How Little New Road Can You Get Away With in Designing Large New Settlements?

1. All of the above statements are true (to a point):

  • Building roads induces new traffic
  • Taking links away on a traffic network can reduce traffic and adding them can increase it
  • Excessive car use is a major cause of air pollution and CO2 emissions
  • We face a climate emergency

Does that mean that we should never expand the road network?

That is hard because settlements spawn, extend and grow always have and always will through a road grid, well before the car is invented.

Its all an issue about how roads are used and whether they are used and planned as part of a wider network to minimise the above network effects.

2. Because the following are also true (to a point):

  • If people cant afford a house near there place of work and they only have access to a car they will drive ever further out to afford housing;
  • If a network is incomplete then unnecessary miles will be driven causing pollution and congestion at its most overloaded points
  • Many people living in a new settlement will be locals and be driving on the roads anyway and so wont add net to traffic.

3. Which of these effects predominate will in all cases depend on the topology of the network, the management of the network and the disposition of land uses, in other words its transport and land use planning.  Each case is unique and in large sites can only be discovered through modelling.  Yes its a highly mathematical issue, an issue of graph theory, and one that can only conclusively be concluded through up to date traffic models that fully take into account multimodal trip distribution and assignment.  Its tough stuff – if you want you can look up in various contexts as the Downs-Thomson Paradox, or the Lewis-Mogridge Position.  A more sophisticated variation is known as The Braess Paradox which building new roads in the wrong location can lead to longer travel times for everyone, even without induced demand, because new roads may lead more car drivers to the weakest most congested  links in the network. The reverse may also be true: removing roads may even improve traffic conditions.  Both of these effects occur because each driver chooses the mode (in the first theory) or the route (in the second)  that is quickest without considering the implications his or her choice has on other drivers.  However it all depends on the network and the efficiency of alternative modal choices.  In the US for example traffic growth is highly correlated and elastic to road growth, in the Netherlands many new roads have been built to airports and ports but overall traffic growth for commuting to major city has fallen because of the promotion of alternative modes.

4. This dependence on network conditions and transport policy mean it is unwise to take an absolutist position, no roads ever even if it means building no houses,  Such a position means all of the negative impacts in section 2 apply and could mean that traffic congestion and CO2 emissions get worse.

5. If we want to both build new homes, move towards sustainable transport and reduce CO2 and other emissions we have to take an integrated design led approach to both land use and transport ensuring the network as a whole reinforces sustainable modal choice minimsing the effects of induced traffic.

6. International experience suggest the following are most successful

  • Ensuring that major development is based around transit, walking and cycling
  • But that isn’t enough, transit, walking and cycling have to be easier, safer and and faster (filtered permeability), which means taking traffic away from residential areas, which in some cases will mean ring roads and bypasses, as well as a dense ‘dutch’ 240m cycling grid and all intersections to safe dutch standards for cyclists.
  • Roads should be restricted to essential access, emergency service and PSVs, an major roads only access to major settlements, access to employment premises and transhipment locations (motorways, logistics hubs, ports and airport.

7.  How few major roads can you get away with? You can work this out by calculating a desirable modal split in favour of sustainable modes (say 60=70% low country urban areas split) then working backwards from that (households converted to commuters (% 55.2 working of population of working age x % 77  age dependency ratio – which works out at around 42.5%) .  So a Garden Community of 10,400 homes (one secondary school ) with 23,300 approx population will generate 9,900 workers, assuming 10% working from home equals 8,810  commuters.  Assuming a low 30% car share (assuming a highly sustainable design, infrastructure  and public transport infrastructure) , that’s around 2,643 car commuters a bit less assuming some may have double occupancy.

We can work out how many arterial (that is major access to the settlement) roads this equates to by referring to this official government table (table 9)  on the free flow capacities of roads.

A 40 mph (60 kph approx) carriageway has a free flow capacity of 1,380. So a single carriageway highway with access to two major sources of employment (one in each direction) so we are just fine.  We dont need more that the bare minimum single access road in each direction you would need to service the shops and industries in the settlement anyway.  Any extra connections would add resilience and extra choices to the network, but we don’t need to go overboard.  If we build at higher densities in a sustainable way we don’t need a huge MK like grid, the only occasions where you do need more than one arterial road is where you are building a larger garden community of more than one district where a minimal arterial grid is needed, and most roads accessing neighbourhoods need only be major collector (link) or local collector (feeder) standard.

