China Local Government Bad Debts – Equal to 27% of GDP

The looming Chinese local government debt crisis has been a constant issue on here.

The mainstream media is slowing beginning coverage, including this article in the LA Times which calculates the debts that need refinancing are equal to 27% of GDP.  Can China afford to bailout both itself, America and Europe?  Its $2.4bn foreign reserves will probably over cover one of the three.

Eastenders – London Shops, Cafés and Pubs as they were 30 years ago

Wander down a typical east end district centre.  Most pubs are boarded up or betting offices.  The few that survive depend on exotic dancers , or barely scrape their way, long since departed as the centre of social life with many local not drinking, or taking booze from the off license where it is far cheaper.

The pie and mash shop has probably gone, some cafés remain but mostly portuguese or turkish.  The protrugese cafés more likely to sell salt cod than egg and chips, and acting as a social centre to watch the portuguese football and argue over the national debt crisis.

Beauty salons?  Few of the Fulham like salons you see on Eastenders but hundreds of chinese nail bars and african hairdressers.

Many shops perform multiple complex functions.  Mobile phone and international calling car shops grated into a corner .  A western union franchise desk at the back, a few interent cafe desks at the side for the many unable to afford access to the home.

Fast food is more likely to be halal fried chicken or a high turnover low price noodle bar.

Endless convenience shops, many tailored to an ethnic niche, and many spilling an extraordinary variety of fresh vegetables onto the street. You will see signs for Sklep Polski, Phillipino food, Brazilian butchers, and many many pound shops.

Yet despite this complexity, and natural drama, Eastenders the soap opera has shops and places of work straight from the 1980s, and venturing no further east than Shepherds Bush Green.

What if Dickens today was a scripwriter, a form ideally suited to his serial drama, would he not find this as quint as the Regency drawing rooms dramas of social mores that he reacted against?

National Planning Policy Framework Forensics #31 Communications Infrastructure

This section seems a reasonable summary of PPG8 from 2001, just a couple of comments:

  • Current national policy is to:

facilitate the growth of new and existing telecommunications systems whilst keeping the environmental impact to a minimum.

Proposed revised policy is to:

facilitate the growth of new and existing telecommunication systems in order to ensure that people have a choice of providers and services, and equitable access to the latest technology.

This implies that environmental issues are less important.  It is also inaccuarate as 90% of masts these days are to widen capacity not widen choice, it repeats language from the 2001 which is now out of date (then providers were building networks now they are boosting them).

  • Whilst mentioning health assessments it misses the vital policy from PPG8 which prevents every single application going down in flames:

it is the Governments firm view that the planning system is not the place for determining health safeguards. It remains central Governments responsibility to decide what measures are necessary to protect public health. In the Governments view, if a proposed mobile phone base station meets the ICNIRP guidelines for public exposure it should not be necessary for a local planning authority, in processing an application for planning permission or prior approval, to consider further the health aspects and concerns about them.

Caselaw on public perception of harm has confirmed this view.

National Planning Policy Framework Forensics#30 Parking

The practitioners draft contains a short section of parking policy, as well as the sections in PPG13 this replaces sections on parking in PPS4 & PPS3. Sections of PPG13 and PPS3 have already been amended earlier this year in the ‘end to the war on motorists’ announcement.  Policy on residential parking had been deleted leaving the matter to local planning authorities.

The section of the NPPF states:

Local planning authorities should ensure that parking standards, as part of a package of planning and transport measures, promote sustainable transport choices.

When setting standards for residential and non-residential development, local planning authorities should take into account:

  •  the accessibility of the development;
  •  the type and mix of units;
  •  local car ownership; and
  •  an overall need to reduce the use of the car where practical.

This is the one mention of the word parking in the entire draft.

The policy in PPG13 is as follows:

50. Policies on parking should be coordinated with proportionate parking controls and charging set out in the local transport plan, and should complement planning policies on the location of development.

