Increased capacity on three major transport corridors and a replacement Dartford Crossing was today idenitified as critical to supporting housing growth in the south east, in a major revision to the South East Plan.
In addition to tackling the three key corridors, the plan calls for further work in reducing demand through road pricing.
The South East Plan sets out a framework for sustainable growth that will support long-term economic performance in the region by encouraging the provision of new job opportunities and meeting the region’s housing needs.
The Plan deals with the key issues of tackling climate change, including flood risks, and protecting the region’s natural and historic environment. It also sets out the region’s transport strategy to 2026 and an overall framework for implementation.
In the plan, the following locations have been identified as priority transport links likely to come under increasing transport pressure as a result of underlying traffic growth and the housing growth, and where further work should be focused to identify the interventions needed:
- West of Reading to London. Particularly to address unreliability of the strategic road network, to include consideration of M4 management and capacity measures, Thames Valley bus and coach network, and Berkshire sub-regional mobility management measures
- A34 in Oxfordshire. Taking account of development options including adequate land use/transport scenario testing such as a detailed Green Belt transport study, and building on the Access to Oxford study
- A2/A282/M2 corridor including Thames Crossing options
In addition to tackling the three key corridors, the plan calls for further work in reducing demand at a regional and sub-regional level through interventions that focus on behavioural change, including pricing mechanisms.
It also sets out an intention to examine the transport implications of new growth and development, covering eco-towns and the second round of New Growth Points, and including development proposals in Canterbury, Herne Bay and Whitstable, the Thanet urban area, Shepway, Medway, Sittingbourne & Sheppey, south Oxford, Milton Keynes and Crawley
It also highlights the need for further development of a cross-modal regional freight strategy, improved access to international gateways including surface access to Heathrow and Gatwick and improvements to Southampton Airport interchange facilities, public transport improvements in the Winchester to Southampton transport corridor
and Brighton, rail improvements including Southampton to the Midlands, East-West Rail and Reading Station improvements.
Transport improvements are seen as vital to achieving the overriding goal of tackling population growth.
Increasing the supply of housing provision remains absolutely critical to the plan despite the current difficulties in the housing market and challenging economic outlook. The Plan sets out to deliver 654,000 new homes until 2026 to meet the region’s long-term housing needs.
The south east population is continuing to grow more quickly than the national average with people living longer and increasingly choosing to live alone. The latest statistics show the number of households in the region is projected to grow by some 39,000 each year over the next 25 years.
The gap between average house prices and average wages in the region has also widened and there are some 200,000 households in the region registered for social housing. The Plan sets out a target that 35% of the new housing provision must be affordable.
The Plan focuses growth in the South East’s regional hubs, including five strategic development areas in an arc from South Hampshire through Oxford to Milton Keynes.
Total public expenditure on transport in the South East has increased over the last five years by 18%, from £1.9bn in 2002/03 to £2.3bn in 2007/08.
The Department for Transport is currently considering proposals by the South East Regional Transport Board to fund 39 major road and public transport schemes in the South East between 2009 and 2015, which would potentially increase expenditure by a further £1.8bn.
The Institution of Civil Engineers welcomed the plan.
“ICE welcomes the South East Plan, which will provide an important long term framework for delivering new homes, jobs and infrastructure in the region. John Laverty, ICE Regional Director for the South East of England, said ICE regional director for the South East of England John Laverty.
“We must now ensure that we have enough skilled engineers to deliver the proposals set out in the strategy. Civil engineers will be central to the implementation of the Plan and we must ensure that the skills and capacity gap currently facing the industry is not widened by stop/start development and short term planning in response to the current economic situation.”