Once you start pushing modal share by car below 50% you start to take vehicles off the network, the key is is the % below the number of local residents already driving through the area to work?  If it is s sustainable new settlement which means people can reduce their communing distances and potentially not need to drive at all can theoretically reduce not increase traffic.  And we also know from areas of Germany, the Netherlands, Denmark and Sweden that have designed new settlements in this way and seen a reduction in car commuting it can be done, no need to be cynical.

8.  None of this is saying the way we design and plan major housing in the UK is all right.  Strategic growth locations in the wrong place, and /or not designed around sustainable modes from the get go will make matters worse.  Which it is why every agency, especially you Homes England and you MHCLG must see ensuring sustainable infrastructure and design is not just a ‘risk’ but task number 1 in planning.   Whose job is it. mainly county councils and combined authorities, but in most home counties growth is most needed there are one man and a dog outfits unless they have already done growth deals.  If we want to solve out housing crisis then this field is where we currently have the biggest capacity, skills and research gap.

 

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100 route options being narrowed down to 10 for Oxford-Cambridge Expressway

John Howell MP

I and Ed Vaizey MP (Wantage and Didcot) met with the Minister of State for Transport Jesse Norman MP and representatives of Highways England to discuss the Oxford Cambridge Expressway, the A34, and the A420.

Both of us secured assurances from the Minister that there would be detailed consultation with local residents for the final route of the Oxford Cambridge expressway. A route corridor has been chosen and Highways England are currently considering route options within that corridor. There is a long list of around 100 routes which will be narrowed down to a short list of under 10 for public consultation in late 2019.

Henry George’s Clue to Ebenezor Howard

Progress and Poverty Page 303

when land is all monopolized, as it is everywhere except in the newest communities, rent must drive wages down to the point at which the poorest paid class will be just able to live and reproduce , and thus wages are forced to a minimum fixed by what is called the standard of comfort-that is, the amount of necessaries and comforts which habit leads the working classes to demand as the· lowest on which they will consent to maintain their numbers.

Is there a Realistic Alternative to Large Garden Communities?

Comments on my post often state that there is a more sustainable alternative to large scale new settlements.  Lets looks at them:

  1.  Garden Villages – promoted for example by Cause as an alternative to North Essex Garden Communities.    Two problems here.  the first is the number needed.  Take the Oxford-Cambridge Growth Arc for example.  Around 1.25 million to 2050.  (its larger than the 1 million quoted at the 2017 budget as the definition now includes North Northants and South Bucks.)  If we take a garden village as being one primary school two form entry then this equates to around 2,080 dwellings at national average household size and age pyramid.  In the arc this equates to 601 garden villages, total sprawl.  Garden Villages are being promoted everywhere and anywhere by developers but are typically just unsustainable estates in the middle of nowhere, just using the ‘garden’ moniker (as the recent garden Communities prospectus notes..  The term ‘garden village’ never passed Ebeneezer Howards’s lips.  The second related problem is wasted potential of accessible sites.  Only a few sites will have or have the potential to have good transit access, and transit will only be viable if you have a minimum density and critical mass.  The new NPPF on integrating land use and transport and ensuring that new development is accessible to public transport (para 103) all but rules out most garden villages, as the first landmark recovered appeal on this issue has highlighted. Which is not to state they never have a role.  They might for example be on a bus route to somewhere else, and well utilise a brownfield site, and/or on be a short distance away from urban areas e.g. Bourn Airfield and Dunsfold Airfield).
  2. Keep Everything in Large Cities This approach is promoted by the so-called Campaign for Smart Growth UK, which in effect is a campaign against all growth outside major cities.  There approach is as follows.

A single railway station with lines going only in two directions doesn’t meet the employment needs of today’s families whose journeys to work will take them to all points of the compass. Research confirms this.
Getting multi-breadwinner families out of their cars involves them living in big conurbations with dense networks of rail-based transit. There really is no workable alternative.

