Concept for a Cubett Cycle Only Bridge at Blackfriars

In cities radically improving conditions for cyclists buiding new Bridges primarily for cyclists have become the norm.  Moreover they are light and relatively cheap, it was the mass of earth interfering with LT subsurface work which ultimately did for the Garden Bridge.

The new analytical work by TfL has shown just where such a bridge should be.  There are huge flows and potential flows over Blackfriars Bridge connecting as it does Clapham and the City of London is is by far the main origin-destination point.  It is teh route of thesuperhighway.  70% of traffic across Blackfriars Bridge is now Cycles.  Additional capacity here is needed because of the introduction of anti-terrorist barriers.

Closing Blackfriars bridge would be hard because of bus routes, so why not build a cycle and pedestrian only bridge here, made much easier here as the supprts from the Cubett rail bridge (now demolished) are still in place.  A proposal for a combined green bridge and cycle route at Blackfriars was submitted to the ‘High Line for London’ ideas competition in 2012.

Britain’s Two Biggest Rail Projects will Cross but not Interchange That’s a Disgrace @Andrew_Adonis


Near the village of Steeple Claydon in the Vale of Aylsham is the former station of Calvert.  Here England two biggest rail projects will cross.  i stress cross there are no plans for an interchange.  Here HS2 will in this section follow the route of the former Great Central Railway, England last main line which met the visionary Edward Watkin’s vision of a purpose built high speed main line linking London and the North. At Calvert it crosses the soon to be reopened Varsity Line between Oxford and Cambridge.  They will not interchange. A chord was previously built between them to serve a nearby brickworks and army camp.

Why is this?  Why are no intermediate stations proposed on HS2 when for comparison the Japanese Shinkansen system has many stations every 30-40 km or so apart, especially around Tokyo.

The reason is the misconception of British railway engineers over capacity.  I can say this with some assurance having worked closely with Japanese engineers on High Speed Rail in India.  The concept of headway is crucial.  The benefit cost ration of HS2 depends on time savings from travel – hence run the trains as fast as possible and as tightly spaced (headway) as possible.  It now seems the 18 trains per hour ambition of HS2 is too ambitious, the maximum the Japanese run is 12-14 an hour.   Ironically the faster you run the less the capacity, because the headway is dependent on braking and signal technology.  The optimum sweet spot seems to be around 300kph as per Chinese railways.  Because HS2 is being planned around heavy Spanish and French trains and less advanced signalling technology their headway is far less than lightweight Shinkansen trains which being much lighter take less time to break.  The japanese also have a different philosophy around benefits and costs.  They realise that commuters are able to pay a premium and the most commuters will be around intermediate stations, even if the houses for those commuters are not yet built.  If you can increase capacity by commuters without losing headway you can dramatically increase the farebox and the BCR of the project as the fixed costs serving the major cities will have already been paid for.  They do this through interleaving trains and advanced train control.  You can switch a train onto the opposite track to overtake a slower ‘stopping’ service, though unless carefully timed this can reduce capacity.  The better solution is to have acceleration/deceleration/overtaking lanes before and after intermediate stops – which at around 320kph need to be around 16km in length.  Rather than every train stopping at Old Oak Common, Birmingham interchange and Crewe I recommend that such lanes are created around such stations enabling faster services between London and Manchester direct.   This would also open up potential for intermediate stations at Amersham, Princes Risborough, Calvert, Stoneleigh (for Leamington and Warwick) and Lichfield, Stafford and Machester Airport – all potential major growth locations. The future strategic plans for the London and Birmingham regions and Oxford-MK-Cambridge should be based around this in the same way Greater Tokoyo’s regional plan is based around Shinkansen.  Indeed there is a reason Tokyop-Osaka is the world’s largest city experiencing the economic benefits without the disbenefits that have choked other megacities – you can commute farther and faster by High Speed Rail.