51. In developing and implementing policies on parking, local authorities should:

1. ensure that, as part of a package of planning and transport measures, levels of parking provided in association with development will promote sustainable transport choices
2. not require developers to provide more spaces than they themselves wish, other than in exceptional circumstances which might include for example where there are significant implications for road safety which cannot be resolved through the introduction or enforcement of on-street parking controls
3. encourage the shared use of parking, particularly in town centres and as part of major proposals: for example offices and leisure uses (such as cinemas) might share parking because the peak levels of use do not coincide, provided adequate attention is given at the design stage
4. take care not to create perverse incentives for development to locate away from town centres, or threaten future levels of investment in town centres. While greater opportunities exist to reduce levels of parking for developments in locations with good access by non car modes, local authorities should be cautious in prescribing different levels of parking between town centres and peripheral locations, unless they are confident that the town centre will remain a favoured location for developers. Advice in Planning Policy Guidance 6 makes clear that good quality secure parking is important to maintain the vitality and viability of town centres, and to enable retail and leisure uses to flourish require developers to provide designated parking spaces for disabled people in accordance with current good practice.
5. Require developers to provide designated parking spaces for disabled people in accordance with current good practice
6. where appropriate, introduce on-street parking controls in areas adjacent to major travel generating development to minimise the potential displacement of parking where on-site parking is being limited
7. require convenient safe and secure cycle parking in development at least at levels consistent with the cycle strategy in the local transport plan
8. consider appropriate provision for motorcycle parking

Parking standards

51. Policies in development plans should set levels of parking for broad classes of development. Standards should be designed to be used as part of a package of
measures to promote sustainable transport choices and the efficient use of land, enable schemes to fit into central urban sites, promote linked-trips and access to development for those without use of a car and to tackle congestion.
52. There is a need for a consistent approach to maximum parking standards for a range of major developments, above the relevant thresholds. The levels set out in
Annex D should be applied as a maximum throughout England, but regional planning bodies and local planning authorities may adopt more rigorous standards, where appropriate, subject to the advice in this guidance. The maximum parking standards set out in annex D do not apply to small developments, that is, those below the relevant thresholds. Local authorities should use their discretion in setting the levels of parking appropriate for small developments so as to reflect local circumstances. By virtue of the thresholds, this locally based approach will cover most development in rural areas.
53. For individual developments, the standards in Annex D should apply as a maximum unless the applicant has demonstrated (where appropriate through a Transport
Assessment) that a higher level of parking is needed. In such cases the applicant should show the measures they are taking (for instance in the design, location and
implementation of the scheme) to minimise the need for parking.
54. It should not be assumed that where a proposal accords with the relevant local parking standard it is automatically acceptable in terms of achieving the objectives of this guidance. Applicants for development with significant transport implications should show (where appropriate in the transport assessment) the measures they are taking to minimise the need for parking.
55. A balance has to be struck between encouraging new investment in town centres by providing adequate levels of parking, and potentially increasing traffic congestion caused by too many cars. Where retail and leisure developments are located in a town centre, or on an edge of centre site as defined by Planning Policy Guidance 6, local planning authorities should consider allowing parking additional to the relevant maximum standards provided the local authority is satisfied that the parking facilities will genuinely serve the town centre as a whole and that agreement to this has been secured before planning permission has been granted. Local planning authorities should ensure that the scale of parking is in keeping with the size of the centre and that the parking provision is consistent with the town centre parking strategy.

As well as sections on parking charges and park and ride.

Current policy is clearly too lengthy, but what has been lost that it is important?

