Matter 8J -High Wycombe Society Submission

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Matter 8J -High Wycombe Society Submission Powered By Docstoc
					                                                Sub-Matter 8Jiii/High Wycombe Society(7090)


8J     WESTERN CORRIDOR AND BLACKWATER VALLEY
8Jiii Infrastructure and Implementation
8Jiii.1 Have the water supply and waste water treatment, flood risk, and transport
implications of the growth proposals been adequately considered (Policies WCBV1,
WCBV3)?
8Jiii.2 Are the proposals in the Implementation Plan (including for social and green
infrastructure) clear, justified and well related to the spatial strategy? What are the
priorities (Policies WCBV1, WCBV6)?


The High Wycombe Society believes that even before infrastructure issues are considered,
the housing figures in Policy WCBV6 are excessive and, assuming green belt and AONB
policies remain intact, will lead to intolerable pressure for intensification which will do great
damage to the urban environment.
Currently, our environment is being severely degraded by a lack of infrastructure. Our
streams, always subject to variable flow, have been low or dry for years and we suspect that
excessive abstraction has contributed. The traffic situation, which is horrendous because of
transiting traffic which has no need to be in our town centre, threatens the viability of the
town despite the long-awaited retail investment now taking place. Our multi-ethnic town,
which so far has excellent community relations, nevertheless has significant areas of
deprivation and we need all the community facilities we can get.
We therefore greatly welcome the statement at policy CC5(iii) that development “shall not
proceed” until the planning authorities are satisfied that the necessary infrastructure will be
provided but we are not convinced that in practice a Planning Inspector will regard this as a
sufficient justification to refuse an appeal where a planning authority uses this argument, or
to accept that an authority can include such a policy in their Local Development Framework.
We note that the sums of money involved are huge, as set out in the Implementation Plan,
Annexes 3 and 4, and also that the SQW study for SEERA indicates “soft” infrastructure
costs alone equivalent to £28,000 per new dwelling. To this needs to be added the costs of
transport and roads, water and waste and other utilities. These costs, which Government
policy implies must now be loaded on to home buyers, can only increase pressure on
developers to cut costs, reduce standards, and to seek to avoid affordable housing
commitments.
Whether or not policy CC5(iii) turns out to be deliverable, it is essential that infrastructure
needs are assessed as accurately as possible and provided for.


Water supply –
Our principal concern on water supply is that excessive amounts of water abstraction by
Thames Water around High Wycombe will deplete the Chiltern aquifer and cause further
degradation in the flow of our rivers. Our District Council has, after public pressure over
many years, indicated its intention in the medium term to deculvert the River Wye and make
it an asset to the town centre‟s environment. (Indeed, this has already been done at edge of
town centre locations.) That will all be to no avail if periods of low flow become permanent.
Furthermore, in edge of centre locations, environmental enhancement is taking place that will
depend for its long-term success on the continuing flow of the Wye and another local chalk
stream. We see no evidence in the papers so far presented by Thames Water that the impact
of their abstraction, either across wide areas of the Chiltern aquifer or close to the sources of
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                                               Sub-Matter 8Jiii/High Wycombe Society(7090)


the streams, has been properly assessed. We consider that the water company or the
Environment Agency should be asked for such information.
We note other factors that affect these arguments:
 a. The extreme unpredictability of future rain levels. Whereas some scientists have
    suggested that global climate change will tend to produce wetter winters in the UK, the
    well-established 70-year North Atlantic Oscillation suggests that the mild wet winters
    from 1970 until recently will be replaced by cooler, drier winters over the next 30 to 40
    years.
 b. The current state of drought research. An article in The Times („Dry winters could
    herald return of the Long Drought‟ - 9th January 2007)1 commented on a draft copy of a
    report by Terry Marsh of the Centre for Ecology and Hydrology at Wallingford and
    appeared to refer to an Environment Agency-funded review of UK drought and its
    impact from 1800 until the present day (due for publication in “Weather” in April 2007).
    A recent paper („Towards a European Drought Policy‟ – November 2004)2 from the
    Euraqua network of research organisations bemoans the lack of a drought policy in
    Europe.
 c. The emphasis placed in a recent report by the Environment Agency („Do we need large-
    scale water transfers for south east England?‟ – September 2006) on relying on greater
    water efficiency by existing users. While users may be persuaded to economise for short
    periods, the longer a period of drought goes on, the more reluctant they will be, and all
    the more so if it is perceived that the shortage is a result of Government policy allowing
    over-development encouraging too many incomers into the region.
The High Wycombe Society therefore considers that the situation concerning water supply is
such as to require the Plan to err on the side of caution and limit expansion, particularly in
areas such as High Wycombe where our local ecology is so critically dependent on water
levels.


