City Dwellers get stressed more quickly than Country Dwellers – and its driving them mad

Report in Nature on research by the University of Montreal, summarised in Ars Technica

By monitoring heart rates, breathing rates, and hormonal levels, the researchers knew they had successfully stressed the participants out. The fMRI images showed that people who were currently living in cities experienced higher amygdala activity than those who lived in towns; those who lived in rural areas experienced the lowest activity levels in the amygdala. Urban upbringing had a completely different effect: participants that grew up in cities experienced heightened activity in the periguenal ACC. [so moving to the countrsude might not fix it your strssed out for life]

The amygdala and the ACC are part of a neural circuit that regulates our negative emotions and determines how we respond to threats. These regions are also known to be involved in schizophrenia and mental disorders involving anxiety and violence.

The scientists behind this work aren’t sure whether some environmental risk factor, such as pollution, toxins, or noise, plays a role in the association between city life and increased activity in these regions, or whether simply experiencing repeated instances of social stress might be responsible for the outcome.

BNP Paribas 31,000 homes a year to be lost by abolition of RSS

Study here

Key findings

  • 14 per cent of councils had confirmed changes to their housing targets, with 12 per cent reducing their target, 2% increasing them.
  • The average change among those authorities which altered their targets, both up and down, was a cut of 20.6 per cent,
  • Half of the 291 local authorities contacted as part of the study confirmed that their housing targets remained the same following the abolition of RSS
  • A further 36 per cent of local authorities are in “stasis” and have yet to confirm their targets, 90% of these say they will be changing their targets.
  • This represents a cut of over 13 per cent in total, relative to the original RSS targets and relative to actual completions, this would be a loss of over 30 per cent…

The government’s localism agenda is giving existing residents more input into planning decisions, and the most vocal people in local communities tend to be older – 40-plus – and less in need of new housing, while first-time buyers tend to be less vocal
Looking at the categories you have the 50% of LPAs which are pro-growth or low growth unchanged, you have the very anti growth ones some of which rused to downgrade the targets.

These are outnumbered nearly three to one by those that have yet to call, for na variety of reasons, plan not yet ready to consult, joint working, cautious wait and see. I would be surprised if they were given a free hand, i.e. before the ‘planning for growth’ the ‘presumption’ and the NPPF the same split – 90% decrease – were to occur.   This could take the loss to over 80,000 a year.
Of course there is now a stick, no plan, appeals.

As John Howells Mp, author of Open Source planning and PPS to Greg Clarke the Planning Minister said to a developer industry seminar earlier this year if there was no plan in place.  Development would be

assumed to have a completely permissive planning system

A developer could then build

what they like, where they like and when they like , provided they met new national planning guidance being worked up in tandem with the localism bill.

This is the governments gamble, the threat of rampent development will force local authorities to raise targets.  The Estates Gazette called it a ‘Developers Charter’.
The trouble of course is that local authorities can game the system, roll forward old low targets and keep a 5 year supply, without any sanction.

Decision Theory for Planners #112 How to get to Yes

This section is about the Mutual Gains approach to negotiation and consultation.

This approach grows out of work by the Harvard’s Programme for Negotiation , including work by Harvard’s Professor of Planning Lawrence Susskind.

This has been highly influential, but seems unheard of in this country where it matters, in local planning authorities.  This hasn’t stopped it becoming a whole industry in the private sector, with several firms based on its ideas, most notably Quattro PR which aim to promote a ‘win-win’ approach to negotiation on planning schemes.

James Howell MP author of Open Source Planning works for Quattro PR and clearly is influenced by this collaborative planning approach, as well of course as having a very blatent conflict of interest.

The mutual gains approach is powerful, by neglecting it the UK planning profession have opened the doors to those that want to undermine planning as place shaping by a municipality or region.  As well as strengths it has great weaknesses.  Where there are fundamental asymmetries in property rights and political inflence, such as a wealthy developer fighting a weak neighbourhood, or a small developer fighting a wealthy parish with well connected residents, you wont get win win you will get WIN win for the most powerful side.

