Category Archives: urban planning

The Boris Island Decision Paper

Airports Commission

The delivery risks of such a massive project including its surface transport links are
very great, and the economic disruption would be huge. No other city has moved the
operations of an airport on anything like the scale of Heathrow anywhere near as far as
would be implied here. There are environmental hurdles which it may prove impossible, or
very time-consuming, to surmount. There are also challenges in relation to the practicality
of operating a very large hub airport in the estuary; for example in relation to airspace
management and the risk of birdstrike. The implications for passengers are unfavourable.
The average rail journey to the airport on opening would be 20-25 per cent longer than is
the case today. Even the least ambitious version of the scheme would cost almost £70 to
£90 billion with much greater public expenditure than involved in other options – probably
some £30 to £60 billion in total. More ambitious schemes would cost considerably more.
While future governments must make their own decisions on priorities we cannot see that
additional infrastructure investment in the South East, on the scale implied, with uncertain
economic beneits, would be likely to appeal to the Chancellor of the Exchequer in a
government of any political colour


ConHome Manifesto ‘A Planning Free for All is not the Answer’

ConHome Housing Manifesto

Britain’s housing crisis is one of affordability. The cost of new housing must come down and its quality must improve. However, to make this happen we have to look beyond the conventional solutions.

A planning free-for-all is not the answer.

Above all we need to reject the notion that the only solution to the housing crisis is a planning free- for-all, in which environmental protections, economic stability and local democracy are crushed beneath a development juggernaut.

What gets forgotten is that the cost of land is a function of both supply and demand. While the supply of land can be artificially constrained by excessively restrictive planning policies; the demand for it can be artificially expanded by distorted investment incentives.

This helps explains why the building booms of the previous decade didn’t deliver affordable housing – in country after country, [11] the result was runaway house price inflation that destabilised the global economy. The biggest exception was Germany, where prices stayed flat in this period [12] – despite a marked decline in the rate of new construction. [13]

The problem is speculation

The most important reason why demand overwhelms supply is not the planning system, but speculation. No matter how fast we can make land and construction capacity available, the money markets can always move faster – pumping cheap credit into property investments. Any government move to undermine sensible planning protections only serves to set off the feeding frenzy.

This is what happened under the previous government, which used top-down planning targets to force development through the system. The result was a building boom of sorts from 2001 to 200718 – but one in which home ownership and lending to first-time buyers fell, while house prices and buy-to-let mortgages shot up.[13]Furthermore, the whole of the increase in the rate of house building was in the form of flats and not the houses with gardens that most families want. [14]

A pro-ownership planning policy

To provide both affordability and quality, we need to freeze out the speculators. In an advanced society there is no such thing as a completely free market in land for development – central and local government will always be involved in its allocation through the planning system.

We believe that the state should use this power to actively favour home ownership over professional property investment.

Therefore, we propose:

  • To give planning authorities the option of requiring that homes in a new development only be sold to people intending to live in them.
  • This new power would be exercised locally on a case-by-case basis as a condition on planning consent for new developments – and where appropriate it could be used specifically to help first-time buyers or participants in self-build schemes.
  • Related taxation policies should be aligned with the pro-ownership planning policy – for instance by using higher taxes on professional property investment (e.g. land banking by developers) to pay for the progressive phasing out of stamp duty on ordinary home purchases. [15]

New paths to ownership

Helping people to own their homes shouldn’t be left to the private sector – or the mortgage market – alone. Under Margaret Thatcher, the Right to Buy was an immensely successful example of direct government action to extend ownership throughout society. In the 21st century, we need to have the same scale of ambition.

Therefore, we propose:

  • An end to all mortgage subsidies – such as the Help to Buy scheme and the ‘cheap money’ policies that artificially suppress interest rates and push-up house prices (see chapter 3).
  • Instead, central government support should be switched to enable councils, housing associations and other registered social landlords to build new homes for sale.
  • This new support would be conditional on making these new homes available through schemes that help tenants to become owners.
  • Experimentation with different methods – including part rent / part buy schemes and the conversion of rent into an equity stake in a stock of properties – would be encouraged.
  • Once a track-record is established, the most successful of these new paths to ownership would receive additional government help so that they can expand.
  • The long-term aim would be to switch the multi-billion pound flow of housing benefit money from the private rented sector to ownership-enabling social housing.

A community-led planning system

Building more and better housing still requires a planning system that is designed to deliver, not obstruct, these vital public goods. Despite some recent steps in the right direction, the planning process is still back-to-front – it starts off with developers deciding what to build, and then councils and local residents deciding what they want to object to. Conflicts are settled through an often long and expensive adversarial process in which the main beneficiaries are lawyers and consultants.

This needs to be turned around. The planning process should start with what the community wants. Developers should then be able to bid for the development rights – with resources reallocated from conflict to investment in quality design and build.