Flooding –
Although flooding has been a major problem in Wycombe District, it mainly occurs along the
Thames and is not something on which the High Wycombe Society wishes to comment.


Transport Infrastructure –
We welcome the designation in policy WCBV1 of High Wycombe as a transport hub but
believe that the policies relating to the associated “spokes” have not been properly thought
through.
Spokes are marked (see map T2 in Section D4) to Oxford, Aylesbury and London. None is
shown from High Wycombe to the south to Reading or Maidenhead.
  The London spoke is in place, with good rail services, and a motorway with an
   interchange, currently being improved, at Handy Cross around 1 mile south of High
   Wycombe town centre. The Oxford spoke relies entirely on the M40 motorway, but the
   proposed Handy Cross Coachway (M40/J4 - Implementation Plan Annex 3.6) could be
   very effective in enabling the very frequent London-Oxford coach services to stop at
   High Wycombe.



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                                                        Sub-Matter 8Jiii/High Wycombe Society(7090)


     In relation to the Aylesbury spoke, the Implementation Plan (in Annexes 3.6 and 3.8)
      includes proposals for improving the rail link from High Wycombe to Aylesbury and
      thence to Milton Keynes, which we welcome.
       However, there is no provision for any improved road link from High Wycombe to
       Aylesbury. The A4010 is narrow, with a poor accident record, and is increasingly used
       for hospital transfers as facilities at Wycombe Hospital are reduced. Furthermore, the
       traffic on this route causes severe disruption on the A40 (local road) west of High
       Wycombe town centre. More significantly, successful growth at Aylesbury and Milton
       Keynes must depend on effective links to the south and the Thames Valley. Taken
       together, these considerations indicate a need for a new road running approximately
       SSW from Aylesbury, away from the Chilterns AONB, to join the M40 at the existing
       Junction 6.
     Finally, there is no spoke at all between High Wycombe and Reading or Maidenhead to
      the south. For road traffic, the A404(T) provides such a link, and its needs for
      improvement are recognised in Annex 3.6 (“M40/A404/M4 Motorway Box”). However,
      the only recognition given for the need for public transport on this spoke is a reference to
      the upgrading of High Wycombe Station to allow a connection with the proposed
      Coachway at Handy Cross.
       The High Wycombe Society considers that this proposal, while worthy, is half-baked and
       inadequate. Although it might help people to make occasional journeys for family
       reasons, for example, it would go nowhere near meeting the needs of potential
       commuters for a sustainable means of travel to and from the Thames Valley. This is a
       major destination: the 2001 Census shows out-commuting of 15,000 and in-commuting
       of 10,000 per day, second only to the London commute (see Wycombe District Fact
       Files - FACT FILE 44 - COMMUTING - July 2005)3.
       What is urgently needed, therefore, is a rail link that would also allow rail travellers from
       Aylesbury to continue their journey from High Wycombe to the south. The line from
       High Wycombe to Bourne End (which connects to the railway to Maidenhead) was
       closed in 1970, and the alignment (although built on in some places) is safeguarded for
       public transport use in the Wycombe District Local Plan to 2016. The High Wycombe
       Society has campaigned for some years for this line to be reopened. We do not claim it
       to be an ideal, or the only, solution, but we do believe that the need for a rail link to the
       south needs to be addressed and studied, as a necessary component of the infrastructure
       to facilitate growth in the Milton Keynes/Aylesbury/Thames Valley corridor.
       We suggest that this Spoke be formally defined in order to collate with future
       investment.


Tony Fooks
Deputy Chairman / Planning Group Leader, The High Wycombe Society
18th January 2007

1
    „Dry winters could herald return of the Long Drought‟ – The Times, 9th January 2007
     Available on-line from www.the-times.co.uk
2
    „Towards a European Drought Policy‟ – Euraqua, November 2004.
     Available on-line from www.euraqua.org
3
    Wycombe District Fact Files - FACT FILE 44 - COMMUTING - July 2005.
    Available on-line from - www.wycombe.gov.uk/uploads/documents/Community%20and%20living/
    Commuting%20Fact%20File%20-%20July%2005.pdf
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Description: Matter 8J -High Wycombe Society Submission