Key texts emerging from the Harvard school are:

Getting to YES: Negotiating Agreement Without Giving in by Roger Fisher and William L. Ury. 1991.

& from Lawrence Susskind

The Facility Siting Credo (1991) with Howard Kunreuther

Breaking the Impasse (1986) with Jeffrey Cruikshank

Dealing with an Angry Public  – The Mutual Gains Approach to Resolving Disputes (1996) with Patrick Field.

Roots of the Mutual Gains Approach

I believe the Harvard School approach has three strands.  Firstly the background from over 40 years research on consensus building and conflict resolution.  Secondly the work at Harvard Law and management schools on achieving negotiated outcomes.  It is the third area, combined with the first two, which is most interesting the Facility Siting Credo.

Susskind and Kunreuther’s approach is based on the problem of siting developments which are perceived as beneficial by the region as a whole but perceived as a disbenefit by the locality or community asked to host it – where it is perceived as a loss (in poperty value and/or amenity/environmental terms).  They call these LULUs Locally Unwanted Land Uses
Susskind a few weeks ago set out the genesis of these ideas

Every siting effort starts with a small percentage of people who favor whatever is being proposed, probably less than 10%. These are usually people likely to gain personally if the facility is built, maybe by selling their land directly to the facility developer). And, as Mike Elliott, a Professor at Georgia Tech demonstrated many years ago, an equally small percentage of people usually start out opposed. Typically, these are people likely to bear disproportionate costs — because they live right next to whatever is being proposed. While there are some people in every community who pay no attention to anything (maybe 10%), the vast majority — 60% – 65% — fall into a category called “Guardians.” It’s what that this middle group does that leads to most facility siting controversies.

We know two things about Guardians (thanks to Professor Elliott). First, if they think a licensing or permitting decision is unfair, they will side with the opponents. And, second, they want to hear whatever the arguments are for and against a proposed facility “on their merits.” If believable information isn’t presented in an open forum where questions can be asked of experts and proponents in a problem-solving format, they will side with the opponents. NIMBYism occurs when these two facts about Guardians are ignored.

Or rather NIMBYism grows when people believe the decision is unfair.

There are a number of of problems here, firstly if a decision is made about the quantum of development before location the number of people increase who might perceive a local disbenefit see the development as a LULU – they become NIMBYs and oppose a project as a whole, even though if they knew where the final location was they would normally support it.  The committed objectors set the public debate and attempt not only to oppose the scheme but undermine the process as unfair and based on flawed assumptions.  The NIMBYs draw in the Guardians,l who may perceive the process as unfair, and the whole process is undermined.  You get Lainton’s law’  The more you consult the more people will claim they weren’t consulted’

There are a number of ways promoted to overcome these barriers including involving communities early on in a consensus that the status quo is unacceptable, ensuring that pros and cons are discussed in nontechnical language, mitigating (including from property value gaurentees) impacts, and ensuring benefits for effected communities.

One of the flaws in the way we have dealt with sub-regional planning in the UK, and which will persist in the ‘larger than local’ future is the lack of a collaborative process for determining targets and strategic locations.    With locations split from early decisions on volumes our systems have stoked a perceived unfairness in the system and an incentive for those perceiving LULUs to slow down the process.  What has failed here is not the value of a strategic plan, rather it is a flawed process of strategic planning that worked better for local authorities that favoured local growth than those that opposed it.  Throwing the baby out with the bathwater is no solution, LULUs will still dominate local fears at the neighbourhood level.

One of the problems of the 2004 ‘Soundness’ tests was there origins in classical logic. An argument is true if it is sound. That it it is based on true assumptions and is logical.  You can see the influnence of PPE educated civil servants here cant you.  The problem is that logic does not come into it if you perceive the process is unfair or you personally suffer from a disbenefit- in which case you will perceive it to be an injustice.
We need to add a new test to be considered at examinations – one of planning justice.  That is is the outcome fair for those communities where major developments will be located? Will they be properly mitigated against disbenfits, what specific advantages will they see.

