Jerusalem Light Rail to Open Friday

The Jerusalem light rail will begin operations on Friday, August 19, the Isreal Ministry of Transport announced today, after 8 years of construction.

The light rail operates along a 13.8 kilometer track from Mount Herzl in the west through the city center to Pisgat Zeev in occupied East Jeruslalem. There will be 23 stations.

According to the Guardian the typical attitude on the street is “We’ll believe it when we’re sitting on the train and it’s moving”. Residents of Edinburgh may have a similar view!

“The residents of Jerusalem paid the price with broken legs and ruined businesses,” said Gerard Heumann, an architect and town planner in the city and a vocal critic of the project. “The construction wreaked havoc over the city for a decade.”

critics from a Palestinian perspective believe the routing of the line from Pisgat Ze’ev through the Palestinian neighbourhoods of Beit Hanina and Shu’afat was part of a deliberate plan to link the East Jerusalem settlement to the city centre, consolidate Israel’s grip on the eastern part of the city that Palestinians want as a capital of their future state, and present Jerusalem as an undivided city.

Jerusalem’s powerful ultra-orthodox community, …last year unsuccessfully demanded that some carriages be segregated along gender lines so that men and women would not be forced into close physical proximity. However, like all public transport in the city, the light rail will not run on the Jewish Sabbath.

The Metro in Dubai does have segregated carriages by contrast.

The Jerusalem Transportation Master Plan insists the light rail will serve all communities in Jerusalem – “men, women, Arab, Christian and Jew”, said Nadav Meroz. Muslims in the north and east of the city will be able to travel quickly to pray at the mosques in the Old City, he added. “Our project is for all communities, it’s a transportation solution for everyone.”

‘Regeneration, based in a belief in a better tomorrow, now looks like the emperor’s new clothes’ #londonriots

The Evening Standard has a cracking interview with

Dutch architectural historian Wouter Vanstiphout

Something we have studied is how every riot has its typical place. In London, it’s the high street not just because the plasma TVs are there to steal. The high street is the place to go. In London the enormous consumerist inequality seems to have played a very important role, and people aim [their anger] at the high street.

“The smallness of the world of these people is frightening, and impossible for many of us to imagine. For them, a shopkeeper is rich and Primrose Hill is a foreign country. After the LA riots, there were interviews with kids who said that they had never seen the sea – and they lived three miles from the ocean.”

No one is suggesting that specific buildings were to blame for the convulsive unrest in London, but the areas affected are places where there have been tensions around development and gentrification, where change has come quickly, and where the divide between rich and poor is most obvious.

For Vanstiphout, the riots reveal an underlying truth of regeneration. For all the well-meaning aspiration, urban policy in London has been complicit in marginalising the poor and pushing them out of certain areas, making London less mixed and the gaps between haves and have-nots clearer. Regeneration, based in a belief in a better tomorrow, now looks like the emperor’s new clothes.

“When regeneration happens, people look at it and say ‘now the people living in that area are better educated, more employed, a more ethnically diverse group than before, so the city is working a little better’,” Vanstiphout says. “But of course that’s just demographics: people have just moved away. The real strategies [of regeneration] are all still based on rising land values and the idea that wealth trickles down from the rich to the poor.”

He thinks that the Mayor needs to take the agenda out of the hands of national politicians. “Boris Johnson should really start thinking in a spatial sense about what keeps his city together.

Otherwise you could end up with a situation where certain economically important areas will be perfectly safe, but only if some other areas are dealt with using a strategy of containment.”

11 Housing Bodies back #NPPF Times Letter – Same Old Polarised Pro/Anti Greenfield Housing Arguments

Reflecting how ridiculously polarised the debate has become 11 bodies including the CIH, the NHF and the HBF have written to the Times

Given that the Times is now paywalled I dont see why anyone wishing to contribute to an internet dominated public debate would wish to write to them, anyway.

As organisations working in or representing construction, house-building, business and energy and those affected by our current housing shortage and stifled economic recovery, we support the principles of a consolidated planning framework as introduced within the new National Planning Policy Framework and welcome the Government’s recognition that development can be a major factor in our economic recovery.

