CPRE, the countryside charity, has highlighted the issue of people in rural areas being increasingly cut off from society by a lack of effective public transport. More than half of small towns in south-west and north-east England have such bad transport connectivity that they are considered to be living in ‘transport deserts’ or areas that are at imminent risk of becoming one, research shows. The results are presented in Transport Deserts: The absence of transport choice in England’s small towns. Although the survey focused on just two areas of England, the problem occurs countrywide. Almost a million people (975,227) who live in these towns have no option for convenient and affordable public transport and risk being cut off from basic services if they don’t have access to a car. A ‘transport desert’ occurs when a community lacks the public transport options for residents to be able to travel conveniently on a day-to-day basis without driving. The research was conducted by the Campaign for Better Transport (CBT) for CPRE, the countryside charity. It was the first attempt to develop a scoring system to rank the public transport options available to rural communities. Public transport services, including bus, train and community transport options, were scored in more than 160 locations in the South West and North East against their accessibility and frequency. The analysis showed that in 56 per cent of the cases, residents who can’t drive or are unable to afford a car are at risk of being cut off from basic services. Crispin Truman, chief executive at CPRE, the countryside charity, said: “A thriving countryside depends on well-connected small towns and villages serviced by low-carbon public transport that fit into people’s everyday lives. “But it is clear that, outside of England’s major cities, communities are being left high and dry in ever-widening ‘transport deserts’ with completely inadequate bus and train connections. “And this is having dramatic effect on rural communities – young people are compelled to move away, older people are left isolated and lonely, while less affluent families can be sucked into a cycle of debt and poverty. “CPRE is calling on the government to act now to reconnect everyone with proper public transport options. That means establishing a dedicated rural transport fund. “But recent government funding to reopen some railway lines across the country does not go nearly far enough – especially in the shadow of the £28.8 billion planned spend on roads. “If the prime minister and this government are serious about ‘spreading opportunity to every corner of the UK’ we need decisive action to stop the march of ‘transport deserts’.”
Consultation on the proposed Lower Thames Crossing reopens today (Wednesday, January 29) after a series of alterations to the scheme made by Highways England. Almost 29,000 responses during the second tranche of public consultation caused HE to announce a delay in its planning application for the £6.8 billion road scheme. Chris Taylor, HE director of complex infrastructure, wrote at the time: “We’re now considering the consultation responses in detail as we continue to improve the design of the project. “We’ll also be using the information gathered from our ground investigations programme to ensure that our project is delivered in a way that has the smallest possible impact on the nearby communities and environment. “To do this effectively, we will need more time to develop our planning application (Development Consent Order application), which we now plan to submit in summer 2020. “This, however, does not impact the target road-opening in 2027 as we’ve done more work to our schedule to speed up the construction programme.” The eight-week consultation ends on Wednesday, March 25. If you would like to take part, visit one of 20 public or mobile information events in north Kent and south Essex to speak to members of the HE team – they are listed below. There is also the opportunity to respond online, via Freepost, or by email. You can read consultation documents at locations across both counties: click here for details
Key changes to the road scheme:
The southern (Kent) entrance has been moved 350 metres (0.2 miles) to the south to reduce impact on the Thames Estuary and Marshes Ramsar site [wetland of international environmental importance]
There will be a direct link between Gravesend and the M2/A2 eastbound
The Gravesend East junction and link roads are being redesigned to improve journey times
There will be a narrowed width of construction work through the Kent Downs AONB
The plan for a service area at Tilbury has been dropped
The proposed maintenance depot at Tilbury will be placed at an existing Highways England site
The idea for a Tilbury junction has been dropped
The route in Essex has been moved some 60 metres north-north-east to reduce the need for pylon realignment
Some slip roads at the junction between the Lower Thames Crossing, A13, A1089 and A1013 are being redesigned to lessen visual impact, move roads away from properties and improve safety
One lane southbound between the M25 and A13 junction is being cut, reducing that section to two lanes
Structures over the Mardyke River, Golden Bridge Sewer and Orsett Fen Sewer have been altered to reduce both visual impact and the amount of flood compensation required
The Essex route is being moved some 200 metres south-west to reduce the work required to move a gas main and limit impact on a landfill site
The southbound link from the M25 to the Lower Thames Crossing is being changed to avoid demolishing and rebuilding the Ockendon Road bridge over the M25
Public information events
Cascades Leisure Centre, Thong Lane, Gravesend DA12 4LG Thursday, February 27, 2pm-8pm
Gravesham Civic Centre, Windmill Street, Gravesend DA12 1AU Saturday, March 14, midday-6pm
Thurrock Civic Centre, Blackshots Lane, Grays RM16 2JU Friday, February 21, 2pm-8pm
New Windmill Hall, St Mary’s Lane, Upminster RM14 2QH Saturday, February 22, midday-6pm
East Tilbury Village Hall, Princess Margaret Road, East Tilbury, Essex RM18 8RB Tuesday, March 3, 2pm-8pm
Orsett Hall Hotel, Prince Charles Avenue, Orsett RM16 3HS Monday, March 9, 2pm-8pm
Linford Methodist Church, East Tilbury Road, Linford SS17 0QS Wednesday, March 11, 2pm-8pm
Brandon Groves Community Club, Brandon Groves Avenue, South Ockendon RM15 6TD Tuesday, March 17, 2pm-8pm
Manston… are we finally on the way to some kind of resolution over its future?
