Uttlesford District Council
31 July 2018
Dear Sir or Madam
REGULATION 19 LOCAL PLAN CONSULTATION
I am writing on behalf of Bishop’s Stortford Civic Federation in response to this consultation.
We note that the spatial strategy proposes that major new settlements should be created at Easton Park and west of Braintree each comprising some 10000 dwellings, together with a significant expansion of Great Dunmow, between them. This is first summarised in para 3.32 and policy SP2 and then set out in more detail in SP 5,6 and 8.
The Plan pays lip service to the idea of supporting these new communities with ‘direct, high quality, frequent and fast rapid transit priority measures’. However the infrastructure improvements actually proposed here and in in transport policy TA 4 relate almost exclusively to the road network with no assessment of what sort of public transport should be provide in the suggested public transport corridor.
It is clear that whatever the aspirations for these new communities, they will in practice create substantial dormitory settlements for commuters to London and Cambridge – the main sources of high quality job opportunities. If the heavy rail network retains its present configuration, large numbers of them will drive to Bishop’s Stortford to catch the train. Road access from the east into Bishop’s Stortford is highly constrained and the station will face considerable pressure from the additional 4500 new dwellings allocated to it under the East Herts District Plan. It cannot realistically absorb a huge amount of extra demand from major new settlements on its doorstep but over the border in Essex.
The West Anglia main line is heavily loaded, unreliable because it is mostly two tracked, and is not earmarked for any improvements other than provision of a new fleet of longer trains. Crossrail 2 is most unlikely to have progressed at all during the currency of the Uttlesford Local Plan.
There is however, a relatively cheap and simple rail improvement which has not been identified in the Plan and which clearly should be. Stansted Airport railway station was designed so that an eastward extension could easily be made to the railway. The proposed new settlements would be in open countryside and could easily accommodate a rail corridor, provided that it is incorporated at the outset with stations enabling the great majority of the new populations to live within walking distance of a railhead. Only the final section of route, joining it to the Braintree branch line would need to occupy the alignment of the Flitch Way.
Such a development could easily be accomplished within the time horizon of the Plan and help to embed the use of public transport in the mind sets of the new residents. Anything less, such as a dedicated busway, is unlikely to get people out of their cars, particularly if getting to their end destination involves a change of transport mode. It would moreover create more resilience in the rail network by, for example, creating an alternative route from London to Stansted airport if the West Anglia main line is disrupted.
We therefore suggest that the Plan should be amended to make it explicitly clear that the proposed new settlements at Easton Park and west of Braintree will be supported by an eastward extension of the railway line to link Stansted Airport with Braintree. Each settlement will have its own railway station and development will only proceed in parallel with the completion of the new railway line, and not at all if the railway extension is not implemented.