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Witney Integrated Transport and Land Use Study (WITLUS)

Witney Integrated Transport and Land Use Study (WITLUS)

This was a big study of a small town. Witney, Oxfordshire (population 23,000) is in David Cameron's constituency.

The study had three stages. Included were baseline studies of all modes, stakeholder and public attitudes surveys, public consultation events, and traffic modelling. Three main options were tested against defined objectives. It is a good example of an integrated approach to transport planning at the local level, and the method could offer lessons for those preparing Neighbourhood Plans.

Pick your way through the pdfs on the right to see the approach taken and the issues covered. The Stage 3 report contains streetscape proposals illustrated with sketches by Jon Rowland. There is also a study of public space in Witney by Federico Cassani, who was an intern at Llewelyn Davies at the time.

Witney is a typical small English town. The study picked up on issues of traffic-dominated historic public realm (despite the A40 by-pass), marginalisation of pedestrians and cyclists, accommodation of buses, excessive traffic speeds, and locations for housing growth. The project output was a strategy report and a draft Transport Policy and Programme (TPP).

Concepts and proposals put forward include preferential routing, "drive to not through", mixed priority streets, and recreational walking routes. The Stage 3 report includes details of these.

Sustainable transport: a step too far for Witney?

The recommended strategy was apparently too much in favour of more sustainable outcomes for the town, and was not accepted by the clients. The immediate responses and subsequent developments were summarised in a December 2003 revision as follows:

"Consultants Llewelyn-Davies were jointly commissioned by the County, District and Town Councils in 1996 to carry out the Witney Integrated Transport and Land Use Study. The outcome of this work was a recommended Strategy, which comprised of (sic) a package of measures that would help to reduce the reliance on the private car, improve the vitality and viability of the town centre and improve the environment. The area that the Strategy covered was the town itself, and the surrounding rural area, including villages within a radius of 3 miles of Witney Town Centre. The original Strategy proposed strengthening parking management (via the introduction of parking charges), pedestrianisation, bus priority in parts of the town, cycle and pedestrian facilities, and Park and Ride feasibility and site investigation.

However, in 1997 the District and Town Councils were not prepared to support a Transport Policies and Programme (TPP) funding submission to Central Government based on this recommended Strategy, because of concerns regarding the introduction of parking charges, pedestrianisation and environmental work costs, likely traffic impacts of pedestrianisation and the need for further public consultation.

Following further work and discussion a revised Witney Integrated Transport and Land Use Strategy (WITS) was developed and agreed at the County Council's Environmental Committee in May 1998. The Strategy included parking management (using two-hour maximum stay in the short stay car parks and strict enforcement), pedestrian priority in the town centre, bus priority facilities in the town centre and a Park and Ride feasibility and site investigation. This Strategy formed the basis of a TPP package bid to Central Government in July 1998. However, the package bid was not successful as the Government Office for the South East required much stronger parking management stating that the "availability of free parking close to the town centre must be considered as a serious deficiency in the Strategy".

It is of little comfort to know that the Llewelyn Davies parking management strategy was vindicated by the regional body. Apparently, 15 years later there are still no parking charges in Witney, and continuing calls from local elected representatives for the provision of more parking.

Improvements to the public realm have yet to materialise.

The Transport Policies and Programme (TPP) prepared by Tim Pharoah for Oxfordshire in 1997 can be viewed to the right (see pdf link to the right).

Roadbuilding: the default option?

For many people the only problem in Witney is traffic congestion, and building new roads the only answer to it. The Witney Integrated Study of 1997 promoted a wider view of the problems and a more imaginative set of solutions, but it all proved to be too much for the elected representatives at the time. The town therefore has yet to experience major improvements.

As in so many commissions, there was a pre-existing commitment to a proposed new road for the town. The integrated transport study should have included an objective assessment of this possible option alongside other alternatives. However, the road was much favoured by the client authorities, and by many local people. There was not much appetite for considering alternatives such as better public transport, walking and cycling to achieve mode switch away from the car. 

The "Cogges Link Road" proposal was already well established when the WITLUS study was commissioned in 1996. In 2009, it was granted planning permission, a mere 13 years later, and a public inquiry was held in 2011, from which the Inspector recommended more sustainable transport solutions, and against the Cogges Link. Finally, the Cogges Link was cancelled by then Transport Secretary Justine Greening, who largely accepted the findings of Inspector Roscoe. This story was reported in the magazine "Local Transport Today" in June 2012 (see pdf in right sidebar).

Perhaps the Llewelyn Davies Study should be dusted off, and its recommendations for more sustainable transport solutions acted upon!

For more information about Cogges Link road from the perspective of the County Council, click here.

A local campaign website contains various commentaries, including the following:

"27 years ago, the then chairman of Witney CPRE, Mr Colin Fowler, began the long campaign to have the Cogges Link Road stopped. The announcement of its demise marks one of the finest days in the long history of our town of Witney, and if Colin were alive today I'm sure he would have been more than delighted."
Date: June 16, 2012

The jubilation was reported in the Oxford Mail, which mentioned that the Cogges Link road scheme had been supported by local MP and Prime Minister David Cameron - click here

LocationWitney England
Client(s)Oxfordshire County Council, West Oxfordshire District Council,
Team(s)Tim Pharoah (project manager) with Llewelyn Davies


Witney, David Cameron's constituency, integrated transport, transport and land use, land use and transport, Transport Policies and Programme, TPP, public realm design, street design, traffic management, parking strategy, Cogges Link