Seen in this way examinations can become more of a process of consensus building and mediation process, with more of an opportunity for inspectors, with trainded mediators working to them, to parly deals.

Opponensts to a controversial process will have a BATNA the best alternative to a negotiated agreement the course of action that will be taken by a party if the current negotiations fail and an agreement cannot be reached.  Agreement wont be reached if one side sees the opportunity cost of a BATNA greater than a negotiated agreement.

The secret then of the mutual gains approach is to be trust on those areas that can be agreed on, so that either consensus is reached or when a decision is made people dont percive it as unfair and seek the decision to be reviewed.

Some oppositional groups have latched on to these tactics.  For example the Stop Harlow North Campaign explicitly refuses to engage with the site promoters, similarly with Stevenage, as opponenets say the best way to oppose us to delegimitate the process.  Such groups may delay decisions, and of course in the long run we are all dead, but such a tactic can never permamently stop it.
If in any negotiation the opposing sides knows they cannot win and the decision will be made quickly  then developers will offer few consessions (and vice versa).  If the opponents know they cannot win but only delay for a short time they may accept concessions and these may be offered.  If they know they have means of kicking the can down the road forever they will.

The effect of the presumption in favour of sustainable development will be to introduce an appeal led system where the second of these three cases will apply.  The applicant can be in the driving seat if they move swiftly to appeal.  The LPA can if they move swiftly on plan-led growth.  But the diversion of resources from plan making to fighting appeals, as happened in the 80s (especially after the ‘just one of the material panning considerations’ undermining plans in 1988), and early 90s will switch resources of planning staff from positive planning to fighting appeals, and of planning consultants from community enagement to fighting appeals.
So far from creating a system based on engagement it will revive the Zombie of conflict based appeal-led planning.

Government Response to the CLG Committee’s Report Abolition of RSS: a planning vacuum

Tracked down the link.  Some quick highlights (my emphasis)

We are fully committed to effective strategic planning and we have provided a statutory framework for this through the duty to co-operate. But we want councils to be free to respond in the most effective way to the issues that matter to them and their communities so we will not impose a rigid and centrally directed system for planning on crossboundary issues. Local councils are perfectly capable of addressing strategic issues locally, working with adjoining authorities and other bodies as needed. The National Planning Policy Framework will set out the Government’s policies on local plans and their role in planning for wider cross boundary issues through the duty to co-operate.Local plans will need to demonstrate conformity with national policy that will be tested as part of the local examination. We anticipate that these wider issues will include policies on economic development, housing supply, strategic infrastructure provision and environmental management.

This goes further than the practitioners draft which is very vague on this issue. The Government does not agree that there is a need for transitional arrangements. The Coalition Agreement clearly set out the Government’s intention to abolish Regional Strategies and return democratic decision making powers on housing and planning to local councils. Councils are perfectly capable of addressing strategic issues locally, working with adjoining authorities and other bodies as needed and they will be supported by the duty to co-operate. 10 As part of the Government’s commitment to protecting the environment, it has decided to carry out an environmental assessment of the revocation of the existing Regional Strategies on a voluntary basis, to assess whether or not there are any significant environmental effects of revoking each regional strategy. Local authorities and others should find these assessments helpful in identifying issues relevant to their areas and policies or initiatives in the Regional Strategies which are no longer in effect, and it should also help them decide how to proceed with preparing or reviewing their own plans.We have been clear that as a result of the judgment in the CALA Homes Ltd. case Regional Strategies have been reinstated as part of the statutory ‘development plan’. Decisions on planning applications and appeals must be made in accordance with the ‘development plan’ unless material considerations indicate otherwise (s38(6) of the Planning and Compulsory Purchase Act 2004). The Government’s intention to abolish Regional Strategies is a material consideration – the weight to be given to it will be a matter for the decision maker.

