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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Does Air Pollution in London Cause Asthma?

One response to the ABD’s campaign against the Mayor’s Transport Strategy is that we should not oppose it because it might stop their kids getting asthma. Children have been widely used in Sadiq Khan’s publicity over his plans to reduce air pollution and there is a strong emphasis in the Transport Strategy on the potential environmental benefits. But unfortunately, a lot of the arguments put forward are simplistic and show little understanding of the causes and prevalence of asthma.

Like the Mayor, this writer has suffered from asthma, so I have a personal interest in this issue. Note also that the ABD does not oppose cleaning up London’s air because one does not need a scientist to tell you that air quality in central London, and in some outer London “hot spots”, is appalling bad and not just makes walking or cycling unpleasant but probably exacerbates some medical conditions (including pre-existing asthma of course). The ABD’s opposition to the Mayor’s Transport Strategy is based on other factors and the irrational, ineffective and uneconomic approach to the environmental issues.

Let’s cover some of the basics about asthma:

  • Does air pollution cause asthma (in children or others)? As far back as 1995, a Committee on the Medical Effects of Air Pollutants (COMEAP) looked at this issue and came to the conclusion that although air pollution may provoke asthma attacks or aggravate existing chronic disease, the effect is generally small with other factors such as viruses, cigarette smoke, diet and house dust-mite droppings more important. They also noted that there had been a general increase in asthma in the last 30 years so it was now a very common disease. Was this down to more urbanisation and are city dwellers more likely to suffer from it because of air pollution? The answer is no. Indeed, a study in the Isle of Skye, where air pollution was believed to be minimal, showed as high a prevalence of asthma as anywhere else. See this report in The Independent for more information: http://www.independent.co.uk/news/air-pollution-is-not-the-cause-of-asthma-epidemic-1578437.html . Very heavy air pollution may reduce lung function in children according to more recent studies, but it is not the cause of the asthma epidemic in the last 50 years.
  • Why are allergies, that drive asthma, more common? There have been many possible causes put forward for this. It seems to relate to the exposure of very young children, or their mothers, that condition the immune system to over-react. For example, it has been argued that excessively clean houses are one cause. Smoking by mothers, or in houses, may have been another cause. Or a general increase in pollutants in the home. As we reported in the ABD London newsletter in June 2017, the concentration of some air pollutants can be five times higher indoors than outdoors. This is due to gas stoves, food cooking, dog/cat hairs, dead skin, lint particles from tumble dryers, deodorant spays, scented candles and air fresheners. The desire to minimise heat loss from homes, and reduce drafts (and hence fresh air) along with smaller homes might have contributed to these problems. Obesity is also a factor in asthma risk and we all know that has been rising. 
  • Are diesel vehicles a cause of worse air pollution and asthma? Diesel vehicles became popular for cars, and always have been for HGVs and buses, because of reduced fuel consumption and a desire to minimise carbon emissions. However that did not take account of the large emissions of NOX and particulates from such vehicles. But removing all diesel vehicles would not likely have much impact on overall air pollution levels in London. The reason is that much of the air pollution is from other sources such as home/office heating, industrial activities, or simply blown in from the countryside around. Even with vehicles, much of the particulates come from tyre and brake wear so converting all vehicles to electric ones will only reduce the emissions, not eliminate them. And removing private cars will have minimal impact when taxis, PHVs, LGVs, and HGVs continue to increase in number and are much bigger sources, as are trains, planes, river traffic and other transport modes. To reduce air pollution needs a much more “holistic” approach rather than focussing on one or two perceived evils alone. It seems very unlikely that attacks on diesel vehicles will have much impact on the causes or prevalence of asthma in any sensible timescale and the latest diesel vehicles are now very clean.

The above is a simplification of a very complex topic, but I hope it explains some of the key points. Does Mayor Sadiq Khan believe he is doing good by his aggressive environmental policies that will get us all walking and cycling (other than the disabled presumably)? Is he simply ignorant of the real issues? Or is he promoting these policies for other reasons, such as the financial problems of Transport for London, his desire to raise more funds and his desire to be seen as “doing good” to help his re-election?

Lastly, it’s worth mentioning that although asthma has become a lot more prevalent, the medical treatments for the disease are now quite effective in other than the worse cases. Certainly, much better than when I was a child. The high prevalence of asthma in the UK has been given as one reason why the UK became a centre for the medical research into treatments. But it seems to be a worldwide phenomenon that asthma levels have increased.

My conclusion is that cleaning up London’s air might make it a more pleasant place to live and work, but it won’t have much impact on the prevalence of asthma.

Incidentally a great article on the scare-mongering associated with air pollution is present here: https://notalotofpeopleknowthat.wordpress.com/2017/08/15/claims-of-40000-deaths-from-air-pollution-debunked-by-death-statistics/

Roger Lawson

Twitter: https://twitter.com/Drivers_London

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Is Khan Trying to Kill the Private Hire Industry?

