The reason that Kingston’s housing targets are so high is due to the expectation that Crossrail 2 will be coming to Kingston. Now we know that if it ever comes it will not be for a very long time. Our Chessington District Residents’ Association Planning Officer Dick Ware has written to Caroline Kerr, the Leader of Kingston Council pointing out that this new information cannot be ignored and asking how the current targets have been arrived at. Read his comprehensive report below:-
We will post any replies that we receive.
The Abandonment of Crossrail 2 RJ Ware Date 27th Nov 2020
Chessington District Residents’ Association
This news announced on 25th Nov 2020 is probably the result, in no small part, of the nails in the coffin experiences of Crossrail 1, which is considerably over budget and overdue, the dire financial straits of the Country and a reassessment of the seismic changes to employment practices. People working from home for a number of days each week means fewer people will be using the rail network to access central London. These practices have evolved to mitigate the effects of the Corona virus lockdowns. However, they are now considered to be, to a great extent, the new excepted norm. I have also recently read and heard that whilst house rents in central London have fallen 25% those in outer London have risen by 7.5%. These changes will not only effect how we work and where we work but also where we want to live.
It is totally unrealistic and unsustainable, which are euphemisms for a ‘complete waste of time’, to carry on as though nothing has changed in regard to housing targets for London. A housing densification was predicated on the completion of the delivery of Crossrail 1 and 2. Currently Crossrail 1 is already very late and Crossrail 2 is effectively dead. Both were thought to be required and then, even with both of them, the predicted substantial population increases for London would have overwhelmed the public transport system in a period of less than a decade. If higher road pricing is introduced for cars even more people will use public transport. The people of Kingston have made it clear that if there is no assured increases in the delivery of housing related infrastructure then any increase in homes supply should be resisted.
People have had time to reflect:-
- Being in lockdown in a two bedroom flat with only a balcony is no fun
- Working from home in a two bedroom flat is difficult and congested.
- Having to go into the office only 2 days a week saves a lot of angst and wasted life.
- Having to go into the office only 2 days a week saves a lot of money.
- Do I need to be in London?
- Companies are already moving from central London to smaller hubs in outer London and the Home Counties.
- Residents are saying why don’t we do the same? Possible shorter commutes. They will get more for their bucks including possibly a 3 bedroom house with a back garden and a front driveway where they can park their car off-street instead of half a mile away on-street and probably in a CPZ.
- Companies save money.
- Better for the environment.
Consequently, I feel the ‘powers that be’ in London need to start thinking about re-setting London’s housing targets in the light of the fundamental changes that have occurred to peoples working and domestic lives resulting from the pandemic crisis. To carry on as though nothing has changed would again be a terrible neglect of duty by all our political masters of all persuasions. Indeed, almost as bad as the terrible neglect of duty over many years that have led the country generally and London in particular into this housing shortage debacle in the first place. Many people’s homes, and thus lives, could be blighted if unnecessarily dense developments are put in place and it is later discovered that they were either not needed or not needed at the excessive densities often now being proposed. This is a 22 year rolling plan and there is no need for a building mania at the start but rather building up to known, properly assessed needs after a thorough reassessment of requirement for the new norm.
In the interim I would like to know the details of what is to happen to the Borough in respect of the 22 year period for the New London and the New Local Plans regarding:-
- Increased number of home delivery requirements to designated “Opportunity Areas (OA)” and where are these areas and what is their specific size. They are already being used by developers and our own planners as evidence at Development Control Committee meetings to permit planning decisions, and the residents haven’t got a clue as to where they are or the planning regulations governing them. I would be grateful if you could advise where they may be found. As the New London Plan has not been ratified, the ‘Opportunity Area’s’ are not even in place and I won’t be fobbed off with “Greater Weight”
- Could you confirm that the very substantial one-off additional housing allocation to our Borough’s new build target, which was introduced for the arrival of the Crossrail 2 facility to all of the Boroughs main line stations, has now been abandoned? This was instigated on the fact that Crossrail 2 was not necessarily needed for the existing or projected resident numbers. However, as Crossrail 2 would increase the passenger capacity exponentially. It would then encourage the authorities to increase the population in the areas to fill the new capacity. In other words, densify the areas surrounding the stations. After all someone has to pay and fund the Crossrail 2 project and neither the government or TfL combined has that sort of money.
- Anticipated annual general housing growth targets have regularly been changed. It is currently 643 per annum but is to be raised to 964. This figure was previously 1,364 but was reduced by 400 after representation by the Council to the GLA. The latest Government document, August 2020 “Planning for the Future”, indicates that home delivery for Kingston needs to be 1,526 per annum!
It is hardly surprising with this range of vastly differing numbers there is some skepticism as to how they were decided. Being slightly cynical I feel the finger in the air method was used but that is usually to the nearest 100 and these numbers are very specific. We would like to know the math’s behind the calculation of the highlighted figures and whether it is actually the 946 or the 1,526 figure that will be Kingston’s target. Do these annual figures make inclusions to cover items 1 and 2 above?
- What is the progress on the New Local Plan? I was a person registered for the consultation and attended nearly every consultation meeting up to the end of the consultation period up to the point where it was taken away by the Council officers for drafting. I haven’t heard anything for over a year now. Has it been put on hold or what is its standing. If consultations are on going why have I not been invited to participate?
Those in Tolworth can feel particularly aggrieved as the approval of the 950 housing units on the old Government offices site and the 261 housing units at the Tolworth Tower site were much influenced by the fact that Crossrail 2 was coming. Instead, we would suggest the proposed additional 19 and 15 storey blocks of ‘Built to Expensively Rent’ proposed at the Tolworth Tower, which we would assess would create over 200 flats, are scrapped. As I suggested a year and a half ago, an appropriately sized office block would be preferable. It would return Tolworth to a viable centre for both work and residential life. It would create a significant number of local jobs and help bring about a more balanced and vibrant community.
November 2020 – It appears that Crossrail 2 has been abandoned. Read Crossrail 2 newsletter in the link below:-
You can also read a comprehensive report from the Financial Times, dated the 2nd of December on this topic, detailing the Governments £825 million grant to Transport for London for the completion of Crossrail 1. The funding for Crossrail 2 will be redirected and used ‘to raise the performance of public transport networks in the regional cities’