Solving the car conundrum

Carl Pittam, development director at Ubeeqo, discusses the benefits of including shared transport facilities in new build developments to address eco goals.

There is no question that tackling long-term environmental impact is a big challenge for housebuilders. And this is particularly the case when it comes to the impact of car ownership on local communities.

With the UK targeting net zero emissions by 2050, transport has been identified as the main polluter. And Section 106 requirements mean that planning authorities, almost by default, now expect applications to include solutions to ensure new developments will not add to the congestion and pollution impacts of car ownership.

But there is also a bigger issue to consider – consumer choice. As the movement towards lifestyle choices that lessen the impact on the environment gains ground, developers will also want to think about how they can satisfy that need in the developments they create. It will increasingly become an important marketing edge when homebuyers are considering where – and how – they want to live.

The inclusion of electric charging points is already on the agenda for new builds in England, supporting the Government’s target to ban the sale of new petrol and diesel cars by 2030.

But there also needs to be a concerted effort to encourage homeowners to consider alternatives to personal vehicle ownership. That’s where car clubs come into the mix. According to the latest data from Collaborative Mobility UK (CoMoUK), the shared transport charity, growing numbers of people across the UK are signing up to car clubs. This is having a significant positive impact on congestion and pollution – the CoMoUK data suggests that each car club vehicle replaces 18.5 private cars. For a developer including a car club in their scheme, this could be an important persuading factor for a new planning application.

The study – which included a survey of over 10,000 car club users – also found that car club members were far more likely to regularly walk or cycle as part of their daily routine. Incorporating a car club into a scheme could, therefore, have clear demonstrable health benefits for the local community. It is also important to note that, per car, car clubs emit much less than the UK average car, and club vehicles are used by far more people per car than private cars, leading to far fewer cars for a community’s motorised travel needs.

The parking challenge

Another reason why car clubs really must become an integral facet of any new development – particularly in inner cities – is the parking challenge.

New research from the RAC Foundation cites that residential streets are being turned into car parks because new vehicles don’t fit household garages. It suggests that cars have increased in size by about a third in the last 50 years.

For new build developers who need to demonstrate they are not adding to parking pressure, incorporating larger parking spaces doesn’t make financial sense, and could well have a detrimental impact on the success of their application.

A collaborative partnership

Working with an established car club, developers can immediately enhance their chances of success in the planning process because they will be able to demonstrate they are addressing specific concerns relating to parking, congestion and environmental pressures.

A car club also adds an important sales message to attract buyers and tenants. ‘Every property comes with access to a car’ is a great story to tell.