Therefore, we propose:

  • A pro-active planning system based on detailed Local Plans and Community Plans drawn up with the full participation of local residents – and subject to their final approval through a local referendum.
  • In developing these plans, councils and their planning departments would have enhanced powers to specify design details in keeping with the scale and character of established communities.
  • Providing the resources for the upfront urban design and architectural work required for pro- active planning would come from a reallocation of resources from the current reactive planning process – and, if necessary, a small levy on the sale of local building land.
  • Regulations that prevent new development from following the pattern of successful and sought-after old developments should be abolished – with the particular objective of allowing new housing to take the form of traditional streets. [16]
  • To allow detailed plans to be drawn up at the scale of a street or of a whole neighbourhood, councils should have enhanced powers to assemble the necessary parcels of land – in particular we propose the creation of an auctioning system that would allow landowners to sell purchase options on their land: selling such an option would increase the probability of land being included in future development plans; while buying the option would reduce the cost of actually buying the land should the option be exercised. [17]
  • Potential developers would be allowed to contribute to the proactive planning process and the purchase of land sale options – but councils would decide on the Plans put forward for approval by a referendum of local residents.
  • Developers, however, would have the right to initiate (and pay for) a referendum if councils were abusing the proactive planning process to obstruct rather than enhance new development.
  • The ‘planning gain’ system would be reformed to allow payments to go directly to the residents most immediately disrupted by new development.
  • In order to provide a further spur to action on the part of planning authorities, a ‘right to build’ measure should be considered on suitable, but under-utilised, publicly-owned land; it is important that this shouldn’t become a loophole for commercial developers – so the right should, for instance, be limited to self-builders and/or housing associations.

New garden cities for the 21st century

The current planning system isn’t just marked by bitterness and conflict, but by a stunted vision of what development can achieve. The planning disasters of the post-war period have erased our collective memory of an earlier and much more successful era of large-scale development – in particular the achievements of the garden city movement.

In the 21st century, the founding of new garden cities [18] would not only provide new homes and jobs, they would also relieve development pressures on existing communities. By focusing development in new communities we can avoid many of the pitfalls of the current approach to planning.

This could also be a vital opportunity to regenerate areas that are strategically located, but where there are obstacles to piecemeal development – the Thames Estuary being the prime example. [19]

Therefore, we propose:

  • The creation of Garden City Corporations – each of them covering a specific area and headed by a mayor directly elected by the local residents.
  • Building on the model pioneered by the London Docklands Development Corporation, the Garden City Corporations would coordinate planning, land purchase and public infrastructure investment within their areas – providing a one-stop-shop for clearing the various obstacles that typically stand in the way of large-scale regeneration.
  • As well as having a direct say through an elected mayor, local people would also have a direct financial stake through the allocation of shares in each Corporation – and the closer the impact of new development, the more shares they’d get.
  • The Garden City Corporations would therefore be publicly-owned, but profit-making – generating revenue through land sales and through the negotiation of deals with central government over the retention of tax revenues from new development.
  • Garden City Corporations would not be imposed from above, but would be subject to approval by local referendum – with central government incentives for the first Corporations to be approved.
  • The eventual aim would be to develop a network of Garden Cities as a counterpart to the existing network of National Parks: whereas the purpose of the Parks is to protect the best of Britain through careful conservation, the purpose of the Cities would be to build the best of Britain through visionary development.

County Kerry to Ban Holiday Homes

Irish Times

No more permission will be given for holiday homes in the Kerry countryside, a planning meeting has been told. The director of planning at Kerry County Council, Paul Stack, said the “Kerry brand” – unspoilt landscape and clean environment – would be fundamentally damaged if the council did not ban holiday-home development in the countryside.

The meeting was also told stringent restrictions on all one-off housing was needed. The council meeting to consider a new five-year development plan was told that the level of holiday homes in some areas far exceeded the indigenous population and that the overall consequence of the “sporadic one-off development” of the boom years was a deterioration of the landscape. The county’s ground water was under threat with the plethora of septic tanks, one in three of which did not function properly.

The choice was stark between limited numbers of housing for locals and holiday homes, councillors were told. Half of the almost 12,000 empty but habitable homes in Kerry were in rural areas and there were some 8,200 holiday homes, Mr Stack said.

He said the stark facts of the boom in Kerry were that 17,600 houses were built between 2002 and 2007 and, of these, 7,600 were one-off houses in the countryside. “This is enough to accommodate a population growth of 46,000 people, but the population increased by only 6,000,” Mr Stack said.

There was a total of 72,000 houses in Kerry and 38,000 were in the countryside. “We need to be very, very careful . . . in relation to further development in the countryside,” Mr Stack said.

Councillors Danny and Michael Healy-Rae urged the executive to consider their attitude and think of ways to regenerate rural living.

The rural strategy proposed by management will go out for public comment

DCLG cocks up and backs down in Islington A4D row


A row has erupted between Islington Borough Council and the Government over local approaches to housing.

Last year Islington became the first council in the country to try to remove government-given rights for local developers to convert offices into flats without planning permission. Planning minister Nick Boles ultimately revoked the Article 4 direction this July on the grounds that Islington was failing to deliver on housing targets.

However the secretary of state for communities and local government Eric Pickles has now agreed to overturn his department’s decision in the next few weeks. The Department for Communities and Local Government has acknowledged it made ‘a mistake’ by failing to take all types of housing.