The problem is in England this really only applies to Inner London and a few places in Outer London opened up by the Overground network, even Birmingham and Manchester for example only really have radial networks with two directions of travel being the norm from rail and transit points.  Of that leaves only inner London and a few well connected nodes like Croydon Town Centre in Outer London this means an impossible volume of housebreaking in these areas.  London itself is struggling to meet the targets of the new London Plan.  Projected forward to 2052 it means 10,400 40 storey tower blocks or around 8 Hing Kong’s Worth, at ‘Create Streets’ type densities, it would mean redeveloping an area greater than 18 Park Royals which means three boroughs worth of demolition.   If London took 80% of growth, the implication of the Smart Growth UK standard it would be eight times more, around 10 million dwellings, which would require the near tripling of dwellings in London and redevelopment of 30 of the 33 boroughs as 4-6 storey mansion blocks.  This is a Unicorn strategy, it ain’t going to happen.  Rather than Smart growth by setting an impossible to meet and implement strategy that doesn’t meet growth needs where they originate, forcing mass migration and mass displacement from mass demolition it is a policy only a British Pol Pot could implement.  So in reality it is a no growth not a smart growth approach.
What about the charge though that railway towns in England are unsustainable as only a minority commute by train as RTPI research shows?   True but confined to England and its very anti public transport walking and cycling planning.  Compare to the continent say where car use is made harder and walking, cycling and access to public transport (running at much greater frequencies) we find often find the modal share by car half that of comparative English towns.  Take Houten for example in the Netherlands, a classic Garden town with one line in and out which has a 26% modal share by car, less than half of comparable town in the UK, and where it is made difficult to drive to through and easier to penetrate by walking and cycling.  Which is why it isn’t just about location but also about integrated masterplanning for truly smart growth around transit orientated development hubs.  In addition many towsn= in the UK, and many locations where train lines cross and are proposed to cross (like Calvert for example) offer the true potential for all directions commuting. In conclusion the bias of Smart Growth UK against large Scale Garden Communities is not supported by evidence from international best masterplanning and regional planning practice.  Sadly they are not serious about alternatives and have repeatedly failed challenges to say where development should go instead in many counties. Sadly I have to conclude they are just a Nimby front that fails to offer sustainable alternatives to sprawl.

3 .Urban Extension – This often is a realistic alternative.  The only issue is is it enough by itself give the scale of growth needed given the years of weak building.  Nick Falk’s ‘snowflake’ argument is that urban expansion is cheaper as it uses existing infrastructure.  But with many towns needing to increase in size by 50% or more to 2050, and more when you take into account London Overspill, then the issue that this is only true to a point becomes clear.  What town has 50% spare infrastructure.  Sewage treatment works will be overloaded, trains stations will be overloaded, all school are mostly likely already full.  In many cases it will be cheaper to build anew and capture the land value uplift.  There is also the problem that unlike continental towns most English Towns undertook a phase of suburban density housing that blocks off there centres from easy walking and cycling distance.  Ironically it is those towns that had a shortfall in late victorian and early 20th Century expansion (like Oxford and Cambridge) that have the best opportunities for urban extension.  Elsewhere you will find with towns like Luton or Leicester for example that urban extensions can be 10 miles from the  city centre, and so have to be largely self contained with their own rail connections to be sustainable at all, in which cases the distraction between freestanding garden communities and urban extensions is somewhat academic.

In conclusion no. It is largely a matter of scale.  We need to build such a large amount of housing to catch up with years of slow building that only large garden communities offer realistic potential to meet it.  other alternatives are too dispersed to be sustainable or require an unrealistic assembly of the  most expensive land in the UK with nowhere for the  displaced to go (in England we cant even decant one tower block like Grenfell let alone 30 Boroughs worth).  Which is not to state it easy, a dramatic shift in how we master plan these communities integrated with how we plan for transport to and between them is needed.

 

 

Bishopgate Goods Yard down to 250 houses, when it could block potential for 170,000 houses in East of England

Revised plans have been put to the Mayor of London for Bishopsgate Goods Yard, replacing around 1,300 units in a 46 storey tower in the previous PLP scheme to just 250 in the revised scheme by FaulknerBrowns, Buckley Gray Yeoman, Chris Dyson and Spacehub.

