infrastructure page or contact either Jon Parker or Neil Taylor.


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