Cllr James Murray, Islington’s executive member for housing and development, said: ‘I am pleased Eric Pickles accepts his department made a mistake, and I hope this means we can now have a proper discussion about how we can protect jobs and provide decent, affordable homes in Islington.’

He added that the policy was having a ‘damaging effect’ on Islington, resulting in the borough ‘losing jobs but getting lots of one-bed and bedsit flats, with no affordable housing or other community benefit’.

‘No-one would deny that London needs new homes. We are one of the top boroughs nationally for building new homes – we’re actually building thousands of genuinely affordable homes for social rent,’ Cllr Murray added.

In response, housing and planning minister Brandon Lewis said Islington was ‘out of touch’ if it thought ‘more one-bedroom and studio flats in central London for young people are a bad thing’.

Lewis added that the Government’s development reforms were ‘providing badly needed homes, especially in London where there is a particularly acute need for more housing’.

‘It is disappointing that Islington is using public funds to try to oppose new homes for Londoners,’ he said.

‘Their latest judicial review attempt relates to a technical point on housing numbers in London. We are happy to have a dialogue with the council on these issues, but we have been clear about the real need for more homes, especially in London.

‘These reforms are helping promote brownfield regeneration, protect the countryside and increase housing supply at no cost to the taxpayer,’ Lewis concluded.

Conservative Home ‘ The Piecemeal approach to Building New Homes Has Failed’

Con Home Manifesto – Just published

(1) Ownership first – Britain doesn’t just need more homes, it also needs better, more affordable homes. A building boom that sucks in cheap money looking for a quick return will not deliver affordability. We must therefore freeze out the property speculators with an ownership first condition on the development of new housing. Councils would be given the power to reserve the sale of new homes to those intending to live in them.

(2) New Garden Cities for the 21st century – The piecemeal approach to building new homes has failed. We need a vision for the development of strategically located areas like the Thames Estuary. Therefore we propose the creation of Garden City Corporations, empowered to clear the obstacles to large-scale regeneration. Existing residents would have a direct financial stake through the allocation of shares in each corporation – and the closer the impact of new development, the more shares they’d get.


Smart Shoes Show you which way to walk


New Delhi: “Wizard of Oz” heroine Dorothy only had to click her ruby red slippers together and they would spirit her home to Kansas.

Now, an Indian high-tech start-up is promising to do the same in real life with a new, GPS-enabled smart sports shoe that vibrates to give the wearer directions.

The fiery red sneakers, which will also count the number of steps taken, distance travelled and calories burned, will go on sale in September under the name LeChal, which means “take me along” in Hindi.

The shoes come with a detachable Bluetooth transceiver that links to a smartphone app to direct the wearer using Google maps, sending a vibrating signal to indicate a left or right turn.

They are the brainchild of 30-year-old Krispian Lawrence and Anirudh Sharma, 28, two engineering graduates who founded their tech start-up Ducere in a small apartment in 2011 with backing from angel investors and now employ 50 people.

“We got this idea and realised that it would really help visually challenged people, it would work without any audio or physical distractions,” said Lawrence in an interview.

“But then we were trying it out on ourselves and suddenly we were like, ‘wait a minute, even I would want this,’ because it felt so liberating not having to look down at your phone or being tied to anything.”

“The footwear works instinctively. Imagine if someone taps your right shoulder, your body naturally reacts to turn right, and that’s how LeChal works.”

Growing sector

Smart shoes aimed at specific demographic markets — such as dementia sufferers and children whose parents want to keep track of their movements — are already commercially available.

But Lawrence and Sharma believe theirs will be the first to target mass-market consumers, and have focused on creating stylish rather than purely functional footwear.

As well as the red sneaker, they are marketing an insole to allow users to slip the technology into their own shoes.

“Earlier, wearable technology was always seen as machine-like, nerdy glasses or watches, but now that is changing,” said Lawrence.

They say they have 25,000 advance orders for the shoes, which will retail at between $100 and $150.

Demand has so far mostly been through word of mouth and through the website. But the company is in talks with retailers to stock the shoes ahead of the holiday season in India and the United States.

It forecasts it will sell more than 100,000 pairs of the shoes, which are manufactured in China, by next April.

Wearable technology is a growing global sector. Market tracker IDC forecast in April that sales would triple this year to 19 million units worldwide, growing to 111.9 million by 2018.

The industry’s rapid growth has given rise to fears about privacy, although Ducere says it will record no data on users and maintains robust security.


The company still hopes its product will be useful for visually impaired people, and experts at the L.V. Prasad Eye Institute in the southern city of Hyderabad are testing its suitability.

“It’s a perfect intuitive wearable item. You may forget to wear a belt or a helmet, but shoes you can never leave the house without,” said Anthony Vipin Das, a doctor at the institute.

“LeChal solves orientation and direction problems, it’s a good assistant to the cane.”

Possible problems include battery failure or loss of Bluetooth connectivity, which Das says could be fixed by providing a live feed of a user’s position to a friend or relative, with their consent.

The company says it could use a portion of any future profits to subsidise the shoes for disabled users.

For all the shoes’ high-tech features, Lawrence’s favourite thing is that he no longer loses his phone — if the wearer moves too far from his or her phone, the shoes buzz to warn them.