The Mayors of Hackney and Tower Hamlets have greenlit the scheme, but they are amending the original called in scheme so the decision will lie with Sadiq Khan in 2019

The site is an incredibly complex one with multiple levels, rail tunnels underneath and the new East London Line (now overground)  Connection running through it in a concrete box which is designed to be built around and over.  There is also the Grade II  listed Braithwaite viaduct which can only take so much weight on top.

The scheme has been revised down to almost nothing in housing terms to meet conservation and overshadowing concerns.  Only parts of the site can take deep foundations.  These parts are office and culture led.

The concern of the site brief was to create something like London’s Highline on top of the listed Braithwaite viaduct.  This was misconceived as unlike the highline it would go nowhere.  The railway viaduct is much better put back into its original use, as a terminus station, London’s first since Marylebone.

Look here at Table 5.7, on page 80 of the Anglia Route Study.

  • New platform 0 located within the shopping area to the west side of London Liverpool Street Station, but potentially requiring platform 1 to be shortened

  • Three new platforms between the existing platforms 10 and 11, one adjacent to platform 10 and two within the taxi rank area

  • Remodelling of the existing platforms 1-10 within the westernmost train shed to allow provision of an additional three 12-car length platforms or an additional two 12-car and two 10-car platforms

  • Creation of an additional terminus station to the north of London Liverpool Street within the area of Network Rail owned land adjacent to Shoreditch High Street station on the East London Line. This would potentially be utilised by services from the West Anglia route.

Where the rail line bridged over the Liverpool street entrance from the south of the existing line is still undeveloped. It is possible to create a new terminus here, just like the original terminus of the Great Eastern Railway which became Bishopsgate Goods Yard after Liverpool Street Opened.  Only now not just a terminus as the East london Line (now the Overground)  links through, with the on site new Shoreditch High Street Station,  with its extension to Highbury and Islington . This could make a new terminus and interchange important in terms of linking through between North est London and the East of England and reliving overcrowding at Liverpool Street rail and underground stations.  A less than 300m underground travelator could link through to Liverpool Street Station and suburban London Overground trains could have dedicated platforms at Bishopsgate itself.

Why is this important?  The lines into London from the East of England go into Fenchurch street (the Southern Branch of the London Tilbury and Southend (C2C) line) and Liverpool Street (the West Anglia Line to Chelmsford, Colchester, Ipswich and Norwich and the branch to Southend Victoria).  Both lines are full with the greatest throat constraints of any London termini and Fenchurch Street the smallest number of platforms (and no tube connection).

There are things that can be done to increase capacity at both such as increasing trains to 12 carriages where possible and in the medium term digital railway (Japanese style signalling), but these wont increase capacity by more than 15% or so.  This leaves very little headway for ‘Transit Orientated Development’ around exiting or new Stations in South of North Essex.

Essex is a big county with huge housing requirements under the standard method till 2050.  Its roads cant cope with congestion on the A13 and A127  already the busiest A roads in the South of England taking motorway levels of traffic, which will only get worse with the Lower Thames Crossing.

The natural inclination is to place development at railway nodes like Marks Tey, West Tey being one of the North Essex Garden Communities, between 20-30 thousand dwellings, potentially twice as large as Ebbsfleet.  But the West Anglia Route is at capacity here.

South Essex has equally stark choices.  Even after accounting for brownfield sites and outstanding permission and sites in emerging local plans it has a shortfall of roughly 50,000 dwellings to 2037, to which you can add 60,000 more required by the standard method to 2050.  These will inevitably be primarily on the Green Belt, and it is likely sites at or close to existing and new stations will be favoured including the previously promoted Tillingham Hall site south of West Horden.     110,000 dwellings. 10 Secondary School sized Garden Communities.  Most of these, unless you add options for commuting by building a Kent Essex Rail Connection by adding an additional rail tunnels to the East London River Crossing (as the Thames Estuary 2050 Armitt Rport suggested, and which the government still hasn’t responded to in full). will rely on extra capacity being found to Fenchurch Street and Liverpool Street.

At Fenchurch street there is a plan having been on the drawing board for years, redevelop Tower Gateway as a new terminus taking the DLR to bank into tunnel earlier, and the new tunnel providing an underground link to Fenchurch street.  This will be expensive but would dramatically improve Capacity and interchange at Fenchurch street and transform the accessibility of South Essex.

