Thursday, 19 July 2012

VNEB: Development and Transport Action Group Newsletter Number Two: 12 July 2012

VNEB: Development and Transport Action Group

Newsletter Number Two: 12 July 2012

The recent advertising campaign by TfL in support of their Northern Line Extension project is, to say the least, wholly misleading. The selective use of information is manipulated to look as if there is a vast majority of residents in favour (untrue); that the Northern Line is the best transport option for the development along the development zone (unproven, but unlikely); that the Northern Line can cope with the added pressure of commuters (even though it is even more overcrowded at the moment than the Victoria Line); and that it is both affordable and funded (both untrue and unlikely).

Let’s spell this out a bit.  The DATA Group, an umbrella organisation covering many residents associations in the area that focuses on development transport issues, has been in touch with TfL since January so we are in a position to speak with some clarity.

TfL claims 90% of the local population support the NLE. But let’s see how many people this covers and what they were agreeing to. The figures are in TfL’s NLE 2011 Consultation document (page 5).  A total of 1661 responses is the basis of the survey. Compared to the tens of thousands of residents in the Borough this is a meaningless survey both statistically and morally: it certainly is not enough of a positive response to make a claim that there is majority support for the project.  Indeed, the question that is asked is not whether a Northern Line Extension is the best transport option for the VNEB development, but:

‘When asked if they thought the proposed scheme would bring transport benefits to the area of Nine Elms and Battersea, 90% (1,597) either agreed or strongly agreed, compared with only 4% (64) who strongly disagreed’

This is hardly a decision based on an informed choice.  We wonder what the response rate would have been had the options and consequences been spelled out: which we shall do here.

TfL is arguing that the NLE is the best transport option for the VNEB development and that the Northern Line can accommodate the predicted increased traffic.  DATA has discussed with TfL alternative transport options that have not been considered at all, or only in a cursory way, including a mixed transport, staged approach that would develop ahead of the building development curve, and be flexible enough to cope with changes over time. A core longer term aim could be to link in with CrossRail 2 in line with the Mayor’s vision of integrating tube and overground services.  We discussed these ideas with TfL in January and have been in email contact with them regularly since then but, despite several reminders, we still have not been provided with information that would take forward discussions on these points, or the follow-up meetings we were promised on both NLE and the Vauxhall gyratory.  None of what we have discussed has been taken into account: so the claim in the recent advertising that TfL is responding to local views is worthless.  Meanwhile, our own preliminary studies of travel density (more details soon) on the Northern Line indicate highly crowded conditions at peak times, and the need to look at platform and surface level capacity at Kennington, and signalling and track layout issues along the Northern Line, before adding an extra branch line serving the VNEB development. We challenge TfL’s curious assumption

that passengers will only use the less crowded parts of the Northern Line. In a nutshell, we doubt that the Northern Line is suitable for taking large numbers of additional passengers, without evaluating the full cost of other works to the Northern Line network as a whole.

Even TfL are cagey when they speak about funding of the NLE scheme.  In discussion with DATA (and with resident groups with whom we share information) TfL appears to have no clear plan at all of how they can meet the growing funding and financing gap.  Vague discussions of additional forms of what amounts to business levy and borrowing money from the market on the basis of fares income over the future years is hardly reassuring given the current economic conditions.  TfL told DATA in February that they were re-evaluating the figures and would advise when they had some clearer estimates, but nothing further has emerged.  At about the same time DATA’s investigations had revealed a funding gap of at least £570 million, about half the projected cost. Put bluntly, there is a huge hole in the sums. TfL does not have the money to pay for this scheme even with virtually all of the Lambeth Council allocation of regeneration funding (which would otherwise be spent on libraries, recreation facilities and the like). Not only don’t they have the money for the project, but they also have no clear plan, or realistic expectation, of how to get it. 

TfL – Our message to you is to listen to local residents and look for alternatives. Do not commit to a huge project that will not provide the much needed transport infrastructure for the VNEB development and that will almost certainly need a government bale out to build and very risky, speculative financing to run. Consider also that the huge amount of funding that Lambeth Council is scheduled to provide will take virtually all the budget for community improvements and will leave very little indeed for ancillary regeneration. A NLE is not, as you claim, ‘essential to support the transformation of Vauxhall and Nine Elms’. Indeed it is likely to do the opposite, and prevent any transformation by sucking out regeneration funds from Lambeth’s budget. What is needed for VNEB development is an effective and affordable transport strategy: not a tube tunnel from Battersea to Kennington.

People of Lambeth – Our message to you is to make Lambeth Council and TfL listen to sense.  For some reason the Council is willing to give your money to this cockeyed scheme without due diligence. Get the planning department to open up and be transparent for all development issues, including the NLE.  We need the development fund money to keep open our libraries, provide other community amenities, improve our living environment, and address wider transport issues such as the Vauxhall gyratory. If we do nothing, the Council plans to pour virtually all of the money available for these purposes down a NLE black hole, never to be seen again.  Moreover, it plans to finance the running of this transport project through increased business levies in the future.

DATA is in touch with TfL direct who know how to contact us if they want to discuss further.  We are also in touch with a number of Lambeth Councillors, and want to engage more with Lambeth Council, who, so far, will not take our points seriously.

Comments and feedback to the DATA group via your residents associations please – or make representations direct to TfL and Lambeth Council.  TfL have advertised their project team contact email in a recent misleading pamphlet as: and the new Consultation and Engagement staff member, Brigid Burnham, at TfL recently emailed ‘stakeholders’ from: . If you want TfL to stop and think again before they spend all your money on a transport scheme that is not fit for purpose, email them to say so.

Thursday, 12 July 2012



At the March 2012 Vauxhall Triangle Public Inquiry we opposed Kylun Ltd’s “Twin Towers” development as contrary to good strategic planning in London, given that Lambeth was still trying to get its game together on a coherent Vauxhall vision. We also found the affordable housing offer deficient, and the open space compensation offer inadequate. But we were able to support the St Anselm’s development at Kennington Cross in March, and the Beefeater Gin Visitor Centre proposal in April. In May we had a joint presentation on the Beaufoy redevelopment from Bellway Homes (for the housing development) and Diamond Way Buddhists (for the refurbishment of the Beaufoy itself as a residential study centre). This would refurbish a neglected Grade II listed building, yield neighbourly-styled flats in scale with adjacent buildings, and provide 40% affordable housing, and we judged that in planning terms this would be a satisfactory outcome. Finally, in June, we also supported the Sainsbury’s supermarket redevelopment, which provided interesting private open space in a roof garden over the new store, and, in the circumstances, a reasonable affordable housing offer. But we criticised Lambeth for downplaying the legal limitations on use of Sainsbury’s S106 monies, when handing the bulk of them over to the VNEB Strategy Board.