So you want to live here? Then we won't let you buy your own car

Tenants of new housing estates in the central London borough of Camden will have to walk or travel by public transport, if councillors have their way.

Car-free estates, once a plank of communist social planning, are now seen as the last word in traffic solutions, which is why the council plans to ban new tenants from keeping cars as a condition of their tenancy agreement. The scheme goes for approval later in the year.

Similar plans are being touted in Europe to curb congestion. The largest car-free estate, in Bremen, Germany, is nearing completion and its developers point out that the benefits include ''better air quality, reduction of the noise level and more green space".

Under Camden's new rules, developers would be banned from including off- street parking in their plans. Residents would risk eviction if they owned a car while living in a car-free zone and new tenants would not be issued with parking permits.

The move, if implemented, is one of the most radical anti- congestion strategies in Britain. The council is committed to reducing car journeys in the borough. When a local private school asked to increase its school roll, the council demanded that the number of journeys made by parents in cars be cut by 30 per cent.

"It is an experimental, radical plan. We have one or two housing associations that have already expressed an interest in building car-free developments," said John Thane, chairman of the council's streets and transport committee.

"Hardly anyone needs a car in the central areas because they have got so much public transport and can walk to so many places."

Motoring organisations gave the proposals a cautious welcome. ''Many people want to use their cars for shopping and visiting people at the weekend and they should be given some consideration," said Edmund King, a spokesman for the RAC.

The RAC points out that residents in Edinburgh have a scheme under which they give up their cars, but are able to rent a council car instead when they need one.

Green campaigners said that car-free estates would become the norm ''in the near future". "London is exactly the kind of place where these places would work. The city has a good public transport system and walking is always an option," said a spokesman.

Commentary, page 21

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