Green Belt Loss in Much of England Could Double Under NPPF – The Evidence

Ive been looking at a few of the first consultation from local authorities in the New Local Plans Era, where they set there own targets based on local evidence of need, assuming Regional Spatial Strategies (RSS) are eventually revoked.

Two interesting recent ones are Warwick District and Welwyn Hatfield District, both Green Belt Districts.

Both are consulting on a range of housing figures. Low growth figures, growth figures in line with the RSS and higher growth figures.

Like all local planning authorities they are having to grapple with the 2008 based household projections – released in 2010.  Though nationally these are slightly down on the projections on which most RSS was based, the reductions are mainly in on the north of England and in many parts of the Country such as the South East and East of England the numbers are pretty much the same, and in many growth spots considerably higher.

Of course these are projections not policy based forecasts and in translating them into policies many local planning authorities have to grapple with the effects of recession.  In some cases estimates of firms such as Cambridge Econometrics suggest a slight fall in housing numbers from RSS figures because of lesser job growth and lesser household formation consequently in the early years of the plan.  However it is dangerous to base a plan on the assumption of lower growth assumptions than past ones when national policy is going foresquare towards higher growth assumptions.  It is difficult to see any such lowering being found sound by an examination inspector.

There is a great danger here of a statistical error called ‘regression to the mean‘ , this is complicated but basically means than basing a forecast on a small number of years projected forward can distort away from the long term trend as those years could form the outer limits of variation over a cycle rather than the intermediate long term trend.  In my view then it is best to assume that the abnormally bad 2007-2012 years will be equally balanced by an equally abnormally good 5 year period sometime later in a 15 year plan span.

What I have found interesting is a number of Green Belt authorities finding that figures assuming the 2008 based HH projections +moderate growth imply significantly more loss of Green Belt than the Regional Spatial strategy.  It certainly is the case for Warwick, and the South East with its higher growth forecasts it is a lot more.  

Consider the case of Welwyn Hatfield.  First two factors that complicate things.  Firstly the RSS was successfully challenged because the allocation of additional housing to some towns was not SEAd for alternatives.  Hence the increase for the district was deleted, but the Global RSS figure remained unchanged.  There are a few towns in this position including Oxford Woking and several Herts Districts.  The second complicating factor was the growth of Harlow with the RSS panel report concluding its should grow over the border into St Alban’s District.

Interesting the local MP and housing minister Grant Shapps has stated on 22nd Sept 2010 that  if given incentives and without top down targets the District might choose to build more

I came up with a system that gives local people something they really want in return for building more homes. In our case in Hatfield, it’s a new town centre. I think it’s a bigger offer come election time for a politician to say to the public, ‘We’ve rebuilt the town centre,’ than the inconvenience of a few homes over there.”

However on seeing that this would mean building on the green belt he said in March 2011 ‘It’s important to protect the greenbelt and on the whole I don’t support plans to build on this land – and I don’t support those options…”  Although he did say this was a generally local decision.  However the consultation shows that the only option not involving building on the Green Belt is one which reduces housebuilding from 500 dwellings /annum, as the council was planning for previously, to only 146 homes per annum.  So much for localism leading to a surge in house building compared to regional spatial strategies.

Of course the problem is Herts is that the Green Belt was drawn up in the 1980s and with a planning horizon of 20 years the strategic reserve sites are being eaten up.  Once all brownfield site has been built on every single additional house will have to go on a green field site.

We can see what this means for Welwyn Hatfield here.  I have circled in blue the submitted RSS figure and the higher 2008 based figure.  Neither assume maxing out growth of jobs or the additional NPPF 20%.  So a figure in full conformity with the RSS could be a lot higher.  What is interesting is that by the District’s figure the landtake based on local growth alone is 2.3 times the RSS figure, and would of course be nearly three times larger with the NPPF.

Now doesnt National Policy protect the Green Belt?  Doesnt mr Pickles call it ‘inviolable’ – well of course inational policy doesnt use the term ‘inviolable’ for development plans it uses the term ‘exceptional circumstances’ and Mr Pickles has by now approved a number of Green Belt schemes.  At EiPs two arguments are likely to be made.  Firstly that on the Woking Core Strategy first submission the inspector said as national policy was to increase housebuilding this could count as exceptional circumstances allowing Green Belt loss (im sorry the inspectors letter seems to be no longer online).  Secondly because Green Belt boundaries are supposed to be permanent it could be argued that the inner boundaries can no longer fill that requirement as they are drawn too tightly.  As a result a number of core strategies are now going on submission proposing green belt reviews on unspecified locations in the third 5 year phase.  Green Belt boundaries have been reviewed in this manner for many years, and by doing so they maintain the integrity of the whole concept as a never changing approach to the Green Belt could build up such pressures that some future government might do away with it.