In terms of the Greater Anglia Line the Anglia Route study sets out the only realistic option for major capacity increase. The cover for a new interchange could be lightweight and suspended, like the Fosters Design for Dresden Station, meaning it could be built  over but not on top of the  viaducts.

Together they could unlock the potential for up to 140,000 homes, and potentially 200,000 if the potential for a new City South of Norwich roughly in the Diss Area is considered and further expansion of Ipswich.

In the run of things loss of the max four-six storey buildings on top of Braithwaite viaduct is small beer.

How much precisely could this potential be blocked.  We don’t know because a Eastern Rail Study covering Essex and the Anglia Line has not been commissioned, nor has a study into the potential for a Kent-Essex Rail link linking the North and South of Thames Arms of Crossrail.  No-one is willing to take ownership and responsibility for this in our less than integrated system of land use and transport planning in England where the strategic plan for London takes little notice of that for South Essex and North Essex and vice versa and given the lack of staff and funding (Transport for East is one guy – the same overworked guy as for Essex, compared to TfL?).

In the lack of coordination the SoS for Communities and Transport need to issue a holding direction to ensure this potential is not blighted before it is studied and the EUV of the land is not raised to make the scheme impractical.  Network Rail have a clear conflict of interest here, they own the land.  If Essex and Homes England want a large long-term pipeline they need to get involved behind the scenes. The Mayor of London also needs to take a long-term view, he has enormous leverage here with the East of England authorities and should leverage it so some of the additional housing serves London overspill needs and  some of the land value capture goes towards the new termini.

Tfl – More Walking and Cycling Can Save the High Street

TfL

Getting more people walking and cycling could help save our high streets

16 November 2018
“The benefits of designing streets around pedestrians and cyclists and reducing car use can be enjoyed by everyone and will help ensure the future of our high streets”

TfL has today published research that shows improvements to make it easier and safer to walk and cycle in London’s town centres and high streets lead to an increase in retail rental values, more retail space being filled and a 93% increase in people walking in the streets.

The research has also found that people walking, cycling and using public transport spend the most in their local shops, spending 40% more each month than car drivers.

In one major study published today, locations including Bromley North Village, Hornchurch Town Centre, Clapham, Woolwich Town Centre and Walworth Road were studied to assess the impact of improvements, such as widened footpaths, increased space for outdoor seating, new public squares and pedestrian crossings.

The study, commissioned by TfL and conducted by Matthew Carmona from University College London’s Bartlett School of Planning, found that compared to unimproved areas:

  • Footfall increased – the number of people standing, waiting and sitting nearly doubled and people walking in the streets increased by 93%
  • People spent more time in the street, with a 216% increase in activity such as going into a shop, stopping at a café or sitting on a bench
  • Retail rental values increased by 7.5%, suggesting that local businesses are thriving in the area
  • More retail space was filled by businesses, as there was a 17% decline in retail vacancy
  • Office rental values increased by 4%, showing that improving streets is good for many types of business

Economic benefits

The research has been published as part of a new online hub demonstrating the economic benefits of TfL’s Healthy Streets Approach, which aims to create high streets that are designed for people, inclusive and easy to access by foot or bike.

Will Norman, London’s Walking and Cycling Commissioner, said: ‘With businesses across London really struggling to survive, we have to do everything we can to support them.

‘The evidence is clear – adapting our streets to enable more people to walk and cycle makes them cleaner, healthier and more welcoming, which encourages more people to shop locally.

‘The benefits of designing streets around pedestrians and cyclists and reducing car use can be enjoyed by everyone and will help ensure the future of our high streets.’

Launched today, new online hub, The Economic Benefits of Walking and Cycling, will be kept up to date with research and statistics from TfL and others.

Current material on the hub includes a report setting out the economic benefits of planning cycling and walking improvements alongside housing growth, a survey of Business Improvement Districts (BIDs) demonstrating the economic importance of walking and cycling to businesses across London, and research suggesting segregated cycle routes in London make our streets more efficient.

