Opposition to London Plan on Parking Levels

A report in Local Transport Today (LTT) has highlighted how some London Boroughs are strongly opposed to Mayor Sadiq Khan’s London Plan which is currently the subject of a public consultation (see https://abdlondon.wordpress.com/2018/01/07/london-plan-abd-submits-comments/ for background). The main concern is the proposed new controls on parking provision in new housing developments. These have been substantially reduced such that many developments in central London will have exactly zero provision for parking (and that would be legally enforced). Even outer London where public transport access is high (PTAL levels 5 and 6) would also be covered by the zero rule, and even where PTAL levels are much lower parking provision will be severely restricted.

This is of course part of the Mayor’s Transport Strategy to drive car usage out of London altogether. In addition he is reducing the ability of local Boroughs to make their own decisions on what is most appropriate for their boroughs, thus increasing the centralised dictatorship or the Mayor and TfL. This is what Lisa Fairmaner of L.B.Kingston had to say to councillors “[It is] a direct challenge to local government in London with the mayor taking over a detailed planning policy role that should be carried out by local authorities through their local plans”. She suggested the Mayor was exceeding his powers.

The Leader of Bromley Council, Councillor Colin Smith, issued a statement in December which criticised the housing targets and impossibility of providing the necessary infrastructure to support many more residents. The maximum parking provision was also criticised by Bromley in the LTT report, including the inability of councils to set minimum parking provision standards.

It is surely no surprise that outer London boroughs, and their residents, are not happy with the Mayor’s proposals which are as usual developed with a mindset that cycling, walking and public transport are the only transport modes that should be used in London. This simply takes no account of the needs and desires of many residents, particularly the elderly and disabled of which there are enormous numbers in London. Restricting parking provision does not stop people owning cars but just causes the roads to be clogged up by parked vehicles with obstructive parking becoming commonplace. Parking provision should be dictated solely by market demand for it, as the ABD said in our submission to the London Plan consultation.

Roger Lawson

Twitter: https://twitter.com/Drivers_London

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London Plan Meeting

I attended a meeting yesterday (1/2/2018) hosted by the GLA on the London Plan. It was in Bexley Civic Centre in Bexleyheath. The lead speaker was Jules Pipe, Deputy Mayor for planning, regeneration & skills. Someone later asked who elected him – nobody of course – he was appointed by Mayor Sadiq Khan. There were a number of other Greater London Authority staff present who had worked on the London Plan including Gareth Fairweather from Transport for London (TfL). I spoke to him later and gave him my views on the London Plan and the Mayor’s Transport Strategy.

There were about 100 people in attendance, local councillors and the general public who could afford to spend three hours in the daytime to attend. After the initial presentations, which were somewhat boring although planning policies always are, there was plenty of time for comments and questions from the audience. It was clear there was wide opposition to the London Plan with particular concerns about the densification of the local borough (although there were also concerns about affordable housing provision), the restrictions on parking provision, the difficulty of accomodating more people and houses without more infrastructure (in schools, hospitals, etc), and the prejudice against the use of cars. Theresa O’Neill, Leader of Bexley Council, said they would be “sending back a robust response” to the consultation on the London Plan. Let us hope other London boroughs do the same. Another councillor said that Mayor Sadiq Khan does not understand outer London.

I asked a couple of questions:

1) Why does the London Plan (and the speakers at this event) talk about car dependency when using a car is simply a rational choice? It’s a prejudicial term and would not be used to describe people over-reliant on their cycles (as members of the panel might be)? Answer: it’s just a term to describe excessive emphasis on using cars when most trips can be done by walking, cycling and public transport (the Mayor’s target is 80%).

2) The main purpose of streets is surely to assist the movement of goods and people. While the London Plan and the Mayor’s Transport Strategy seems to want to turn them into places for social interaction and exercise. Please justify. Answer: Different roads have different purposes. Some might be used for movement while others might best be classed as “places”. Comment: George Orwell made it plain how changing the language can turn black into white. So defining a key road junction as a “place” (such as Bank junction in the City) enables closure of the road to traffic.

One speaker made a good comment on the provision of housing in Bexley. Apparently a former Planning Inspector decision suggested that only 450 new homes per annum could be built in Bexley due to limits on infrastructure. But the Mayor’s London Plan is ignoring that and insisting on 12,000 more homes.

Another speaker talked about the lack of hospital provision and other infrastructure. The nearest A&E if you live in Bexley is Woolwich or Dartford. They could be 30 minutes or more away. There was also a problem with water supply.

One particular vociferous Irishman suggested that cycling up hills in the borough would be exceedingly difficult.