Calvert is a particular opportunity for large Garden City scale development.  The best in England.  The landscape is flat with few villages.  The location is midway between Oxford and Milton Keynes and one of the three routes of the potential Oxford -Milton Keynes expressway.  indeed development here could pay for this an improved A road upgradings to Aylesbury and its proposed northern loop road and east and west between Oxford and Luton, linking the M40 to the M1 and linking several growth areas.  Indeed I dont think it is really a choice between one or other expressway grade roads, two routes to dual A Trunk road standard with grade separation would perform a better network function and service a wider range of growth areas.

Future decisions on new settlements in the Aylesbury Vale local plan have been put on hold pending decision on the expressway route.  Currently Wilmslow (on the Varsity line) and Haddenham (on the Chiltern Line) are candidates.  Both are potential Garden Village/town locations and should go ahead – but only Claverty has the opportunity and potential for a Garden City.  Were Aylesbury Vale to meet only its own need and that of constrained south Buckinghamshire and Chilterns districts it would not be needed, however there is also the need to meet  overspill from London and Greater Birmingham. Oxford and Cambridge have a net inflow of commuters, as well as theior own problems, so they are not good locations for this overspill.  The appropriate locations are where peoiple could commute from, on the WCML whose cpacity will increase with HS2, at MK and new Garden City locations north and ssouth of it, at Northmapton and Rugby, and stations along the Marylebone -Snow Hill Line and the suggested stations along the HS2 route.

I suggest calling this new Garden City at Clavert Junction/Steeple Claydon, Watkin, after the great Engineer whose vision was to link the North and Midlands to Europe via High Speed Rail.

No Legislation to Capture Land Value Uplift in Queens Speech

Despite being in all major parties manifestos Land Value Capture to increase housing affordability does not feature in the Queens Speech.  The only DCLG bill relates top Tenants fees, no housing act, no planning act.

The reference in the guidance notes, seems to relate to policy measures only, excluding land value capture which requires amendments to primary legislation.  With a two year Queens Speech at least a two year delay.

We will deliver the reforms proposed in the White Paper to increase
transparency around the control of land, to “free up more land for new homes in the right places, speed up build-out by encouraging modern methods of
construction and diversify who builds homes in the country” (p.70).

I rang the DCLG press office – they knew nothing about whether the proposal had been dropped or not – they are due to get back to me.

Did the Conflicted and Privatised BRE lull DCLG into False Sense of Security over #Grenfell Fire?

In 2015 the BRE were commissioned by the DLCG to carry out research on the flammability of external cladding.  It was only today it was published alongside an extension till 2018 (following ba gap of nearly two years.  Why is that?  Blame passing surely not.

BRE Global, through the contract with DCLG, investigate fires that may have implications for Building Regulations. With the exception of one or two unfortunate but rare cases, there is currently no evidence from these investigations to suggest that the current recommendations, to limit vertical fire spread up the exterior of high-rise buildings, are failing in their purpose.However, as the need to improve energy efficiency becomes increasingly urgent, more innovative ways to insulate buildings to improve their sustainability and energy efficiency are changing the external surfaces of buildings with an increase in the volume of potentially combustible materials being applied. A number ofsignificant fires, such as those discussed previously, have demonstrated the potential risks.
It was agreed with DCLG to carry out three experiments, to assess the performance of different external façades including non-fire rated double glazing, when exposed to a fire from below, representative of the external face of some buildings.

The experiments conducted basically was pasting internal plasterboard to the outside of a building, not aluminium composite material (ACM) with a combustible polycarbonate fill. Nor did they involve a cavity.  The tests showed that unprotected windows could fail and this could lead to a fire spread and breach of compartmentalisation.  There was no evidence the BRE had looked at ionternational evidence of fire spread from use of such cladding. So why then did they concludethat ‘media attention’about the risks of such fires were a çommon misconception’?