“I’m a very forgetful person and the best part is that the shoes don’t let you forget your phone,” he said.

Stratford on Avon Wont Take Brum and Coventry Overpill

Stratford Herald

THERE is currently no evidence to suggest that the Stratford district should take overspill housing from the cities of Birmingham or Coventry.

This is one of the conclusions of a report being presented to Stratford-on-Avon District Council’s ruling cabinet at its meeting on Monday 8th September.

The report forms part of the council’s response to public consultation on the “soundness” of the authority’s proposed core strategy that will be considered at a special full meeting of the council on 15th September.

 The council is aiming for a target of 10,800 new homes in the district in the 20-year period from 2011 to 2031.

This figure is now being questioned by the Council to Protect Rural England (CPRE) which claims changed population forecasts mean the figure should be 6,000 at most. Some developers, however, claim the figure should be over 20,000.

The report states: “Immediately adjoining councils are all maintaining the position that their own plans will provide fully for the housing need arising in their areas.

“In contrast, Birmingham City Council has published a plan that fails to meet identified need within the city boundary. Coventry City Council is preparing to consult on plans to meet a housing need of at least 23,600, having to date been able to identify options to accommodate only 16,500 homes within the existing urban area.

“It is therefore considering further sites both within the administrative area of the city and in discussion with adjacent authorities.”

It says Birmingham is also working with a number of its neighbours to assess the capacity to meet need within the Greater Birmingham and Solihull area.

“Given these facts, suggestions that Stratford-on-Avon district will need to accommodate housing growth to meet need arising from either Birmingham or Coventry are conjecture,” say the council officials.

“It is not unreasonable to take the view that the need arising from each of these cities could be made without recourse to development in Stratford-on-Avon district.

“A commitment to accommodate additional development at this point would be premature. To delay this plan further and wait to see how matters elsewhere unfurl would be inappropriate.”

Brandon Lewis Celebrates Defeat of Bungalows Scheme

24 Dash – 6 bungalows causing traffic chaos – mmmm

New Housing and Planning Minister Brandon Lewis – who has used his first month in the role to promote the building of bungalows – has welcomed the news that plans for some affordable housing association bungalows have been kicked out by planners.

Writing in his latest newsletter, the MP called the decision to block Saffron Housing Trust’s plans to build eight affordable rent homes in his parliamentary constituency of Great Yarmouth a “success”.

Saffron hoped to develop six bungalows and two houses at a site on Salisbury Road.

This month, Lewis called for more bungalows to be built across the country, telling the Daily Telegraph that “we should be looking to love bungalows a little bit more”.

The minister wrote in his newsletter that the scheme was “set to cause traffic chaos” and singled out “out-of-touch” Labour councillors who “ignored strong local opposition for plans to force yet more housing on our community”.

Lewis said that residents were “horrified” to see councillors “defying the will of local people and voting in support of the plans”.

The MP added that all of Great Yarmouth Borough Council’s Conservative councillors “voted to reject this misguided scheme”.

Lewis has frequently called for new UK housing to be built since being made minister for housing and planning by David Cameron in July, and has particularly singled out the work of housing associations for praise.

Speaking during a tour of a £200m regeneration scheme in London earlier this month, the MP said that HAs were playing a “vital role” in delivering the “affordable homes that families need”.

And speaking at a special event by social landlord the Accord Group to build two homes in a day, Lewis reiterated that “we need to build more homes in this country”.

However, his apparent delight in Saffron’s failure to secure permission to build the new affordable bungalows in his own constituency seems at odds with his proclamations on development across the rest of the country.

In his interview with the Telegraph, Lewis said: “Representing Great Yarmouth we have got a few areas that have got quite large bungalows and some very, very nice bungalow properties.”

In a statement, Saffron said: “We can confirm that it was Saffron Housing Trust who had applied for planning permission to build homes on the site at Salisbury Road in Great Yarmouth. This was for eight properties: two houses and six bungalows.”

Saffron has not yet decided whether it will appeal the planning decision.

As Many as 40 Garden Cities Needed – Wolfson Prize Finalists

Policy Exchange

  • Final submissions for the £250,000 Wolfson Economics Prize published
  • Exhibition of entries to open on 4 September in London

As many as 40 new garden cities, each containing between 10,000 and 50,000 homes, should be built over the next 20 years if politicians are serious about solving Britain’s housing crisis, according to finalists for the 2014 Wolfson Economics Prize.

The new figures are revealed in the five final submissions being published today by the Prize secretariat, ahead of the announcement of the overall winner at next Wednesday 3rd September’s gala dinner at the Royal Institute of British Architects. Each finalist is hoping to win the £250,000 prize, the second biggest economics prize in the world after the Nobel Prize. All other finalists will receive a £10,000 prize.

The publication of the final five entries reveals that three of the five finalists independently suggest an ambitious programme of 30-40 new garden cities to meet future housing need. An extensive poll of over 6,000 people earlier in the year carried out by Populus showed widespread support for garden cities among the population, with 74% of those polled agreeing that garden cities are a good idea. Support was also strong among Conservative (80%) and UKIP (73%) voters. 68% of respondents also agreed that garden cities would protect more countryside from development than the alternatives.

