Mobility hubs: How Scotland's housing developers can help make our transport system greener and healthier – Lorna Finlayson

All over Scotland, new housing developments are springing up as towns and cities gradually expand to deal with a growing and changing population.

Developers of large areas of new housing could be required to build transport 'mobility hubs' by planners (Picture: Shutterstock)

Drive along any motorway or dual carriageway and you will soon see the familiar site of yellow diggers, heaps of brown earth and the shells of new-build homes emerging from the ground.

This evolving pattern of how and where people live holds one of the solutions to the environmental challenges we face.

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At CoMoUK, the UK’s shared transport charity, we are campaigning for governments and councils to create ‘mobility hubs’ which bring travel options together in one place and make life easier and greener for commuters and residents.

They’re already popular in other countries, and they can catch on here too.

In a submission to the Scottish government’s Fourth National Planning Framework inquiry, we suggested that all developers of large housing developments should – as a condition of planning consent – also create a mobility hub on the estate.

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These would depend on size and location, but could feature anything from electric car-charging points and bike-sharing projects, to car club schemes and public transport connections into town and beyond.

They can grow to attract local businesses, green spaces for community use and even sports facilities, and would provide faster connections to places of work for those who previously thought they were moving further away from the action.

Targeting new developments for such projects would be successful for another reason. We know when people move to a new area, they are more open to changing their habits.

Someone who transitions from a city centre flat out to a detached house on the outskirts will also be willing to consider new routes to work, fresh exercise regimes, and perhaps a greener way of life.

If governments and councils want to hit their net-zero carbon emissions targets, these are the people they will need on board.

There are obvious public health benefits too. Someone who is more active in their everyday travel won’t just be physically healthier; our studies have shown they will likely enjoy a mental health boost as well.

And as if the positives weren’t already in huge supply, there are also cash savings to be had.

Our recent work across Scotland has demonstrated that people who get involved in bike-sharing and car club initiatives are far more likely to relinquish their own vehicle.

Anyone who has done that will know all-too-well the savings to be made on insurance, fuel and maintenance costs.

Transport is by far Scotland’s biggest contributor to greenhouse gasses and private cars are the worst offenders.

But to move people away from their own vehicles, we have to make it appealing – we can’t just assume they will do it.

Mobility hubs sprouting up at the rate of housing developments could do exactly that; delivering major benefits to the environment, public health and the economy in the process.

It will require political will, but if ministers begin by compelling developers to do more, much will soon follow.

We have an opportunity to lead the way in this most crucial of areas.

Lorna Finlayson is Scotland director of shared transport charity CoMoUK

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