But what about CALA II and the fact that this cant be a material consideration in plan making decisions?   This issue is not dealt with at all in the response.

Local councils have a long history of working together successfully on strategic issues and they do not need central government to tell them to do it.

In some areas, the areas where they fight like cat and dog has been legion delaying key planning decisions by many years – think of the expansion of Oxford, Coventry, Hatfield, Luton, Milton Keynes etc. etc. Even in areas where agreement has been reached (South Hampshire) only the eventual sanction of an RSS targets brought LPAs together.

There has been no slow-down in the preparation of local plans as a result of the Government’s intention to abolish Regional Strategies.
Under the previous administration less than a fifth of local planning authorities had core strategies in place. Now that figure has risen to almost a third and the Planning Inspectorate’s local plan workload is the heaviest it has been for six years.

This is denial of reality.  The bulge in adoptions is the result of DPDs working their way through the system from the last administration.  As the government’s own impact analysis on abolition of RSS indicated it was the most pro-growth LPAS that submitted first and contined to submit.  For those in the tail the number of submission has slowed with many LPAs delaying their process by a year or more.

The reponse does not deal at all with the Roger Tym NHF evidence and subsequent updating that abolition had led to a major downgrading of proposed housebuilding.  There is no argument with this evidence, so Pickles does not even respond to it.  The committee should recall him.

The duty to co-operate will be a key element of the Government’s proposals for strategic planning once Regional Strategies are abolished. We want a strong duty that will be effective in driving a culture change in the behaviour of local planning authorities and other key public bodies….
We agree that local plans should be based on sound evidence of need.
Councils are currently required to ensure that their policies are founded on robust evidence …Where it is necessary to address need over a wider area, for example in a housing market area that extends beyond one authority, we will expect authorities to work collaboratively.

The majority of LPAs will share housing market areas, where LPAs have rejected RSS based targets they now have to agree on new sharing arrangements.  Some areas for sake of not going through the loop again are sticking to RSS figures (Cambridgeshire).  For those that have rejected RSS figures I dont know of a single case of a shared cooperative apportionment, let alone one which fully meets household growth in that area.  We have had a year, must we wait 2-3 more years for this?  How will these apportionments be tested, imprcatical at multiple core strategies EIPs.

The National Planning Policy Framework will set out the Government’s policies on local plans and their role in planning for wider cross boundary issues through the duty to co-operate. We will also consider the need for supplementary advice to help local authorities put the duty into effect.

The all encompassing nature of back of the envelope planning fails at the first hurdle.

We will continue to monitor the rate of house-building and, as far as possible, the impact of our measures upon it. We agree to inform the House of our conclusion. However, in order to give the new regime time to come into effect we will report in three years time rather than the two the Committee recommends.

They are worried clearly and are hoping against hope it will work. If planning controls are greenfield land are relaxed, through the new presumption and the NPPF, it may well work. I can only conclude that the government considers that theLPA plan-led approach wont work and they will relay on a market and appeal led approach to get housing numbers up, as Thatcher and Ridly did before.

We agree that the New Homes Bonus scheme needs to ensure that a variety of homes are built according to local need. In recent years too many flats have been built and the final scheme was intentionally designed to provide a greater incentive to build the types of homes people need in the places they want them.

Very confused, too many only in relative terms, not in absolute terms according to household growth, too few were built overall as were too few homes in total.  The overhang from teh recession of a market surplus is because of this relative overprovision, but the market downturn was exacerbated by the boom-bust which the overall shortage fuelled.  The incentives are biased to high council tax bands rather than need, they will distort the market.

We do not believe it is the job of the Government to tell councils how to manage their responsibilities or prioritise their resources.

Mr Pickles Bins, Council newspapers, bank holidays etc wetc. You never lose a soundbite opportunity to tell councils how to do their job.