The five finalists’ entries are summarised below:

  • Planning and design consultancy Barton Willmore, supported by financial modelling from EC Harris and inputs from Pinsent Mason, Propernomics and others, suggest four garden city ‘types’, including the ‘greening’ of existing new towns, to deliver up to 40 new garden cities. Each garden city would deliver 40-50,000 homes built over the next 25 years, as well as 40-50,000 jobs. A Royal Commission, and Garden City Mayors heading up local Garden City Commissions, would be appointed to champion garden cities and find specific locations for development in the broad regions mapped in the submission. 35% of new homes would be affordable housing for those on low incomes.
  • David Rudlin (in collaboration with Dr Nick Falk, Pete Redman and Jon Rowland) argues for the near-doubling of existing large towns in line with garden city principles, to provide 86,000 new homes for 150,000 people built over 30-35 years. The entry imagines a fictional town called Uxcester to develop the concept, and applies that concept to Oxford (2011 population: 150,000) as a case study, showing how Oxford could rival the strategy adopted by Cambridge for growth and expansion. David argues that there may be as many as 40 cities in England that could be doubled in size in this way, such as York, Norwich, Stafford and Cheltenham. 20% of new homes would be affordable housing.
  • Wei Yang & Partners and Peter Freeman (in collaboration with Buro Happold, Shared Intelligence and Gardiner & Theobald) argue that an ‘arc’ (stretching from Southampton to Oxford to Cambridge to Felixstowe) is the best location for a first round of new garden cities; and uses a model of 10,000 homes (25,000 people) and 10,000 jobs to test a strategy for perhaps 30-40 garden cities built over 10-15 years. 30% of new homes would be affordable housing. The entry invites Local Authorities to ask Government to establish a locally-controlled Garden City Development Corporation, with compulsory purchase powers, using the existing New Towns Act 1981. The Development Corporation would establish a joint venture with a Master Developer to secure delivery at no cost to the Treasury.
  • Chris Blundell argues that a garden city should be developed south-east of Maidstone (Kent) to accommodate around 15,000 homes (about the size of Letchworth Garden City), coupled with major improvements to the local transport network including a new HS1 station. Delivery should be led by a Garden City Development Corporation with long term management of the garden city being undertaken by a Community Council, which would receive a share of the surplus arising from development. 40% of new homes would be affordable housing. The design and character of development should be developed through extensive community engagement, and reflect local character and distinctiveness. The new garden city would contribute up to £400m annually to the local economy during its construction and support the development of a new engineered homes manufacturing sector.
  • Shelter, the leading housing and homelessness charity (in collaboration with architects PRP, with advice from KPMG LLP, Laing O’Rourke plc and Legal & General) proposes a new garden city on the Hoo Peninsula in Medway, Kent. Commencing with a settlement of 15,000 homes (36,000 people – about the size of Letchworth Garden City) built over 15 years, Stoke Harbour would eventually grow into a garden city of 60,000 homes (144,000 people – slightly smaller than Oxford). The entry proposes a new model designed to attract massive private investment into the provision of high quality homes, jobs, services and infrastructure. New polling for Shelter in the submission shows that 55% of people in Medway support a new garden city on the Hoo Peninsula compared to just 33% who oppose. 37.5% of new homes would be affordable housing.

Founder of the Prize, Lord (Simon) Wolfson of Aspley Guise, said:

“We urgently need to build more houses in Britain. I am delighted that this year’s Wolfson Economics Prize has generated so many powerful and creative proposals for new garden cities. Together these entries present an overwhelming argument in favour of a new approach to solving our housing crisis.”

Prize Director Miles Gibson added:

“Our expert finalists have produced a spectacular range of ideas in their final submissions. Their entries spurred us to create a fantastic exhibition about the Prize at The Building Centre. Trevor Osborne and his fellow judges now have the unenviable and difficult task of choosing an overall winner.”

Press enquiries about the Prize, including requests for media places at the 3 September dinner, can be directed to John Higginson at Westbourne Communications Ltd, 07920 701 693.


Notes to Editors

1. At £250,000 the Wolfson Economics Prize is the second-biggest cash economics prize in the world, after the Nobel Prize. This year the prize seeks to find the best answer to the following question: “How would you deliver a new Garden City which is visionary, economically viable, and popular?”

2. The 2014 Prize topic was announced on 14 November 2013 and the entry deadline was 3 March 2014. Entrants were asked to provide an essay (‘Primary Submission’) of 10,000 words (plus non-technical summary of 1,000 words) on the Prize Question. Five finalists (and a selection of smaller prize winners) were announced on 4 June 2014 and the finalists were given until 11 August to refine their submissions. The winner will be announced on 3 September 2014 at a gala dinner and awards ceremony.

3. The Wolfson Economics Prize will hold an exhibition about the Prize at The Building Centre, London, supported by The Building Centre Trust, the Royal Town Planning Institute and Letchworth Garden City Heritage Foundation. The exhibition will run from 4 September to 29 September 2014 and will then be available to other interested organisations in a touring format. The Building Centre is a not-for-profit organisation dedicated to advancing innovation in the built environment. Since 1932 it has delivered an internationally recognised programme of events and exhibitions that inspire, inform, educate and campaign across the construction professions, while also raising awareness and delivering information to the general public.