The next phase in deciding the fate of the Manston airport site began this week.
The Planning Inspectorate’s examination into RiverOak Strategic Partners’ application for a Development Consent Order was marked by the preliminary meeting held at Margate Winter Gardens on Wednesday (January 9).
The meeting, which was open to the public, comprised discussion of procedural matters only – this was not an event for debate on the merits or otherwise of the application.
Three representatives of CPRE Kent (director Hilary Newport, Thanet chairman David Morrish and environment committee member Chris Lowe) were present as the four-strong Examining Authority clarified issues and some of those who had made Relevant Representations (known as Interested Parties) made themselves known.
The examination, which will take six months, will determine whether the RSP plan to reopen the site as an aviation freight hub should be regarded as a Nationally Significant Infrastructure Project.
If it does, the Secretary of State for Transport (currently Chris Grayling) can grant seizure of the site.
During the period of the examination, Interested Parties will be asked to give further written details of their views, while there will also be public hearings.
When the examination is concluded, the Planning Inspectorate has three months to prepare a report and recommendation for the Secretary of State, who then himself has three months to decide on the application.
Finally, there is a six-month period when that decision can be challenged in the High Court.
At Wednesday’s preliminary meeting, chaired by lead examiner Kelvin MacDonald, CPRE Kent asked that an Issue Specific Hearing be scheduled for climate-change considerations.
Among the 2,052 Relevant Representations posted on the examination website (“an almost unprecedented number for a national infrastructure application,” according to Mr MacDonald), site owner Stone Hill Park Ltd, which has plans for some 4,000 homes, business units and sporting facilities at Manston, has prepared a 668-page document laying out its principal objections to the application – primarily that the planned operation was not nationally significant and there were doubts about viability and national need.
CPRE Kent’s next involvement with the examination will be the presentation of an expanded written representation by Friday, February 15 (revised from February 8).
To listen to Wednesday’s preliminary meeting, click here
A four-strong Examining Authority will be considering more than 2,000 representations made in response to the bid to reopen the Manston airport site as a freight hub.
Following the Planning Inspectorate’s decision to consider RiverOak Strategic Partners’ case for reopening the airport through a Development Consent Order, the latest stage in one of the most contentious – and long-running – planning issues in Kent has drawn a predictably strong response.
If the panel determines that Manston should be regarded as a Nationally Significant Infrastructure Project, the Secretary of State for Transport can grant seizure of the site.
One of the respondents is site owner Stone Hill Park Ltd, which has contrasting plans to build some 4,000 homes, business units and sporting facilities there.
Those who have registered with the Planning Inspectorate are known as Interested Parties and will be asked to a meeting, run and chaired by the Examining Authority.
This part of the process is expected to last about three months, after which the Planning Inspectorate has six months to carry out its examination.
Interested Parties will be asked to give further written details of their views during this time, while there might be public hearings.
When all that is concluded, within the next three months the Planning Inspectorate must prepare a report and recommendation for the Secretary of State, who then himself has three months to decide on the application.
Finally, there is a six-month period when that decision can be challenged in the High Court.
Meanwhile, a question to the leader of Thanet District Council about whether the local authority had produced either a Statement of Common Ground, detailing agreements and disagreements pertinent to the case, or a local impact report drew a non-committal answer.
The leader said only that the council “was engaging” with RiverOak Strategic Partners.
Thanet CPRE has chosen not to give a view on the airport as feelings on the subject are so mixed.
