Wednesday, 11 February 2015

The Outrageous Brentwood Strategic Growth Options Consultation

Brentwood Borough Council are currently running a so-called public consultation on their Strategic Growth Options. In reality it is a loaded manifesto designed to appeal to the NIMBY side of the Brentwood population to get them to support development of the A127 corridor near West Horndon and Basildon rather than the A12 corridor where most Brentwood inhabitants live.

This will have a seriously adverse affect on Basildon and West Horndon if we do not make our feelings known. We only have one more week until 17th February to respond online through the consultation site at There are twelve biased questions to answer and you have to read the long document to see through them, but this is very important so please find some time to do this.

To help you I am providing my answers here, but you should find your own answers since copying someone elses will not add much weight to the consultation. It is best to keep your answers to under 100 words otherwise the system makes you shorten it to a summary. I found that too hard to stick to!

Q1 Do you agree with the three broad areas, for the purpose of considering approaches to growth?
Object: The division into North, A12 and A127 is too simplistic and will encourage a NIMBY response with the majority of the Brentwood population in the A12 corridor advocating a preference for development in the much smaller A127 area away from the A12 corridor.  It is inappropriate that the division between the A127 corridor and the A12 corridor has been placed much nearer to the A127 than the A12. Herongate and Ingrave for example should be included in the A127 corridor, not the A12 corridor since the A127 is more accessible to them.

Q2 Do you agree with the issues raised for each of these three areas?
Object: In the section on the A12 it should be mentioned that the A12 is a better quality road than the A127 corridor and that improvements from Crossrail will increase rail capacity. This makes the area suitable for development
The A127 is described in 2.18 as a "Fenland landscape". The term Fenland refers uniquely to an area in Cambridge which is very different from the A127 corridor. This term is being used to make it sound like the area has less utility when in fact it is very similar to the green belt land in the A12 corridor.
In 2.19 It says that the A127 has more scope for improvement. This is a biased interpretation of the situation. It should say that the A127 is more congested and less well constructed than the A12. It would require huge sums of money to improve it that are not likely to be available in the timescale of the present plan.
It should also be mentioned that the C2C line is also over-congested with no plans to improve its capacity in a way that has been done for lines through Brentwood and Shenfield.

Q3: Do you have any comments on the appropriateness of particular sites?
Object: In section 3.6 on Planning for Gypsies and travellers it mentions "mixed-use development at a new strategic allocation" The use of the singular here is not appropriate
In the government document for communities "Designing Gypsy and Traveller Sites Good Practice Guide" It recommends that the size of sites for Gypsies and Travellers should be at most 15 pitches. The Brentwood requirement for new pitches exceeds this figure. According to the "Essex Gypsy and Traveller and Travelling Showpeople Accommodation Assessment", the borough will need to provide an extra 59 pitches by 2033 This means that either existing sites will need to be enlarged where there is scope or at least four new allocations will be needed in the borough.
In 3.8 it says that pitches should be planned in allocations "such as options within the A127 Corridor" The local residents in the A127 corridor including those nearby in Basildon will not accept an overlarge allocation in this area especially since the Basildon target for new pitches is even larger. This paragraph is trying to mislead the population of Brentwood into believing that the allocation of pitches will not affect the A12 corridor but this will not be possible.
This section of the Strategic Growth Options is aiming to encourage the Brentwood population to favour the A127 corridor for development and especially the Dunton Garden Suburb site in order to keep developments away from the A12 corridor. Any decision must be based on Evidence Based comments and not on people’s desire to confine new development to areas away from where they live.

Q4: Given the greater capacity for growth along the A127 Corridor, which of the sites put forward do you think is the best location for growth?
Object: This is a blatantly loaded question to bias answers in favour of selecting the A127 option. The Brentwood council should never have allowed this question to be put forward in these terms.
There is not a greater capacity for growth along the A127 Corridor. The traffic along the A127 and C2C line is higher than that along the A12 and the rail line through Brentwood and Shenfield due to the much larger commuter population in Basildon. Whereas Crossrail has increased capacity for the A12 corridor the pressure for austerity over the next decade mean that there is little hope of funding to improve capacity of either road or rail in the A127 corridor.
All three areas (North, A12 and A127) should be grown in proportion to the size of their existing Brentwood populations since that best reflects local growth needs.