Those attending were encouraged to submit responses to the public consultation on the London Plan. Go here for information on what the ABD has already submitted and how to do so yourself: https://abdlondon.wordpress.com/2018/01/07/london-plan-abd-submits-comments/

As the speaker from the GLA pointed out, there will be an independent review by a Planning Inspector so it’s possible notice will be taken of comments in the final version of the London Plan which will dictate policies in London for the next few years (unless Mayor Sadiq Khan is ejected when his re-election becomes due). He is surely not going to get much support from the residents of outer London boroughs if the meeting described is anything to go by.

Roger Lawson

Twitter: https://twitter.com/Drivers_London

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Press Release: TfL Forced to Disclose ULEZ Costs

The Alliance of British Drivers (ABD) has issued the following press release:

Back in April 2017 the ABD responded to a public consultation on the proposed extension of the ULEZ. However we criticised the lack of information on the cost/benefit of the scheme, indeed of any information on costs and likely revenues at all, which made making an informed response to the consultation difficult.

As Transport for London (TfL) refused to provide such information when requested we submitted a Freedom of Information Act request. TfL refused the request on the grounds of “commercial confidentiality” so we asked for a review and subsequently appealed to the Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO).

They have upheld our complaint and so we should get the requested information after all (unless they appeal to the First Tier Tribunal). But is it not disgraceful that TfL can obstruct and delay this legitimate need for such information?

TfL claimed it was commercially sensitive because they were already talking to possible suppliers but the ICO judged that there was insufficient evidence that such disclosure would result in specific harm to TfL that would justify refusal.

In our view the ULEZ proposals are out of proportion to the benefit to be obtained. The fact that TfL are apparently reluctant to disclose the financial budgets for this scheme suggests to us that it is more about tax raising than simply tackling the air pollution health issue.

In addition the costs of the scheme may be so high that even with the additional taxes raised from vehicle users, it may be unaffordable. BUT WE DON’T KNOW BECAUSE TFL REFUSED TO TELL US.

It is unfortunately typical of late for the Mayor of London, Sadiq Khan, to issue public consultations in his name that are biased polemics of the benefits of his proposals while not disclosing the facts. Democracy is undermined when a public authority acts in this way.

It is further undermined when TfL refuse to disclose information and by doing so delay its release past the consultation due date when they know any appeal process will take many months.

There is great public concern about the costs imposed on London residents by the ULEZ proposals, often on the poorest residents. It needs to be clear that the benefits are justified by the costs and that more cost effective solutions to tackle London’s poor air quality cannot be found.

More information will be published when we get the requested data; in the meantime you can read the ICO’s decision notice here: http://www.freedomfordrivers.org/ICO-Decision-ULEZ-Request.pdf

More Information

The ULEZ proposals are part of the Mayor’s Transport Strategy which the ABD is vigorously campaigning against – see this web page for more information: http://www.freedomfordrivers.org/against-mts.htm

There is also an attack on vehicle usage and parking provision in the “London Plan” which the ABD is also opposing on the grounds of irrationally and the use of emotive phrases such as “car dependency” to describe people’s rational choice of transport mode. See the above web page for our recent submission to the public consultation on the London Plan.

For more information on this issue, contact Roger Lawson on 020-8295-0378.


London Plan – ABD Submits Comments

We made some initial comments on the “London Plan” in December. That is a document that spells out how Mayor Sadiq Khan intends to plan your life – at least so far as residents of London are concerned or those who have to use the transport system in the capital.

What’s the London Plan? It’s a document that sets the “spatial development” strategy for London over the next few years and has legal implications for planning developments, housing construction, transport infrastructure, and many other aspects of our lives.

The London Plan spells out how he intends to enforce “modal shift”, i.e. force you to use public transport or walk/cycle and ensure you take more exercise to improve your health. He intends to turn roads whose essential purpose is the movement of goods and people into places for “social interaction”.

Cars and other private transport modes will be discouraged by such means as reducing parking provision to zero, thus forcing us back into the Victorian era if not further.

He wants to fix his budget problems arising from financial incompetence and promises he made to get elected, now called a “funding gap”, by raising taxes including taking control of Vehicle Excise Duty (VED).

Some of this is covered in the Mayor’s Transport Strategy of course which we have encouraged people to respond to. But the important point is that unlike that where the Mayor will decide on the outcome, the London Plan is the subject of an inquiry led by a Planning Inspector, i.e. it’s an independent review.

You can see what the ABD has submitted to the inquiry on the London Plan here: http://www.freedomfordrivers.org/London-Plan-ABD-Comments-Submitted.pdf

You can also submit your own comments on the London Plan to the public consultation by going here: https://www.london.gov.uk/what-we-do/planning/london-plan/new-london-plan/comment-draft-london-plan . Please be sure to do so. The more comments that are received, the better.

Roger Lawson

Twitter: https://twitter.com/Drivers_London

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Sadiq Khan Plans Your Life

If you live in London, you should pay attention to the “London Plan” that Mayor Sadiq Khan has recently published. Indeed if you live in other large conurbations you might wish to review it also because the policies he is promoting might spread elsewhere.

