Traffic and transport
In the Inspector’s Hearings, Epping Society speakers were emphatic about community concerns in this respect, we used the word “terrifying” – which was then quoted by other speakers. We employed the Council’s data to show just how great the impacts of the proposed new developments would be through the Town and District – queue lengths, journey times, delays, gridlocking etc. The Inspector’s Advice says there is “uncertainty surrounding many of the infrastructure requirements” (paragraph 11)
Some of the road junction improvements crucial to the Local Plan are on or by Epping Forest land, but we heard Natural England & Epping Forest Conservators state that they had in effect not agreed to these. The Inspector is critical about the level of consultation and states that “physical measures to mitigate (the traffic problem)…..are still only at a concept design stage”, meaning that the Council has a lot of work to do to satisfy her that the Plan is sound.
Another key facet of the Local Plan is Modal Shift; this is the Council’s proposition that people will walk, cycle or use buses more to reduce the predicted increase in traffic by a modest percentage. In the Hearings, the Epping Society (and others) explained how unlikely a significant modal shift is – given local road layout, topography, bus services etc. We also showed how few have been the Council’s actions to date to encourage these changes. The Inspector supports us, in para. 29 acknowledging that Modal Shift is unlikely to succeed and urging the Council to “commit substantial funds to other measures”.
Regarding the Underground line, the Local Plan relies heavily on increased tube capacity to enable new residents to commute to work. We showed that such an increase is not feasible and is currently not in TfL’s plans; the Inspector asked questions about how much consultation there had been between TfL & EFDC. Epping Society emphasised that this is a major weakness in the Local Plan and we called for a Memorandum of Understanding between EFDC and public transport providers before any development can be started.
Since this has been written TfL has announced that “A reduction in morning and evening peak services at Debden, Theydon Bois and Epping stations by two trains per hour. This means that we are able to maintain the frequency of trains on the busiest section of the Epping branch, between Woodford and Loughton” making the reliance on tube capacity now impossible to achieve.