4. The five finalists for the 2014 Prize, and the highlights of their submissions, are:

  • Chris Blundell is Director of Development and Regeneration at Golding Homes, a major affordable housing provider in Kent, but has submitted his entry in a personal capacity. He has over 20 years’ experience at Director level working for housing associations in London and the South East. He is a Fellow of the Royal Institute of Chartered Surveyors (RICS) and the Chartered Institute of Housing (CIH). He holds an MA in Housing Policy, plus an MSc (Property Development and Investment) and an MBA from City University of Hong Kong where he spent six years as a senior lecturer in Housing and Public Administration. He is currently studying for an MSc in building conservation. Chris is a Trustee of the RICS Research Trust and an External Examiner to housing degree courses for De Montfort University and City University of Hong Kong. He is a former Board member of Newlon, a major Housing Association in London, and is Chair of Outward, who provide care and support for over 1,100 vulnerable adults in North and East London.
  • Established in 1936, Barton Willmore is the UK’s largest independent planning-led town-planning and design consultancy with 11 offices. They are engaged in projects across the UK and abroad, from new harbour facilities in Aberdeen to unlocking major residential schemes in Ebbsfleet; and are behind the design and planning of several new cities in China and the Middle East. Barton Willmore has driven the development of new communities, including Bicester Eco-town, the French EcoCities Programme, and our own New Market Towns concept. They seek to bring innovation and realism to our projects, elements crystallised in their entry. Barton Willmore’s prize submission was led by James Gross, Masterplanning Director and urban designer with 20 years of development experience in the UK and internationally. A wider Barton Willmore team was supported by a multi-disciplinary ‘think-tank’ of developers, landowners, former Government officials and specialists in fields of taxation, planning law and design.
  • David Rudlin’s entry draws on the work of Dr Nicholas Falk who for many years has been exploring the application continental models of housing development to the UK. Both are associated with URBED (Urbanism Environment Design), an urban design and research practice, founded by Nicholas Falk in the mid-1970s in Covent Garden and now constituted as a cooperative, based in Manchester and headed by David Rudlin. The essay also draws on the advice from others within URBED with additional contributions from Jon Rowland, Pete Redman and Joe Ravetz. David Rudlin is a planner by training and has been responsible for a number of large masterplans across the UK as well as research reports for the Joseph Rowntree Foundation, the Urban Task Force and the Government. Nicholas Falk is an urban economist who has been one of the UK’s leading urban thinkers for 40 years. Together they co-authored the book ‘Sustainable Urban Neighbourhoods’ published by Routledge in 2009.
  • Shelter is England’s leading housing and homelessness charity. They help over three million people a year struggling with bad housing or homelessness, and campaign to prevent it in the first place. Whether they are offering expert advice to a family struggling to keep up with high rents, or hearing from frustrated young people losing hope of ever affording a stable home, the national housing shortage is the root cause of many of the issues we see every day. Shelter believe that they have developed a robust and workable policy programme for the next government that – with the necessary political will – can turn the tide on the housing shortage within a single parliament. As part of this programme of investment and reform to the land and house building markets, Shelter believe that developing new garden cities can help fill the gap between the homes we have and the homes we need. Toby Lloyd, Shelter’s Head of Policy, has used his years of experience designing house building strategies across the voluntary, public and private sectors, and the expertise of Shelter’s corporate partners, to create the charity’s vision for delivering a new garden city.
  • Wei Yang & Partners is a London-based practice with an international portfolio of master planning, town planning, urban design and architectural projects. The company was founded in response to the diverse challenges of sustainable development worldwide and is driven by a commitment to promote design excellence, truly sustainable environments and liveable cities. In addition to its work in the UK, Wei Yang & Partners is also promoting the garden city concept in China. Managing Director Dr Wei Yang has been seconded by the UK Foreign & Commonwealth Office and UK Trade & Investment (UKTI) as the Principal Planning Expert to the Chinese Ministry of Housing & Urban-Rural Development. Patricia Willoughby, the principal author, brings 30 years’ experience of working with development corporations and planning large scale mixed use developments. Peter Freeman founded property developers Argent in 1981 with brother Michael and has remained part of the business ever since. Argent has a reputation for delivering some of the best known mixed-use projects in the UK, including the regeneration of King’s Cross in London. Lee Shostak of Shared Intelligence, former Director of Planning at Milton Keynes Development Corporation, also brings delivery and economic development expertise. Buro Happold and Gardiner & Theobald contributed sustainable engineering and cost planning advice respectively.

5. The Prize entry from Dr Susan Parham (University of Hertfordshire) and others has been published today on the Wolfson Prize website, in recognition of its ideas on how to intensively engage local communities on garden city proposals.

