BNEF: ‘GLA infrastructure to 2050’ plan is another 93 pages of ‘have your cake and eat it’ implausibility

The LONDON  INFRASTRUCTURE PLAN 2050 – A CONSULTATION closed on 31st October 2014.  It describes the amounts and types of infrastructure that is thought to be required to cope with a population that the authors believe will reach over 11 million inhabitants by mid-century, a 37 per cent increase from 2011. It is about to surpass its previous peak of 8.6 million (set in
1939).

Bexley Natural Environment Forum’s response

https://app.box.com/s/vynr90p35u4t7s1boopp

is that the plan is based on wrong-headed assumptions and an approach to solutions which can only provide short term fixes. Open spaces and wildlife will inevitably be diminished despite the basic ‘you can have your cake and eat it’ pitch of the document. There is no commitment to protect existing designated wildlife sites. The costings, such as they are, ignore the real costs in terms of carbon and materials. The fixation with ‘growth’ needs to be replaced with sufficiency and living within the planet’s means.

We reject the fundamental assumption made by Boris Johnson (and all those behind this document)  that ‘bigger is better’. We question the deterministic view on population growth, arguing that there needs to be a proper adult debate about all sources of population change, what the implications are in terms of land use, traffic, pollution, resource shortages and so forth, and what might consensually be done about that. We note there is no reference to a wider, balanced UK regional ‘development’ strategy. Fundamentally this is a document that supports and relies on resource consumption growth economics, and whilst acknowledging the serious constraints emerging, not least within the capital (water supply already critical), simply seeks to buy time with technological fixes, paying little attention to the potentially cheaper and quicker solutions of behavioural change.

There is a lot of smoke and mirrors about open space. We are told there needs to be more of it, but it is not clear where, what the net changes will actually be, and whether it will be of sufficient quality for wildlife. Brownfield is projected to run out sometime after 2025, and the wildlife value of such land is not addressed. Meanwhile suburbia will become ‘Supurbia’, with greater ‘densification’. Cutting through the verbiage and management-speak you are forced to conclude that the only way to create  ‘extra’ green space will be on roofs, and that there will be major net losses on the ground.

Whilst the authors claim they will try and keep all the extra ‘development’ within the green belt boundary, they never-the-less do look at overspill into surrounding areas, whilst ignoring the wider ‘hidden’ ecological footprint growth even if all the additional concrete can be kept within the London boundary for now.

There is no commitment here to protecting the existing 1,500 plus sites of wildlife importance in London, nor is there any explanation of how commitments to restore and create important habitats to reverse the decline in the capital’s biodiversity, as set out in The London Plan in 2011, will be met.

Whilst the ‘multi-functional’ value of open space is recognised, much of it is from a utilitarian viewpoint, with human demands coming first. The documents raise concerns about ownership of public open spaces, the lack of statutory powers regarding management, the general lack of a strategic approach to them and the dwindling funding. The Mayor will convene a task force to look at this issue. We have cautioned against removal of local input and the potential commercialisation of public assets.

There is a summary of the GLA proposals in the form of a ‘presentation’ here:

https://www.london.gov.uk/sites/default/files/01%20London%20Infrastructure%20Plan%202050%20-%20presentation.pdf

The full 93 page document is here:

https://www.london.gov.uk/sites/default/files/London%20Infrastructure%20Plan%202050%20Consultation.pdf

The supporting document:

ENABLING INFRASTRUCTURE:
GREEN, ENERGY, WATER & WASTE
INFRASTRUCTURE TO 2050

is here, though most of the content also appears in the main 93 page offering:

https://www.london.gov.uk/sites/default/files/Enabling%20Infrastructure.pdf 

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