The proposed KenEx tram service could cut congestion significantly (pic KenEx, Thames Gateway Tramlink)
With the prospect of the Lower Thames Crossing between Kent and Essex threatening swathes of countryside on both sides of the river, Alex Hills, chairman of Dartford and Gravesham CPRE, says we should be demanding a better transport system
Since the 1950s, successive governments have pursued a transport policy that has had the car as the main form of transport on the basis that building new roads reduces congestion.
This policy has proved to have no basis in fact, with the truth being that building new roads increases congestion and proves more environmentally damaging than suggested while failing to provide the claimed economic benefits.
Other countries did not need the CPRE report The end of the road: Challenging the Road Building Consensus to tell them that an integrated green transport system is needed.
Locally, we have seen the Dartford tunnel built, which would apparently end congestion, then another tunnel and then a bridge – and now a new, very damaging, crossing that would increase both congestion and air pollution in the area.
CPRE is not anti-car – far from it – but to have a sustainable green transport system that does not destroy people’s health there needs to be more investment in other forms of transport.
Gravesend is a hostile environment for cyclists, with existing cycle routes like the ones on the Wrotham and Rochester roads being dangerous for them.
In the town centre, cyclists are banned while in other places there are signs saying ‘Responsible cyclists welcome’.
The bus service in our rural areas is appalling, while train services are struggling to cope with demand.
Green travel plans are not just about infrastructure – they are also about ensuring that trains, trams and buses connect properly so people do not have excessively long waits. They are also about ensuring our transport systems are more disabled- and senior citizen-friendly.
There is some good work being done in this area, with cycling plans being developed for Dartford town centre, Stone Parish Council developing its own cycling plan and Ebbsfleet garden city working extremely hard to develop a green travel plan, while the proposed KenEx tram line would help tackle congestion in the area, reducing traffic at the Dartford crossings by 10 per cent.
Even with other walking and cycling projects, all these projects comprise just a small amount of what is needed.
Rural areas cannot be accessed by non-road transport. For example, there is no pedestrian or cycle path between Istead Rise and Meopham. The goal for district councils, the county council and the government should be to make the car the transport option of last resort.
To get people to use public transport, it needs to be reliable, affordable and able to reach destinations in reasonable time.
Currently, it takes two hours to get from Gravesend to Maidstone by bus and 25 minutes by car – given the choice, no one is going to choose the bus.
To get more journeys completed by walking and cycling, these options need to be made safer, with separate walking and cycling paths away from roads.
It is time we demanded a better transport system.
So, after all the political game-playing and the sometimes shambolic manner in which Thanet’s planning process has been tackled, it is believed tonight (Monday, July 2) will see the adoption of the district council’s draft Local Plan.
Members of the Thanet District Council cabinet are expected to approve the isle’s planning blueprint for the next 20 years, the most high-profile element seeing the Manston airport site retained for aviation use, which apparently necessitates a further 2,500 homes being built elsewhere on the isle rather than at Manston.
The cabinet’s recommendations will be reviewed by the executive, policy and community safety scrutiny panel before going to full council on Thursday, July 19, for a final verdict.
In January, councillors rejected the draft Local Plan put forward by the UKIP administration, which subsequently lost control of the council. The main bone of contention was a proposed change of status for Manston from aviation-only to ‘mixed use’, including 2,500 homes, while there was also concern over proposed housing numbers.
Following the rejection of that draft, Sajid Javid, then-Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government – frustrated with the local authority’s “persistent failure” to produce its Plan – wrote to council leader Bob Bayford, announcing he would be sending Chief Planner Steve Quartermain to intervene.
A fresh call for housing sites was made by the district council. Now ‘in intervention’, it must publish a new Local Plan or face possible further intervention by government.
Council officers have reportedly presented two options for consideration by the cabinet: the draft that was rejected in January and another that keeps an aviation-only policy for Manston and reallocates the 2,500 homes from there elsewhere on the isle.
The local authority says this will allow an application by potential airport operator RiverOak Strategic Partners (RSP) for a Development Consent Order to proceed.
This was submitted in April but withdrawn the following month because of Planning Inspectorate concerns. RSP says it will be resubmitted in due course.
If the second option is accepted by cabinet, the extra homes – which are in addition to the numbers already proposed for those areas – are expected to be targeted for: Westgate-on-Sea (1,000)
Tothill Street, Minster (100)
The isle already faces a target of 17,140 new homes by 2031, but revised government methodology suggests this figure could rise to 20,200.
