The Diseconomies of Fail – No Large Garden Communities do Not Cost More Than Smaller Development

One of the oddest and most disingenuous arguments I have heard recently.  And in Planning too from CAUSE

Size matters, but has not been debated, yet larger proposals bring complexity, risk and an increasing requirement for infrastructure. Delivery of larger projects is slow (think Ebbsfleet and Northstowe).

Our Small is Beautiful paper suggests that viability decreases at more than 2,000 homes.

Looking at this paper:

There are significant scale diseconomies in building big new towns. The bigger the town, the longer it takes to build, and the higher the cost per dwelling.  The dramatic cost increase arises because of the finance costs on land. The increase in total
land costs as the holding period increases is astounding. Land bought now for £100,000 per acre escalates to £179,000 after 10 years and £1.8m after 50years.

In theory big settlements might benefit from scale economies. It might be possible to build a sewage works or power supply at a lower cost per dwelling for a 24000 settlement than for a 2000 one. But we have seen no evidence that this is the case and we therefore ignore it.

The only claim to scale economies made during the recent Examination of the North Essex. Garden Communities plan related to education. The NEAs variously suggested that settlement sizes of 5000 and 15,000 are needed to support an optimum number of secondary schools. No detail was provided, and CAUSE would argue that secondary schools can be provided every bit as efficiently in smaller well connected urban extensions as in large standalone new towns.

There are four prblems with this argument:

1.Economies of Urban  Agglomeration

Why do cities exist in the first place?  Why isnt economic activity scattered across an even plane? This question has been the driving force of urban economics in recent years.  it has even led to a noble prize.

As Wikipedia states:

As more firms in related fields of business cluster together, their costs of production may decline significantly (firms have competing multiple suppliers; greater specialization and division of labor result). Even when competing firms in the same sector cluster, there may be advantages because the cluster attracts more suppliers and customers than a single firm could achieve alone. Cities form and grow to exploit economies of agglomeration.

Indeed the optimum city size is when the economies of aggomeration matches the diseconomies of congestion.  the more you invest in transit infrastructure the higher this size can be,

CAUSE suggests an optimum size of 2,000.  However a CBA need to look at both costs and benefits in both the public and private sector.  Otherwise you get in the reducio ab absurdio that London is too big as it most economically should have stuck at the size of a roman town of 2,000 dwellings.

2. Fallacies of Composition

You arn’t comparing (say) once scheme of 20,000 dwellings with one scheme of 2,000 dwellings.  To hit the same targets you have to build 10 of these and look at the cumulative costs.  Not all of these could be built in year one.  The absorption rate in the local housing market would be the same.  You also have to phase the schools and other infrastructure.  You therefore cant assume in any way that the costs of holding land would be different.  They would be exactly the same.

3. Economies of Scale

The most disingenuous part of CAUSEs argument is it own name as they are the Campaign for Urban Sprawl in Essex and they propose more dispersed development over many smaller sites.  Their own proposals for Colchester and Tendring has been assessed as only supporting round 6,000 dwellings forcing the rest to go to scattered villages.   Which is not to state that this plan could not be accomodated alongside one or more large Garden Communities.

There are very clear economies of scale from developing at large scale as any civil engineer will tell you.  You might need for example one new sewerage main rather than 20.

This is particularly clear in the education sphere. Imagine an area where all secondary and primary schools are full.

This means that at at average household size you need around 2,400 homes to build a two form entry new primary school.  a small two primary feeder secondary would have 4,800 homes, more economically twice this.  The last this you would build is half a primary school.  This leads to what I call ‘development quanta’ with optimum site sizes and densities going up in discreet quanta.  You vary the design size at design year of the development to fall outside the plan period if you have an odd residual.

There is a mass of research evidence on the high infrastructure costs of servicing scattered sprawl as opposed to concentrated urban development.

For example from Siemens

Studies undertaken by the cities of Calgary, Canada and Los Cabos, Mexico identified significant savings on infrastructure costs could be achieved through more compact growth. Savings of 33% and 38% were identified for the capital cost of roads, transit, water and other infrastructure for Calgary and Los Cabos. Savings on operational costs were 14% for Calgary and 60% Los Cabos.

Also more scattered development means that infrastructure networks of greater length need to be developed.

Todd Littman

Is the acknowledged expert on this working with LSE cities.

our analysis indicates that by increasing the distances between homes, businesses,  services and jobs, sprawl raises the cost of providing infrastructure and public services by 10-40 percent.