In 2014, according to the BBC

Liberal Democrat MP Steven Williams – who was then a minister in the department – replied (To the all party parliamentary fire safety group

: “I have neither seen nor heard anything that would suggest that consideration of these specific potential changes is urgent and I am not willing to disrupt the work of this department by asking that these matters are brought forward.”

The group replied to say they “were at a loss to understand, how you had concluded that credible and independent evidence, which had life safety implications, was NOT considered to be urgent”.

Why did Williams consider it was not urgent?  The DCLG no longer had a chief construction advisor, it relied on the BRE for expert evidence and the BRE had been privatised in 1997.

Independent of Government ties, BRE was also now able to certify and approve products that it tested, and so BRE Certification was born in 1999.

Certification is independent confirmation by an expert third party that a product, system or service meets, and continues to meet, appropriate standards.

he Loss Prevention Certification Board (LPCB) has been working with industry and government for more than 100 years to set the standards needed to ensure that fire and security products and services perform effectively. LPCB offers third-party approval confirming that products and services have met and will continue to meet these standards. This benefits both specifiers and manufacturers:

Specifiers selecting LPCB approved products reduce fire safety and security risks and demonstrate due diligence (the use of approved products is encouraged by insurers). They also avoid wasting money on purchasing inappropriate equipment, and save time spent on searching for and assessing products and services.

BRE certifies specialist fire safety equipment but NOT building materials.  This is the responsibility of the independent British Board of Agrement which certified the panels in question – certified materials have enhanced status under the building regs.  Though separate BBA and BRE effectively share a site in the same campus in Brickett Wood Watford and BRE has commercial arrangements with BBA.

The privatisation of BRE raises many potential conflicts of interest.  The case of a BRE fiore investigator finding BRE fire safety approved systems on a site is even mentioned on their website.   

I suspect however the issue is much more cultural – the BRE being a bastion of the building industry – would be unwilling to rock the boat and suggest that a widely used construction material should be removed and retrofitted years after the event of iots installation.

Savills – Planning Permissions for New Homes not Concentrated in Most Unaffordable Areas


Planning permissions granted for new homes are being concentrated in the wrong areas, where there is less need for housing, according to new research by Savills.

It found that there is a lack of 90,000 planning consents for homes in the least affordable and most in-demand areas of the country.

Only 20pc of planning consents in 2016 were in the most unaffordable places, where the lowest priced homes are at least 11.4 times income. However, 40pc of the country’s total need for new homes is in these markets, while there is a surplus of consents in the most affordable locations.

Research found that in areas where the house price to earnings ratio is over 11.4, which includes London and much of the South East, there is a shortfall of 73,000 planning consents for homes.

Since the National Planning Policy Framework was launched four years ago, with the aim of simplifying the system, there has been a 56pc increase in the number of consents granted.

But analysis shows that there has not been any increase in the areas where affordability is most stretched and where housing need is the greatest.

The Savills report said: “This means we are not building enough homes in areas where they are most needed to improve affordability and support economic productivity.”
Only 41pc of local authorities have a housing plan which sets out housing need and a five-year plan of how to cater for it.

Savills also modelled the potential impact of the Housing Delivery Test, which was announced in the Housing White Paper last February and would assess need based on market strength in an attempt to build “homes in the right places”. It found that it would double London’s housing need to more than 100,000 homes.

Chris Buckle, Savills research director, said: “There continues to be a massive shortfall in London and its surrounds and it is this misalignment of housing need versus delivery which could ultimately hinder economic growth.”

See my reports here – on planning by resistence and here – on why both regulation and delivery matter.

DCLG Press Office Claims it is Contrary to BREGS to Fit #Grenfell Panels on High Rises

  • Cladding using a composite aluminium panel with a polyethylene core would be non-compliant with current Building Regulations guidance. This material should not be used as cladding on buildings over 18m in height.


As background –

  • This has been independently backed up by experts including Sir Ken Knight (former commissioner of London Fire Brigade, -Number witheld- and Martin Conlon (Chairman of the Building Control Alliance, who has already made a similar statement to the BBC).

