Southeastern “simplifies” timetable by removing services
Plus another developer tries to get out of it's financial commitments, there's no affordable housing in Medway, and we - sigh - really aren't ever getting a new Local Plan
Another big week for exhausting news in Medway. Please, for the love of god, send me something fun involving these stupid towns.
Southeastern “simplifies” timetable by removing services
The managed decline of our public transport services is turning into something of a theme for this newsletter. After writing about Arriva’s substantial cuts to bus services last week, we now turn our attention toward the trains.
In December, Southeastern intend to introduce a new timetable for services that they call “simpler”, and what I call “a gross dereliction of duty”.
Before we get into the specifics, let’s set out why Southeastern is supposedly doing this, and what they claim will happen. First of all, the good: First class is going to be scrapped on all services. Good news, long overdue. That’s about the only positive in all of this thing.
As for the rest of the changes, this is the spin:
Scott Brightwell, Operations and Safety Director for Southeastern, said: "Our customers tell us reliability and punctuality are their highest priorities. So, we've simplified routes to remove bottlenecks which will see more trains running on time, fewer cancellations, and a more reliable service.
Sounds great. Of course, the reality of this is that they are just dumping a ton of their services, particularly during peak times. Definitely easier to have more trains run on time and fewer cancellations if there are hardly any services in the first place.
Obviously, there are significant changes across the entire Southeastern network, but this is a Medway newsletter and honestly reading through the presentation of these timetables on their website is bewildering enough as it is. So we’re just going to be looking at changes to services through Medway here.
Our relatively recent high-speed services are the big victim here. When services started, you could be fired into London in a little over half an hour twice every hour, so long as you didn’t mind spending £40 to do so, anyway. Despite the expense, the service was so much better and the rolling stock so much nicer that you do it because it sure beats spending an hour loaded in like cattle before being spat out in the middle of nowhere at Victoria.
On the current timetables, there are six services between Medway and St Pancras that arrive between 6am and 9am, with two operating every hour. Promisingly, there will still be six services on the new timetable, but, er, half of them will now arrive before 7am, with services then arriving at 0727, 0754, and 0827, and that’s it. Now, I’m no expert in commuting, but it feels like you might want more than one train arriving in London between 8am and 9am, or maybe I’m just naive and all commuters actually want to arrive by 0654, in which case Southeastern will absolutely have you covered.
It is also worth noting that the high-speed journey will now take 37 minutes from Strood instead of the current 35. Still, if you think that’s a rough deal given how expensive the high-speed fares are, and it makes you consider hopping back on the train to Victoria, Southeastern have you covered there too: Trains to Victoria will now take 4 minutes longer to arrive than they do currently. Hurrah!
At least the evening peak services will broadly remain on the same on the high-speed, with a generous two services per hour provision between 5pm and 7pm. Just don’t miss the 1920 train in the evening though, as after that you’ll be waiting an hour for another one. High-speed indeed.
There are probably a million more tiny changes in these timetables that could quite dramatically change things for your journey. I’ve focused on the peak here because they are the trains most people tend to use, but I’m not familiar with every quirk of the timetables.
Definitely worth familiarising yourself before jumping on the train in December!
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Covid in numbers
Cases: There are still no specific data, but 2.6% of the population in the south east are estimated to test positive for coronavirus this week, up from 2.2% last week. The good news is that there are some early signs that this wave might be starting to flatten in our part of the country.
Hospitalisations: There are currently 68 patients being treated for covid in Medway Hospital, with 1 of them on a ventilator. This is up 106% on last week and represents the largest number of positive hospital patients in several months.
Deaths: No new deaths were recorded this week, keeping Medway at 977 covid deaths in total.
Vaccinations: 81% of the 12+ population in Medway have now had at least one vaccine dose, 77% have had two doses, and 60% have received a booster dose.
79% of those eligible for a spring booster received one.
10% of those under 12 have had at least one dose of the vaccine.
