Saturday, September 15, 2018

Building new roads and new housing

The first issue to discuss is what has been called the Oxford to Cambridge Expressway. It is very difficult to find anybody who thinks that this has any merit but Highways England has produced a preferred corridor not yet for public comment but which has stirred up all those who see the folly of new road building.  Although the Expressway was conceived by the National Infrastructure Commission, the NIC is also on record as saying,
It is not possible for the UK to build its way out of congestion. Especially in urban
areas, where most congestion occurs, new roads lead to new journeys, filling up
the additional space.  People take advantage of the new capacity to make different
choices of where to live and work, and when to travel, rather than reducing
It seems clear that the Government see the road as a means of building up to 1million car dependent houses along the corridor as a stimulus to the regional and national economy.
In correspondence with Highways England it seems that they don't know how the road will impact on the viability of the proposed railway line along the same route, how the automation and electrification of road transport will affect demand for new roads, or the impact on the already seriously congested A34, A420 and A40 that would feed into the Expressway at the western end. Any benefit to connectivity between Oxford and Cambridge would be cancelled out by gridlock on the A34. Sad.
The second issue came from the examination of a local plan where the council (and inspector) seemed to think that it was acceptable to have policies supporting new housing with energy efficiency levels about 30% below zero (ie Part L of existing building regulations) even if the regs are being tightened, the performance gap is not.  The UK Green Building Council has done its best to expose this fiasco at

The inspector was implacably of the view that planning was 'responsive' and could not be 'proactive'. He backed a council policy on the basis that it passively supported proposals for sub-divisions (ie a permissive policy) and rejected the idea that a local plan might actually promote, prioritise or privilege such development (eg custom-splitting or community led housing).  He did not seem to be impressed by the idea of proposing a Local Development Order allowing green custom-splitting or reserving sites from larger allocations or permissions for community led housing. It seems that the planning system has a role in allocating land for conventional housing and then letting the development industry do the rest. Nothing about quality or making better use of existing housing.

Together, road transport and housing are responsible for at least  40% of carbon emissions and the opportunity to use the land use planning system to reduce these to zero is being missed.

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