  • Building Regulations guidance, Part B: Chapter 12 (p93/94) – external wall construction:

  • We can not comment on what type of cladding was used on Grenfell Tower building – this will be subject to investigations.

BS 8414-1: 2002 – Fire performance of external cladding systems.

Test method for non-loadbearing external cladding systems applied to the face of a building.

BS 8414-2: 2005 – Fire performance of external cladding systems.

Test method for non-loadbearing external cladding systems fixed to and supported by a structural steel frame.

But neither were reflected in the Bregs Part B

Two Gaps in Planning – Delivery and Regulatory

RTPI Dr Michael Harris

‘Planning reform’ was never going to resolve the housing crisis, because ‘planning restrictions’ were never its cause.

As the title of the UK Government’s White Paper “Fixing Our Broken Housing Market” (February 2017) suggests, we’ve overlooked the complex range of reasons why we aren’t building enough homes.

…the fact that the ongoing gap between housing supply and demand is equivalent to the house building that used to be done by local authorities before the 1980s.

Looked at this way, the solution to housing crisis may not actually be that complex: we need local authorities to build more houses.

If that is the solution where?  If it simply on the inadequate land zoned for housing it won’t solve the crisis.  Housing will be more affordable, and with land value capture it may both be more affordable and fund infrastructure, but it wont be enough and may simply displace private house building making market housing more expensive.

Both sufficient land zoned for housing in the right place and mechanism for delivery, included increased public sector land holding and building, are needed to solve the housing crisis and fix the broken housing market.  Both are necessary but not sufficient.  Any one focussing on just one is being defensive, housebuilders for their oligopoly and under delivery, and the RTPI for suggesting Planners (as opposed to Planners under political direction) is not part of the problem.

Hence a complete solution to the housing crisis must address both the spatial gap (where) and the delivery gap (who and how funded.  Only an integrated solution – such as Garden Cities/New Towns can do so.

Planning By Resistance – How The Powerful Divert Development to Poor Areas

In an outstanding PHD thesis from 2013 Robert Morrow coins the term ‘Planning by Resistance’.

this dissertation explains the origins and impact of Los Angeles’s slow-growth, Community planning era between the Watts (1965) and Rodney King (1992) civil unrests. …
The dissertation explains how the slow-growth movement was facilitated by the shift from top-down planning during the progrowth, post-war period to a more bottom-up Community planning…

The project illustrates the dramatic land use changes that occurred during this period – first, the down-zoning of the City by 60% in the initial community plans in the 1970s, and the subsequent shifts in residential densities as homeowners shapedlocal community plans. These shifts were strongly correlated to socioeconomic characteristics and homeowner activity, such that areas with well-organized homeowner groups with strong social capital were able to dramatically decrease density as a means of controlling population growth, and areas with few to no homeowner groups (strongly correlated with Latinos, non-citizens, and large family sizes)dramatically increased in density. As such, density followed the path of least resistance.

I argue that this process has produced a phenomenon
of “planning by resistance” – where those communities with
time, money, and resources (including social capital) can resist
change while those unable to mobilize bear the burden of
future growth.

The changes meant the future growth of Los Angeles was absorbed by low-income, minority communities – communities that were least able to accommodate that growth since they already had overcrowded housing, under-performing schools, lacked park space and other amenities, and in many cases were not served by mass transit.

At heart, the findings illustrate the dark side of social capital and the dangers of equating local planning with more democratic planning. It also illustrates in vivid detail the motivations and impacts of adopting restrictive land use policies. As this case demonstrates, exclusively local planning may empower those with the loudest voices
and strongest political connections, at the expense of the silent majority, leading to unexpected outcomes, including a less socially just, economically secure, and environmentally healthy city. This, in turn, has important implications for planning theory, which has long positioned planners as adjudicators of communicative action.
The homeowner revolution in Los Angeles and the devastating impacts it has had on the City’s social, economic, and environmental sustainability, demonstrates the need for the re-assertion of a professional role for planners, a better balance between local and regional concerns, and the critical importance of implementing a planning process that reflects the will of the majority of a City’s residents, rather than empower only its most strident voices.

