Here's a view on the Government White Paper from BAG - we think we should look to our MP to pick this up from here, what do you think?
A similar argument could also be made about the A127, though that’s not covered in the Paper.
This blog entry is a brief summary relevant to Southend Victoria to Liverpool Street branch line.
Connection between Green Belt & Commuter Infrastructure
We all intuitively understand the main purpose of the Green Belt around cities, and national planning rules identify five purposes.
What is usually forgotten is that there was originally a sixth purpose, to protect London’s commuter infrastructure from being overloaded by urban growth and so harming the capital’s economy.
Sir Frank Pick, head of London Underground, took over London Underground and perceived a strategic crisis for the capital’s transport system and hence its economy. He lent his voice to calls for a new Green Belt around the capital.
On taking over, London was expanding rapidly and the underground network was expanding rapidly to meet it, for instance there were two major extensions to the northern line (The Northern Heights) close to completion.
Pick recognised that a focus on lines and stations was a mistake, the real issue was (and is) capacity. How much capacity do we have, and how much can be realistically delivered in future? He understood that if these extensions were built, then the trains would be full before they reached the centre of the city and existing customers would be unable to get on the trains. The London Underground, and hence London itself, had a 12-15 mile maximum economic radius if it were to remain successful.
To illustrate his point, imagine there had been no Green Belt and London extended as far as Basildon and that the District Line had extended to support it. Extending the line would mean the trains were full by the time they reached Dagenham or Barking.
Pick’s response was ruthless; he cancelled these near compete extensions and their tunnels and trackbeds can still be clearly seen today.
Relevance Today – Projected increase in demand
These environmental protection measures channelled growth away from London, beyond the originally narrow Green Belt and so has protected London from unsustainable growth at its periphery.
Pick’s argument for Green Belt clearly applied to London and its Underground, but large increases in population and longer distance commuting now places regional commuter lines close to breaking point, with Southern Rail currently the grimmest example.
The Abellio Southend Victoria branch is at capacity already, with peak-time demand projected to grow 26% in 2013-23 and 67% in 2013-43. Worse still, this is based on housing growth targets for SE Essex which are just 60% of those currently proposed. There are also a number of reasons to think this is an underestimate.
Expressing rail capacity and potential improvements is, unlike roads, pretty clear cut. It’s a factor of the number of coaches per train and the maximum frequency of these trains.
Forget Crossrail, this simply replaces the current Shenfield slow services. Billericay and Wickford commuters will be no more likely to transfer to those services than Basildon commuters are to change at Upminster to get on the District Line.
The trains on the Southend Victoria Line can be no longer, but what about frequency?
We get 6 trains per hour (6tph) at peak times on our line, which isn’t very many. The reason for this low number is that we are just one of many branches – including high-speed intercity routes - on a busy and complex line serving East London, Essex and East Anglia.
Heading into London, these lines merge at Shenfield after which point there are an impressive 22 trains per hour, including our own 6 and this does not include the 15 Shenfield Slows (in future, Crossrail) which uses separate tracks. The congestion and complexity of services in the Shenfield-Liverpool Street stretch is the major limitation on services on every branch of the Great Eastern network.
At present no more than 22 tph can be accommodated, but an indirect benefit of Crossrail, is that from the mid-2020s an extra 2 trains can be accommodated, and the good news is that we’re likely to get them – 8 cars only per train, but this will increase our capacity by an encouraging 22% IF we get them.
However a string of large new towns are proposed for north Essex and it would be astonishing if the local Councils there aren’t lobbying the Department for Transport for their route to get these services.
So that’s it – IF we get these services we get an extra 22% capacity, 33% in the very long term if these become 12 car trains. 33% is the maximum improvement we can hope for, less, probably much less than half of our ultimate requirements.
How should Councils respond
The SE Essex councils have developed their ‘Objectively Assessed Needs’ (OAN) on the basis of accelerated migration to the region in order to boost business by ensuring an abundance of labour – indeed BAG argues it creates an excess of labour, as the unemployed and many others who need work are excluded from the calculations about the size of the available workforce.
This would be counter-productive to the economy of the region, as current and future London commuters would struggle to get to work.
Local Authorities should therefore develop Housing Targets which are lower than the objectively assessed needs. To do this they will need to cite valid reasons not to meet this ‘need’ and we recommend that Green Belt constraints as well as the limitations imposed by the commuter transport infrastructure are used.
Currently the Council are speaking about building a minimum of 15,260 new homes, though the way the plan is structured means this is likely to be exceeded by some thousands. The minimum we could build is roughly 8,000 (no Green Belt loss) though the needs of local people are somewhat higher at around 9,600.
Readers will have a range of views on the best possible housing target, but for the sake of our economy as well our environment, we must not build as many as are currently proposed.
We were pleased to have so many people attend our event at the Chantry Way Day Centre on Saturday 26 November, where we informed residents of the Council's latest proposals and gave advice on how to respond to the recently announced additional Consultation.
Please find 5 key documents below that should keep you informed of all the facts and help you to make up your own mind and prepare your own response to the council.
All of these files are in Adobe Acrobat format. Please download the Adobe Acrobat Reader from here to read them, if you are having difficulty.
We've created a single page document that you can print and hand to family/friends and neighbours to make them aware of Basildon Council's plans and what they can do about this and by when.
Aims of BAG
To protect the green belt around Billericay from development.
To prevent the character of our historic town from forever being destroyed.
Link to Basildon Council Local Plan pages
Link to Basildon Council Billericay traffic mitigation document
Reasons to respond to this consultation -Click here