  • The reference to accessibility is vague, presumably it means public transport accessibility?
  • The loss of the ‘not require developers to provide more spaces than they themselves wish’ para. will be bemoaned by many developers and architects developing in urban areas in particular.  This is a clear example of national policy saying ‘No’ rather than ‘Yes’.  The NPPF makes no distinction between trip-end restraint (employment) and trip-origin restraint (residential), and makes no reference to the issue with the existence or otherwise of on-street parking controls.  The current PPG did not make the first distinction either and was somewhat dogmatically drafted, not fully recognising that in locations remote from public transport maximum standards could result in unnacceptable on street parking which is a major cause of dissatisfaction amongst residents.
  • No mention of structuring parking standards by different groups (i.e. lower standards for affordable housing and elderly persons housing). This will greatly aggravate these sectors who need higher densities from lower parking to be able to afford sites.
  • The loss of reference to the need for parking standards to be part of a broader transport policy, including coordinating with policy on on-street parking.
  • The lack of reference to transport assessments, which are very important particularly for larger developments.
  • No reference to town centres, and the need to avoid creating perverse incentives which encourage out-of-centre development.
  • No encouragement of shared parking.
  • No reference to cycle parking.
  • No reference to coordinate parking standards under the duty to cooperate.
  • No reference to making efficient use of land.

Overall I would suggest the following wording:

Local planning authorities should ensure that parking standards, as part of the wider transport and planning strategy coordinated with neighbouring authorities, encourages sustainable transport choices .

When setting standards for residential and non-residential development, local planning authorities should take into account:

  • the accessibility of the development to public transport networks;
  • the need to ensure that efficient use is made of land;
  • any on street controls that exist in an area, and if not whether or not on-street parking would cause harm;
  •  the type and mix of units;
  •  local car ownership, by category of user; 
  • avoiding creating peverse incentives to develop out of centre sites, and sites poorly accessible by public transport; 
  • the desirability of sharing parking on mixed use sites and in town centres;  and
  • an overall desirability to reduce the unnecessary use of the car.

Minimum parking for cycling, and for disabled people should be secured.

On large sites the appropriate amount of parking will also need to take account of any issues raised in the transport assessment, which should show the measures being taken to minimise the need for parking.

In determining applications the decision maker should not require more parking than required by the applicant, unless there is clear evidence of significant harm.

Park and Ride
The draft, correctly in my view, takes the view that this is a local matter.  A reference to Park & Ride in the Green Belt is necessary in the Green Belt section however (of which more later).

Hudson, Greece Should Default and Tax Land

Noted Economist Micheal Hudson says:

The only legal basis for demanding payment of the EU’s bailout of French and German banks – and U.S. Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner’s demand that debts be sacrosanct, not the lives of citizens – is public acceptance and acquiescence in such policy. Otherwise the imposition of debt may be treated simply as an act of financial warfare.

National economies have the right to defend themselves against such aggression. The crowd’s leaders can insist that in the absence of a referendum, they intend to elect a political slate committed to outright debt annulment. Across the board, including the Greek banks as well as foreign banks, the IMF and EU central planners. International law prohibits nations from treating their own nationals differently from foreigners, so all debts in specified categories would have to be annulled to create a Clean Slate. (The German Monetary Reform of 1947 imposed by the Allied Powers was the most successful Clean Slate in modern times. Freeing the German economy from debt, it became the basis of that nation’s economic miracle.)

This is not the first such proposal for Greece. Toward the end of the 3rd century BC, Sparta’s kings Agis and Cleomenes urged a debt cancellation, as did Nabis after them. Plutarch tells the story, and also explains the tragic flaw of this policy. Absentee owners who had borrowed to buy real estate backed the debt cancellation, gaining an enormous windfall.

This would be much more the case today than in times past, now that the great bulk of debt is mortgage debt. Imagine what a debt cancellation would do for the Donald Trumps of the economy – having acquired property on credit with minimum equity investment of their own, suddenly owing nothing to the banks! The aim of financial-fiscal reform should be to free the economy from financial overhead that is technologically unnecessary. To avoid a free lunch to absentee owners, a debt cancellation would have to go hand in hand with an economic rent tax. The public sector would receive the land’s rental value as its fiscal base….

To sum up, the aims of foreign financial aggression are the same as military conquest: land and the public domain. But nations have the right to tax their rental yield of these resources over and above a return to capital investment. Contrary to EU demands for “internal devaluation” (wage cuts) as a means of lowering the price of Greek labor to make it more competitive, reducing living standards is not the way to go. That reduces labor productivity while eroding the internal market, leading to a deteriorating spiral of economic shrinkage.