Residential Travel Plans – 5 top tips for housebuilders

The need to prepare and implement Residential Travel Plans is now a common requirement that most housebuilders are familiar with. When undertaken properly, the process can be hassle free, high quality and cost efficient. Get it wrong and you could get caught with avoidable challenges, substandard work, and unnecessary costs.

Drawing upon our experience of what works, and what doesn’t, we’ve provided our 5 top tips for housebuilders on how to approach the process of preparing and implementing Residential Travel Plans.

1. Establish Costs Early

Whilst the scale of costs will vary based upon a range of factors (most travel planning isn’t expensive), the fact is that all Residential Travel Plans will cost money to implement. If a Travel Plan is going to be required at your site, it pays to establish this as early in the process as possible. Required budgets can then be built into your cost plan.

Taking early advice from those experienced in implementing Residential Travel Plans can help to identify the required budgets from as early as the land purchase stage, providing opportunities to allow for the likely costs from the very start of a development project.

Get caught out, and you could find yourself needing to find additional budgets. This can be for anything from travel guides and surveys to bus passes and bike vouchers. Based upon local policies and requirements costs can start to add up.

It isn’t at all uncommon for us to receive the call saying, ‘we need to implement our Travel Plan, but don’t have any budget, what can you do?’. What we unfortunately can’t do is wave our magic planning wand and make a planning condition or S106 Agreement disappear. So, avoiding this situation is the best starting point.

2. Engage a Specialist

This is one of those ‘well you would say that’ bits of advice. However, our clients would back us up I’m sure, so stick with me.

The unfortunate reality as I write this post is that much guidance on Residential Travel Planning is out of date. It often doesn’t benefit from experiences of those who have been involved in implementing Residential Travel Plans in practice. Travel Plan strategies based purely upon guidance, rather than experience, can therefore lead you down a path of signing up to deliver either impractical or costly measures, which in many cases can be avoided.

Specialists in Residential Travel Plans will be able to advise upon the most appropriate range of measures for your scheme. This ensures that the measures secured are practical to deliver, provide real benefits to your residents, and offer value for money.

3. Think About the Practicalities

As I write this statement it seems crazy even to me, but here I go. Residential developments are not the same as office spaces!

That might seem like a (very) obvious statement to make, but you would be surprised how many Residential Travel Plans we read which seem to miss this point. In a workplace it is easy to put up posters within a communal space, for an all-team email to go out, or for an office manager to request that the full team complete a survey by a set date. Those simple ways of engaging with a target audience become much more challenging and impractical (or even unachievable) in the context of a residential development.

So why do we read so many Residential Travel Plans which commit to putting up regular posters, or to achieving totally unrealistic survey response rates? The point is, that a Residential Travel Plan (or any form of Travel Plan) needs to be realistic, and needs to consider the practical challenges (and opportunities) that the Travel Plan Coordinator will face when implementing the measures secured at the planning stage.

4. Gain the Trust of Your Local Travel Plan Officer

Ask any Local Authority Travel Plan Officer and they will tell you that a constant challenge and pain, is having to chase up developers who are not meeting their travel plan planning requirements.

There are many reasons why this is not a great situation, however, for housebuilders it can be like shooting yourself in the foot. Most housebuilders we work with submit multiple planning applications to the same Local Authorities, over time. If a housebuilder needs chasing, or is considered to be delivering substandard work, this is not forgotten when the next planning application lands on a Travel Plan Officers desk.

But it isn’t hard to flip this whole situation on its head, making life easier for everyone involved. Over the years, working on behalf of our repeat clients, we have been able to establish positive relationships with many Local Authority Travel Plan Officers, based upon trust. Whilst satisfying the travel plan requirements relating to a live development, we are also paving the way for a smoother process when future planning applications are brought forward.

5. Maintain Your Own High Standards

Housebuilders spend a lot of time and money building their brands and managing the quality of both the end product and the customer experience.
It is surprising, therefore, when we see Sustainable Travel Guides pulled together using Word and clipart, just to save what is probably a few ££’s. If you don’t believe this happens, I have the evidence near to my desk in the pile labelled ‘not best practice’.

Travel Plan materials distributed to residents should be informative, but equally they should be engaging and of a high quality. Distribution of badly designed materials will affect your overall brand, whilst also lessening the impact of your Travel Plan project. It can be hard enough to influence travel behaviours in the first place, without dropping a 10-page report on a resident’s doorstep trying to convince them why they should catch the bus!

It is for this reason that at TPS we have our own internal graphic design and communications team. We offer our clients a high-quality design service at cost effective rates, maintaining brand standards and helping to deliver an effective Travel Plan strategy on behalf of our clients.

If you have a Residential Travel Plan requirement, please contact our friendly team who would be more than happy to help and provide advice to get you started. Formed in 2000, TPS has established itself as one of the leading independent transport planning consultancies in the UK. Our small friendly team support clients through the provision of a wide range of Travel Planning and Development Planning services, across projects of any scale or nature.