It is a monstrous figure that would entail the loss of a vast amount of greenfield land (Thanet is already the second most urbanised district in Kent), while it is anybody’s guess what the incoming thousands will be expected to do for employment.
Perhaps best not think about it…
Monday, July 2, 2018
To read more on this lengthy tale, click here and here
Operation Stack in summer 2015, when the M20 was effectively turned into a lorry park for more than 30 days
A fresh round of consultation opens today (Monday, June 11) on tackling the congestion caused by freight traffic held up when trying to cross the English Channel.
Or, in other words, what can we all do about Operation Stack?
CPRE Kent has made regular contributions to the debate on Stack (the process used by police and the Port of Dover to park lorries on the M20 when ferry or Eurotunnel services are disrupted by industrial action or bad weather; the organisation’s view is summed up by director Dr Hilary Newport:
“We are pleased that the flawed plan for a single huge lorry park – the size of Disneyland – just off junction 11 of the M20 were dropped.
“We, along with the House of Commons Transport Select Committee, did not believe that this could be a viable solution to keeping the M20 flowing freely, and there is no doubt that it would have been a huge blight on Kent’s countryside.”
Some two years ago, when there was also a round of public consultation, Dr Newport said: “We do not think that a single huge lorry park, which may only be called into use for a few days – if at all – in any year is the answer.
“A better solution would offer real resilience to the logistics industry now and into the future and help not just Kent but the whole country cope with disruption, strikes or emergency, such as extreme weather, fire or security threats.”
Other problems that need addressing include roadside parking of HGVs with the associated litter and noise; noise and air pollution caused by engines running in slow-moving traffic jams or when stationary to keep refrigeration units running; and disproportionate wear and tear on Kent’s roads.
CPRE Kent contends that instead of the expensive and damaging construction of a single lorry park, investment should be made to:
Support a network of dispersed, serviced truck stops that operate on a commercial basis and have some degree of overflow capacity in the event of disruption to Channel crossings. Many shippers prohibit trucks stopping within 120 kilometres of Calais. Similar measures should be employed to hold vehicles outside the Channel Corridor until called forward.
Incentivise the use of alternative ports of entry and exit (such as Newhaven, Ramsgate, Sheerness, Dartford, Portsmouth and Purfleet), as well as modal shift away from road-based freight – this would also have the additional benefit of reducing reliance on the Dartford crossings.
Incentivise shippers to return to unaccompanied trailer operations across the Channel, which would also boost UK employment of HGV drivers and reduce emissions.
Work with the logistics industry, fleet operators and drivers to implement ‘smart queuing’ – smartphones, GPS and communications technology should remove the need for drivers to be nearest the front of any physical queue in Kent when they could be called forward from dispersed locations further afield and guaranteed timely passage across the Channel.
Implement ‘quick wins’ – CPRE Kent supports expansion of the existing Stop24 truck facility south of the M20 at junction 11; this could quickly provide a partial solution.
Dr Newport said: “With modern technology and sophisticated international business operations, we are sure there is a better solution than allowing all the lorries to build up in Kent with no other way of reaching Europe than the Dover/Folkestone to Calais crossings.”
To read CPRE Kent’s full position paper, click here
If you would like to contribute to the consultation, click here
What will infrastructure development do to Kent? (pic SOS Kent)
“A distributed network of consolidation hubs offers a very different vision of modernity to the vast Operation Stack lorry park currently proposed to service channel freight at the foot of the Kent Downs AONB.
“The development of smaller consolidation hubs should not be seen as an alternative to the use of rail for transporting freight.
“Globally, important trading partners are now making increasing use of rail, with China launching direct rail freight services to Europe and France now using scanning equipment that can more easily identify stowaways on freight entering the Channel Tunnel, thus alleviating security concerns.”
We feature the above passage as a Kent hook to pull you into CPRE’s response to the National Infrastructure Commission’s (NIC) interim consultation on a National Infrastructure Assessment (NIA).
At almost 6,700 words, the document might need a couple of sittings, but it includes plenty to give food us for thought.
The consultation, entitled Congestion, Capacity and Carbon, spanned many issues, with CPRE electing to focus its response on 10 questions, ranging from Brexit to water policy, autonomous vehicles and land capture.
CPRE will be consulting with the commission further before publication of the final NIA this year.
You can read our response to the interim consultation here.