Wider South East update

SEEC’s occasional update on our work with London and the East of England

August 2017


Mayor’s early thinking on London Plan policies  

South East representatives had a unique opportunity to seek to shape the Mayor’s early thinking on Wider South East (WSE) policies for the new London Plan, before its formal consultation in Winter 2017. In order to give members a chance to comment on emerging policies, a Political Steering Group (PSG) meeting scheduled for September was brought forward to July.

The PSG is attended by representatives from SEEC, East of England, the London Mayor’s office and London Councils. The SEEC members welcomed London’s collaborative approach in providing opportunities to shape policy, but concerns remain over some of the potential policies. SEEC representatives repeated their previous calls for the earliest possible indication of the size of any gap between the homes London needs and what it can deliver via the draft London Plan. SEEC members want assurances that the Mayor will consider all options to address housing need within London, including considering Green Belt release – as South East councils are already doing.

The Mayor has indicated he wants to work with councils outside London to help accommodate any unmet housing need from London. SEEC members reiterated the existing growth challenges, pressures and constraints facing many South East council areas. SEEC representatives welcomed the Mayor’s change of focus to seek ‘willing partners’ that may want to consider a deal for accommodating London’s overspill housing. This is more appropriate than assuming extra homes from London can be accommodated in growth corridors beyond its boundaries, many of which areas need transport investment to relieve existing pressures.

PSG members repeated calls for the Mayor to clearly set out not only the numbers but also the types of housing that he might need built beyond his boundary and how the Mayor could support infrastructure investment and look at relocating employment or businesses out of London. South East councils will need to clearly understand these aspects before they can properly consider if there could be beneficial outcomes that support local economic and other growth ambitions.

SEEC is writing to London Deputy Mayor for Planning, Regeneration and Skills, Jules Pipe to highlight South East key views on the issues raised.


Consultation on London Mayor’s Transport Strategy

The draft London Mayor’s Transport Strategy has been published for consultation until 2 October. July’s Wider South East (WSE) meeting provided an opportunity for South East representatives to comment and seek clarification on key points.

The Mayor’s Transport Strategy sets out policies and proposals to reshape transport in London over the next 25 years, encouraging a modal shift from private cars to public transport, cycling and walking. It contains several proposals with relevance to the WSE including:

*   Improving London’s transport links with the WSE and beyond
Political Steering Group (PSG) members welcomed references to the 13 WSE priority schemes in the Strategy but expressed concern that it suggests some of these as growth corridors for London. In response, TfL accepted the importance of maintaining consistency with the approach to growth that will be adopted in the forthcoming draft London Plan, for example the emerging focus on ‘willing partners’ who may consider working with the Mayor if there is unmet housing need in London.
*   Improved surface links to London’s airports
The Mayor’s proposed policies broadly echo earlier SEEC calls for transport improvements to support airport expansion to be to be fully integrated into the wider strategic transport network. PSG members called for the Mayor to also emphasise that transport improvements, such as western access to Heathrow, are necessary to meet current need irrespective of expansion.
*   Devolution of some suburban rail services to TfL control
Some SEEC members believe this could offer benefits to South East residents if delivered with their needs in mind, but to achieve this would require South East representation on TfL’s board to ensure influence, transparency and accountability. TfL suggested invitations to TfL’s South or West London partnership engagement meetings could be extended to key South East councils. South East members expressed concern over the challenge of successfully mixing longer-distance fast trains (serving the South East) and stopping services (primarily serving London) on the same lines. They want assurances that TfL’s modelling can minimise risks of service disruption.

PSG members also pointed out that more self-sustaining and balanced communities in the WSE – with homes, jobs and services – could help reduce the need for commuting into London and support the Mayor’s transport aims.

SEEC will submit a full response to the Mayor’s Transport Strategy consultation by the deadline.


Transport Secretary Chris Grayling to meet WSE reps

In July, Wider South East (WSE) partners discussed recent representations made to Transport Secretary Chris Grayling MP on 13 key transport investment needs, and his offer of a meeting in October. 

In response to a recent joint letter the Transport Secretary, Chris Grayling MP has offered to meet Political Steering Group (PSG) representatives to discuss how Government could help support the 13 priority transport schemes needed to underpin current growth plans, which were approved by members at the 2016 WSE Summit. The PSG discussed raising an additional issue with the Transport Secretary, that councils often face problems funding the necessary local links to motorway and A-road improvements.

PSG members decided to prepare a joint Autumn Budget representation to Government calling for investment in the 13 priority schemes and to have officers consider the feasibility of a joint WSE submission to the Government’s forthcoming consultation on funding a new Major Road Network.


News Roundup

WSE Summit date moved from 24 November to 26 January 2018
The next WSE Summit will now be held on 26 January 2018. This is to enable an interactive discussion on the London Plan to take place during formal consultation. London Deputy Mayor Jules Pipe has confirmed he will attend the Summit and the Mayor is also being invited. Member and LEP invitations will be sent later this year.

GLA demographic projections
GLA recently shared new demographic projections for the WSE with South East council officers to consider along with other ‘official’ sources from ONS/ CLG. PSG members have asked how the data will relate to anticipated new Government housing need methodology, expected following spring 2017’s Housing White Paper.

PSG request meeting with new Housing Minister
A joint WSE letter has been sent to new Housing Minister, Alok Sharma MP, requesting a meeting to discuss how the new Government will take forward important actions to tackle housing delivery barriers including proposals in the recent White Paper. PSG Members agreed the importance of pressing Government for a transition period for forthcoming changes to the planning system, and – following any changes – a period of stability to allow councils to focus on delivery on the ground.