Lower Thames Crossing: consultation opens

Infographic from Highways England consultation

In the week that the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change released a report telling us we need to take immediate action to curb catastrophic climate change, we learn of the opening of the next stage of consultation on plans for the new Lower Thames Crossing (LTC).
The consultation website bills it as the solution to “unlocking opportunities and economic growth for the region and the country… offering new connections and better journeys”.
Earlier stages of consultation promised that the new LTC was essential to solve congestion and air pollution at the existing, undoubtedly over-stretched, Dartford crossings.
Even so, scrutiny of those documents showed that, on opening, a new crossing would reduce traffic flows at Dartford by a pitifully low 14 per cent.
This is a tiny benefit compared with the environmental and community harm that would be caused by the biggest UK road project since construction of the M25.
It is now clear that a new crossing will not be about achieving environmental and public benefits. Rather, it is about creating more vehicle journeys, about intensifying the housing crisis in the South East and about opening up ever more green spaces for development.
Last year, colleagues in CPRE’s national team published research showing unequivocally that increasing road capacity simply resulted in more vehicle journeys: we can’t build our way out of congestion. There’s a good little video summarising the report here.
At a time when we need to radically rethink how we use energy to move ourselves and our stuff around, the government’s focus on new road capacity is out of date.
Instead of investing solely in new roads, we want government to focus on better public transport links, to rationalise the over-reliance on road-based freight movement and to support planning policies that reduce the need to travel by car and support walking and cycling.
Don’t miss your chance to have your say on the proposals: the consultation closes on Thursday, December 20, and the documents can be found here.

Wednesday, October 10, 2018

Estuary growth commission points to a very crowded north Kent… and beyond

The landscape of the North Kent Marshes – this is Faversham Creek – will never be the same if the growth commission has its way

If you thought development pressure on Kent could not get any worse, there is some sobering reading from the Thames Estuary Growth Commission.
This advisory body to the government is urging “joint spatial plans” to be created in both Kent and Essex to support the building of more than a million homes.
The two counties should take more of London’s housing need, says a commission report.
The formation of the commission was revealed in the 2016 Budget and tasked by the government to “develop an ambitious vision and delivery plan for north Kent, south Essex and east London up to 2050”.
Its 2050 Vision report, published in June, says “a minimum” of one million homes will be needed to support economic growth in the Thames estuary by 2050; this equates to 31,250 homes a year.
However, it says that “between 2012/2013 and 2014/2015, on average, fewer than 10,000 homes were built per annum against Local Plan targets of 19,495 per annum”.
It continues: “Low land values, challenging site conditions and a limited number of house builders are all contributing to the delivery gap.”
The report says that, using the government’s methodology for calculating housing need, “around two thirds of these [one million] homes should be delivered in east London”.
However, the commission “believes that solely focusing on homes in London is unsustainable and that more of these homes should be provided in Kent and Essex”.
It claims there is “scope for the Thames estuary to be even more ambitious in responding to London’s ever growing housing need”.
This should be enabled by greater strategic planning across the area, according to the commission, which supports work already being carried out by local authorities in the ‘South Essex Foreshore’ area, which covers the Basildon, Castle Point, Southend-on-Sea and Rochford council areas.
Those local authorities “should continue to work with other authorities within the housing market area/neighbouring areas, Essex County Council and Opportunity South Essex to produce an integrated strategy for delivering and funding high-quality homes, employment, transport and other infrastructure”.
The report backs the same approach for the ‘North Kent Foreshore’, which stretches the definition of Thames estuary to the limit in covering the Medway, Swale, Canterbury and Thanet local authority areas.
It seems the sky’s the limit for the commission, which says the joint plan “should also be ambitious – going above the minimum housing numbers set by government – to attract substantial infrastructure investment from government”.
2050 Vision warms to its task in saying that, if joint plans “demonstrate sufficient growth ambition – going above the minimum threshold set out by government for local housing need; and being given statutory status – government should reward this ambition with substantial infrastructure investment and freedoms and flexibilities”.
There is also backing for new development corporations “with planning, and compulsory purchase powers to drive the delivery of homes and jobs aligned to major infrastructure investment”.
You have been warned.

To read the 2050 Vision report, click here

Wednesday, September 5, 2018

No Time for TEA (Thames Estuary Airport!)

Sir Howard Davis’s Airports Commission has finally announced that the idea of a wholly new hub airport in the Thames Estuary will no longer be considered a possibility.  We have to breathe a sigh of relief at this, since the enormous environmental damage, financial cost and business risk of such an enterprise have finally been clearly and damningly recognised.

Given the resounding pounding that the idea of a new ‘Boris Island’ has received this morning does give us cause to consider why so much public money has been unnecessarily spent in extending the work of the Commission in hammering the last few nails into this particular coffin.  Nevertheless, we must not allow ourselves to be distracted from the fact that the focus for airport capacity expansion is now firmly on either Gatwick or Heathrow.

CPRE Kent remains convinced – along with other Non-Governmental Organisations – that the case for expansion is far from clear-cut.  We contend that adequate airport capacity already exists; it is not passenger numbers but flight numbers that are the key parameter.  Flight numbers have not increased in line with passenger numbers, since aircraft now carry more passengers per flight.  Sensible management of transport policy, making best use of existing alternative (and less environmentally damaging) routes, could free up significant runway space (the south east has astonishingly good rail connections to mainland Europe, yet Heathrow alone carries over 10 flights per day to Paris alone).  Let’s make sensible use of the runway space that already exists – and yes, even at Manston, provided it can be operated under a sensible planning regime that prevents the erosion of night flight controls – before we rush to increase pollution, sacrifice homes, blight lives and lose green spaces.

HN

2nd September 2014