11 Frequently asked questions

11.1 General
11.2 Registration and log-in
11.3 About Travel Plans
11.4 Resources
11.5 Find a Travel Plan
11.6 Implement a Travel Plan
11.7 Design a Travel Plan
11.8 Assess a Travel Plan

11.1 General

Who is meant to use the toolkit?
The toolkit caters to a number of audiences, who each effectively have their own section of the website dedicated to their requirements

Why is the local authority asking me to produce a Travel Plan?

How will my site benefit from having a Travel Plan?
The benefits of Travel Planning are outlined in the About section.

What am I committing to by completing a Travel Plan? Will it cost me money?
Completing a Travel Plan will set you up with a number of actions that are specific to your site. Resource support is available from the Business Travel team business.travel@tfgm.com to help implement your Travel Plan.

I’m not sure where to start in terms of making my site more sustainable – where should I begin?
The toolkit will assist in identifying issues and opportunities on the site as part of the Design process. This will help you to identify sustainable initiatives to implement on the site. You can also consult TfGM’s guidance document on Transport for Sustainable Communities.

I’m an experienced Travel Planner and have my own templates for completing Travel Plans. Do I need to use the toolkit?
The toolkit has been developed by TfGM in partnership with each of the ten local authorities in Greater Manchester. It incorporates numerous features that will assist you with the production of Travel Plans and allows you to check your document in line with a standardised assessment framework agreed with each of the districts. The process will provide an efficient and coordinated approach to producing a Travel Plan.

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11.2 Registration and log-in

Do I need a log-in?
You can access most of the reference material on the site (About, Resources, Find and Implement) without needing a log-in. However, if you are involved in the production or review of Travel Plans a log-in will be required.

Why do I need a log-in?
A log-in is required for you to access your own personalised area of the website, where you can view any Travel Plans you are working on. It also allows the toolkit to notify you of any updates to your Travel Plan.

What happens if I forget my password?
You will be able to request a new password via the email address you used for your user account.

What’s the difference between an applicant and an assessor?
Applicants include anyone responsible for producing a Travel Plan that will be reviewed by the local authority. These can include businesses, developers and consultants. An applicant will be able to access the Design section of the site.

Assessors include anyone responsible for reviewing a Travel Plan on behalf of the planning authority. An assessor will be able to view the Assess section of the site.

Why are assessor accounts subject to validation by TfGM?
Assessors are responsible for progressing Travel Plans from initial drafts, through the review process and into the approval and publication stages. Because of the level of responsibility associated with being an assessor, TfGM will independently validate any applications to become an assessor.

Can I sign up to be an assessor to check the Travel Plans coming out of my organisation?
Assessors can only be representatives of one of the ten planning authorities around Greater Manchester. You can print or email draft Travel Plans for checking and auditing purposes internally before submitting them to the local authority.

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11.3 About Travel Plans

Are the local authority thresholds enforced rigidly?
The thresholds are mainly intended for guidance purposes only and should be viewed alongside the site characteristics page to determine whether a Travel Plan is required for your site.

I think my site meets some of the site characteristics, but is under the local authority thresholds. Do I still need a Travel Plan?
You will need to confirm this in discussions with your planning authority.

My site has only just started pre-application discussions. Is it too soon to complete a Travel Plan?
It is never too soon to start a Travel Plan. By completing a pre-application Travel Plan, you may be able to identify features of your development that could be enhanced as the design and layout of the site progresses.

I’ve just found out that my site needs a Travel Plan, although it is really late in the development planning process. Will my Travel Plan be valid if it is submitted this late?
This will need to be discussed with the planning officer, based on deadlines agreed with the planning authority.

I’m currently occupying a site and think it would benefit from a Travel Plan. Can I complete one using the toolkit?
The toolkit is set up to assist with Travel Plans that need to be reviewed by planning authorities as part of the statutory development planning process.