If after NPPF adoption and Localism Bill Royal Assent an LPA proposed a strict approach to the Green Belt this would imply a displacement of growth to outside the Green Belt.  Of course the SEA directive will require that LPA to consult on and assess the affected areas, it is blind to local authorities boundaries.  In this case where would it presume the displaced growth go, North Herts or Beds beyond the Green Belt?  Of course the new d’uty to cooperate’ will require working with those authorities, or else you might not only have an unsound plan you would have an unlawful one.

Actually it does make a lot of sense to have more growth in North Herts/South Cambs than congested South Herts.  I have suggested a new town between Ashwell and Morden Station and Royden, and I know David Lock also holds the view that this would be a good site for a third Herts Garden City, accessible by rail to Cambridge and London on largely unconstrained land. Of course such an approach requires some kind of regional or sub-regional plan.  The irony is that the review of the East of England Plan  was looking at the option of a smaller number of concentrations of growth rather than a scattered approach, but what goes around comes around.  Those that argue that Green Belt should be inviolable – a easy political stance – need to put their necks out and say where instead it should go – where should it go Mr Shapps?  If not the default position unde the NPPF would mean for your constituency and many other in the South East, East of England and West Midlands, a major increase in loss of Green Belt to Housing.  An equally interesting case in Brentwood, Erick Pickles constituency, where the RSS implied significant Green Belt loss, Tonbridge Wells, Greg Clarks constituancy even more so as the last of the strategic reserve land will be used up by the core strategy, all extra growth will eat into it.


Grant Shapps Opposes Localism – Calls Own Town Council ‘Pointless’

So who might be carrying out a Neighbourhood Plan for the Town of Hatfield in Welwyn Hatfield?

Hatfield has a Town Council, and so imposes a penny rate precept. Welwyn Garden City does not.

So residents of Hatfield pay £51.44 quid a year more than residents of Welwyn for Band D Council tax.

This has led to a longstanding local campaign to abolish the town council.

700 people have signed a petition, launched by Grant Shapps, calling for a fair deal

In January he told Welwyn Hatfield Times in true Thatcherite style

The town council is pointless, and I think the time has come for a campaign to back either its abolition, or its costs being dramatically slashed.”

Mr Shapps said there was a “large crossover” with services and facilities run by both the borough and county councils, which could easily be incorporated

In March he backtracked, after many comments that he was actually opposing his party’s own stated policy and he said that he was calling for a review of the town council’s structure and financing rather than its abolition – ‘although that scenario may indeed be the outcome of any review.’ The ‘Fairer Deal for Hatfield’ Website is no longer being promoted by him – but it is still live – perhaps Eric Pickles sat on him (ouch).

There has been a vigorous discussion on the issue on the MPs own web forum – 27 pages. Part of the issue is that the Town Council pays for some community facilities, so if the town council were abolished everyone else in the district would be paying more.

Much of the issue is that Hatfield is much less Tory than elsewhere in the District, so that local conservatives have a go at every opportunity.

Can Economic Growth Last?

Astrophysicist Tom Murphy has started a fascinating blog where he has turned his mind to economic issues.

This piece looks at the thermodynamic limits to physical growth and then looks at how we would have to shift to non-physical growth for current rates of growth to continue – and whether this would be realistic as it would assume that increasingly scarce goods would be increasingly cheaper and labour costs of food would be increasingly lower. He rightly says that this is unrealistic.

On the food issue he says:

The important result is that trying to maintain a growth economy in a world of tapering raw energy growth (perhaps accompanied by leveling population) and diminishing gains from efficiency improvements would require the “other” category of activity to eventually dominate the economy. This would mean that an increasingly small fraction of economic activity would depend heavily on energy, so that food production, manufacturing, transportation, etc. would be relegated to economic insignificance. Activities like selling and buying existing houses, financial transactions, innovations (including new ways to move money around), fashion, and psychotherapy will be effectively all that’s left. Consequently, the price of food, energy, and manufacturing would drop to negligible levels relative to the fluffy stuff. And is this realistic—that a vital resource at its physical limit gets arbitrarily cheap? Bizarre.