Q5: Should the A12 Corridor accommodate growth by releasing sites on the edge of urban areas?
support: provided it is not green belt or protected habitat. That is where the infrastructure capacity and demand for growth is highest

Q6: In order to provide for local need is it preferable for greenfield sites on the edge of villages to be released, or to develop brownfield sites (both within Green Belt)?
Object: It depends on the nature of the "brownfield" sites. Sometimes areas within green belt become brownfield because developments of a kind that do not lose its rural nature have been allowed. This should not be used as a stepping stone to remove these areas from the green belt. If the original use is no longer needed they can be returned to their former state. Each green belt site should therefore be judged on its own merits in terms of its natural habitats and amenity as green belt land irrespective of whether it is currently regarded as greenfield or brownfield.
I think that it is necessary to make use of all sites that are not on green belt to their full capacity before considering any development on green belt land.

Q7: To enable future employment need to be met do you agree that the most sustainable approach is to allocate new sites close to the strategic highway network?
Object: I do but the area that best fits this approach is the industrial are off Walsh Road. This area is well served by the forthcoming crossrail link to Shenfield and has an easy connection to a large junction on the A12 which avoids traffic  through residential areas, yet this area is marked only as a possibility for a park and ride scheme. It should have been considered as the best area for new industrial development.
By contrast the A127 corridor already has large industrial areas around Basildon. Those in West Horndon and Childerditch are already underused. This is largely due to poor access to the A127 which is also over-congested. These are not good locations for expansion of industrial land use until the infrastructure has been improved in the A127 corridor.

Q8: In order to ensure that the Town Centre remains economically sustainable, do you agree that a “Town Centre First” approach should be taken to retail development?
Object: I think that new retail development will be most needed near to areas where new housing development will be proposed. Brentwood Town Centres become congested and does not have adequate parking. Brentwood has no out-of-town retail areas where parking can be free like the popular Pips Hill and Gardiners Link retail areas of Basildon. More vision is needed for Brentwood's future retail needs rather than obeisance to the lobbying of existing retailers in unsuitable locations.

Q9: Are there opportunities for more open space provision in the area where you live?
Object: I live near the area of Dunton which should remain as it is. The green belt was created to permanently protect area like Brentwood from urban sprawl. It should be preserved and not changed or developed. It is not good enough to define new nature reserves to compensate for loss of green belt land, nor is it possible to relocate wildlife effectively to allow areas to be developed. Wildlife habitats that are protected by law can be found on all green belt land not just those designated as conservation areas or sites of special scientific interest. Any possibility of development on green belt or other open spaces needs to be proceeded by a detailed environmental impact assessment and where protected habitats are found there should be no development in or around them.

Q10: Please rate the level to which you value the landscape near where you live(on a a scale of 1 to 5), as compared to other areas within Brentwood Borough, for the following aspects:
Scenic Beauty / Attractiveness: 5 Very High
Outdoor Recreation / Leisure Use: 4 High
Wildlife Interest: 5 Very High
Historical Interest: 5 Very High
Tranquility: 5 Very High

Q11: To what extent do you think the following is present in the landscape near where you live:
Houses: 3 Frequent
Commercial/ Industrial buildings: 2 Occasional
Nature Reserves / Wildlife: 4 Predominant
Farmland: 3 Frequent
Woodland: 3 Frequent
degraded / Derelict / Waste land: 1 absent
Infrastructure: 3
Leisure / Recreational Facilities: 3 frequent

Q12: Have we considered the main infrastructure issues? Are there other important issues to consider?
Object: The plan has not considered the extent to which development of infrastructure will depend on neighbouring boroughs. If the A127 corridor is developed the infrastructure used will come in most part from Basildon rather than Brentwood. Brentwood will then have to contribute to improvements for Basildon that will not benefit the people of Brentwood.
When considering options Brentwood needs to be realistic about what new infrastructure can be constructed in the timescale of the developments given present and near future austerity measures. There should be no decision to build in areas where infrastructure is already inadequate until there are firm commitments to improve the infrastructure before or during the development.
For development of the A127 corridor the infrastructure is already inadequate. Road and rail infrastructure is poor in the area in contrast to the A12 corridor where Crossrail is nearing completion and the major road junctions to the A12 are much better than those onto the A127.
Education infrastructure in the A127 corridor is already woefully inadequate. Secondary school age children from West Horndon and Langdon Hills are almost exclusively bussed to other towns such as Billericay and Brentwood because there is no adequate provision for secondary schools there. At least one new large secondary school is needed in the West of Basildon to support the local population. If the Dunton Garden Suburb is built there will be enough demand for a second new secondary school. Yet the draft local plan for Basildon makes no provision for such secondary schools. Since a secondary school can require about 10 hectares of land these schools would need to be planned along with new developments and cannot be left to be built later.

Q13: What do you think the priorities for infrastructure spending should be?
Object: All the infrastructure needs identified are absolutely essential and must be fully addressed before development is planned. There can be no question of prioritising to the detriment of any one element of the required infrastructure.

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