Demographic Change and Economic Growth – Some Hypotheses

A few hypotheses about population and economic growth – by themselves I don’t think any of them are really disputed although they are rarely put together

1. A wide variety of different levels of population can be sustainable providing the population can be sustained by non-fossil fuel sources of energy and there is sufficient land for growing food that does not require clearance of important biosinks
2. It is changes to population that are most important as a cause (and effect) of economic growth – more so than the absolute level of population
3. The most important factor is the changes that lead to changes of the dependency ratio – (proportio of working to non-working)
4. Very high birth rates are associated with poverty – because of the number of mouths to feed per working adult
5. Falls in high birth rates increase growth – immediately through increasing female participation and reducing dependency ratios – and a secondary pulse in 18 or so years time – this is what we have seen in Ireland
6 But very rapid falls in infant mortality caused by economic growth cause a ‘demographic drag’ effect through increasing the dependency ratio and young people coming onto the labour market more quickly than they can be absorbed – this is what we are seeing in Arab cities
7 Rapid increases in death rates of adults have a strong wealth effect through inheritance of middle and upper classes (as we saw after the black death and wars) that is likely to outweigh the increased dependency ratio – as we are now seeing in Russia with men dying of alcoholism and population falling yet very strong economic growth – the dependency ratio falls if men never reach old age – one of the the causes of the baby boom long economic boom
8. A sharp fall in the birth rate will in the short term boost growth through reducing the dependency ratio but after 18+ years will increase it causing a fierce slow down in growth – this is what we are seeing in China
9. If a society is heavily indented it needs a falling dependency ratio to pay it off – heavy debt and a rising ratio is a recipe for disaster – Japan a decade ago – US now – Germany in 10 years time.
10. If a society has a low level of debt it can afford a rising dependency ratio as it can borrow to make up the difference.
11 If a society/economic system runs out of agricultural land food prices will rise causing immense disruption and instability – there will be an incentive to innovate raising agricultural productivity (the Boserup effect) but the effects will take a number of years – so in the short term regimes have to borrow and import.
12. If the level of debt gets too high and real incomes fall too much relative to rising food prices then you get regime change, land reform and debt cancellation.
13. See 1 above we are running out of agricultural land and in recent years productivity of food/unit of agricultural land has been rising slowly compared to the massive increases in the 70s and 80s.

Responding to the Draft NPPF – being a survey monkey will not be effective

The typical ‘surveymonkey’ approach of the DCLG is unlikely to be effective, perhaps for a small policy consultation, but not for such a wide ranging document. Indeed the questions chosen seem designed to avoid discussion on the most controversial issues (e.g. protection of the countryside for its own sake).  SurveyMonkey by the way doesn’t allow for any kind of statistical analysis of responses – and every consultation professional knows that non-one who takes consultation seriously would ever use it as a platform.

Usual para. by para. matrices are likely to be lost amongst hundreds of other similar responses and are unlikely to cause a shift in policy in areas where the stance is hardened and ideological.

If this were truly an ‘open source’ process then the government should welcome groups coming together to suggest alternatives – indeed Greg Clark has already praised the RICS for saying they will do this.

So there needs to be a linking up groups to prepare an alternative draft that would retain a core of good planning principles.

My instinct is that only campaigning approach, which the National Draft has kicked off already, will be effective. Indeed if history is any guide the over reaction to a widespread and one sided campaign is likely to see an extreme shift from an approach overly lassez-faire, to planning for growth to one which is excessively restrictive, as we saw with Patrick Jenkin in the early 80s and John Prescott in the early noughties, it seems to happen every 10 years.

The draft is deeply flawed, but seems fixable with major changes. Changes such as using some of the experience gained from Planning Policy Wales (now in its fourth version) parts of which could usefully be adapted. A document of around 100 or so pages should be achievable and workable.

I have suggested today to the RTPI, the TCPA and the POS that they adopt such a proactive campaigning approach.

Ive also begun thinking about the sort of people who might be best placed to help. Unfortunately after a hard disk metdown on another pc a few months ago ive lost my contacts list.

A campaigning approach needs to focus on the 8-10 key flaws of the draft – & explain succinctly what the problem is and how it can be fixed.  Issues such as the slanted definition of sustainable development, the removal of protection of the open countryside for its own sake, the downgrading of design control, and the inevitable shift towards a conflict laden appeal-led system.  It should provide ‘talking points’ for campaigners and the media of issues that highlight the matters the facile DCLG press releases try to draw a veil over, and would see them punctured under robust lines of questioning by Today or Newsnight.

A campaigning approach will also need to maximise use of social media and recruit celebrity surrogates and champions from outside politics.