There are also disecnomies of servicing scattered smaller development by transit. Rapid transit is only economic above a certain critical mass of housing within a single route at densities that secure residents within walking distance.  You wont get transit systems for scattered development around 20+ villages.

This also means the costs of mitigating traffic from highr car use from scattered development

4. The  False Assumption of Buying all the land at once at existing use value

Neither would a rational house builder pay up front for land in year 1 when the housing would be phased in 5 year phase three.  Thie option agreement would trigger payment in that phase.  It is therefore a ridiculous and non real world assumption to assume vast interest payments on buying all land up front.  It simply would never happen.  Even if bought at CPO the ‘non scheme world’ utilising the ‘point guarde principle’ would be the non garden community world what its infrastructure. in the light of caselaw, and reforms made in the  Neighbourhood Planning Act 2017, the cpo has to ignore completely the infrastructure and project and any special suitability of the site for the project.  These collectively mean that sites for Garden Communities have a much lower EUV than many scattered developments that would come forward anyway in the ‘no scheme world’ local plan.  So the conclusion on valuation is the precise opposite of that put forward by CAUSE.

All of these economic factors can and should be built into the revised SEA, then with the expert evidence based on international consensus on the costs of sprawl, the outcome will be different.


Housing is more important than space for Gliders


A defence minister has been accused of going back on a commitment to keep 15 military airfields that are earmarked for closure in use for civil aviation.

The airfields are due to be sold off, mostly for housing, over the next six years as part of MoD cost-cutting.

MPs and peers on the all-party general aviation group say they are an important national asset.

They say that Defence Minister Tobias Ellwood had agreed to “look again” at the aerodrome sell-offs.

But all-party group chairman, Conservative MP Grant Shapps, said there were “significant disparities” between what Mr Ellwood had said and his subsequent follow-up letter to the group.

“Our meeting with the defence minister was very worthwhile and extracted some helpful commitments, including supporting continued aviation use at the 15 military aerodromes being disposed of, where possible,” said Mr Shapps.

He said the group’s members were “very concerned to see no mention of these commitments in the minister’s follow-up letter”.

“As we celebrate 100 years of the Royal Air Force, which has inspired generations of young people into pursuing high-tech jobs in aviation, we have written back to the minister to ask specifically what the Ministry of Defence is doing to support general aviation.

“We look forward to the minister’s reply.”

The MPs and peers argue that the 15 airfields should be kept in use for private planes, gliders and flight training – known as general aviation – and to be kept in reserve for military use, in the event of a national emergency.

In his written response, Mr Ellwood appeared to rule out the future use of the threatened airfields by other aircraft.

He said he “recognised the strength of feeling” among the 157 members of the all-party aviation group.

But he said private planes could still access 20 other military airfields in the UK and the closure of aerodromes used for pilot training was part of a plan to increase training capacity by concentrating it at fewer sites.

He also rejected arguments that closing the airfields posed a security risk.

“I must assure you that the MoD does undertake the necessary investigative work to ensure that the safety and security of service personnel and UK citizens is not compromised,” said the minister.

The MoD said the sites were “surplus to military requirements” and as no bids have been received to turn them into civilian airfields they would be used to meet the “needs of the local community”.

A spokesperson said: “Some of the airfields have not been active for decades, years if not decades, and are not fit for aircraft to land.

“All proceeds from the sale of the sites will be reinvested back into defence.”

The airfields earmarked for closure are:

  • Abingdon, Oxfordshire

  • Alconbury, Cambridgeshire

  • Arbroath, Angus

  • Brawdy, Pembrokeshire

  • Chivenor, Devon

  • Colerne, Wiltshire

  • Dishforth, North Yorkshire

  • Halton, Buckinghamshire

  • Henlow, Bedfordshire

  • Mildenhall, Suffolk

  • Molesworth, Cambridgeshire

  • North Luffenham, Rutland

  • Wethersfield, Essex

  • Woodbridge, Suffolk

  • Wyton, Cambridgeshire

Given that Defence Estates been promoting many of these sites for years through local plans its a good job their promoted about land availability. Some of these sites are remote and unsuitable for major development, but some are accessible and make excellent Brownfield development sites, for example Abingdon, Alconbury and RAF Henlow.  Surely the potential to provide site in major growth areas should be a priority.

