Decarbonising Transport The Difference Between A Goal and a Strategy to Get There

The DoTs document ‘Decarbonising Transport”  Setting the Challenge’ has been getting a lot of attention for sounding all the right noises.   Nothling like it has come out yet from the MCHLG for Planning or Housing.   E,g,

Public transport and active travel will be the natural first choice for our daily activities. We will use our cars less and be able to rely on a convenient, cost-effective and coherent public transport network.

However is there is there a plan to get to net zero in this sector.  No the minister says ‘ In the coming months we will work with you to develop the plan’ by which he means developing a Transport Decarbonisation plan by the end of 2020.

Most of the document is taken up by listing existing government initiatives.  Which are nowhere near enough.   Transport became the largest emitting sector of GHG emissions in 2016.








The document doesn’t given any options to get from A to B.  It is just like a local plan issue report that says we have a terrible trajectory, we arn’t telling you where the sites might be, but we are going through with the prentence of an open consultation process.  A quick reminder of English common law, major policy decisions made without consultation on alternatives pro and cons wont pass the definition of consultation.

Water Shortages Arise from a Failure to Do Strategic Planning – They Are Not an Excuse Not to Do It

NAO 25th March

Tackling water resource issues is one of the five priority risks the Committee on climate Change identified in its 2017 climate change risk assessment. If more concerted action is not taken now, parts of the south and south-east of England will run out of water within the next 20 years. 

This will of course lead to ever more Coronanimby moaning that we don’t have the resources to build the houses we need.  Or as bad that we should force people to move to places where they will be rained on more and be greatful for it.

We have absolutely no shortage of water in the UK.  Rather we let most of it flow into the sea without being used.  Most countries have long ago solved the technical problem of getting water from where it is to where it is needed.  Some solutions date back to the origins of civilisation.

In the era of privitisation there was a reaction against large scale interegional water transfer solutions as ‘white elephants’ such as Kielder or expanding transfers from Wales to the Midlands.  With no separation of wholesale and retail markets there was no incentive for bold long term cross basin improvements.  The government has intermittently called for a National Water Strategy, rather like CaMKox expecting everyone but the National Government to write it.

We don’t need a fully singing and dancing national water grid to make progress.  Small scale interegional and new reservoir programmes are going  ahead.  Already in Essex in hot summers Essex gets around 1/3rd of its water from the Great Ouse Catchment.

A single pipeline from Derwent Mouth/Long Horse Bridge on the Derwent/Leicestershire Border to the Farmoor Reservoir, and the proposed reservoir at Abingdon, a distance a little over 120km, and mostly on the 150m contour line, would link the catchments of most of the rivers in middle England and completely solev the water supply situation for Camkox. Existing rivers like the Great Ouse, and gravity, allow water to flow where growth needs it.   Lets call it the Long Horse Waterway.   Boris previously stated support for the idea without stating where or how.  I would expose the Southern section south of the Nene as a Canal and use it as a major flood relief and recreational resource linking pleasure boats from the Great Ouse, Avon Thames and Nene systems.  Why doesnt England’s Economic Heartland fund a feasibility study?

So why are we not getting such proposals from the  wholesale water companies?

I remember reading a couple of years ago Anglian Waters strategic plan.  It was a brilliant piece of work with sophisticated GIS modelling of supply and demand.  But it was completely wrong.  Wrong because it only included growth in local plans, and not most of the growth in the capital planning period which wasn’t yet in local plans .   There’s the rub of it.  Non existent strategic planners not telling actually existing water planners where to put the pipes and reservoirs.

Historically England has been bad at Water Cycle planning.  It rains so much we take it for granted.  In arid countries all planning begins and ends with where it rains and gravity.  In my recent mini ‘lecture’ tour i threw in the deliberately provocative point that all 5 New Towns in Hertfordshire./est Essex were in the wrong place, and the Ministry of Works had advised Lewis Silkin that feeding 5 new towns into the always limited capacity Rye Meads treatment centre was impractical.  If we had listed we would have now 5 new Towns feeding into the Ouse Catchment in south Cambridgeshire (and we might again).

The Long Horse Superpipe



The Coronimbys – Lets Quarantine them Forever

A new breed has come forth on twitter in recent days.  The coronimbys.  They never really liked human beings anyway, seeing them as a resource consuming, pollution creating blight (except for them of course), with this misanthropy used to resist housing, HS2, new airports, new anything all in a pseudo environmental anti development brand of eco-fascism why denies all hope of human ingenuity to fix, mend and restore the environment.