Improve quality of life

The Mayor’s Transport Strategy aims to reduce reliance on car use and grow sustainable travel to improve quality of life, aiming for 80% of journeys to be made by walking, cycling or public transport.

TfL’s investment in delivering Healthy Streets contributes to this by creating streets where people choose to travel actively, connecting communities, improving air quality and reducing road danger and noise.

Lilli Matson, Director of Transport Strategy at TfL, said: ‘This research from our new online hub shows the link between creating enjoyable spaces, where people want to spend time, and the results for better business.

‘We are taking the Healthy Streets Approach to change the whole capital so that everyone can live active lives in a healthy environment, with opportunities to walk, cycle, shop, play and enjoy their streets.’

Kay Buxton, Chief Executive of Marble Arch London BID, said: ‘We welcome the Economic Benefits of Walking and Cycling hub, and the wealth of information supporting the case for walking, cycling and using public transport.

‘As a BID we are committed to bringing forward schemes with TfL across the entire Marble Arch and Edgware Road area, from improving junctions and crossings through to creating safer routes to schools, businesses and leisure amenities.

‘Our members tell us that their staff, customers, guests, students and pupils need safer spaces in which to operate.

‘It not only helps the trading environment locally but it boosts health and wellbeing and fosters a greater sense of community. Amazing things happen when businesses and community come together to champion a safer pedestrian environment.’

Boosts health and wellbeing

Ruth Duston OBE, OC, CEO of Victoria and Northbank BIDs, said: ‘We recognise that enhancing the quality of the local environment in our areas is not just about creating token green spaces. Far from it, well designed and located ‘green’ interventions make good business sense too.

‘From our Business Low Emission Neighbourhood in the Northbank with healthier walking routes and the Love Your Side Streets programme in Victoria, to creating more attractive areas for people to dwell, such as Victoria’s Chelsea Flower Show Parklets, everyone benefits.

‘Local employees benefit from commuting and working in a more pleasant environment and businesses have a more satisfied workforce and, as this new research supports, better commercial outcomes.’

Projects such as the Mini Holland scheme in Waltham Forest and the A105 Green Lanes scheme, linking Enfield Town to Palmers Green, are working to make London a greener, healthier and more attractive place to live, work, play and do business.

The recent Active Lives Survey shows that Waltham Forest now has the highest percentage of adults walking at least five days per week of all the London boroughs, at 43%.

This has increased by 5% since 2015/16. Residents in the areas transformed through the Mini Holland scheme are doing an extra 40 minutes’ walking and cycling each week, compared to before the area was transformed.


Notes to editors

The ‘Design Shaped Hole’ in Planning

Patra Marko in Building Design – you could equally say their is a ‘design shaped hole’ in the leadership of strategic planning and garden communities projects also.

There is currently a design-shaped hole in the understanding of too many people leading infrastructure projects, says Petra Marko

The building industry continually grapples with how to prove the value of design. When it comes to infrastructure projects of national importance, good design is about much more than aesthetics.

Just look at Oslo’s new airport with its high sustainability credentials and great user experience, or Rotterdam Centraal station which stitches the centre of the city back together while integrating complex modal interfaces.

Housing Growth, Land Use Change and Climate Change

Very often a cry against new housing is that:

  1. We need greenfield land to grown food
  2. We need greenfield land to store carbon

Which often contradict each other as most forms of farming practiced in the UK are net emitters of carbon, as well as being very inefficient per Ha both in terms of energy inputs and energy (food) outputs compared to international best practice (e.g. Dutch horticulture).

It is interesting to see today two reports from The Committee of Climate Change released today.

‘Land use: Reducing emissions and preparing for climate change’ finds that fundamental reform is required to ensure land becomes a more effective carbon store. The critical services we receive from the land; clean water, healthy soils, wildlife, timber and food, are threatened by a warming climate. Government can address these concerns, while ensuring sufficient food production for an increasing population and space for new homes.

‘Biomass in a low-carbon economy’ considers the role of biomass – wood, plants and organic waste – in the global strategy to tackle climate change. Biomass can play an important role in meeting the UK’s long-term (2050) emissions targets, and moving towards net-zero emissions, but only with stricter governance to ensure sustainable supplies. Current UK energy uses will need to change….

