Hinkley C: Beware the consequences of large infrastructure projects

Hinkley Point C brings London-level traffic to small Somerset town.

Air and noise pollution, traffic chaos and rising rents are blighting the Somerset town that has found itself the gateway for the marathon construction of the new Hinkley Point C (HPC) nuclear power station, locals say.

Limits for air pollution have been exceeded on main roads on multiple occasions this year, while Highways England data shows truck numbers have increased by more than 20% since building work started in 2016.

On some roads, two heavy goods vehicles pass through every minute. Not all are delivering to Hinkley but, with no bypass built for the nuclear site, locals say it has made the town unnavigable at times.

Buses transporting 4,000 construction workers to the site add to the traffic – and the influx of workers is pushing up rents. Rat runs are in gridlock and a town that is home to just under 40,000 people is experiencing London-level traffic on some roads.

Friends of the Earth, which looked at the air quality data for 2018 and 2019 provided by the local Sedgemoor district council, said it was concerned about the high incidences of particle matter on some roads.

Data shows that particle matter measuring 10 micrometers (PM10) has exceeded safe limits on Quantock Road 16 times already this year, while on nearby Bristol Road those limits were exceeded 15 times.

The latest data for traffic shows the number of HGVs has increased from 470 a day in 2014 to 900 in 2018 on Quantock Road, the principal artery out of the town to Hinkley.

For nearby Horsey Level, the number of trucks a day is registered at almost 1,500, while on Taunton Road, the main road coming from the M5’s junction 24, residents have to endure 1,050 a day, making it difficult to cross the road and forcing many cyclists on to the paths for their own safety.

HPC says the number of HGVs travelling every day to and from the site is capped at 750.

… Hinkley agreed a fund to fit double-glazed windows on some of the busiest roads in Bridgwater. It says this is a goodwill gesture and not an admission of responsibility for the noise of HGVs.

“EDF have paid to replace all my windows, and it’s made no difference. On a summer’s night, I’m not able to sleep with the windows open at all,” said Balcombe. “I am woken up every morning at 5am from the noise of lorries. And when these lorries are empty the clatter they make is unbelievable with the metal bouncing round.”

HPC points out that the HGV movements will ease in the autumn when it switches supplies to the sea. The jetty is now complete and the permission it got for an extra 250 HGVs a day will expire.

For Bridgwater locals a bypass would have been the answer and helped relieve the town of its perennial traffic problem.

The former Labour councillor Mick Lerry, who was involved in the fight for a bypass, said the attempt was stymied because it was never part of the development consent order submitted by EDF. “As it was not part of the application, it could not be considered,” he said.

The government said it had considered the impact of HGVs on Bridgwater and was satisfied. …”

https://www.theguardian.com/uk-news/2019/aug/14/hinkley-point-c-london-traffic-bridgwater-somerset?CMP=Share_iOSApp_Other

Is our Local Enterprise Partnership attempting to hi-jack housing and infrastructure funding and control?

Yet another attempt by this unelected bunch of conflicted business people to suck up funding meant for local councils:

“…
Recommendations
2.1. 1.
That the Joint Committee pursue an area-based package to accelerate housing delivery which, at headline level, should include:

a. Resourcing of a strategic delivery team (capacity funding)
b. A major infrastructure delivery fund to unlock growth
c. A small schemes liquidity fund to bring forward stalled sites

2. That the proposed package as set out in appendix 1 is agreed as an
appropriate package to accelerate housing delivery across the HotSW
geography.

3. That the proposed package as set out in appendix 1 is used by officers as
the basis for future engagement with central government and its agencies in seeking to secure a bespoke deal for the HotSW area to structurally embed collaboration with central government on housing delivery.

4. That the Task Force seeks to now engage with senior figures within both Homes England and the MHCLG Growth and Delivery Unit to understand their appetite for driving growth and willingness to work with the Joint Committee on some kind of housing deal.

5. That the Task Force brings back any updates or progress to the Joint Committee to consider in due course.”

https://democracy.devon.gov.uk/documents/s26163/HotSW%20JC%20-%20Housing%20Task%20Force%20report.pdf

The appendix on pages 5 and 6 is particularly worrying.

And where does this leave the (stalled due to political changes) Greater Exeter Strategic Plan?