Oh how they now welcome Covid, it gives them the perfect excuse to say aha we now no longer need the housing.  It has all gone away because of recession.  Hang on I havnt noticed a mortality rate, like the Black Death, of 30% (which byu the way led to the biggest wave of new settlement building in history in the 14th Century as the economy recovered.)   Of course if we can create trillions at teh stroke of a bankers pen to keep the economy going we can do so for housing.  And if every major currency does it there is no risk of inflation if we keep workers occupied and producing.  That was the lesson of the major ‘homes fit for heroes’ wave of house building immediately after the last global pandemic in 198-19.

Don’t Postpone Local Plan EiPs – Do them Via Microsoft Teams

Link Here

So this is PINs resilience plan – the world stops until the panic is over.  Pathetic.

Should a significant number of examination participants not be able to attend the hearings the Inspector(s) will need to consider (in consultation with the Council) whether specific hearing sessions or all the planned sessions in their entirety need to be postponed to a later date.

Why not just purchase a corporate licence for teams and send out links to join each session.  On Thursday I organised a Team conference between 6 parties in three time zones on a slow fibreless location and it worked like a dream.

Whos is Really to Blame for Car Giant Problem at Old Oak Common?

The  SoS letter on the London Plan States

Critical strategic sites have stalled, epitomised by your Development Corporation in Old Oak and Park Royal being forced to turn away £250 million of Government funding because of your inability to work successfully with the main landowner.

This is more than a little disingenuous as the money was earmarked for a CPO and the Planning Inspector stated that the scheme was unviable given the rising of industrial land values in London given that Car Giant wanted both to develop housing on their site AND be relocated in NW London – an impossible circle to square.

Given the HS2 decision Car Giant are simply the wrong use on the wrong piece of land.  At the time of the Olympics central and local government worked together and moved the awkward squad, notably one very loud salmon processor.  Similar joint working is notable by its absence here as for political reasons cooperation with the Mayor of London had ceased.  The SoS is to blame.

Where to go – well there is a whole grid square in Basildon marked for urban intensification, but where land of similar size could be economically developed at 5-6 times the density in London.  A deal is to be done if Homes England a. thought strategically and b. were directed strategically by the SoS.



When and Where to Build Roads in A Zero Carbon Strategic Plan

The above I think is the most difficult technical issue in planning right now.  It deserves a conference.  It deserves its own joint research programme by the professional institutes working together, it deserves a joint NIC/CCC report, it deserves a targeted ERSC research programme.

Its a hard nut technically to crack

The Chinese have a saying ‘ if you want to get rich build a road’  They have a point

Going back to the origins of classical economics with Cantillon and Turgot, roads got your agricultural surplus out to cities and your industrial surplus out to markets.   It is impossible to build new or expanded cities without new roads.  Roads make cities; what matters is how the roads are used.

However a century of planning experience shows that if you just build roads for car borne commuters they clog up reducing their ability to get you rich through supply trade (and killing cities in the process).  Hence the classic planning concept from Benton MacKaye of the ‘Townless Highway and Highwayless Town’ .

We also have the complex business of induced traffic.  Building roads can induce traffic from elsewhere on the network and from public transport (the Down’s Thomspon Paradox).  In some cases closing roads can reduce traffic (Breasses Paradox)  Each of these are network effects of transport choice and land use.  They don’t apply to every road link everywhere and they all depend on the network (or otherwise) of public transport in an area.

What we don’t have a clear picture of is what changed road patterns would look like in a zero carbon strategic plan.  Which is just part of the wider question of what changed public transport and land use patterns would look like.

What we do have is a series of strategic way markers.

We know for example that with the right patterns (regional scale BRT and cycle networks etc.) you can get car modal share down to 40% or less, which with growth of population and households in a strategic growth region means that ‘in theory’ the modal shift would absorb all of the ‘residual’ growth of car traffic.  If strategic car use is then fixed the issue then is the direction of growth.

Some localised road improvements would be necessary, you cant expand Crawley for example and still rely on its 18th C Farm roads which count as West Sussex’s B Road network.  A large new town within the orbit of Cambridge for example would clearly require new roads to get its logistics in and out.  The problem is ensuring those new roads don’t clog up with car commuters, which may require new forms of traffic management (such as ramp control – with compulsory engine cut off-   out of major housing areas accessing on roads to strategic roads, well before the strategic road ramps), public transport prioritisation (zooming past the deliberately created car blockages) and targeted  road-pricing.  This means rethinking concepts like prioritising reducing congestion, and planning for car ‘levels of service’  from strategic housing sites, and towards  planning on how to creatively create it to disincentive car use on strategic roads at peak periods.   The overiding target should be level of low carbon service and travel times not the metric of congestion.   Low travel times should be a negative in any benefit cost calculation if it is at the expense of busting a carbon budget.

Where to study?  Well Homes England have lots of strategic sites and no sustainability plan (no plan at all really) so lets start there, forcing Highways England to be a strategic partner on the study (junior of course) would also be a nice discipline and learning exercise for them.