This scenario has many problems. For instance, if food production shrinks to 1% of our economy, while staying at a comparable absolute scale as it is today (we must eat, after all), then food is effectively very cheap relative to the paychecks that let us enjoy the fruits of the broader economy. This would mean that farmers’ wages would sink far lower than they are today relative to other members of society, so they could not enjoy the innovations and improvements the rest of us can pay for. Subsidies, donations, or any other mechanism to compensate farmers more handsomely would simply undercut the “other” economy, preventing it from swelling to arbitrary size—and thus limiting growth.

Another way to put it is that since we all must eat, and a certain, finite fraction of our population must be engaged in the production of food, the price of food cannot sink to arbitrarily low levels. The economy is rooted in a physical world that has historically been joined at the hip to energy use (through food production, manufacturing, transport of goods in the global economy). It is fantastical to think that an economy can unmoor itself from its physical underpinnings and become dominated by activities unrelated to energy, food, and manufacturing constraints.

This last issue is a good example of Buamols Cost Disease society will ensure the continuation of certain sectors with low productivity growth because they are considered essential and worthwhile.

Winner of Barbie Dream House Architectural Competition Announced

The American Architectural Institute have announced the winner of the Barbie Dream House Competition.

The competition was launched after Architecture Barbie was Barbie Career of the Year 2011.

The competition brief was tough, even requiring a wardrobe for all her clothes and space for her pet giraffe.

A sleek, smart home office is important for any doll. With more than 125 careers, I need a spacious office that can accommodate my hi-tech gadgets for meetings, client visits and presentations.

I love to entertain so I need living and dining areas that are open and connected allowing for mingling and easy entertaining from one room to the other.

The kitchen should be functional and fabulous with top-of-the-line appliances—large countertops and lots of space to cook. I also love natural light in my kitchen so windows are critical. I am quite the chef you know!

As the original “fashionista,” you can imagine how large my closet needs to be! I have unlimited fashions and accessories, so I need lots of shelving, shoe racks and a closet that can be easily organized – getting ready can’t be a chore every day.

My dream bathroom: a large, stylish space accessible from the master bedroom and other areas.

I love animals and I have as many as five pets (including a giraffe) around at any given time. A big backyard is very important so they can roam and play!

As the ultimate “California girl” from Malibu, I am all about location, location, location! My house must have fantastic views of my fabulous backyard and overlook the ocean.

Two New York architecture students, Ting Li and Maja Paklar, have won the competition,  voted the winner by more than 8,000 children after being shortlisted from nearly 30 entries by a panel of four judges.

The design is an unsurprisingly pink clifftop number.

 The 450sq m house’s four storeys are fully glazed and connected by a central core of spiral stairs rising around a hollow tube which doubles as Barbie’s tower wardrobe.

This is computer-controlled so outfits are delivered to her bedroom at the push a button via a “double helix moving rack”.

Other features include 140sq m of entertaining space, a chef’s open kitchen and what is describe as a “Steven Jobs-approved office / library / meeting space”.

The 450sq m house’s four storeys are fully glazed and connected by a central core of spiral stairs rising around a hollow tube which doubles as Barbie’s tower wardrobe.The top two floors contain her bedroom and inspiration space topped by a roof garden.

 In order to reduce CO2 emission, Barbie opts to ride her Pink Vespa around town instead, and if she needs to haul her shopping bags, Ken is never far behind in his convertible. 

Heritage Alliance on the NPPF

Their Initial Response is

We offer some initial comments here – we will comment more fully following comprehensive liaison with our members at the members’ forum on the NPPF that we shall be convening in September.

The Alliance welcomes the publication of the long-awaited draft National Planning Policy Statement (NPPF), and supports the general principle behind the Government’s planning reforms – to empower local communities.

Whilst we support the intention to simplify planning policy and guidance, we strongly urge the Government not to lose sight of the need to retain strong and unambiguous policy and guidance for specific areas. We have concerns about several areas of the draft NPPF, which if left unresolved would result in a downgrading of protection for the historic environment. This cannot be allowed to happen. Our concerns are focussed on:

1. The presumption in favour of sustainable development: The Heritage Alliance believes strongly that the NPPF should indeed channel economic growth, but should not be led by it. We are concerned that the strong bias in favour of granting permission throughout the document would result in decisions being made without sufficient consideration being given to environmental, cultural and social considerations.