While as separate organisations we have individual concerns about detail within the National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF), we believe that its overarching principles can strike the necessary balance between economic growth, a presumption in favour of sustainable development and existing environmental protection.

It seems to me that faced with a growing aliiance of countryside groups the housing lobby has grouped togther and will back any old nag, which is what the NPPF is.

For true environmentalist and planners the argument rather is how and where we build the sustainable, accessible and affordable housing we need.  We can only do this through good planning.  This is the government trap that these bodies have fallen into.  The response to no development, no planning just prohibition, is not the anti-planning agenda of the NPPF.  The third alternative is the pro-planning, pro-sustainability, pro-housing course.

#NPPF Select Committee Response Part 3 – The Definition of Sustainable Development

Is the definition of ‘sustainable development’ contained in the document appropriate?

Development plans are required to must be drawn up with the objective of contributing to the achievement of sustainable development by law (section 39 2004 Act). Oddly this function does not apply to development management decisions and all other decisions under the planning acts.

Successive government have stated that defining it should be a matter of policy rather than law. The key issue is whether the definition is meaningful.

Firstly the government has not been consistent in its definitions. The official definition is from the UK (not just English) Sustainable Development Strategy, Securing the Future[1]. Which remains in force, and at least merits a footnote in the NPPF. Neither mentioned is the coalition government’s Statement ‘Mainstreaming Sustainable Development’[2] Again unless DCLG wants to plough a different furrow on Sustainable Development than DEFRA their should be at least a footnote mention. Finally there is the older definition from Brundtland used in the NPPF. What this means is that the government now has three different definitions of sustainable development – very confusing. The issue of the Brundtland definition is that by itself it is uncontentious, it is simply a requirement not to be unsustainable, but to be meaningful in policy terms you need to add flesh to the bones and have a policy framework which is positive about the sustainable actions required..

The NPPF approach to sustainable development is weak and in effect seeks to define it out of existence so that development = sustainable development.

The definition in para. 9 of the NPPF seeks to redefine the Brundtland definition by referring only to ‘basic’ needs. This implies that widening inequality is acceptable if ‘basic needs’ only are met. Wheras in fact the Brundtland Report refers to the key concept of ‘’needs’, in particular the essential needs of the world’s poor, to which overriding priority should be given. All references to lessening social inequalities and ensuring ‘Social progess which recognizes the needs of everyone’ (from the SDS) have been excised. Indeed by contrast the NPPF gives overwhelming priority to the wealthiest who are able to carry out the most development.

The NPPF definition goes on in para.10 to define what sustainable development means for planning – the so called 3ps. If you break down the logic of this troika you find that it comes down to:

  1. economic growth is sustainable
  2. growth meeting housing and social needs is sustainable
  3. except where it damages protected environments or producing too much CO2.

So in effect development=sustainable development, when neither on protected land nor producing too much CO2.

Reading the NPPF as a whole, which you have to do, it is clear that protected land only makes up a very small part of England, and controls on car-orientated development in rural areas are weakened. Therefore in many cases the NPPF is simply saying development=sustainable development.

This is an impoverished and narrow view which almost defines sustainable development out of existence. Para. 11 refers to the need for three principles being pursued in an integrated way – but if the principles themselves are slanted so will the ‘integrated’ approach.

This is what Johnathan Porritt has called:

“SD-abuse”: the deliberate misuse of the concept of sustainable development by Ministers and civil servants to obscure the real meaning of their words… I could not find one single reference to the notion of environmental limits. Not one. Lots of warm words about the importance of the environment, but nothing of real use in defining what appropriate or inappropriate development might mean in practice.[3]

Whilst Tom Burke of the Green Alliance has stated

What the Government actually means by ‘Sustainable Development’ is the tired old Treasury mantra of ‘Sustained Growth’: that is, growth that goes on forever. It definitely does not mean growth that recognises environmental risks and constraints.[4]

The definition could be greatly improved if it recognized environmental limits. Indeed examples elsewhere in the UK and the Commonwealth commonly do this.

I would urge the Committee to examine definition and policy on the application of the principle of sustainable development used in Quebec, New Zealand and Wales.