Why should the state make provision for a hobby, do we allocate vast tracts of land for building model railways or collecting stamps.  Why should it be any different for flying gliders and light aircraft.

Out-of-Date Law on Joining Up in an Age of Joined-Up Planning

South Upshire district is looking at how to work with its neighbors on a new style joint strategic plan; indeed if it doesn’t it faces intervention on its slow plan making.

Its within Upshire county and adjoins a unitary which used to belong to the County.  The area proposed for the JSP would be part of the ceremonial county.

It faces issues – it could undertake a joint plan under section 28 of the PCPA – the problem – this allows unitaries as part of the joint plan but doesn’t allow counties, so the plan couldn’t include waste and minerals policy jointly with the county.

It could declare a joint committee under section 29 of the PCPA, this allows counties to join but not unitaries.

If the plan were to propose a strategic infrastructure tariff any combined authority could not collect it or charge it because of the complex CIL law and regulations on charging and receiving authorities.  There would need to be separate  CILs.  The government has consulted on changing the law on this to allow combined authorities to charge a strategic infrastructure tariff (like in London)..

The government has used Henry VIII powers under the deregulation act to relax where can form a Combined authority, including one preparing a LTP for part of a county, however this combined authority couldn’t mirror this with joint plans and SIT because of the above problems.  These cant be used it here as it would involve adding to the law not taking away from it.

The legal officer has written to MHLG – but as they reply…

Provision had already been made under section 28 to allow unitary authorities and districts to work together so there was no error in drafting, or clouded thinking on the matter. [ Cough, cough really!]
I have discussed the joint working issues with Colleagues looking after SIT who will, I am sure, consider the issues you have raised. There are no proposals to change the primary legislation (Section 29) that I am aware of and this would unlikely to be given parliamentary time in the current circumstances with legislation on Brexit being given priority.

Greater Cambridgeshire’s Wolly Combined Authority Constitution – a model to avoid at all costs

As areas look at models and governance arrangements for joint spatial plans many will be looking at existing models.

Trust me Greater Cambridgeshire, as experience has showed, is a model to not emulate at all costs.

What precisely are its powers?  look at its constitution as vague as mud as it fers mostly to existing non statutory informal powers whereas the whole point of a combined authority  is to hold budgets and exercise powers.

Its back of the envelope constitution states:

The following functions are reserved to the Combined Authority Board:
Strategies and Plans
The adoption of, and any amendment to or withdrawal of the following plans
and strategies:
(a) Cambridgeshire & Peterborough 2030 and 4 year plan
(b) Local Industrial Strategy
(c) Local Transport Plan
(d) Bus Strategy;
(e) Skills Strategy;
(f) Housing Strategy;
(g) Investment Strategy;
(h) Delivery Plan;
(i) Non-Statutory Strategic Spatial Plan
(j) Market Town Masterplans for Growth
(k) Rural Strategy
(l) Other strategies and plans as agreed.

Which if any of these are statutory? The MHCLG has for example written three mutually contradictory letters on LTPs, so now we have three separate authorities preparing statutory LTPs.

Compare with the Greater Manchester Combined Authority constitution.  Which reads like it has seen a lawyer avoiding an exercise in fudge and where the powers being exercised refer in all cases to statute.

Scrap the amateurish Greater Cambridge combined authority Constitution and start again

Brokenshire threatens to Withdraw £400 million of Growth Deal funding from Squabbling Ant-Bus Greater Cambridge Mayor


A power struggle between Cambridgeshire & Peterborough CA mayor James Palmer (Con) and local leaders has led to ministers threatening to withhold up to £400m funding.

Mr Palmer has been accused of undertaking a “power grab” of the Cambridge city deal, while local leaders have questioned the viability of his ambitious transport plans for the region.

The row has led to housing and communities secretary James Brokenshire stepping in to urge Mr Palmer and council leaders to make “every possible effort” to ensure momentum around economic growth is not lost.

It is the most high profile intervention by the government into a combined authority mayor’s plans since the first cohort were elected in 2017.

Mr Brokenshire sent a letter, seen by LGC, last Wednesday to the combined authority and the Greater Cambridge Partnership, which oversees the implementation of the Cambridge city deal. In it Mr Brokenshire said: “I have seen various statements and correspondence which have been critical of the level of collaborative working between local leaders and I am also aware that a number of the Greater Cambridge Partnership’s proposed initiatives have now been paused.