What’s the London Plan? It’s a document that sets the “spatial development” strategy for London over the next few years and has legal implications for planning developments, housing construction, transport infrastructure, and many other aspects of our lives.

The Mayor makes it plain that London needs to cope with the rapidly expanding population and business activity. The population of London might reach 10.5 million by 2041 he says (currently 8.8 million). That means a lot more houses have to be built (66,000 per annum he says) and support for more workplaces.

In addition it has major implications for transport infrastructure while at the same time he wants to clean up London’s air. He wants to make London a “zero carbon” city by 2050, although no doubt he will be long gone by then. As part of this he aims to reduce “car dependency” (an emotive and inaccurate phrase disparaging people who have made a rational or personal choice about how they travel when you don’t see this said about those who rely on cycles for their daily travel needs).

Why has the population of London grown so rapidly in recent years and continues to do so? Page 12 of the Plan explains why. It says 40 per cent of Londoners were born outside the UK, and the city is now home to 1 million EU citizens, no doubt attracted by the vibrant London economy. This has put a major strain on housing, transport, social services and other infrastructure (incidentally an unbelievable 1.2 million Londoners are apparently “disabled”).

This state of affairs has come about because of national policies on immigration with no effective policies to distribute that more widely across the country compounded no doubt by a desire by some politicians to improve their chances of being elected.

Specifically looking at transport, the Mayor’s target is for 80% of all journeys to be made by walking, cycling and public transport (that of course includes the 14% of Londoners who are disabled!). It’s currently 64%. This is going to mean an aggressive set of policies to reduce car use – hence our campaign against the Mayor’s Transport Strategy which supports the London Plan – see http://www.freedomfordrivers.org/against-mts.htm

The Mayor highlights the health inequalities in London, with deprived areas of London having reduced life expectancies (as much as 15 years for men and 19 years for women) surely an astonishing statistic. What is the reason for this? Poor housing conditions are certainly one, but lack of daily activity is allegedly another so the Mayor wants us all to be walking and cycling.

The Mayor does have plans to improve public transport including proposals for Crossrail 2 and extension of the Bakerloo line but these proposals will do relatively little to soak up the increased demand, and with no proposals of significance to improve the road network, hence no doubt the need to encourage us all to walk or cycle.

The Mayor’s plans to support the need for more housing include targets for every London borough (for example over 2,000 new homes every year in Barnet, Brent, Ealing, Greenwich, Hounslow, Newham, Southwark, and Tower Hamlets). This includes high concentration developments in locations with good public transport access levels (PTALs), particularly inner London boroughs. Outer London boroughs might see a relaxation of planning regulations to allow more “in-fill” developments including building on back gardens as the Conservatives promptly complained about. There will be more encouragement for smaller builders, more efficient building techniques and “proactive” intervention in London’s land market (more “compulsory purchase” perhaps).

One aspect of transport infrastructure that the London Plan covers is that of parking provision for new housing, office or shop developments. It wants most developments to be “car free” (i.e. no parking provision), particularly those with high PTAL levels. The details of what this means in practice are not clear, but it looks like the intention is to reduce parking provision substantially, thus resulting in more on-street parking and obstruction.

The Mayor concludes his near 500-page tome on the subject of the “Funding Gap”. By this he means the gap between the public sector funding required to support London’s growth (and his plans) and the money currently committed. In other words, he wants more money, including a bigger share of taxation collected from Londoners. For example, he repeats his call for control of Vehicle Excise Duty (VED) which any right-thinking person should surely oppose. Yes the Mayor wants more money and more power. Unfortunately the establishment of directly elected Mayors such as Mr Khan has resulted in empire building of the worst kind. They are effectively dictators within their realms with no effective democratic constraints on their policies and negligible public accountability.

In summary, it is not clear that the building of lots of new homes (which of course will emit more pollutants, particularly during constructions, more than offsetting any reduction from restraining car use), of a fairly low standard in dense conurbations, is going to improve the quality of life for Londoners. It is undoubtedly the case that more new homes are needed in London but building new homes without complementary improvements to the transport infrastructure, which has consistently lagged behind the growth in London’s population, does not make much sense.

As is already seen in the statistics, older London residents are moving out and being replaced by immigrants. Some readers might wish to consider doing the same given the outlook for the quality of life in London. Simply reacting to the population growth in London without trying to constrain it, or divert it elsewhere, is surely a mistake.

You can submit your comments on the London Plan to the public consultation by going here: https://www.london.gov.uk/what-we-do/planning/london-plan/new-london-plan/comment-draft-london-plan . Please be sure to do so.

Roger Lawson

Twitter: https://twitter.com/Drivers_London

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