Gareth Bacon, leader of the Conservatives in the London Assembly, has published a revealing article on the policies of Mayor Sadiq Khan under the headline “Is Khan trying to kill the private hire industry – or is he just incompetent”. It suggests that Khan is pursuing short term flashy policy gimmicks but he is hampered by his election promise to freeze public transport fares. This means he is “scrambling around to make savings and raise money”. One victim of this is the private hire (minicab) industry where proposed increases in license fees are astronomical. This could force hundreds of mid-size PHV operators out of business.

The costs for larger operators such as Uber will rise enormously – as much as 102,500 per cent the article suggests. That’s assuming they even manage to retain their license which is under threat.

The recently published Mayor’s Transport Strategy indicates he wants us all to walk, cycle or use public transport as it’s more “healthy” than getting in a car or PHV. So his tactics are certainly consistent if nothing else. He not just wants you to stop owning and driving a car, he wants you to stop using private hire vehicles and taxis also no doubt.

But like all good politicians, he is not proposing a simple ban, but attacking them indirectly by raising their costs and getting tough on licensing conditions.

The full article is here and it’s well worth reading:

https://www.conservativehome.com/localgovernment/2017/11/gareth-bacon-is-mayor-khan-trying-to-kill-the-private-hire-industry-or-is-he-just-incompetent.html

Roger Lawson

Twitter: https://twitter.com/Drivers_London

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Mayor’s Transport Strategy – Campaign Report

The formal consultation on the Mayor’s Transport Strategy (MTS) is over but responses to our campaign against it are still coming in. Thanks to all those who have submitted objections to TfL or the Mayor or have helped in other ways. Here is a summary of what has been achieved. More information on our campaign is present here: AGAINST-MTS

The campaign hasn’t been an easy one. The public consultation on this very important issue was launched in the Summer months and with minimal publicity by Mayor Sadiq Khan. As a result, media coverage was low. In addition lots of information about the proposals was concealed and requests under the Freedom of Information Act frustrated. In summary, a defective public consultation both legally and morally.

Myself and Brian Mooney put in a lot of work on social media, getting circulation on email lists and delivering tens of thousands of leaflets (with the assistance of other volunteers) so as to raise awareness of what Sadiq Khan is planning – effectively an attack on all private transport modes using the “healthy streets” concept and environmental scare stories in support. One way or another, we reached into all 32 London boroughs, despite working against the clock. We got positive responses in support from all parts of London and all sections of the community. You can read some of the comments received here: PUBLIC-COMMENTS

We will wait to see the results of the public consultation in the next few weeks and let you know what is published. But the Mayor may well ignore public criticisms of his plans (he can do that as he is effectively a dictator in London), so we will have to continue to fight on the individual proposals as they are progressed.

For example, allowing local boroughs to bring forward congestion charging plans may provide further battlegrounds and there will be Borough elections in May next year where you can express your opinions. The Mayor has admitted that he is in discussion with unnamed boroughs to bring forward congestion charging plans. This will not just create problems in an individual borough because to avoid being charged traffic will divert into neighbouring boroughs and create pressure for charging in that borough too. This disastrous domino effect has already been shown with CPZs. A similar pattern could occur if boroughs are forced to remove parking spaces.

It is important to communicate your views on the Mayor’s Transport Strategy to your local borough councillors, London Assembly Members and even your local Members of Parliament over the next few months. If you don’t know who they are, contact us for assistance (go to CONTACT ).

But we do need more financial support if we are to continue this fight (the campaign has already cost the Alliance of British Drivers (ABD) several thousands of pounds and we could have done a lot more with more resources.

PLEASE DO MAKE A DONATION NOW HERE: DONATE

THE ABOVE IS VERY IMPORTANT. TO PUT UP A GOOD FIGHT WE NEED BETTER FINANCIAL SUPPORT AS WELL AS ENTHUSIASTIC VOLUNTEERS!

Roger Lawson

Twitter: https://twitter.com/Drivers_London

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Uber Kicked Out of London

Transport for London (TfL) have announced that Uber’s licence to operate in London will not be renewed. That means their service will terminate in a few weeks and 40,000 drivers will be put out of work. There are as many as 3.5 million Uber users in London and a petition to reverse the decision has already been established on Change.org which has collected 450,000 signatures in about 24 hours – see https://www.change.org/p/save-your-uber-in-london-saveyouruber

TfL, supported by Mayor Sadiq Khan, claim Uber is not a fit and proper organisation to hold a license due to its failure to report incidents, failures on vetting drivers and other grounds. Uber have 21 days in which to appeal, and no doubt there will be a legal challenge as well if TfL do not back down.

TfL previously announced that license fees for Uber to operate in London will rise from £3,000 to £3 million for a 5-year license, so it is clear that the Mayor is attacking Uber via more than one channel. Why is he doing this? It is clear from the Mayor’s recently published Transport Strategy (see http://www.freedomfordrivers.org/against-mts.htm ) that Private Hire Vehicles (PHVs) such as Uber operate are contributing to traffic congestion in London in a big way. But it is also clear that the Mayor objects to all private vehicles whether you drive them or someone else drives them for you.