If you are already working on an occupied site, you can complete a voluntary Travel Plan using the guidance in the Implementation section. Support is available through the Business Travel team at TfGM business.travel@tfgm.com

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11.4 Resources

How up-to-date is the policy in the Policy Vault?
TfGM regularly liaise with the Greater Manchester planning authorities to ensure that policy and guidance are kept up to date. Any policies emerging from TfGM are also provided here. It is recommended that you confirm that all policies in the toolkit are up to date with your planning officer.

How were the Best Practice examples decided upon?
The best practice examples were initially chosen following consultation with the Greater Manchester authorities. These will initially be formed of examples produced prior to the toolkit going online, but will gradually be updated to reflect examples produced through the toolkit.

Can I nominate one of my Travel Plans to be a best practice example?
TfGM administer the Best Practice page and will take recommendations from the planning authorities regarding documents hosted on the site. Please contact your planning authority if you think your Travel Plan warrants inclusion on this part of the website.

How appropriate and up-to-date are the contact details on the toolkit?
The contact details for the local authorities have been agreed in consultation with each of the relevant contacts across Greater Manchester and will be updated periodically in line with changes in personnel. The contact form for TfGM will link directly to the website administrators.

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11.5 Find a Travel Plan

I can’t see any Travel Plans on the archive yet.
Following the initial release of the toolkit, it will take time for Travel Plans to be created, checked and published on the system. The Travel Plan archive should grow as more documents are processed through the system.

I can’t find my site on the Travel Plan archive, although I can see other similar ones through the search tool.
Your Travel Plan may still be on another part of the system. Use the contact details for local authorities in the Resources section to contact your local council and find out if they can publish it on the system.

If the Travel Plan for your site was not submitted through the toolkit, it may be retrievable from the local authority’s planning website or the Planning Portal.

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11.6 Implement a Travel Plan

I have downloaded the Travel Plan for my site, but I’m not sure where to start.
If you are new to Travel Planning, you can find out all the basics by looking at the About section of the toolkit. The Implementation section should help you understand your role and all the support that is available to you.

For independent advice on putting your Travel Plan into action, contact the Business Travel Advice team business.travel@tfgm.com.

I couldn’t find a copy of a Travel Plan for my site online, but would like to complete one – what should I do?
You are welcome to submit a voluntary Travel Plan to cater towards your site, but it is not advised you do this using the current toolkit setup as this forwards all applications to the planning authority.

You can complete a voluntary Travel Plan using the guidance in the Implementation section. Support is available through the Business Travel Advice team at TfGM business.travel@tfgm.com.

I don’t think the Travel Plan I’ve downloaded for my site is up-to-date or appropriate any more – can I produce an update?
Travel Plans are live documents and by nature evolve over time; you can start by identifying the features you can implement or easy wins from the existing Travel Plan before thinking about updating it.

Any Travel Plan you produce voluntarily can be completed independently, using guidance from the Implementation section and from the Business Travel Advice team business.travel@tfgm.com. You do not need to use the Design features of the toolkit for producing a voluntary Travel Plan.

I’m responsible for implementing the Travel Plan on my site - can I use the toolkit to complete my own Travel Plan?
The travel planning design features on the toolkit are intended for those submitting a Travel Plan through the statutory planning process. If you want to complete your own voluntary Travel Plan, you do not need to go through this process.

Instead, you can compile your own using guidance in the Implementation section and through consultation with our Business Travel team at TfGM business.travel@tfgm.com.

What is the difference between designing and implementing a Travel Plan?
The main difference relates to whether an employment site is currently applying for planning permission or not. The Design section is intended to assist planning applicants through the Travel Planning process before the site is given planning permission.

The Implementation section is intended to assist anyone on how a Travel Plan can be managed day-to-day once a site has received planning permission and is currently in use. It does not include the same features as the Design section, as it assumes a Travel Plan is already in circulation following the planning process.

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11.7 Design a Travel Plan

Do I need to respond to every single question in the toolkit?
The toolkit is intended help you to think about the sustainably of your site and put together an action plan that is site-specific – the questions allow you to consider a diverse range of circumstances. While not all of these will be relevant to your site, there are some mandatory questions that will require a response in order to allow you to submit Travel Plans onto the system. You can track your progress through the toolkit using the progress bar at the top of the Design screen.

