Sustrans                            MPZ0001

Written evidence from Sustrans

About Sustrans             

Sustrans is the charity making it easier for people to walk and cycle. We connect people and places, create liveable neighbourhoods, transform the school run and deliver a happier, healthier commute.


We are engineers and educators, experts and advocates who work in partnership, bringing people together to find the right solutions. We make the case for walking and cycling by using robust evidence and showing what can be done. We are grounded in communities and believe that grassroots support combined with political leadership drives real change, fast.

We are pleased to respond to the Environmental Audit Committee inquiry calling for evidence on how local government can support the path to net zero.


What should local authorities’ roles and responsibilities in reaching net zero by 2050 be? How clear are the expectations about the role of local authorities?

Local government has a critical role to play in ensuring that the UK reaches its 2050 net zero target.


Local public sector organisations typically have control over a significant amount of their own emissions as an organisation, with fleets, buildings, procurement chains and employees.


They also have the ability to create and encourage change across their area, by investing in schemes that facilitate and encourage their residents and local businesses to reduce their emissions.


Their role should include:


We have previously detailed the aspects above in our response to the Housing Communities and Local Government’s inquiry into local government and the path to net zero.

What are the priorities for change or clarification to align the national planning framework with net zero?

Historically, the planning system at both a national and local level has been failing to create beautiful and vibrant neighbourhoods or communities, and at present it does little to support the Government’s levelling-up agenda and provides a barrier to achieving net-zero.

Too many new developments are built in remote locations, or are designed in ways that lock people into car dependency and have little in the way of services and amenities within walking distance[1] [2].

They also fail to provide suitable walking and cycling infrastructure or link to existing local provision. Locking in car dependency is bad for our health, our communities and does not align with net-zero ambitions.

We have three core recommendations for reforming planning:




Adopt the 20-Minute Neighbourhood concept as a central principle of the planning system, including both the National Planning Policy Framework and Local Plans.

At a local level this can be realised by councils by:

Produce updated planning guidance to create active neighbourhoods that prioritise walking, cycling and public transport and reduce demand for car use.

Embed the National Cycle Network within the National Planning Policy Framework as a UK-wide network of national importance.

What funding and resources are available for local authority work on net zero, and what are the priorities for improving local authority funding?

Local authorities have numerous funds available to work on net zero, however due to years of reduced funding to local authorities, they can lack the capacity and expertise required to produce bids and schemes that will help achieve the Government’s targets. A gradual, but sustained, increase in funding and support from bodies such as Active Travel England will be required to boost this capacity.

Currently, many local and combined authorities have issues developing enough pipeline schemes to be able to bid for the increased levels of capital funding available. It also means that schemes are delivered which don’t meet best practice guidelines and therefore don’t effectively make it easier for more people to walk and cycle.

The priorities for improving local authority funding should include:

It is important when considering existing funding schemes that local authority leaders can see how schemes can deliver multiple benefits. Existing funding includes:





What should government’s analysis of net zero funding to local authorities focus on in the next Spending Review?

There are several aspects to net zero funding that government analysis should consider:


How funding can reduce inequity

Balance in distribution of funds.

How funds can be used to plan for the longer term.

What role can local community groups play in helping local authorities achieve their net zero ambitions

It is essential in the creation and consultation of schemes to listen to all voices, not just the ones who shout the loudest.

This ensures that the whole community is behind the scheme. It’s also essential to give schemes time to bed-in, whilst carefully monitoring their impacts in the immediate and surrounding area, making changes to improve them as necessary. Strong links with community groups can help to bring a wider range of voices to the process. 

August 2021


[1] BBC News, 2018, Young couples "trapped in car dependency"

[2] BBC, 2020, New UK housing "dominated by roads"