  • New land-use policy must promote radically different uses of UK land to support deeper emissions reductions and improve resilience to climate change impacts. This includes increased tree planting, improved forest management, restoration of peatlands, and shifts to low-carbon farming practices, which improve soil and water quality. These will help to reduce flood risk and improve the condition of semi-natural habitats such as woodlands and we[sic tland]
  • Alternative uses of land can be economic for farmers and land managers, but Government must provide help for them to transition. 

Despite new planning policies on net environmental gain, a short lived approach to allowable solutions which focussed on increased land cover for carbon cpature and storage, and the application of the Natura directive forcing planners into the business of increasing semi natural greenspace there is no ‘joined up’ approach to rural land use in British Planning practice.

Some propositions:

  1. In the future planners should be as interested and skilled in rural land use as urban, there should be a shift in training and abolition of thinking that this is just a specialist field for ‘countryside planning’.
  2. We need to make the green infrastricture/land use plan as important in strategic planning as the housing, economy and infrastructure plans will specialist expertise and research to match.
  3. We shouldn’t see SEA/AA as means of testing the plan in a narrow functional way but an integral part of the process whereby we ensure increased urbanisation from planning in net carbon negative by 2050.
  4. We need a plan to measure net environmental gain in every instance and in every front (carbon, biodiversity etc.) and for every strategic growth location
  5. This must form a ‘vision’ for place in net environmental terms as important as teh vision of place for the ‘irban’ component
  6. Such visions should link up at a strategic landscape scale
  7. There should be a national push on this as important as Homes Englands push for Homes, Natural England should lead (it should get its staff back soon now that Brexit is collapsing) linked at the hip with Homes England.
  8. Such an approach will vary by region and landscape.  In the north grassland loss to urbanisation may not be problematic (in the right locations) providing there is also increased ‘rewilding’ through woodland, mire, heathland restoration etc.  In the parts of the South it may mean losing cropland (inevitably) which requires both offsetting carbon sink landscapes and increased use of more sustainable high yield low energy input methods – which might benefit for example through glasshouses heated by heat from district heating of a garden community nearby.
  9. We need new legislative tools and incentives to make and encourage changes to rural and urban fringe land use
  10. Involve the public, through increased community agriculture and allotments.   What Andreas Duany has called Agrarian Urbanism.

The Way Development Plans are Project Managed is 20 Years out of Date

‘We can’t decide on anything that will go into the new spatial plan until everything is in place’

‘We can’t determine the strategic growth locations until we have the results from the transport team’ (planners)

”Tell us the strategic growth locations and we will tell you the transport implications’ Transport Planner

‘After your have found 200k for us to do an area wide transport model – and then wait a year’ Transport Planner

”Ok well make a bid in 2019-2020′ (planner)

These are the kind of common statements you hear around those plan making today, especially the new larger scale joint spatial plans.  They are very frustrating because they all are highly symptomatic of a style of project management that is known to have  failed and has known to be a failure for over 20 years.  What is worse is that it is not even the case in many circumstances that a specific style of project management has been adopted at all.  Because if it is the case that:

  • The plan is managed on excel and not a proper Gantt chart in project management software
  • There is no clear PMO
  • There is no clear and dedicated programme manager with allocated project managers in a clear PMO structure (not a committee of peers)
  • There is no project specific governance
  • There is no reporting by exception
  • There is no risk register
  • There is no project specific budget and resource tracking
  • There is no Prince 2 compliant process

Then, which is at least 80-95% of cases, there has been no conscious design of ANY kind of project management approach.  It has just been carrying on as normal and using the skill sets as possessed.

Large projects however need to be managed in different ways.  When you are talking of housing allocations for counties of a million or more with investments on the back of that of 100s of million or more, when you are talking increasingly of local aithorities getting into teh property development game with Garden Communities requiring those authorities to borrow 100s of million in the expectation of cpaturing land value gains of potentially billions then entirely different methodologies are needed, ones that ensure projects don’t go off track.

What is worse the skills gap and poor practice has been state subsidized with MHCLG grants used to perpetuate such poor practice and consequentially slow and inefficient plan making.

Knowing it or not most development plans are still managed as ‘waterfall projects’.

You do survey before draft plan before consultation before submission etc.

