SEEAGA press release: Working with National Bodies - 19 Sep 2016

The SE Essex Action Group Alliance (SEEAGA) has been engaging with national bodies to highlight and contest the very large scale threats to Green Belt within our area.

SEEAGA is an association of 13 local groups seeking to protect Green Belt and other open spaces, as well as seeking to protect SE Essex as a whole from over-development.

A minimum of 65-75k are proposed for the 5 boroughs of the ‘Thames gateway South Essex’ area, with another 6000 proposed for Brentwood.

Campaign for the Protection of Rural England (CPRE)

SEEAGA members made a significant contribution to the production of the CPRE ‘Safe with us?’ which examines whether the government manifesto pledge that the Green belt was in safe hands with a Conservative government

Link: http://www.cprelondon.org.uk/resources/item/2339-safe-under-us

On 13th Sept representatives from SEEAGA members Rochford District Residents Association, RAID (West Basildon), Billericay Action Group, Dunton Community Association – as well as a sympathetic Rochford Green Party Councillor, attended the launch event of the report which was held at the House of Lords.

The report which makes extensive reference to Green belt issues across SE Essex (particularly Basildon, Castle Point and Rochford boroughs) identifies a number of issues:

  • At least 123k Homes – equivalent to a City the side of Coventry or Cardiff – are planned in the London Green Belt alone. The Dept of C&LG says this is an exaggeration, however CPRE were able to show the figure is likely to be significantly higher.
  • Criticised the government for making public statement emphasising that it's up to Local Councils if they want to build on GB - while at the same time giving ambiguous signals in private.
  • Makes a series of recommendations to the government, intended to secure Green Belt for the future.

The influential architect and planner Lord Rogers gave a speech in which he said that London could easily meet its own needs, for at least ten years, by using brownfield sites.

This is of particular relevance to SE Essex as most of the housing planned for the area is intended to accommodate people moving from London and elsewhere.

SE Essex could probably, taken as a whole, meet its own Local Needs without using any Green Belt.

Thames Estuary Growth Commission

It’s up the local authorities whether to build on Green Belt, and how much, however central government does wish to see growth in the Thames Estuary (broadly speaking East London, SE London, NE Kent and SE Essex) and has set up a Growth Commission under Lord Heseltine to identify constraints to growth in order that solutions to the solve or mitigate these issues be considered for funding.

SEEAGA recognises the enormous potential of brownfield sites within the capital and the stalled new town intended for brownfield at Ebbsfleet in Kent, however our view is that SE Essex is wholly unsuitable location for population growth and have produced a report to prove this.

Housing Growth:

The report first looks at the levels of housing proposed as ‘Objectively Assessed Needs’ for SE Essex under the non-binding but hugely influential Thames Gateway South Essex (TGSE) Strategic Housing Market Analysis (SHMA) released this year.

Proposed 20 year housing targets

LA Recommended Minimum[1] Notes
Basildon 16,000 Policies in Basildon draft Plan mean this is likely to be exceeded by a large margin.
Castle Point 7360 Castle Point does not intend to meet its OAN, but instead build 2000 almost entirely on Brownfield. This supplies more than enough homes for their own Local Needs.
Rochford 7040  
Southend 20,850  
Thurrock 18,920  

This is equivalent to 25-30% population growth over 20 years. The rationale of these large numbers is that it is intended to accelerate migration to the area to promote business through the availability of a much enlarged pool of labour. This attempt to boost the economy will be self-defeating.

Dependence on Rail:

The report identifies that SE Essex is a commuter economy, a high proportion of people work in London and our economy is dependent on the high wages local people bring back from the capital.

However the railway lines that take these people to work are at capacity, before the proposed developments.

Network Rail estimate, based on much more modest housing growth assumptions, that demand on the Fenchurch St and Liverpool Street lines will grow enormously. We have compared these increases to the maximum potential capacity improvements on the lines.

  • Liverpool Street to Southend Victoria:
    • 26% increase in demand 2013-23
    • 67% increase in demand 2013–43
    • Potential capacity improvements might deliver a capacity increase of approximately one third.
  • Fenchurch Street to Shoeburyness:
    • 36% increase in demand 2013-23
    • 76% increase in demand 2013–43
    • Potential capacity improvements would deliver a capacity increase of approximately one half.
Potential solutions are identified but would cost tens of billios and take decades to deliver. The Commission is likely to do little more than offer money for road junction improvements.

Conclusion:

Even without large-scale housebuilding, SE Essex is likely to become over-developed. By that we mean that demand for the railways on which our economy depend will far exceed supply and SE Essex prosperity will be threatened.

SE Essex is not a suitable place for large scale housing growth. Local Authorities should follow the example of Castle Point and cite Green Belt and Transport constraints as reason to have Housing Targets lower than their OAN.

[1] This is the average of the ‘Lower end’ and ‘Upper end’ recommended minimums

SEEAGA website: http://seeaga.uk/
Contact spokesman: Philip Gibbs: info@seeaga.uk, 07516 461173
South East Essex Action Groups Alliance press: http://seeaga.uk/press.html