A pathway to decarbonised growth: using data to lead development

Helping the UK reconcile its ambitious net zero plans with the need to deliver growth and meet increasing housing demand is an aim of a proposed new national metric to identify the most suitable locations for developments.

About the project 

Delivering sustainable growth and understanding where it can best be accommodated is a national challenge and one that is ripe for innovation. It requires transport, housing and infrastructure planners to leverage data and take a joined-up approach. 

The digital transformation of the planning system has an important role in enabling more efficient, transparent and strategic decision making across the nation. The built environment and transport sectors are responsible for 42% of operational greenhouse gas emissions in the UK. Many new developments have been delivered in isolated locations with limited access to amenities and services by active travel (walking, wheeling and cycling) or public transport. 

To address this, transport, land-use and infrastructure decision makers need to work more collaboratively, beyond their existing silos, to deliver positive outcomes for people and places.  

From national strategies like the Transport Decarbonisation Plan to the Levelling Up & Regeneration Bill, there is a clear imperative for placemaking and regeneration that promotes sustainable growth, decarbonisation and higher quality places. Given the pressure to deliver new homes at pace, it is important to create a robust and shared understanding of where growth can best be accommodated to support the delivery of the UK’s decarbonisation and Levelling Up objectives. 

A data driven approach 

To address these challenges, the Department for Transport commissioned Connected Places Catapult to investigate how we can co-create a data driven approach that joins up transport, infrastructure and land-use decision makers, to plan and deliver more integrated development in sustainable locations.  

We sought to identify the main challenges and opportunities in implementing a new data driven approach. We also engaged with Government (central and local), academia, professional bodies and SMEs to identify industry needs and co-create a roadmap for how a standard data driven approach could be adopted at a national level. 

Based on this work, we proposed a new conceptual methodology called the Amenity Accessibility Index (AAI) to provide a national metric to identify the most suitable locations for development based on the existing built environment and land uses, while allowing for the future integration of ‘scenario analysis’ tools. The AAI brings together datasets from transport, land use, planning and other contextual data; delivering a transparent way of defining and visualising a sustainable location is in comparative terms. 

For more information, read our Executive Summary which presents: 

  • The key challenges and opportunity areas from our research and stakeholder engagement  
  • An outline of the Amenity Accessibility Index methodology proposed, and a prototype to help identify the most suitable locations for development 
  • A roadmap and key recommendations for scaling the approach and achieving long lasting change in how we plan for new developments and deliver regeneration on a national scale. 
A pathway to decarbonised growth – executive summary
File Type: pdfFile size: 4.0MB
A pathway to decarbonised growth – executive summary – Appendix
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The Department for Transport is excited to take this prototype forward and explore how a tool might be developed to support plan-making and decision-taking across the country.  

We hope that our findings and proposal will spark a conversation and we welcome any feedback.

Contact the project team 

If you’d like to work with us or find out more, please get in touch with Katie Adnams, Urban Innovation Team Lead at or Luiz Fernando Hagemann, Senior Urbanist, at