“You will be aware that the next tranche of up to £400m of city deal funding is not guaranteed and that the level of future funding made available will depend on the positive conclusion of the gateway assessment. In addition to assessing progress on delivery, government will also need to consider our confidence in the effective collaboration and delivery capability of local partners for the period beyond 2019.”

So far £100m government funding has been released through the Cambridge city deal, signed in 2014 with the aim of building almost 35,000 homes, creating 45,000 jobs, and investing in infrastructure. An extra £200m could be released from April 2020, and a further £200m from April 2025. The funding would be match-funded locally.

However, that is now in doubt due to a disagreement over whether Mr Palmer’s transport plans should conform with those made by the Greater Cambridge Partnership or vice versa.

The mayor’s interim transport strategy was approved at a meeting of the combined authority on 30 May by six votes to two. The two dissenting voices belonged to Lewis Herbert (Lab), leader of Cambridge City Council and interim chair of the Greater Cambridge Partnership, and Bridget Smith (Lib Dem), leader of South Cambridgeshire DC.

In a blog post in November last year, Cllr Smith accused Mr Palmer of a “power grab” and of seeking “complete control over all the available big budgets”.

Cllr Herbert echoed these views to LGC and questioned the viability of Mr Palmer’s transport plans.

“The mayor has stalled a number of perfectly good transport projects. He wants to fund a number of projects, including a metro, through land value capture. His plan is very unclear,” he said.

This political “squabbling”, as Cllr Smith described it in May, has been noted by the government.

In separate letters, also seen by LGC, previous communities secretary Sajid Javid wrote on 18 October 2017 that it was “undoubtedly the case that our approach to devolution in Cambridgeshire and Peterborough is that the mayoral combined authority is the sole transport authority for the area.”

Then on 13 February, local growth minister Jake Berry appeared to contradict that when he told Mr Palmer the government was “content for you to work collaboratively with local partners to bring forward consensual proposals”.

Mr Palmer told LGC he was “clearly concerned” about Mr Brokenshire’s letter but pointed to the Greater Cambridgeshire Partnership’s “lack of progress during the four years of its existence”.

Mr Palmer said: “Claims that the transport statement passed by the combined authority last month is the key threat to the next tranche of funding being released are ludicrous.

“As mayor one of my key focuses is on securing as much funding as possible for transport infrastructure projects across Cambridgeshire and Peterborough.

“Indeed the combined authority secured a further £74m from government on top of the devolution deal in the budget specifically for investment in transport infrastructure.

“I’m clearly concerned that the [Greater Cambridgeshire Partnership’s] lack of progress during the four years of its existence appears to be a cause of concern for the government, so much so that it may well influence their decision on whether to release the next tranche of funding. I’m focused on ensuring that this money comes to Greater Cambridge.”

Sensible options to be Put to Thanet Members over RAF Manston /Local Plan

Sensible – puts the key decision in the hands of the DCO examination.

Isle of Thanet News

Three options are believed to be due to be put forward to councillors when they take a new vote on Thanet’s draft local plan next month.

The draft plan – which is a 20 year blueprint for housing, business and infrastructure on the isle – was voted down in January by Conservative and ‘rebel’ UKIP councillors  with 35 against and 20 in favour.

The vote, which led to the collapse of the UKIP administration, was prompted by a change of status for Manston from aviation-only to a mixed-use designation to include 2,500 homes. An amendment to defer for two years the mixed-use designation pending the resolution of the DCO process was not sufficient to persuade the majority of councillors.

There were also issues over housing numbers with a strong campaign to protect sites mounted by the Birchington Action Group Against TDC Local Plan members.

The failure to vote through the plan led to the government stepping in to speed up the process.


Now a new vote is to take place in July and it is understood that councillors will be presented with the option of approving the plan as presented in January or making amendments to the Manston airport site.

The Isle of Thanet News understands that one option will be to defer mixed use proposals for two years following the adoption of the local plan. If a Development Consent Order (DCO) or Compulsory Purchase Order (CPO) for aviation use is granted within those two years the housing allocations for the site will be scrapped.

Another, similar, option is thought to be to amend the wording of the plan to recognise the lawful use of the site as an airport, with no development allocation, for a two year period or until the decision is made on the DCO if that comes before the end of the two years. This would mean additional housing sites for Westwood, Birchington and Westgate plus smaller sites across the district to be earmarked for development at the end of the local plan period in 2031.