I’m submitting a pre-application Travel Plan and don’t know much site-specific information at this stage. Will my Travel Plan be accepted if I leave a lot of questions out? The toolkit allows you to define your plan as part of a pre-application submission or a full planning application. This will allow the authority to review your Travel Plan effectively, taking into account your site’s progress in the planning system.

Is there a word limit on any of the inputs?
Some inputs are designed to be entered as numbers or dates. For the larger text inputs there is no word limit, although it is advisable that responses are kept brief.

How much detail should I include on policy?
It is advisable to keep responses brief and relevant to your site in this section. It is no longer an expectation to include a detailed narrative of local policy.

Why does the toolkit ask for detailed information about the transport assessment – shouldn’t that already be available?
Travel Plans should have strong links with the transport assessment and other commentaries on existing traffic conditions. The purpose of this section is to identify the traffic impact of your site so you can orientate targets for improvement around it.

I don’t have access to a transport assessment. Will this harm my Travel Plan submission?
Failing to provide details from the transport assessment does not invalidate your Travel Plan. However, if you do not have access to a transport assessment you may be able to ask your planning authority to provide a copy if one exists.

Is it acceptable to use assumptions from Census data to derive traffic movements?
The suitability of data from the Neighbourhood Statistics site and Census Journey to Work data will be determined by the planning authority as part of their assessment, depending on the availability of a transport assessment and the quality of the traffic data available to you.

I don’t know what land use has been agreed for my site yet – how do I fill in the land use information?
Inputs are available for ‘mixed use’ and ‘mixed use employment’ if you are uncertain.

I don’t know what the occupation date for my site will be – how do I fill in the site occupation information?
Use assumptions regarding the opening year or opening month of the site by filling in ‘01’ in the date/month fields you are uncertain of.

During the site assessment, can I identify items as issues and opportunities?
Yes, although it may help in the latter stages if you pick one or the other.

I’m not sure all these site assessment questions apply to me. Can I leave some out?
Yes, the purpose of the site assessment is to ensure all aspects of the site are considered, but not all inputs will be relevant to every site.

How many bus services can I include in my list of key routes?
Up to 10 services can be included, provided they tie in with the key movements to and from your site.

Will my Travel Plan not get approved if I identify too many ‘issues’ with the site?
Your Travel Plan could still be approved, even if you identify a lot of issues – the purpose of the issues and opportunities is to allow you to produce site specific objectives and targets, not to highlight inherent deficiencies with the site.

What is the difference between objectives and targets?
Objectives are high-level aspirations you have for your site, based on the issues and opportunities you’ve identified. Targets are designed to be more measurable and accountable. They should ultimately aim to fulfil each of the objectives.

Do I have to link in all my objectives into my targets?
No – there is flexibility within the toolkit to add as many or as few objectives to each target as necessary. However, linking objectives to targets helps demonstrate to the assessor that there is a thought process behind each target and assessors may flag up any incidences where there are unlinked targets or objectives.

How many objectives and targets should I set?
The objectives and targets should ideally be site-specific and linked into one another. A maximum of five objectives and five targets is advisable

Will adding new emails to the contacts section of the Management Strategy mean that extra email traffic will be generated for these people?
The contact details are intended to provide an audit trail should the planning authority have any questions about the site or the Travel Plan. If the Travel Plan is successfully implemented, then email contact should be minimal.

I think I answered some of the questions about the Management Strategy in previous sections. Do I need to fill them in again?
The Management Strategy is intended to act as an overall strategy for the entire development. Previous and subsequent questions on monitoring, finance etc are specific to individual targets or actions.

How many measures and actions should I select?
Measures and actions should be selected on the basis that they are suitable for the site and will help attain the Travel Plan targets. A maximum of 12 measures or actions should be suitable.

Do I have to link in all objectives and targets to all of my actions?
Objectives and targets are an important part of justifying the actions you propose in your Travel Plan. Adding these links demonstrates that each of the actions has been carefully considered and links in with the previous thought process around the site. An assessor may flag up any incidences where there are unlinked actions.