Ill give the final word to some lines from a 1972 Pamphlet from Anthony Jay (author of Yes Minister) about how to resist imposed plans.

The criteria. Nearly all these plans list, very early on, certain criteria which any plan must fulfil. Miraculously, it turns out that this plan fulfils all of them. You are meant to think that the planners started from the criteria and eventually arrived at the plan. In fact, of course, it happened the other way around. No good planner begins to formulate criteria until the plan is complete: he then evokes them by listing any plausible ones which the plan can be shown to meet. Your answer is to challenge these criteria…

They have been at it for months. It has generated several major internal rows. There have been long negotiated compromises with other departments. The chap who started it all off was promoted half-way through and moved to Edinburgh. The first draft was produced in a tremendous rush because the Ministe… didn’t give the go-ahead till three months after the deadline date, and some of the flaws did not show up until it was too late to do anything. The policy decision it stems from was taken six years ago, and they are now talking about rethinking the whole policy on a more comprehensive basis, so if it does not go through quickly it may never make it. It has meant a great deal of work and unpleasantness and getting home late for supper, and the thought of going back to square one gives them all nightmares….

one group of protesters used to get excellent coverage through a member who used to ring the press and television the day before in a hectoring upper-class voice and tell them not to cover this exhibitionist display by a tiny handful of troublemakers, that it would be irresponsible to publicize people who opposed the rightful authority, and that he would make trouble if they sent their cameras and reporters just because the other lot were covering it

National Trust hits back at misleading DCLG NPPF response

When will the DCLG learn that issuing FUD press releases attacking accurate criticms from mbodies with a far larger membership than all political parties put together is not a good idea

DCLG’s statement in response to ours is puzzling, since we made it clear that our concerns were not about the protections that have been retained for designated places (green belt, National Parks and AONBs). We are pleased to see these things picked out for special treatment, though we will be looking closely at the detail.

“Rather, our point was about the overall effect of the draft Framework, which puts considerations of profit and driving the economy forward above those of people and places. Our criticisms on these points have not been answered, and we demand that Government thinks again before going down this road”.

Ill post the link to the NT website as soon as the NT remember to make the hyperlink on their news page.

Solar Park South – What to do with a Decommissioned Autostrada?

The Autostrada del Sole (the A3 Salerno – Reggio Calabria Highway), was constructed in the 1960s and ‘70s  and was one of Europes greatest engineering archievements and has some of the most fantastic view .  It features numerous imposing and, for their time, audacious infrastructures (viaducts and tunnels), designed by noted architects such as  Nervi, Zorzi and Morandi. Sections of the route offer impressive views of the terraced, and mostly virgin rural landscape to one side, and of the sea, the Calabrian coast, the Strait of Messina, Sicily and the Aeolian Islands on the other.

But This stretch of autostratda is set to be decommissioned following the construction of a new highway, composed largely of tunnels, with safer and less twisty geometry, linking to the controversial Strait of Messina Bridge (which has kept certain notable family ‘construction firms’ in Sicily and Calabria in for life and very grateful to Berlesconi).

So what to do with the old Autostrada?  Well the Town Planning and Governance Department of the Calabria Region held a competition last yearto create ‘Solar Park South’.  The idea is that half of the lanes (the road is two viaduct-runnell systems in paralell) would revert to a tourist local road, with connections to the first time to local villages, and the other half would become ‘Solar Park South’ a linear park with:

the creation of a space for testing the production of energy using renewable sources, the search for and successive application of new sustainable technologies, and the implementation of measures focused on integrating the Park within the surrounding territory through the upgrading, fruition and valorisation of landscape

So they held an international competition which attracted a lot of entries, although the prizes were very low.

Here is the winning entry from PR+ Off from France, vertical villages for sun-seeking snowbirds.  Rinwater would flow down and geothermal power up to create a zero-carbon development.

Second Place went to Coffice of Italy

and third place to Ja of Columbia – with their Florentine inspired design – complete with Jersey Cow

Overall though this project was a classic case of when not to do a single stage design-only competition, especially one with a prize fund designed to slip under OJEC rules.

Where is the delivery partner?  Where are the costings?  As an engineering led project who is doing the feasibility work prior to and as part of the masterplanning.  Hence, sadly, it is going nowhere.

Village Arches of North East Scotland

Fettercain Aberdeenshire

Edsel Arch Angus

I only know of two – but rare enough to deserve there own page.  They seem to be Victorian follies, modelled after the arched gates that used to form part of the old walls around cities such as Dundee.

The Romans turned traditional defensive arches into structures of civic triumph and celebration, marking out that gateway to the Urbs, itself the mark of civilisation.

Sadly in the C20th as an urban design device it has almost died out – without a few notable exceptions on the drawing board.  A future post