Rising car ownership and use has been associated with: pollution, resource depletion, waste of land, social exclusion and health problems. Carfree development is a relatively recent response to these problems in urban areas. There are several examples in continental Europe, but examples in the UK have been few and small in scale. This study aims to explore the feasibility of carfree development in the UK, focussing on the following research questions:
1. What types of existing developments can be defined as ‘carfree’?
2. Amongst which groups (if any) is potential demand for housing in carfree developments likely to be found?
3. What are the distinguishing characteristics of these groups?
4. What circumstances would promote or discourage potential demand?
The first question was addressed through a review of the literature and five study visits to European carfree developments. Three types of carfree development were identified and three defining characteristics: traffic-free environments, design for non-car travel and limited separated parking.
To address the remaining questions, from the literature, two target groups were hypothesised to be most likely to move to a carfree development: Carfree Choosers, who live without a car by choice, and Carfree Possibles, car owners willing to give up car ownership under certain circumstances. This hypothesis was tested through: an online survey of members of environmental and cycling organisations, a random postal survey in Camden, London, and a household survey of Poole Quarter, a ‘low car’ development in Dorset. A subsample of 35 respondents were interviewed by telephone later.
The questionnaire analysis broadly supported the hypothesis for both target groups. The interviews cast doubt on some of the declarations of the Carfree Possibles but supported those of the Carfree Choosers who were judged most likely to provide the early adopters of carfree housing. The Carfree Choosers were the ‘most urban’ group in locations, behaviour and preferences. The findings confirm that potential demand exists for carfree developments, mainly concentrated in the inner areas of larger cities, where the most suitable sites can also be found. The thesis concludes with recommendations for Government policy to encourage carfree developments.