6. Other features of the competition’s first round (as announced on 4 June 2014) included:

  • A total of 279 entries to the competition.
  • 20 entries from children under 16 years, including the youngest ever entrant to the Wolfson Economics Prize, Ewan Frearson, who is aged 6 and lives in Letchworth (Hertfordshire), the world’s first garden city. Along with Michael Fennell from London and Louis Upsall from Warminster (Wiltshire), both aged 12, Ewan receives a £50 prize. Louis wants to be an architect when he is older. Year 6 of St Anthony’s School, Hampstead, London, win a prize of £500 for their school for their entries. A selection of the school’s entries, plus Ewan, Michael and Louis’s entries, have been published on the Wolfson Economics Prize website. Photographs of these entrants are available from Westbourne Communications Ltd.
  • In keeping with the international profile of the Prize, entries were received from around the world, including Australia, Belgium, Canada, France, Ireland, Italy, the Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, Singapore and the USA, as well as from all over the UK.
  • Entries were received from a wide variety of disciplines. Many entries were collaborative. We received entries from architects, designers, planners, house builders, land agents, promoters, surveyors, developers, economists, academics, students, ‘think tanks’, local authorities, children, retired civil servants, and ordinary members of the public.
  • 132 entrants (47%) suggested a target population for their proposed new city. The median settlement size proposed was 50,000 people – slightly larger than Welwyn Garden City.
  • 118 entrants (42%) of entrants illustratively identified a potential location for a new garden city.

7. Other prizes, known as ‘Light Bulb’ prizes, have been awarded to entrants whose entries address aspects of the Prize Question in particularly innovative, creative or otherwise outstanding ways. The fund for these Prizes is £10,000.

8. The full Rules for the competition, the entrants Information Booklet, and other material related to the Prize, is available The Prize secretariat tweets from @WEP2014.

9. Details of the polling findings referred to were published in a separate press notice issued on Tuesday 3 June and are available on the Prize website at

10. The Wolfson Prize was founded in 2011 by Lord (Simon) Wolfson of Aspley Guise. There has been one previous competition, on the topic of the Eurozone. The winner of the 2012 Prize was Roger Bootle with Capital Economics. The prize is sponsored by the Charles Wolfson Charitable Trust, a family charity, and managed by Policy Exchange, the independent London-based think tank.

11. Simon Wolfson, the Founder of the Wolfson Economics Prize, has been Chief Executive of Next plc since 2001, a company he joined as a Sales Assistant in 1991. Since his appointment as Chief Executive Next profits have more than doubled with earnings per share compounding at 16% per annum. Simon was created a Tory Peer in 2010. Simon’s long standing interest in better housing, the social and economic benefits it can bring to the UK are born of years of experience trading the length and breadth of the UK.

12. Miles Gibson is Director of the Wolfson Economics Prize. He has taken a formal career break from the UK civil service to become the Prize Director for the Wolfson Economics Prize 2014. His civil service career spans more than a decade and includes senior roles in the Department for Communities and Local Government, HM Treasury, and the Cabinet Office. He has worked with and for most of the leading politicians of our generation in roles which have made him a recognised public policy expert in the areas of housing, land use, infrastructure and property taxation. He is a fully qualified town planner and also has a degree in architecture.

13. Trevor Osborne is Chair of the 2014 Wolfson Economics Prize judges and is one of Britain’s leading property developers. Through his current company, The Trevor Osborne Property Group Limited, he has built award-winning mixed-use, commercial, leisure and residential projects, often in historical buildings and often partnering with Councils and other public sector organisations. From 1991-92, Trevor was the President of the British Property Federation. From 1980-1982 he was the Leader of Wokingham District Council.

14. The four other Judges for the 2014 Prize are:

  • Professor Denise Bower is the Executive Director of the Major Projects Association (MPA) and the Director of the Engineering Project Academy (EPA) and Professor of Engineering Project Management at the University of Leeds. She is a member of Infrastructure UK’s Infrastructure Client Group and its Cost Review Steering Group, chair of the Institution of Civil Engineer’s (ICE) Capacity Building Panel, a member of the State of the Nation Infrastructure Scorecard steering group (also at the ICE), and an Associate Member of an All Party Parliamentary Group on Smart Cities. She was a member of Construction Industry Strategy Advisory Council which wrote Construction 2025 (the Government’s industrial strategy for the construction sector). Denise has published widely in academic journals and authored and co-authored key text books on the subject of engineering project management.
  • David Cowans is Group Chief Executive of Places for People and has 30 years’ extensive experience of housing, urban regeneration, mixed-use development, financial management, and of leading strategic change in both large and small organisations. He is a Chartered Director of the Institute of Directors, a Fellow of the Royal Institute of Chartered Surveyors, Chartered Member of the Institute of Housing, a Fellow of the Royal Society of Arts and a Member of The Institute of Residential Property Management.
  • Pascal Mittermaier is the Director of Sustainability EMEA and Project Director, Elephant & Castle Regeneration at Lend Lease. From 2002-2007 he was the President of Swiss healthcare company Roche, based in Montreal and from 2007-2010 CEO of Roche in Milan.
  • Tony Pidgley CBE is the Chairman of The Berkeley Group. He left school at 15 to form his own company in haulage and plant hire. At 21, he sold his business to Crest Homes and became a Building Director reporting to their Managing Director, Jim Farrer. In 1975, Tony and Jim left to form Berkeley Homes. The company enjoyed considerable growth over the following 10 years. It floated on the Unlisted Securities Market in 1984, and then gained a full listing in 1985 as The Berkeley Group plc.