“£1.25m of taxpayers’ money spent guarding an EMPTY prison”

TAXPAYERS have footed a whopping £1.25million bill on the running of a prison which has no prisoners.

HM Prison Reading was closed in 2013 and the huge complex has stood empty ever since.

And in the six years since the site was shut, the Ministry of Justice still hasn’t managed to find a new purpose for it, racking up costs to the public purse.

The upkeep on the giant jail has cost Brits an eye-watering average of £24,000 a month since it closed its doors in November 2013.

SECURITY COSTS

Between April 2017 and March 2018 alone, a staggering £303,727 was spent on “security” for the empty cells.

And another £177,236 has been splurged on gas and electricity to keep the complex lit and warm since its closure, despite the lack of inmates.

The figures come after a report found the UK has the highest prison population in western Europe with some 90,000 citizens behind bars.

The vast Grade II listed building was opened in 1844 and has housed several famous inmates over the years, including Oscar Wilde and current heavyweight world champion, Anthony Joshua.

A Ministry of Justice spokesperson said: “Decommissioning work and upkeep is necessary to make sure the site is suitable to be sold.

“Parts of the former prison are listed and need to be protected, so preparing for sale is complex. These costs include ongoing security and maintenance.

“Money raised from the sale of the building will be reinvested into the prison system.”

It is not clear when the prison will be sold on but Richard Carling from the Prison Estate Transformation Programme said it was hoped that an announcement would be made later this year.

PRISON CRISIS

A recent report from the justice select committee slammed the “enduring crisis” with the UK prison system’s failure to cope with prisoner numbers.

It said: “Whilst progress made on the Prison Estates Transformation Programme is welcome, the new-for-old strategy is not working as intended.

“Sites for new prisons have proven difficult to obtain, older and decrepit prisons have been forced to remain open owing to population pressures and receipts from the sale of existing sites do not cover the cost of building new prisons.”

https://www.thesun.co.uk/news/8934914/millions-spent-guarding-empty-prison-reading/

EDDC now wants Government to pay for a town centre at Cranbrook

Owl is confused. Don’t you include a town centre in initial “new town” plans – and pay for it with developer contributions? Otherwise, it isn’t a “new town”!

“The government is being urged to extend its £675m Future High Streets Fund to also help create and improve town centres in new towns.

East Devon District Council and Cranbrook Town Council have written to the Parliamentary Under Secretary of State at the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government, Jake Berry MP, to request eligibility criteria for the Fund be changed to include new towns.

At a meeting of East Devon District Council’s cabinet earlier this month, they selected Axminster as the town to put forward to try and grab a share of a £675m fund. ..,”

https://www.devonlive.com/news/devon-news/allow-new-towns-like-cranbrook-2672297

“Government housing delivery plan ‘flawed’ “

Well, cover me in tar and call me the M5! Owl has been saying this for YEARS. The only question that needs to be asked is: Is this deliberate or unintentional? Either way, it’s a damning indictment of its mendacity and incestuous relationship with developers or a damning indictment of its totally inept ability to govern. Or, of course (and more likely) BOTH!

“The government’s housing planning system is unable to demonstrate it is meeting housing demand effectively, public spending watchdog the National Audit Office (NAO) has said.
The government wants 300,000 new homes a year from the mid-2020s onwards.

The Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government has a standard method, developed in 2017, for local authorities to assess the number of new homes needed.
The NAO says this has weaknesses.

It says these weaknesses will result in a cut in the number of planned new homes in five of nine regions, while in London, the method will mean that new builds need to double in order to meet what the department thinks is needed.
The Local Government Association (LGA) said the current formula did not take into account the needs of local communities.

‘Free-for-all’

Local authorities – by law – need to have an up-to-date plan for building new homes.

If they are unable to prove that they have a five-year supply of land for housing, developers have greater freedoms to build where they want.

The NAO points out that this risks ill-suited developments, while the LGA says it risks a “free-for-all”.

The NAO says that between 2005-06 and 2017-18, 177,000 new homes per year were built on average, with the number never rising above 224,000.

To meet its ambition for 300,000 homes a year, the department will need to oversee a 69% increase in the average number of new homes built.

The NAO recommends the housing department should regularly monitor the gap between its ambition for 300,000 new homes and what is being planned.

It also says it needs to work with local authorities and other government departments to ensure that infrastructure is delivered more effectively.