This doesn’t work in plan making.  The housing numbers are forever changing, and your always going around in a loop to stage 1.

The rest of the world has changed to Agile.  So does development plan making.

Agile is iterative and based upon continuous improvement of system design, based on 2-4 week cycles called sprints each of which builds a usable small component, so that over time you build towards a usable and ever improving product.  Scope is rigoursly controlled and only expanded where it is essential to meeting customer (stakeholders in planning too) essential requirements.

It has become central to central government working – here is the governments service manual – but is still only central to a handful of local authorities.

Homes England has been an enthusiastic adopter.  The speed of systems change in Homes England has been such that LPAs will soon have to run to catch up.

The key to adopting such an approach is ensuring that a plan is broken up into a number of sprintable modules and ensuring there are dedicated full time teams able to handle these simple components.  We often see in local government contracts of 4-6 months to the private sector juggling too many such contracts across many authorities in several stages with even the first stage typically taking the full length of the original contract when it should be only 4-6 weeks work.  These kind of contracts don’t work.  More flexible contracts of seconding staff to lead dedicated scrum teams for 4-6 weeks with payment at the end based on delivery of the component should be the norm.

Often the basic building blocks are not put in place first, such as common data platforms, GIS systems to avoid double counting, consultation platforms, even list of consultees and statutory consultees.  Foundational components also include the absolutely basic user requirements from bodies such as infrastructure and transport bodies.  They should not have to wait till preferred option stage before being able to set down their requirements, far too late.

A component based approach can proceed that you can design some things before you know everything, because you will never know everything and if you try you will be forever out of date.  That means banishing forever the irrational morbid fear of English trained planners of lines of maps.  Starting with rough lines on maps of potentially good sites based your imperfect knowledge and information is the only way to elucidate and capture the spatial wisdom of teams and stakeholders on how to make place.

As a result of the initial sprints what you dont know about your ‘reasonable options’ will be clearer earlier on, rather than in a panic of a few weeks before your consultation deadline where the gaps in understanding are painfully exposed from the consultation.  There is also the opportunity to make the merging plan process more open and transparent by gradually opening up discussions on components as alternatives become clearer. Cpomponents can also be designed around finding what we dont know but need to know to make certain things happen, continuously controlling and managing risk.

 

 

 

 

 

FT UK Government to Look at Extra Runway in South East

FT

Third one at Heathrow won’t be enough to satisfy passenger demand says official

The government will set in motion in December the process to determine which UK airport will get a new runway, before ground has even been broken for the last runway it approved. Sarah Bishop, deputy director of aviation policy in the Department for Transport, said in a speech to a transport think-tank that government forecasts for aviation growth from 2015 were “already looking quite out of date” and that the south-east of England could need a new runway by 2050, “so we need to be on the front foot and set out the decision-making framework for considering that question”. Ms Bishop said the government would launch a consultation in December to examine whether it needed a new airports commission, like the one which awarded Heathrow a third runway; a site-specific government-led white paper; or “a more market-led approach” with a “more permissive National Policy Statement”. The Davies Commission, which endorsed Heathrow’s new runway in July 2015, predicted at the time that another new runway might be needed by 2050 but said its environmental impact had to be considered “if further expansion is not to materially affect the UK’s ability to meet current and future climate obligations.” It also said: “There would not be any credible case, however, for a fourth runway at Heathrow.” Heathrow has said its new runway will be ready in 2026, if it passes a series of legal and planning challenges. Paul McGuinness, chair of the No 3rd Runway Coalition, said: “It truly beggars belief that a further runway is even being mooted. Given environmental targets are struggling to be met with the existing Heathrow plans, yet another new runway would make a laughing stock of the UK’s commitment to the environment.” The DfT sounded a note of caution in a later statement: “The Airports Commission has set out that there would likely be sufficient demand to justify a second additional runway by 2050, or in some scenarios earlier — although this does not necessarily mean that this would be justified on economic or environmental grounds.” Heathrow said: “What is clear is that a third runway is urgently needed now and our focus remains directly on delivering this for Britain. We have always been clear that we would accept a commitment from government ruling out a fourth runway at Heathrow, but that is a matter of government’s policy to enforce.”

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