A DCO is the means of obtaining permission for developments categorised as Nationally Significant Infrastructure Projects (NSIP). This includes energy, transport, water and waste projects.

Riveroak Strategic Partners, who want to bring aviation back to the Manston site, made a DCO submission in April but this was withdrawn ;ast month. The firm says it aims to resubmit the application.


Thanet is in an ‘intervention’ stage from central government following the failure to agree the local plan to go forward to the next stag when councillors took the vote in January.

Then-Housing Secretary Sajid Javid wrote to 15 local authorities in England in March to inform them of decisions on intervention.

Thanet was one of three authorities where the government confirmed it could take over the entire process.

TDC initially said a new plan could take between 8-10 months with the intention to publish a pre-submission draft plan by December 2018  and submission for examination until April 2019.

But council leader Bob Bayford, who was voted in to the council top spot following the resignation of UKIP leader Chris Wells at the end of February, had pledged to “progress and deliver the local plan.”

New vote

Thanet council Cabinet members will meet to discuss the draft plan on July 2. The issue will go to the scrutiny panel on July 11, back to Cabinet on July 19 before a final decision from full council on July 26.

Documents for those meetings have not yet been published.

The draft plan

Thanet’s Draft Local Plan –which runs until 2031 –sets out how much development is needed to support the future population and economy. Allocating land through the plan is designed to give the council greater control over where and what type of developments can take place.

Consultation was carried out last year on revisions to the plan included axing the aviation-use only designation at Manston airport and putting forward new isle sites including Manston Court Road and Haine Road.

Government guidelines currently dictate a build of 17,140 new isle homes by 2031.

This level of housing may need to rise even further following a government plans to standardise the way local authorities work out housing need.

The figure could rise to more than 20,200 homes, raising the requirement from 857 dwellings per year to 1063 dwellings per year.

Some 1,555 homes have already been constructed; another 3,017 have been given planning permission; 2,700 are accounted for through windfall housing –sites that have historically had planning approval and may be put forward again – and 540 are already empty homes.

This leaves 9,328 properties to be accommodated.

Allhallows-on-Sea – Kent’s version of Southend that never took off



As I look out of the window across the Thames Estuary you see the Hoo penninsula. the only development on its coast before you get to the isle of Grain is an ugly caravan park at Allhallows.

There is a railway line across thepenninula, promoted by local land speculators.  The northern bank of the estuary here was no less empty than Hoo before the railways came so why did Southend take off and Allhallows not.

It very nearly did – according to Wikipedia.

In 1878, Henry Pye with a deputation of other local farmers met the South Eastern Railway Company with a request for a new railway to be built in the area. From this meeting a new company was established, the Hundred of Hoo Railway Company. The SER saw it as part of the development of continental traffic, and the ferry terminal at what was named Port Victoria was built as terminus of the line. The traffic did not materialise and that section of the line and the line beyond Grain closed in 1951.

On 14 May 1932 a branch railway was opened to the Thames estuary beyond the ancient village of Allhallows. It was intended to become a riverside resort of some size, and grandiose plans were formed. The new area was given the name of Allhallows-on-Sea. Little came of the scheme, and today all signs of that branch have disappeared, save for the water tower which supplied locomotives at the terminus – it is now a listed building. There is a holiday village on the site where the resort was intended to be.

the fantastic British Pilot Pub is one of thefew buildings of this era still there, most of teh rest of the small village is park homes and postwar ribbon sprawl.

The problem was the original railway was built along the ridgeline and not along the coast.  When the branch line was built it was at the height of the Great Depression  and missed the Victorian seaside boom.

None the less it is a huge waste of land at a site that could again be linked to the rail network.  It is outside flood risk areas and protected European sites.  Its a wonderful sandy beach like Southend, unlike the muddy and marshy areas elsewhere in the Thames Estuary.

Where else in England could you build a Garden City on Sea?  As North Kent has to scrape around for sites for its share of the one million new homes in the Thames Estuary 2050 plan it could worse than look here, especially as an alternative  original Lodge Hill proposals down the road now it is an SSSI (whilst acknowledging the Homes England proposals are now much more environmentally friendly)



The Treasury just isn’t interested in Thames 2050 – Here’s Why and Heres how to fix it

Releasing the Thames Estuary 2050 report on the same day as the Heathrow vote and the Letwin review is no coincidence but deliberate media manipulation to bury it.