Are there alternatives to Uber? Lyft is a big similar operator in the USA but does not operate in London yet. Taxify launched in London recently but then had to suspend operations after TfL queried its license. There is a service called Hailo that operates to call conventional taxis (don’t bother trying to use it in outer London though in my experience), and numerous local PHV operators plus larger operators such as Addison Lee who have a ride hailing app.

Comment: I am not totally convinced that the allegations against Uber are serious enough to warrant refusal of a license. Perhaps Uber should up its game in several areas, but is it any worse than other PHV operators? As a relatively new service, with lots of new drivers, there are likely to be some teething problems. Other penalties could surely have been considered. For example, a grant of a new license for a limited period on certain conditions being met.

I have used Uber a few times and the service is both efficient and low cost (Uber loses money in a big way I understand). For example, I called Uber recently to take my wife home at 3.00 am in the morning from an outer London hospital. The driver arrived in about 3 minutes. Great service at very reasonable cost.

Many people will see this act by the Mayor for what it is. A simple attack on a service that the Mayor and those in TfL would like to put out of business so that people have to walk, cycle or use public transport (i.e. use many less safe alternatives) if you read his Transport Strategy. That is why the ABD is so opposed to it.

It is true that the number of PHVs is contributing to traffic congestion, but there are other ways to ration their numbers and usage (e.g. on price).

I recommend that you sign the petition, as I shall be doing.

Roger Lawson

Twitter: https://twitter.com/Drivers_London

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ABD Response to Mayor’s Transport Strategy

The Alliance of British Drivers has published its formal response to the public consultation on the Mayor’s Transport Strategy (MTS).

The Mayor’s proposals are completely distorted because he does not seem to understand what roads are for. This is our answer to the first question posed in the consultation: “It states on page 11 that “London’s streets should be for active travel and social interaction….”. This is nonsense. Streets are built and maintained at great public expense to provide an efficient and cost effective transport system for people and goods. If people need exercise, or social interaction, there are many other ways they can obtain that without taking up scarce road space. The priority should be on providing a transport network in London that meets the business needs and preferences of the public. It should not be distorted to meet other objectives.”

The full document is present here: ABD-Response. It’s well worth reading.

The MTS has a very heavy emphasis on environmental issues and one useful contribution on the debate about air pollution in London and how to tackle it has recently been published by the GLA Conservatives. It is present here: Clearing-the-Air . It shows there are good alternatives to the Mayor’s proposals which would not put such a heavy financial burden on London’s residents and businesses.

You can already see the impact of some of the Mayor’s policies in the news from TfL that license fees for Uber to operate in London will rise from £3,000 to £3 million for a 5-year license!

Roger Lawson

Twitter: https://twitter.com/Drivers_London

You can “follow” this blog by clicking on the bottom right.

A Vision in a Dream, After Coleridge

 

The following manuscript has recently come to light, perhaps written by an acolyte of poet Samuel Taylor Coleridge.

Roger Lawson

<A Fragment>

In London did Sadiq Khan

A stately Transport Strategy decree:

Where the Thames, the sacred river, ran

Through caverns measureless to man

   Down to a sunless sea.

So twice five miles of fertile ground

With walls and tower blocks girdled round;

And there were gardens bright with sinuous rills,

Where blossomed many a conker tree;

And here were roads ancient as the Romans,

Enfolding sunny spots of greenery.

But oh! that deep romantic chasm which slanted

Down among the City streets!

A savage place! As Mammon rampaged free

As e’er beneath a waning moon was haunted

By women wailing for West End shopping!

And from this chasm, with ceaseless turmoil seething,

As if this earth in fast thick pants were breathing,

A mighty fountain momently was forced:

Amid whose swift half-intermitted burst

Huge fragments vaulted like rebounding hail,

Or chaffy grain beneath the thresher’s flail:

And mid these dancing rocks at once and ever

It flung up momently the sacred river.

Fifty miles meandering with a mazy motion

Through East End industry and London’s suburbs,

Then reached the caverns measureless to man,

And sank in tumult to a polluted North Sea;

And ’mid this tumult Sadiq heard from far

Ancestral voices prophesying air pollution doom!

   The shadow of the dome of the GLA

   Located nigh the sacred river;

   Where was heard the mingled pleas

   From politicians left and right.

It was a miracle of rare device,

An un-costed Transport Strategy at the behest of Sadiq!

   A damsel with a dulcimer

   In a vision once I saw:

   It was an East European maid

   And on her dulcimer she played,

   Singing of Mount Street Mayfair.

   Could I revive within me

   Her symphony and song,

   To such a deep delight ’twould win me,

That with music loud and long,

I would build anew that dome,

Upon a new democratic model!

With freedom to ride the roads at will,

And all should cry, Beware the wrath of Khan!

His flashing eyes, his floating hair!

Weave a circle round him thrice,

And close your eyes with holy dread

For he on honey-dew hath fed,

And drunk the milk of Paradise.

<End>

The ABD’s comments on Sadiq Khan’s Transport Strategy are present here: http://www.freedomfordrivers.org/against-mts.htm . Please register your opposition.

Roger Lawson

Twitter: https://twitter.com/Drivers_London

You can “follow” this blog by clicking on the bottom right.