31% of those aged 50+ have so far had their autumn booster.
Medway Council tries to welch on agreement with Medway Council
Two weeks ago I covered how the developers of Chatham Waters were trying to get out of their financial obligations in order to provide the affordable homes they promised to get planning permission in the first place.
It was a crappy move, leaving Medway Council in an unenviable position of having to choose effectively to accept smaller financial contributions in order to get desperately needed affordable housing. To their credit, Medway Council’s planning committee were having none of it and voted to require the developer to provide both the housing and the money. How successful this will be remains to be seen.
Good news, everybody!
It’s now happening again.
The developers behind Garrison Point in Chatham have now decided that they can’t afford to pay their Section 106 financial contributions. Or rather most of them. When planning permission was agreed upon, they accepted paying £645,000 to cover new school places, health services, parks, and a bunch of other things, alongside the obligatory affordable housing.
Now, in this case, the affordable housing has been completed, albeit off-site in the White Road estate earlier, because obviously, you don’t want to clutter prime central Chatham town centre locations with affordable housing. But anyway, I digress.
Pleading poverty, the developers now claim they can only afford £70,000 of the promised £645,000. How generous!
The fun part is when we get to who the developer behind Garrison Point is.
Medway Development Company is behind the project. Their website sets out who they are:
A key part of this is delivering new homes which reinforce economic growth and help revitalise areas. Medway Council therefore created Medway Development Company Ltd. to deliver high quality residential developments which are integrated into the wider regeneration initiatives being implemented by the Council.
Here are the board of the Medway Development Company:
Medway Development Company is a commercial arm of Medway Council. This means you’ve effectively now got one part of Medway Council asking Medway Council if they can welch on their financial agreements with Medway Council. It’s the bloody solar panels all over again.
Brilliant work. Well played, everyone.
I know I keep banging on about the state of the Medway private renting market in this thing. So I’m going to try and keep this one brief as it largely confirms what anyone paying attention knows: There’s sod all affordable properties in Medway.
A new study from The Bureau of Investigative Journalism has looked at the state of private rentals across the country and found that in 19 local council areas, there are zero properties affordable to those on housing benefit or universal credit. Indeed, 98% of properties in the entire country are out of reach for those with the least means.
Now, our area isn’t quite the bottom of the table on this chart, which is good news at least.
So how many properties available locally are genuinely affordable?
The data doesn’t quite break down as far as Medway and is grouped with Swale, but across the two boroughs, a grand total of 2 properties were found to be affordable during the entire month of July.
Great, can’t see any long-term problems with that.
We are never going to have a Local Plan, part 237
I’m sick of writing about the Local Plan, and you are no doubt sick of reading about it, but here we are again.
For newcomers, a Local Plan is a legal document all councils must produce to set out where development can take place in the coming years. Without one, developers can effectively apply to build anywhere, and if the council rejects a proposal, the developer will usually win on appeal by highlighting the council has no Local Plan in place. Everyone loses.
Medway’s Local Plan expired in 2006. Medway Council’s Conservative administration has been trying to put together a new one ever since.
A new document being brought to Cabinet next week sets out that Medway Council sets out how a new Local Plan can’t be agreed upon until 2025 at the earliest now:
It almost feels like the current administration knows they are on the way out and are just happy to leave it to whoever takes power in local elections next May to sort it out.
By 2025, Medway’s Local Plan will be 19 years later.
Staggering levels of incompetence.
Local Authority is now publishing three times a week for paid supporters, meaning you can get two extra editions beyond this core Friday newsletter.
This week saw our monthly planning report, looking at the most interesting proposals across Medway this month. Steven Keevil also investigated our labyrinthine planning system by pondering how easily an international criminal mastermind could build their secret lair in Medway.
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Music that soundtracked the creation of this newsletter: Where We Were Together by Say Sue Me, and Push Barman to Open Old Wounds by Belle and Sebastian.