It is clear from a UK perspective that even in a primarily discretionary planning system the distribution of protected areas and the ability of homeowners to object to development has produced much the same outcomes. This can produce the perverse outcome that campaigners in poor areas see development in their areas as pushing up house prices whereas the cause is lack of development in more well off areas,

Morrow powerfully attacks the community planning paradigm that has been dominant on the left in Planning since the 1960s.  If planners are simply advocates and arbiters not upholders of the public interest then they are simply conspiring in this structural bias against development of meet social needs in the wider public interest and failing to produce social plans that meet these needs rather than the chaos of market forces weakly resisted on a piecemeal basis.

The Economy is Like A Marble on a Ladle – A Friendly Reply to @ProfSteveKeen

In my last post I argued that post Keynesians needed to take the concept of General Equilibrium seriously and not simply rely on an assumption that everything is in disequilibrium.

The familiar argument that most of the time most of the economy is in disequilibrium is no argument to abandon the concept of equilibrium.  If disequilibrium is the natural state then prices would be essentially random and economics would have nothing to say.  Empirically most prices are fairly stable or follow fairly predictable paths, except in times of crisis.

I dont disagree and I think its largely a matter of the terminology and meaning of ‘Equilibrium’.  I didn’t want to get into the math of control theory so here’s a simple analogy.

Imagine a marble in an infinitely sized ladle – that  doesn’t wobble.   This kind of system is known as Assymptotically stable, that is the position of the marble will eventually converge to a point of equilibrium.  Indeed the further away from equilibrium the greater the forced on the marble.  The marble being small and the ladle infinitely large the marble has little influence on the dynamics of the system.  This is the type of system generally assumed by the term ‘equilibrium’ in economics, where individual agents are price takers.

Imagine however that ladle is held by someone trying to guess the movements of the marble, they will usually be off, so the marble generally moves towards the centre of the ladle but within a bounded range never perfectly stable at any point.  This type of system is known as Lyapunov stable.

Now imagine the ladle is not infinitely large but the marble can fall off the edge. If you guess badly the future position of the marble it will fall off.  One of the conditions of Lyapunov stability is that there are boundary constraints.

Now finally imagine a system where two ladles are linked together.  If two people move roghly in sync the marble will tend to move in a limit cycle, if they dont they it will be wildly unstable.  This kind of system was first studied by Lorenz – weather patterns being the subject.  If all subjects were blindfolded and uncoordinated then disequilibrium and wild movements would be the norm.

What kind of system is the economy?  I agree with Steve that Neoclassical economics makes simplistic assumptions about equilibrium using only the narrow class of systems of equilibrium that are asymptotically stable.  Like the marble in an infinitely large ladle with all movements perfectly predictable and predicted.

The economy is much more like the second class – the marble on a finite ladle with guesses on its position imperfect.  Position here being a surrogate for price.  It is not like the famous Wicksell analogy of a rocking horse hit by a hammer.

The issue is to how ‘chaotic’ the system is – how much it is like a Lorenz system?  Clearly agents do most of the time have good information about the behaviour of others – chaos is the exception rather than the rule.  I would posit that  it is not like predicting the Weather in England in summer, unable to predict from one day to the next from observation alone, but like the weather in a desert.  Most of the time you can guess sunny tomorrow from sunny today- but occasionally you can have flash floods with devastating consequences.

Yes economics does have simplistic models of equilibrium, but less simplistic models of equilibrium exist with bounded stability.  Indeed once you get into the realm of imperfect and adaptive expectations you have to get into describing them.  Which raises the issue of why students are not taught at least the basics of systems and control theory.