Pro Union Businesses Fear Nat Planning Discrimination


More than a hundred Scottish business leaders wanted to sign a letter backing the Union but stayed silent because they feared “consequences” from the SNP Government, it has been claimed.

Gavin Hewitt, the former Scotch Whisky Association chairman who helped gather signatures, said around half the executives he approached agreed the business case for independence was not yet made but declined to go public amid worries of a Nationalist backlash.

More than half a dozen industry leaders feared planning applications would be stonewalled by SNP-run local authorities if they spoke out, Mr Hewitt alleged in an interview with The Telegraph.

He added that other business leaders worried Scottish Government grants and procurement contracts would dry up if they went public with concerns.

In one specific case, executives with worries about independence declined to speak out because they were involved in a merger between two spirits companies looking for Government support, according to Mr Hewitt.

Asked who was to blame for the fear of speaking out, Mr Hewitt said: “The SNP Government is entirely to blame because it is so tribal. Anyone who actually opposes the Government is in their sights, frankly.”

The worrying claims reignite allegations made earlier this year that the SNP has intimidated businesses and institutions to stay silent over the risks of independence. The Scottish Government has vehemently denied the allegations.

Alistair Carmichael, Scottish Secretary, demanded Alex Salmond “call off the dogs” and make clear businessmen can discuss independence without “fear” of consequences. A spokesman for the First Minister said Mr Hewitt’s claims about the SNP both at a national and local level are “simply untrue”, while an SNP spokesman called the allegations “patently wrong”.

The claims follow the publication of a letter on Wednesday signed by more than 120 industry leaders backing the Union and warning that the “business case for independence has not been made”.

Among the signatures was Keith Cochrane, Weir Group chief executive, Audrey Baxter, executive chairman of Baxters Food Group, Boyd Tunnock CBE and Ian Curle, the chief executive of Eddington, which owns the whisky brands The Macallan and The Famous Grouse.

In one of the most significant interventions by the business community in the referendum campaign, industries as diverse as publishing, banking, hairdressing, engineering and art dealing were represented among the signatories.

“Uncertainty surrounds a number of vital issues, including currency, regulation, tax, pensions, EU membership and support for our exports around the world – and uncertainty is bad for business,” the letter read.

“As job creators we have looked carefully at the arguments by both sides of the debate. Our conclusion is that the business case for independence has not been made.”

“We should be proud that Scotland is a great place to build businesses and create jobs – success that has been achieved as an integral part of the United Kingdom. The United Kingdom gives business the strong platform we must have to invest in jobs and industry. By all continuing to work together, we can keep Scotland flourishing.”

Organisers insisted the letter was signed in a personal capacity by the business leaders and was not affiliated to any political party or independence campaign.

However as the pronouncement begun to make headlines across the UK it was claimed scores more business leaders had refused to sign the letter despite agreeing with its content for fear of retribution.

Amanda Harvie, former chief executive of Scottish Financial Enterprise who helped gather signatures, said a “significant number” of old colleagues and contacts had declined to sign despite backing the letter’s message.

She told this newspaper business people were “fearful of the potential consequences of making their views known”, including employees at organisations that held Government contracts, wanted public grants or were submitting planning applications.

She also named professional services, construction and development, and financial services as industries where leaders had behaved in this way.

Asked what was meant by consequences, Ms Harvie said she was talking about what would happen if someone was “deemed to fall foul of the political view in the Scottish Government”.

“People are concerned that if they voice an opposing view, in other words against the prospects of independence, [then] grants, contracts, potential applications for planning may be threatened,” Ms Harvie said.

“Now the very fact that that perception exists, which is does, is deeply damaging and unhealthy for Scotland.”

Ms Harvie added she would be “very unhappy” if any Scottish Government minister or civil servants were to approach signatories about signing the letter.

Mr Hewitt, a former British diplomat for more than 30 years, estimated more than a hundred Scottish business leaders declined to publicly back the letter despite agreeing with its contents for fear of consequences from the SNP Government.

“I think we have seen right throughout the whole of this debate, and frankly in Government, that dissent is not permitted within the SNP ranks,” said Mr Hewitt, claiming that the party had been “pretty heavy handed” with business leaders who opposed independence.

It is understood the backlash against Barrhead Travel, Scotland’s largest independent travel company which faced boycott calls after its founder warned of the impact of independence, is believed to have put some leaders off speaking out.

Mr Carmichael said: “Alex Salmond now has to call off the dogs and make it clear that business people and anyone else can speak out without fear of unfair treatment in the future. This has got to come from the top.”

A spokesman for the First Minister said the claims were “simply untrue” and noted comments by the pro-independence group Business for Scotland dismissing the business letter. Tony Banks, chair of Business for Scotland, said its 2,500 members all believe “Scottish independence is in the best interests of Scotland and Scottish business”.

An SNP spokesperson: “These claims are patently wrong – for the No campaign to say that business is being stopped from speaking out on the very day they are saying business is speaking out is extremely foolish. The reality is that more business people back a Yes vote, as we will hear from over 150 Yes-supporting business people this week.”


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