The Political Show of the SOS issuing Directions on the London Plan.

The SoS has issued directions on the London Plan.   

Annex with details of changes.

This is all about show than substance.  The Mayors SDS is as a matter of law not subject to a binding inspectors report.  But as a matter of policy the new NPPF makes it binding.  But as a matter of national policy the new NPPF is not binding this round.  Phew.

There has been rows for years between the Mayor and SoS, most notably when Brandon Lewis was SoS.   A lot of this is played out for the benefit of Outer London Council leaders and readers of the Evening Standard.

The key changes the panel secured are their.  The housing figures are too high, the crude fix of the small sites policy to make up the gap deleted, the London Green Belt must be reviewed and Green Belt policy must be no tighter than national policy.  The SOS’s intervention does not change the housing numbers or Green Belt policy or even the London Plan new policy on Garden development despite the noise on ‘garden grabbing’. . The changes are largely tactical and the political noises for show.

The panel report allows things to move on from political shadow boxing and move towards resolution of  the real outstanding issues.  Like how to unstick certain strategic sites and how to deal with London’s inevitable overspill of housing need.

The SoS may have a point that Khans housing performance has been less than stellar.  Khan has prioritised affordability over volume and has rejected certain affordability models from central government even where grant funding is available because of the implied mix – both his political choice.   However the comparison in the letter to he West Midlands is ridiculous.  The average of 37,0000 over the last three years is almost double the historical long term average in London.  London has seem a step change in housing delivery which surpasses any other city.

The SOS rightly criticises the length and complexity of the plan.

‘Your Plan added layers of complexity that will make development more difficult unnecessarily; with policies on things as small as bed linen’

Ojne recalls Sir George Younger’s Letter to Ken Livingstone on the Greater London Plan criticising it for having policies on picnic tables.

Notably the letter looks ahead beyond the current plan to the next.  Though not to the SoS’s taste on affordable mix the plans policies on affordable housing were too complex to unpick.  For the beginning of the process Central Government and the Mayor’s office have agreed to get this plan out of the way and argue about the next one.  Hence the play acting in this letter.

As to the future plan it adds

Producing and delivering a new strategy with authorities in the wider South East to offset unmet housing need in a joined-up way

A regional strategy.  There you go.

Of course the first thing authorities in ROSE will say is ‘why should we review our GB until you are reviewing yours’

So the urgent question of strategic numbers in the south east will be delayed another four years.  Especially as the letter says.

I had expected you to set the framework for a step change in housing delivery, paving the way for further increases given the next London Plan will need to assess housing need by using the Local Housing Need methodology

A local need methodology which increases the target for places like Greenwich fourfold, reallocating it from places with market demand and brownfield capacity like Leeds to London and expecting people to move accordingly.  Thankfully the formula is going to change to remove such nonsense.  The noise on urban capacity being more political noise as cover for the ministry having made such a catastrophic technical mistake.


OxCam Arc Spatial Framework Announced in Budget

Red Book

2.128 The government has designated the corridor of land connecting Oxford, Milton Keynes, Bedford and Cambridge (the OxCam Arc) as a key economic priority. Earlier this year, the government announced the East West Rail Company’s preferred route for the new line between Bedford and Cambridge. The government will also, subject to planning consents, build a new rail station at Cambridge South, improving connectivity to the world-leading research facilities of the Cambridge Biomedical Campus – the largest cluster of medical and life sciences research in Europe.
2.129 The Budget announces plans to develop, with local partners, a long-term Spatial Framework to support strategic planning in the OxCam Arc. This will support the area’s future economic success and the delivery of the new homes required by this growth up to 2050 and beyond. The government is also going to examine and develop the case for up to four new Development Corporations in the OxCam Arc at Bedford, St Neots/Sandy, Cambourne and Cambridge, which includes plans to explore the case for a New Town at Cambridge, to accelerate new housing and infrastructure development.

Four key decisions here

  1.  The much  framework will no longer to left entirely to local authorities but developed in partnership with local authorities.  It will cover up to 2050 so will see at least double the housebuilding planned in local plans, molre than that as existing pipeline of approved schemes can be used only once.
  2. The announcements cover where new settlements are being looked at apart from Oxford and Bucks, where plans are less advanced.  The odd one out was Milton Keynes.  The obvious candidate for a DC is MK where the plans for expansion were announced in Jan.  The complication is the cross border elements and the opposition of some local mps, which stopped the planned government support of the expansion around the election.
  3. A new town at Cambridge made sense with an alignment of East-West Rail south of the Sandy Hills, now the only area left is SW of Cambridge which with its Water Meadows etc. is a bad area for expansion
  4. No announcement of scrapping of expressway.