Surely Teresa May, known to have tried to bury the Northern Powerhouse simply because she disliked George Osborne, is not well disposed to a project once led by Micheal Hesiltine.  Hesiltine would have seen this as a delivery project with detailed and costed proposals.  I greatly admire Sir John Armitt but this and the Arup report that accompanies it see it primarily as big engineering.  Sorry I think that was a miscalculation.

It was buried because the Treasury wont back it.  Hammond is not disposed to ‘bids’ from private Pike and other ministers having now been forced to raise taxes for the NHS.  Cam-MK-OX got the green light because the technical work showed a ‘transformational’ growth scenario allowing for higher economic growth.  What is more astonishing is the SHMAs for the area do show the uplift this implies – for South Essex for example it implies +16% (to 2036).  Im rather angry it was job number 1 for Arup and was missed.  The various partnerships in the area will now have to make the case.

Raab to break ‘vice like grip’ of large housebuilders


The “vice-like grip” of huge companies on Britain’s building industry needs to be broken to increase the supply of affordable homes, the housing minister has said. Dominic Raab pledged action to boost competition in the construction industry because small building firms have been “eviscerated”, to tackle the practice of major developers refusing to built on plots until prices rise and to champion the development of factory-made houses. In an interview with i , he insisted the UK was beginning to see the “light at the end of the tunnel” in the housing crisis and vowed to tackle the “stigma” often faced by tenants in social housing. House building targets Small businesses have almost been eviscerated in the UK market and consumers are then getting a bad deal because the cost of housing Dominic Raab Theresa May has set a target for 300,000 homes to be built in England by 2025 – last year’s total was 217,000 – after anger over the cost of new homes and rent levels became a major issue in last year’s general election. Mr Raab said extra spending on housing, as well as infrastructure to support new developments, was crucial for increasing the supply of affordable homes, but reform of the building industry was also essential. “When any market is gummed up, what you tend to see is a relatively small number of big businesses, big players, who seem to have control over the market and that can put a glass ceiling on the start-up of small businesses. “We have certainly seen that in the developer sector. Small businesses have almost been eviscerated in the UK market and consumers are then getting a bad deal because the cost of housing [is] too high.” Capitalism ‘for the little guy’ He indicated that restrictions could be introduced to prevent major developers acquiring land with planning permission but not building on it – a tactic out of the reach of small builders whose presence in the market has “effectively withered on the vine”. Mr Raab said the “incredibly exciting” growth of self-build houses – homes partly constructed in factories before they were moved to their sites – opened up the industry to new companies – and reduced disruption to communities from construction projects.

Thames Gateway is now Thames Estuary 2050 – But No need to wait till 2070 for a New Thames Rail Crossing @NatInfraCom

The Thames Estuary 2050 Growth Commission published its vision today, consummate timing from the Ministry three major announcements re planning on the same day so it got no publicity.  Also not being announced on the same day as the Budget, contract Cam-MK-OX it doesn’t have the implicit backing of the Treasury.  Sir John Armitt chair of the National Infrastructure Commission took over as Chair after Micheal Hesiltine was sacked from government roles.

The challenge of course is to avoid the failure of the Thames Gateway project which we have talked about many times over many years on here.  All high aspirations, no spatial plan, no specific infrastructure projects and no delivery mechanisms.  Despite it being described as a ‘growth area’ my analysis of census data shows plan target in the area to have been well below household formation, therefore rather the being a growth area in effect it was a restraint area.

Its a good report – with Arup’s logo (its Chairman was on the commission) discretely on the back cover.  its comprehensive, it even has a sectiom going back to the ice age.  Oh how many local plans have I read so long it feels like they go back to the ice age.

It divides the area up into the familiar South Essex, North Kent and London sub categories.  But describing South Essex as South Essex Foreshore, a daft title as it includes Brentwood and Basildon which have no coastline and Rochford whose foreshore is mostly on the river Crouch not the River Thames. (note:  The Commission seems unaware that Brentwood recently joined with the Thames Gateway South Essex Authorities to prepare a joint spatial plan ).

In terms of vision it promotes North Kent as a medical research corridor.  Though Pfizer are pulling out of Sandwich there seem to be many other takers at Discovery Park so this is a good concept South Essex is less clear.  It talks of a national resiliance centre.  Its former oil depots are becoming logistics centres so perhaps a ‘post oil economy’ focus on renewable, resilience and advanced/added value manufacturing/entrepot should be promoted to avoid reliance on low wage logistics growth (which is explosive around Thurrock).