Amyas Morse, the head of the NAO, said: “For many years, the supply of new homes has failed to meet demand.

“From the flawed method for assessing the number of homes required, to the failure to ensure developers contribute fairly for infrastructure, it is clear the planning system is not working well.

“The government needs to take this much more seriously and ensure its new planning policies bring about the change that is needed.”

Councillor Martin Tett, the Local Government Association’s Housing spokesman, said: “We remain clear that the government’s housing needs formula does not take into account the complexity and unique needs of local housing markets, which vary significantly from place to place.”

https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/business-47157413

Investing in buses is better than building HS2 rail line

” …Improving the bus system would bring about significant productivity gains. If, for example, journey times became as reliable at peak hours as they are off-peak, the effective size of Birmingham would increase from 900,000 to 1.3 million people. Assuming UK cities would enjoy the same agglomeration benefits as those in France, Forth calculates that would mean an increase in output per head of 7%. …”

https://www.theguardian.com/business/2019/feb/03/economic-benefits-of-local-buses-eclipse-unrealistic-hs2-target

Strategic Planning pitfalls? Certainly for Axminster

A reporter … reports:

“At Tuesday’s Strategic Planning Meeting at Knowle (29 /01/2019), chaired by Paul Diviani, the masterplan for increasing Housing in Axminster by a whopping 30% , was voted through almost unanimously (there was one abstention), despite serious cross-Party criticism of the plan.

As the debate ended, the considerable number of Axminster residents in the public gallery were astonished to hear the Chair’s quip, to Cllr Jill Elson, “ I felt confident that you would come out with something that would stir things up”.

Cllr Elson (shown on right of the photo, beside Cllr Philip Skinner), had argued firmly that “the problem with plans is that they change” , citing her Ward as an example.

“Exmouth ended up with two huge estates with no play space or amenities whatsoever”, she said. Cllr Mike Howe (Con) shared her concerns, saying, (the masterplan) “doesn’t give us much credence or security that we will get the right houses”. But the Deputy Leader of the Council, Philip Skinner (Con ), expressed his view that “Give and take is needed in negotiations with a developer”.

Shortly afterwards, when Cllr Geoff Jung (East Devon Alliance, EDA) observed that the plan might not suit young families, it became apparent that Cllr Skinner was not aware that the proposal to include a primary school had been dropped.

Cllr Eleanor Rylance (Lib Dem) had noticed significant typing and other errors in the masterplan document. Cllr Rob Longhurst (Independent) observed there was no mention of the words ‘Neighbourhood Plan’ in the document.. although Cllr Moulding had told the meeting that he had designed one for Axminster… and suggested this Strategic Plan Committee would like to see “if the community wants and needs” the masterplan.

Cllr Susie Bond (Independent) asked for clarity about the legal implications for the Council if the costs for the relief road “went through the roof” (So far, EDDC has agreed to borrow £7m to ensure the road, estimated cost £16.7m, can be delivered.)

Ian Hall (Con) admitted “this masterplan doesn’t sit easily with the residents of Axminster”, which Alistair Ferguson’s speech in Public Question Time, confirms. The text is reproduced below, with Mr Ferguson’s permission):

In support of the objections, other District Councillors, Cathy Gardner and Marianne Rixson (both EDA), also attended the meeting, though not on the Strategic Planning Committee themselves.

Cllr Gardner pointed out that agreeing to a massive increase in the town’s housing numbers “would not be for the right reasons”, if it was done primarily to fund a relief road. The masterplan “was being done to the people of Axminster, not for them”, she said.

And Cllr Marianne Rixson added that “delivery of affordables does not have a good record” in East Devon.

Having listened to the comments aired, Cllr Geoff Pook (Ind) cautioned the committee not to be “persuaded by the opposition”. “There are just as many people in favour”, he opined.

Finally, the fear that the time-limited government funding for the relief road would be missed, therefore putting in jeopardy the 650 homes allocated in the Local Plan, swayed the committee members to approve the masterplan, albeit with caveats based on their misgivings.

Is this how the wrong sort of housing so often gets built in the wrong place?

In Axminster’s case, how much will the masterplan impact on the historic former deer park? As Cllr Mike Howe, Chair of the Development Management Committee (DMC) told yesterday’s meeting, there’s an urgent need to know….’