Why is the ‘Submit Travel Plan’ option greyed out?
You will not be able to submit a Travel Plan for assessment until all mandatory fields have been completed. You will be able to see how many of these remain to be done at the end of each stage and at the end of the process

What does my Travel Plan report look like if I don’t complete all the questions?
If no text has been added on some questions, then no text will appear in the report and it will skip to the next section where text has been provided. No apparent gaps will appear in the report, although your planning authority will be checking to ensure certain information is provided.

I don’t want my Travel Plan to be searchable until the planning application is in the public domain. Will the system keep this information secure?
Once a Travel Plan is submitted, it is stored in a secure document store that is only accessible to the applicant and to the authority responsible for reviewing it. If the Travel Plan is approved, it remains within a secure area until the planning authority publishes it. Publication should only take place once all other planning documentation is in the public domain.

Can the planning authority change my Travel Plan without my input?
The planning authority can only make comments on the various sections of your Travel Plan and cannot directly edit any of your inputs. If the Travel Plan does not meet their requirements, the planning authority will request a redraft. This relays any comments made on the Travel Plan to you and allows you to make appropriate changes to the document.

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11.8 Assess a Travel Plan

I work for an organisation that produces Travel Plans and want to review a draft document. Why can’t I use the Assess section to do this?
The Assess section is only intended for planning authorities to formally review, comment on and approve or reject Travel Plans submitted via the system. You can print or email draft Travel Plans for checking and auditing purposes before submitting them to the authority.

Can multiple reviewers input on the same Travel Plan?
In theory, if log-in details are shared amongst the planning team, then anybody can access the system and add their comments to the Travel Plan. The comments will appear under the name of the original reviewer, so it may be beneficial to identify yourself within the comments.

The Travel Plan can only be approved or rejected by whoever is logged in at the time, so please ensure there is consensus on a decision before approving or requesting a redraft.

I previously used my own checklist to review Travel Plans. Can I use this instead of the toolkit?
The assessment checklist has been devised by TfGM in partnership with the 10 Greater Manchester districts, drawing on existing checklists and best practice across the area. Applicants will be using this framework as a means to audit their own Travel Plans and consequently they will be produced to meet the requirements of this checklist. You will have the opportunity to highlight any issues pertinent to your own authority in the comment boxes throughout the assessment.

Is there a word limit on the comments I can provide?
No – although it is advisable to keep any comments constructive and identify key strengths or shortcomings of the relevant section.

I’m uncertain how the Travel Plan will be secured.
Typically, this is done through a planning condition, which can be selected in the first instance and backed up in the comments box in the Introduction section of the assessment.

I’ve said ‘No’ to a lot of these questions, but overall I’m happy to approve the Travel Plan – is this acceptable?
Ultimately, the decision to approve or request redrafts for Travel Plans rests with the planning authority, based on their own requirements and priorities.

I’ve said ‘Yes’ to a lot of these questions, but I’m still planning to request a redraft – is this acceptable?
Ultimately, the decision to approve or request redrafts for Travel Plans rests with the planning authority, based on their own requirements and priorities. You may need to provide justification for your decision to allow the applicant to produce a suitable redraft.

The applicant has stated that their Travel Plan is quite sensitive. Will this be made public once I’ve approved it?
Once approved, the Travel Plan will automatically be moved into a secure document store until you and the applicant agree to make it public. This generally coincides with the publication of all the associated planning documentation on either your planning website or the Planning Portal.

What is the difference between approving and publishing?
Approving a Travel Plan places it into a secure document store ready to be published to the wider public. It is advised that you do not publish Travel Plans immediately after approval, to allow time for other planning documentation to be collated and made public officially through your planning website or Planning Portal.

Can I approve and publish simultaneously?
Yes – but ensure the applicant is aware of this.

What happens if I retract a previously approved document? Do I need to retract it then request a redraft?
Retracting a document automatically requests a redraft from the original applicant.

I just published a document by mistake, can I remove it?
Yes – you can unpublish any Travel Plans within your district at any time.