On housing it promoted a housing target of 1 million new homes by 2050.  Adding up the existing government based OANs with addons for employment growth aspirations exceeds this slightly.   Notably their forecast is entirely demographic and does not include and additions for additional in migration caused by growth aspirations in development plans.  So the 1 million figure should be seen as a minimum.  The commission says:

The standard methodology for calculating objectively assessed housing need provides a figure by each local authority. If this distribution is adhered to, around two thirds of these homes will need to be delivered in east London. The Commission believes that solely focusing on homes in London is unsustainable and that more of these homes should be provided in Kent and Essex. The one million homes figure should be viewed as an Estuary-wide total.

Clearly the London numbers are not deliverable requiring a more than doubling of completions, which the Mayor of London now acknowledges will not happen.  How much of this though should go eastwards?  The Essex part of the area being incredibly constrained.  If this broad figure is to be reached radical options such as redeveloping Thamesmead at higher densities, espanding Canvey Island through land reclamation, building a flood wall east of Gravesend and developing New Setttlements at possible  locations such as Hooe, West Hordon, and RAF Marston.

As the technical report states

If these Plans demonstrate sufficient growth ambition – going above the minimum threshold set out by Government for local housing need; and given statutory status – Government should reward this ambition with substantial infrastructure investment and freedoms and flexibilities.

So heres the deal – take some of London’s growth and get infrastructure dosh.  But how much and will it be sufficient incentive.  Why not such an offer in a 360 degree arc around London?  Also you have to recognise the sheer scale of the London need overwhelms surrounding areas.  So for example if South Essex were to take only 10% of the Thames Gateway London need it would require tripling of the Greenfield (all Green Belt) land take.   This just isn’t on in such a highly urbanized and constrained area.  The overspill needs to be spread further and wider to avoid a bloody political fight.

In terms of public transport proposals

The Commission is supportive of the proposals for the Lower Thames Crossing.
However, in order to future-proof the proposed crossing, the Commission believes that the design should, as a minimum, not preclude the future delivery of infrastructure to support rail transport links and/or autonomous vehicles. Highways
England should also work with the relevant local authorities to ensure that the design and location of the crossing and connector roads minimise impact on traffic flows, unlock jobs and homes growth in the surrounding area.

Great.  Exactly what I proposed on here yesterday.

It also proposes something it calls Thames East Line

Delivery of new multi-modal (including rail) crossing east of the Lower Thames Crossing combined with the second Thames Barrier. Potential interchange points could be Basildon and the Medway Towns.
To maximise the benefits arising from a second Thames Barrier (which will provide world-class standard of flood protection) including improved north south connectivity, enhanced linkages with other high productivity corridors around London, agglomeration
opportunities at interchanges and improved access to
England’s high speed railway network.
How: Government should consider a multi-modal crossing as part of its planning for the next Thames Barrier. This includes the financing models, which
could be used to deliver the project by 2050.

Sorry this does not make sense in engineering, planning or transport terms.  It is a reheating of the Thames Hub proposal put forward by Fosters (yes he is on the commission) as part of Boris island.

The first problem is you cant put road or rail on top of a retractable flood barrier, you can in part but then you have to dip down and tunnel in areas where you have locks.  The model for the Thames hub being the St Petersburg Barrier.

This however wont work on the Thames. least of all well up river east of Tilbury.  At St Petersburg it bridges across 10km and is road only.  The flood gates notable to take full size tankers or container ships.  Rail would require a much less shallow gradient.  The various potential locations for a Thames Flood Barrier two are all 1-2 km wide.  It simply doesnt work in section.  If it was a dam like structure it would cause the Thames to silt up (like all large dams do to their rivers.  In any event the Environment Agency correctly models no need for a second barrier before 2070.  If no added value rests of bringing it forward there is no BCR case for this.

If you are going to build a rail link Essex to Kent you do it as part of the Lower Thames Crossing.  If you are going to build a second flood barrier you do it as a restractable structure like the existing and make it further downstream such as at Swanscome, so as to avoid block navigation to Tilbury and London International Ports and to avoid European protected sites.  If you are going to do tidal power do it as part of tidal lagoons that don’t block navigation, such as part of land reclamation/flood walls work around Canvey Island or the Isle of Sheppy, where it could also create intertidal salt marsh habitat countering rising sea levels.