2. Are principles of PPS5 adequately incorporated into the NPPF?: Planning Policy Statement 5: Planning for the Historic Environment (PPS 5) embraces a holistic, integrated approach to the management of change in the historic environment. The widely accepted policy principles embedded in PPS5 should be carried through in to the final NPPF without any diminution of their standing, to provide a workable tool for practitioners, owners and applicants. It was hoped that there would be a more overt statement in favour of conservation than that which appears in the Historic Environment section of the current NPPF draft, and definitions such as ‘substantial harm’ will certainly need to be explored in more detail.

3. Planning documents must be fully integrated: The NPPF, Localism Bill and related Practice Guidance must be fully integrated and coherent as a whole, to ensure a clear framework in which our irreplaceable historic environment can continue to deliver a wide range of public goods and, not least, safeguard our truly wonderful heritage for future generations to enjoy.

Banks Bulldozing American Towns

The Bank of America and Other hard pressed American Banks are demolishing hundreds of foreclosed home in an effort to revive local housing markets

Bank of America announced In July that they plan on bulldozing 100 homes in the Cleveland, Ohio area alone. What’s left of the land will then be donated to the local government. The Bank has already given around 100 homes in Detroit and 150 in Chicago back to local authorities.

Currently America is home to nearly 1.7 million homes in foreclosure; that’s around one out of every 77 in the month of June and 3.5 million saw foreclosure between 2008 and 2010. Bank of America itself saw 40,000 in just the first quarter of 2011. Wells Fargo, JPMorgan, Citigroup and Fannie Mae are all following in their footsteps with plans to knock down houses.

Last year, Detroit Mayor Dave Bing proposed a massive downscale for the Motor City. Mr. Bing suggested the bulldozing of around one-quarter of the entire city’s houses and empty buildings over three years times to make way for new structures.

World Biggest Fake Store – IKEA

Dont be sure that big blue flat pack store is genuine

Russia Today


A Chinese store named “11 Furniture” is one giant 10,000 square meter copycat. It has taken the brand design of the Swedish furniture giant IKEA from the color scheme down to its small free pencils.

The four-storey outlet is located in the district of Kunming City in southwest China, reports Reuters. It has mock-up rooms, rocking chairs and a cafeteria-style restaurant like IKEA, although Swedish meatballs and salmon have been replaced with local braised minced pork and eggs on the menu. The shop’s name – “Shi Yi Jia Ju” in Chinese – also sounds like the original Ikea’s “Yi Jia Jia Ju”.

The one big difference is that 11 Furniture sells made-to-order products rather than flat-packed do-it-yourself furniture.The shop appears to be raising China’s ability to hijack identity of western brands to a whole new level.

“This is a new phenomenon,” said Adam Xu, retail analyst with Booz&Co. “Typically there are a lot of fake products, now we see more fakes in the service aspect in terms of (faking) the retail formats.”  11 Furniture’s owner could not be reached for comment. Meanwhile IKEA, which has nine stores in China and plans to open an average of one to two new ones each year, said it is highly concerned about its competitor.“IKEA is one of the biggest home furnishing companies in the world – protecting IKEA’s intellectual property rights is crucial,” Ikea China said in a statement.

The revelation follows last month’s news of fake Apple Store outlets in Kunming, which looked exactly like the real ones and sold genuine if unauthorized iPhones, Macbooks and other widely popular Apple products. Some of the employees reportedly thought they were really working for the gadget giant.

District Heating Good Practice: HCA Report

Evaluates the projects funded under the Low Carbon Infrastructure Fund.

Many of the projects experienced significant challenges in achieving agreement between partners on project objectives.
For example, there may be a conflict between the desire to meet legal CO2 emission reductions targets and also deliver the investment returns required by private investors. In particular, housebuilders that were unfamiliar with the technology often had concerns regarding the marketability of properties. This was compounded by the existence of any policy uncertainty, and it was found that fixed targets for example for reducing emissions, such as through the Code for Sustainable Homes, or as set by planning authorities under the planning framework, can provide the basis for agreement of the project’s objectives.