For example the New Zealand Resource Management Act includes the concept of environmental limits and this wording is reflected in the proposed definition put forward by Wildlife Link[5]. The Quebec Sustainable Development Act builds on the Brundtland definition and includes the concepts ‘an ongoing process to improve the living conditions of the present generation that does not compromise the ability of future generations to do so and that ensures a harmonious integration of the environmental, social and economic dimensions of development.’

This is not rocket science and with it, it is possible to meld these well tested legal definitions together in a form of words that might be acceptable to both ministers and environmental stakeholders. I suggest combining the Brundtland, Canadian and New Zealand definitions as follows:

“an ongoing process to improve the living conditions of the present generation that does not compromise the ability of future generations to do so, and that ensures, as far as possible, a harmonious integration of the environmental, social and economic dimensions of development within the limits set by the environment and technology.”

What matters though is how this translates into planning decisions. I would advice the committee to take evidence from Clive Bates the Director General for Sustainable Futures of the Welsh Government. The Welsh approach[6] is based on the concept of environmental well-being. This derives from UN/WHO[7] work and considerable research. The principle is that the health and well-being of people will not be sustained if the wellbeing of ecosystems, natural capital, and social, human and economic capital. This concept is critical to the first UK National Ecosystems Assessment[8] carried out by DEFRA. Yet the NPPF nowhere refers to this, the health of ecosystems, or the wellbeing of society. It is clearly a lack of joined up government.

This is the single greatest weakness of the NPPF. A presumption in favour of sustainable development badly defined and poorly operationalised, as here, is simply a presumption in favour of development without limits – unsustainable development.

More Migration Watch and Sun Lies on Immigration and Housing

The Sun headline today booms – ‘Migrants need 415,000 new council homes’ over the next 25 years. Based on a report by migration watch.

As we have reported on earlier there is a fundamental flaw in their figures as less than half of net international migration translates into household formation. This has led to them to overestimate the contribution to housing need from immigration by 141%.

This error is repeated in their estimate of need for new Council housing published today, even though I directly pointed this out to them. There refusal to correct and response show that they have a racist axe to grind and their ‘research’ is not to be trusted.

They make an additional error in the new report which they try to conceal. Their gross total figure for new council housing demand includes EU migration. Of course this is almost balanced out by UK citizens working in the rest of the EU. 28% of all immigration is from the EU. If for example we pulled out of the EU, hypothetically, UK citizens working in the EU might have to leave and vice versa. So the migration watch figures overestimate the proportion of council house homes caused by immigration by 1.28 x 1.41=180%

Did they agree to sacrifice Greece to Save the Euro?

Rumours alive this morning about what was really agreed at the Merkel-Sarkosy summit yesterday

Arabian Money

what the rumor mill is spreading is that Germany and France have decided to let Greece go.

There is both gallic and teutonic logic to this. Eurobonds are unacceptable now because the financial crisis is not sufficiently bad to push the dissenters behind this action. Greece is universally loathed for its misbehavoir.

Letting Greece go bankrupt and exit the eurozone will solve both problems: the huge financial crisis it will precipitate for the European and US banks who will have to write-off hundreds of billions in bad sovereign debts, will leave them crying out for eurobonds; and getting rid of Greece will be popular all round in the EU.

However, letting Lehman Brothers go bankrupt three years ago precipitated the greatest global financial crisis since the 1930s. Would letting an entire country go under not have a similar contagion effect? It is a big risk that the cautious Mrs Merkel will likely find a career breaker.

The US Treasury thought the impact of Lehman would be limited, are the EU leaders about to make the same mistake? Or do they have their own eurobond integration agenda that demands a blood sacrifice?

It is certainly hard to believe that Angela Merkel and Nicolas Sarkozy did not get to the nub of the eurozone debt crisis in their summit at the weekend, and the absence of Greece from the final communique perhaps speaks volumes.

Ironically for Greece exiting the euro would be the best thing that could happen. A sovereign nation is not like a Wall Street investment bank. It cannot be closed down. Life must go on.

Outside the euro Greece could devalue and instantly become very competitive again and attract even more millions of visitors to soak up its sun and history. Those Greeks who already have their billions stashed abroad could invest at a massive discount and flood the country with liquidity.

The losers will be the European banks with the massive write-offs, and the winners will be the eurobonds that everybody will quickly accept as absolutely essential. But only after part two of the global financial crisis.