Note this report is false – it is based on ‘average density of homes currently built’ (see this briefing paper by CPRE 28 DPH – the reports and research to the NIC including here (by me)and here (by 5th Studio) found that building at such densities was wholly unacceptable and would not provide the sort of transport orientated development needed for example around stations on the Oxford-Cambridge line (East West Rail). Given that the government and Homes England have accepted the principle that growth here should be focused on a smaller number of large new towns/large garden cities of 50,000+ homes, plus urban extensions and smaller garden communities in the right place, to ensure sustainability, critical mass and reduce environmental impact. We wont know what density till AECOM completes there study but I would hazard an educated guess that typical densities would be 4 storey flatted blocks, like sustainable urban extensions we see in many continental countries , 6 storeys in the centre, 2-3 storey townhouses and terraces at the fringes. Average density on this assumption around 80-100 DPH. By the way they forget to calculate gross to bet ratio – large sites will have schools, parks, country parks etc. Development parcels will typically only cover 40-45% of a large new town, much of the rest being open.
On this basis ive demonstrated that 1.5 million homes can be accommodated in an arc area roughly corresponding to the Englands Economic Heartland area + the Innovation corridor (London-Stansted-Cambridge) which includes a realistic contribution from land constrained London. All of these areas within walking distance of transit (Train or BRT) and away from protected landscape and habitats. These occupy a Leicester of housing (about 1/3 – 1/4 of what CPRE claims because of the higher densities) an Oxford of new open space in new Garden Cities and a Northampton of New Employment Floorspace. If built as ‘the conservation areas of tomorrow’ with lots of new restored forest and heath and new country parks this should be seen as a gain not a loss.
If done carefully with SEA and careful attention to priority habitats and heritage assets, with a proper debate at EIP (only considering alternative plans as it should – no growth is not a reasonable alternative) as they suggest, so schemes are design and landscape led around new sustainable infrastructure; this is doable and would leave the country and countryside much better off as it wuld protect the vast majority of it in the arc from the random sprawl we get under teh build what you like where you like alternative of not being plan led. The Campaign to Pickle and Ruin England, another own goal that would have shocked your founder Patrick Abercombie who would have suggested just such a regional planning approach to protect the precious countryside of the area.
CPRE believes that the scale of housing and population growth proposed by the NIC for the Cambridge-Milton Keynes-Oxford Arc is too great in terms of what the Arc area should be expected to sustain.
So where should the housing go. The Arc is by far the least contained of any major area around LOndon, and most of the need is local, if you divert growth outside teh Green Belt it must go somehwere. Where CPRE, on top of the Pennines, to mythical ‘tup north’ places which are typically far more biodiversity sensitive, or are you going to reclaim an island in the North Sea. SEA is all about reasonable alternatives – so what is your plan? Anyone without a plan has no part in a planning debate.
Oxford-Cambridge Arc puts Birmingham sized area of countryside at risk
25 October 2018
27,000 hectares of farmland and woodland threatened by Oxford-Cambridge Arc, according to CPRE analysis.
The Government is set to accept a recommendation from the National Infrastructure Commission (NIC), this Monday (29 October), to build 1 million new homes between Oxford, Milton Keynes and Cambridge. This would result in an area of countryside greater than the size of Birmingham being lost to development, an analysis by the Campaign to Protect Rural England (CPRE) has found.
In September, the Government announced its preferred corridor for a new expressway that would run between Oxford and Cambridge, as part of a new development proposal, coined the ‘Oxford-Cambridge Arc’. The NIC, who are backing the scheme, recommend building 1 million new houses in the Arc by 2050, in order to ‘boost economic growth’.
The Government is due to respond to the NIC’s recommendations on Monday, alongside the Autumn Budget, despite no formal public consultation, environmental assessment or parliamentary enquiry about whether this major development project is advisable or desirable having taken place.
Once accepted however, the recommendations will have a force in planning policy roughly equivalent to the Government’s National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF).
According to CPRE’s analysis, there are 230,000 homes currently proposed or being built within the Arc, so in order to achieve the NIC’s target an increase of 330% would be required. As there is capacity for just under 50,000 houses on previously developed, or brownfield, land within the Arc, the vast majority of these new homes would be built on areas of open countryside.
Based on the average density of housing developments currently being built within the Arc, CPRE has identified that 27,000 hectares of greenfield farmland and woodland – an area the size of Birmingham – could be lost to development.
A commitment to significant investment in landscape improvement, sustainable transport and genuinely affordable homes are essential, if these proposals are to be considered, claim CPRE.
Currently, just 2,200 ‘affordable homes’ are being built per year in the area, despite local authorities having identified a need for almost 12,000. If this shortfall continues, no more than 18% of the locally identified need for affordable homes will be met during the planned period of growth.
Paul Miner, Head of Strategic Plans and Devolution at the Campaign to Protect Rural England, said:
‘If given the green light, this development will change the face of England’s countryside forever. Yet no formal assessment of the environmental impact it will have has taken place. Whilst there will be a need for genuine affordable housing to meet local need in the area, the scale of these proposals is completely unacceptable.
‘Despite costing at least £5.5 billion in public money, there has been no formal public consultation around developing the Arc. The lack of debate equates to a major, and troubling, democratic deficit at the heart of the proposals.
‘Rather than taking a ‘growth at all costs’ approach, it is imperative that a Strategic Environmental Assessment is conducted. The assessment must look at the impacts of both the proposed housing and transport development on the countryside, people’s health and well-being, and climate change in a holistic manner. Critically, we need much stronger commitments to protecting and improving the unique and precious rural landscapes in the Arc.’
In addition to a Strategic Environmental Assessment, CPRE is calling for a public and parliamentary debate about whether this level of spending can be justified in an area that is already attractive to employers and has a buoyant housing market. A failure to properly invest in other parts of the county would only serve to entrench the current imbalance in the economy.
Rather than lock in carbon emissions, air pollution and car-dependency for decades to come, CPRE propose that the £3.5 billion earmarked to build the expressway alone would be better invested in improving public transport in the region and the restoration of East-West Rail.
The NC hits back (guardian link above)
it said a lack of housing presented a “fundamental risk” to the future economic growth of the Oxford to Cambridge arc.
A spokesman said: “Our recommendations come with the clear condition that new schemes should not compromise the high-quality natural environment for existing and future residents, and do not need to involve any changes to existing green belt protections.
“In fact, our report made clear the need for significant investment in landscape improvements, affordable housing and sustainable transport. These changes are vital to make the most of the area’s economic potential and the contribution it makes to the wider UK economy.”