British Manufacturing Classic Now Thrives in India

France 24

In 1949, the bikes came to India under a contract for the army and manufacturing has continued ever since, in glorious isolation and long after the British bike died out…

The problem — or beauty, as some fans would say — was that Enfields had remained largely unchanged in 50 years, with the factory in Chennai churning out small variations of the original Bullet model.

The gearbox was agricultural and oil leaks, along with regular trips to the mechanic, were as much a feature of the single-cylinder engine as its deep thump-thump sound.

But in what will likely be seen as a watershed moment in the history of the firm, Enfield dared to offend the purists by overhauling the engine in 2009, launching the brand-new Classic.

Initial orders for the bike, which retails at 150,000 rupees ($3,500), were expected to be 150-200 a month, but the company quickly found itself processing about a hundred a day.

Suddenly, the previously niche manufacturer had an eight-month waiting list and production at the creaking factory in Chennai — described as a “relic” by [Chief Executive] Padmanabhan — has since been ramped up by 40 percent.

Demand is so great that [owner] Eicher, which came close to shutting Enfield at one stage, has agreed to invest in a new 1.0 billion rupee ($22 million) greenfield factory near Chennai that will double production capacity from 70,000 bikes a year to 150,000 in 2013.

The expansion plans are ambitious: the company is taking the export market seriously for the first time, building overseas sales networks in Britain, the United States, Germany and France.

In India, the potential is huge as the company draws riders trading up from smaller motorbikes and wealthier car-owning customers looking for a thrill at the weekend or on holiday tours.

The key to the success of the new model was keeping enough of the old features to retain the heritage of Royal Enfield, while removing the problems that turned off potential buyers, says Padmanabhan.

He cites BMW’s successful re-engineering of the classic Mini Cooper as another success story of breathing new life into an old brand, though the redesign of the Bullet is far less radical.

“We converted over from the cast iron engines. We have our own engine now that is modern in a retro sense. It doesn’t have all the niggly things,” he says.

Even though some critics say the new Classic sounds tinny compared to older models, Padmanabhan reasons that this is a small price to pay for greater reliability and better fuel efficiency.

“At some point, you don’t love something so much if it’s off the road all the time,” he says.

Of course it was the fact that owners of British Bikes spent most weekends fixing them that killed off the industry.

Report: Saudi Economy to Dramatically Shrink in Next Decades due to Energy Inefficiency

A report in Arabian Business

[According to] Jadwa Investment, a firm founded by Saudi royalty…Based on past spending patterns, and assuming no significant ramp up in oil production which accounts for 85 percent of government revenues, it reckons the country’s net foreign reserves would shrink by around 45 percent – to around $267 billion by the end of 2021 and to $100 billion in 2024.

How does it happen? The kingdom’s own energy consumption is forecast to grow at an annual rate between 8-10 percent for the next decade.

That means less of the black stuff will be available to export at international prices.

Saudi consumers and businesses pay as little as three percent of the global price. And they and use 11 times more oil than the Chinese to generate the same amount of GDP, according to 2009 numbers.

Government spending, meanwhile, is forecast by Jadwa to grow at an average annual rate of seven percent for the next 20 years. That’s half the rate of the previous decade.

But spending on infrastructure and other projects to create a knowledge-based economy and renewable energy sources makes up roughly just 30 percent of the total.

The rest is current spending, the largest part of which being public payrolls. Public sector wages rise too fast, and are already higher on average than those of the private sector.

The problem is that the Arab Spring has limited the capacity of Saudi rulers to reform wages and food subsidies.

But it hasn’t left the kingdom powerless in other areas. Ambitious projects in renewable energies are a long way off. So it would make sense to act sooner rather than later.

There is scope for action. Corporate electricity tariffs, currently below the cost of production, could be increased.

Limiting gas-guzzling cars, enforcing stricter building regulations would also help. Of course ideally the government could also think about introducing taxes, both on companies and individuals.

I reported on this in an extended essay last year.  It is a good example of the ‘export land effect’ a a country burning up its export income in Toyota Landcruisers.  But Saudi has always been the hardest country to model because of secrecy over oil reserves and domestic consumption (though it is speculated that Saudi has passed peak oil).   Not its official, the petrodollar economy only has a decade left to run.  A fictional analogy is the death of the Klingon Moon Praxis, with the main energy source gone, the end of empire will come within a generation unless there is a dramatic switch to sustainable technologies.