The latest job figures used by Parsons Brinckerhoff in their recent report [Fig 5-1] on the A27 for the Highways Agency (now Highways England) have a whiff of the surreal about them. If taken from local authority figures, which they appear to be, history tells us that they are likely to be massively overstated.
When East Sussex County Council (ESCC) predicted that 3,074 new jobs would be created on sites ‘opened up’ the Bexhill to Hastings Link Road (BHLR), quite a few eyebrows were raised. The numbers were examined by the Department for Transport (DfT) who found a figure of a third of that would be more accurate. Their estimate was 900 – 1,000 jobs, 39% of which would go to people outside of the two towns.
According to Professor Alan Wenban-Smith, of Urban and Regional Policy, the ESCC figure is clearly speculative and unreliable. It is based on a report for ESCC by Genecon which estimated numbers of employees who could be accommodated in the given square footage of workplace planned for construction alongside the BHLR. It assumed that the premises would be fully occupied and their location would be attractive to businesses which, given far better locations in the south east, and existing empty buildings nearby, is a very risky assumption. In his words this was nonsense-on-stilts.
However, if this wasn’t bad enough, in February 2014 the Highways Agency Route Based Strategy report [Fig 3] shows the figures for new jobs predicted via the BHLR as being 3,837 – even higher than the ESCC figure from 2012. A year on, and the total has now risen to 5,278.
If the extremely simplistic methodology for calculating these figures still holds sway and sits unchallenged, that’s bad enough; but if similar approaches have been adopted along the A27 through East and West Sussex, then the latest report is not worth the paper it’s written on. We cannot possibly have confidence that public funds are being prudently used or that we will end up with infrastructure appropriate to the accessibility needs of future generations and communities when it is based on evidence as flimsy and unreliable as this.