Why Coastal Areas have a Shortage Of Cities

Coastal cities grow much faster initially then inland cities – access to the sea can give international access to sea borne trade, a  leisure and tourism draw and  increased value of coastal housing.

However that growth  slow down more quickly, as they hit limits to growth in their  hinterland, such as flood risk from their low elevation and in many areas rugged, scenic and/or undevelopable areas.  Given they typically have half the hinterland because of sea where there are constraints coastal settlements hit them earlier.  The end to growth  leads to an aging population, higher house prices, lower productivity, lower wages for low skilled occupations and lower economic growth.

Many coastal communities however are in a double bind as they often have close rail or other transport connections to major and capital cities further down a coast or estuary.  The lowering of house prices because of weak local economic growth makes them more and more relatively attractive to those forced further and further out from these metropolitan areas in order for housing to be affordable.  The double bind being a weak local wages growth combined with increasing house prices and lowering affordability..

Productivity growth is increasingly dependent on fast growing cities, economies of agglomeration and innovation, larger labour markets and quality of life attracts innovative and creative people and firms attracted by ‘urban living’.

Hence coastal areas have a shortage of cities problem creating critical problems of affordability and regeneration, if not rich enough or unable to build Hong-Kong /Shanghai type towers they must grow outwards or spawn new cities on or near the coast to grow economically, which require strong sustainable transport networks, comprised of a network of  ‘urban living’ areas, areas of a density and connectivity to ensure daily living, for a pint of milk or to go to school or commute, does not force unnecessary car-use, and avoiding the sprawl that can destroy the qualities of coastal and coastal hinterland areas that make them attractive places to live.  This ensures that such growth is not  strangled growth through congestion and create the productivity and innovation that sustains economic growth. This requires new connected cities – New Sustainable Garden Cities.

Examples include

Greater Exeter:  The latest combined OAN figure is 2660 per year, so by 2050 that means a total need of about +85,000 homes (32 years 2018 – 2050). There are around 28,000 homes already committed in local plans and existing planning permissions, leaving around 57,000 by 2050. S Around7 – 8 Cranbrooks).  Some radical ideas will need consideration including linking major settlement growth and new settlements, including on the Exmouth line,  to the reopening of the old main line north of Dartmoor, the Dawlish diversion (never finished) , the reopening of the Teign Valley line and restoration of track doubling to Crediton.

The Thames Estuary, South Essex and Kent Thameside:  Over 90,000 new homes over and above what is in current local plans will be needed in South Essex alone by 2040.  The potential to dig an extra tunnel for rail at the same time as the Lower Thames River Crossing could be transformational here creating the potential to link the two arms of Crossrail to form a Kent Essex Rail.

San Francisco the classic example of a coastal city with growth problems.  Almost every square inch of developable coastal plane for many miles is developed right up to the edge of mountains, forests and protected coastal reserves.  Going upwards in many areas is the only option if downzoning hadn’t made this impossible.  Regionally there is one area where strategic expansion could happen.  On the route of the old Sacremento Northern line on the almost uninhabited prairie between Anticoh and Sacremento.  Built as a high speed line with eight trains a day it survives and is in the hands of a railway preservation group which has restored a section.  An eastwards branch could link to Isleton and the old line of the Sacremento Southern Railroad.  In this huge and bleak area there is space for no less than 8 Francisco sized cities.  Who says there is a shortage of land in Claifornia, there is only a shortage of bold planning.

Auckland and Northland:  The critical housing shortage  in Auckland New Zealand is a livewire political issue.  Its location not just on teh coast but an ismus makes expansion difficult.  meanwhile the rail line along the ismus (Northland) is threatenened with closure served by only a number of small towns.  The new government has promised to save it and build a new branch to serve a new port at Marsden Point,  where there is the potential to build a new coastal high density city on a flat unprotected coastal plane.  Also several key points on the North Auckland line further Southwards could take new citoes securing the population to make the North Auckland line viable.



‘Net Gain’ Consultation Launced

Defra  – Biodiversity offsetting under a new name.  The system almost identical to the abortive one for allowable solutions.

Government proposals to place the environment at the heart of new development have been unveiled by Environment Secretary Michael Gove.

In plans published today (2 December 2018) for consultation, developers could be required to deliver a ‘biodiversity net gain’ when building new housing or commercial development – meaning habitats for wildlife must be enhanced and left in a measurably better state than they were pre-development.

The proposed new rules require developers to assess the type of habitat and its condition before submitting plans. Car parks and industrial sites would usually come lower on this scale, while more natural grasslands and woodlands would be given a much higher ranking for their environmental importance.

Developers would then be required to demonstrate how they are improving biodiversity – such as through the creation of green corridors, planting more trees, or forming local nature spaces. Green improvements on site would be encouraged, but in the rare circumstances where they are not possible the consultation proposes to charge developers a levy to pay for habitat creation or improvement elsewhere.

These proposals would help to achieve better outcomes for nature and people with the millions of pounds invested in environmental impact mitigation by developers every year.

While some developers have already been following a biodiversity net gain approach voluntarily, the proposed standardised, mandatory approach would give them clarity and certainty on how to improve the environment through development, while also considering whether any sites – such as small and brownfield sites – should be exempt from the rules. It will still deliver the homes the country needs – making the Government’s vision of delivering 300,000 new homes a year by the mid-2020s a reality – at the same time as contributing to the goal of passing on our environment in a better condition.

Net gain

Today’s action is the first step in the government’s ambition to embed the wider principle of ‘environmental net gain’ in development, to drive measurable improvements for all aspects of the environment such as air quality, flood defences and clean water.

The government will now work collaboratively with developers, water companies, tourism services, energy providers and waste specialists to better understand how profitable development can be a driving force of environmental improvement.

Environment Secretary, Michael Gove, said:

Our commitment to protecting and enhancing our natural world can go hand in hand with our ambition to build more high quality homes.

Mandating biodiversity net gain puts the environment at the heart of planning and development. This will not only create better places for people to live and work, but ensure we leave our environment in a better state for future generations.

In addition to upholding planning protections for sensitive sites such as ancient woodland and sites of special scientific interest, the consultation builds on the experiences of local authorities and developers who have already adopted net gain approaches.

This includes the Berkley Group who have committed to creating a net biodiversity gain within all their development sites and are currently working with London Wildlife Trust to build Kidbrooke Village in East London – a new 4,800 home village development that contains 20 hectares of parkland.

Biodiversity impact assessment

Elsewhere, Warwickshire County Council have trialled and implemented a system to ensure all developments lead to no net loss of biodiversity, with each development preparing a Biodiversity Impact Assessment prior to building.

Dr Julia Baker, Biodiversity Technical Specialist for Balfour Beatty, said:

Balfour Beatty strongly support the concept of Biodiversity Net Gain and the government’s 25 Year Environment Plan for sustainable use of land. We are leading the way in developing new standards, continually seeking ways for our construction projects to generate Net Gains in Biodiversity, in ways that leave wider social and environmental benefits.

Early planning allows for Biodiversity Net Gain measures to be integrated into the design, programme and budget of schemes, reducing the cost and ultimately generating long-term benefits for nature and society.

The consultation launched today plays a vital role in helping the government fulfil its aim to use and manage land sustainably, as outlined in the 25 Year Environment Plan.

It follows the launch of the revised National Planning Policy Framework in July which outlined stronger protection for the environment, ensuring wildlife thrives at the same time as addressing the need for new homes

The consultation opens on 2 December and will run until 10 February.