Laird Applies to Keep Castle Graffiti Make Over

The Earl of Glasgow is seeking permission from  Historic Scotland and North Ayrshire Council  to keep th massive graffetti on his pile, Kelburn Castle in Largs.  In was origally granted for three years after which the hoaring was to be replaced anyway.  The artwork was completed by three brazilian artists in 2007.

However as experts had told the Earl that the hoaring would have to be replaced to avoid further damage to teh walls I doubt Historic Scotland will agree to keep it on.  However new grafetii, with a different design once a generation, we will see.


Moving beyond ‘Vaugue Concepts in Localism’ in Economic Development

Patrick McVeigh of Shared Intelligence woring in

There is an urgent need for a clear national framework for economic and industrial policy which moves beyond vague and poorly-defined concepts of rebalancing and localism, to a practical focus on the enabling measures needed in each UK region to support enterprise and employment growth.
Many of the elements of such a framework are self-apparent and should include: raising productivity across all sectors and ensuring that all businesses are able to access the skills and resources they need to compete and grow; harnessing innovation, increasing rates of research and development, and encouraging the commercialisation of new technologies; raising workforce skills, increasing levels of labour market participation and addressing inequalities; and enabling investment in key transport, energy and technological infrastructure.
While a clear national framework is required, interventions and actions must be locally specific and locally delivered. Local government has an important role to play, as should the newly emerging enterprise partnerships.
However, for LEPs to make a real difference, they need to have a clear set of evidence-based priorities which are shared by the public and private sector partners, and access to resources necessary to deliver.
Clearly, given the scale of fiscal retrenchment, there is little chance of central resourcing, but LEPs will need to find a way of pooling resources across their areas, creating opportunities for private sector investment, implementing new financial instruments and pursuing alternative funding strategies.

In Lambeth Community Trust will take over Anti-Gang Activities

Steve Reed Leader of Lambeth (he will go far, hint Kate Hoey MP time to measure up the ermine).

Lambeth was already gearing up to hand power to the community to tackle gang culture. In the wake of the riots, it is moving even faster.

Violent youth gangs played a significant role in the looting and disorder in August. Even David Cameron has finally woken up to the need to tackle the scourge of youth gangs, though his cuts targeted on poorer urban areas will hinder this. The government slashed funding for youth offending teams by 23 per cent earlier this year, bringing to an end numerous projects tackling gangs, and one of Boris Johnson’s early acts as mayor of London was to cut by 90 per cent the anti-gang pathways project that directly confronted gang members. You reap what you sow.

In Lambeth we are taking a radical new approach to tackling gang violence based on the insight that the worst-affected communities are central to any lasting solution. We aim to be the first council to put the community in charge of tackling violent youth crime instead of subjecting them to top-down strategies whose only success is in grabbing quick headlines.

An extraordinary meeting of community leaders held just days before looters ransacked Brixton heard the community tell the council ‘we are ready to lead’. Participants heard harrowing stories of the dangers facing young people who are targeted by violent youth gangs. Rosemarie Mallett from Brixton-based Word Against Weapons talked about how girls as young as nine are sexualised by older gang members who force them to stand in sexual poses and threaten them with violence, and even rape, if they refuse to comply. Many young people from poorer communities join gangs because they are threatened with violent assault if they do not. Once engaged they are expected to show their loyalty by getting involved in escalating levels of criminality, from small-scale theft and drug dealing to serious violence which may involve guns.

In response to the community’s demands, we plan a radical transfer of power and resources from the council to the community. This will be a significant early example of Lambeth’s cooperative council in action.

Youth centres and council funding will be moved into a community trust led by figures from the worst-affected neighbourhoods. The trust will pool its resources with whatever is already available in the community, including voluntary sector schemes and community-led initiatives. Each neighbourhood or estate will then be offered professional support to analyse their own specific needs and choose what services they want, including better parenting support, help for dysfunctional families, youth activities, employment initiatives, or peer mentoring schemes. People in each neighbourhood will choose the services they need, which organisation will provide them, and how they should be run, all within the budget that the community trust makes available to them.

This model of community empowerment will give people the chance to take back control over what happens to their young people. Their insights, as parents, neighbours or young people, will shape the kind of support available to their community. Instead of being told by professionals what will happen to them, the professionals will be put under the control of the community. After years of top-down services and unsuccessful, imposed interventions that have left them feeling powerless, the community will get the chance to lead, providing us with a real chance of getting vulnerable young people out of gangs and giving them back their future.

Observer Editorial – ‘Further Urban Sprawl Solves Nothing’ #NPPF

Observer Editorial

The government must ensure that in the rush to build new homes, our precious greenfield sites are not destroyed…

The boundaries between where urban areas begin and end are in danger of being blurred if the government’s new national planning policy framework, designed to relax regulations and encourage a surge in new house building, is interpreted too loosely.

At the heart of the framework is a desire for planning to deliver “sustainable growth”, a nebulous term but one that has potentially wide-reaching consequences. Implicit in this approach is a belief that for too long those who oppose development have had the whip hand thanks to complex planning laws and the power of the conservation lobby.

There is some truth in this. Both enemies and supporters of the framework agree that planning is overly complex and must be simplified. And it is true those enemies so often perceived to be on the side of the status quo can be formidable. The National Trust earned its reputation as an efficient campaign group in the 1930s, fighting a successful war against planning laws. It has vast experience to draw on.

But too quickly the debate has become mired in half-truths that do neither side any service. Alarmist claims that the green belt, that most protected of regions, is under threat from the reforms appear way off the mark, the framework having explicitly confirmed its support for it.

Better, then, to focus the debate on those sites on the periphery of our urban areas that will be affected. The framework no longer stipulates that developers must look to build on brownfield urban areas first. Instead, it will simply be left to local authorities to decide what is built and where.

This sort of decentralising of empowerment would be welcome if it was not for the government’s ambitious home-building programme. The coalition has instructed local authorities to draw up five-year plans that call for 20% more houses to be built than they had previously anticipated.

Desperate to meet these targets, those authorities will have little choice but to succumb to the demands of the developers. Anyone who read the recent financial update from house-builder Bovis, in which it said it saw its future in traditional homes in prime locations on greenfield sites, would be left with no doubt what this will mean.

The framework’s rejection of the brownfield-first policy is troubling because it was working. Last year, 76% of new dwellings were built on brownfield sites, up from 55% in 1989. It is estimated there are almost 62,000 hectares of brownfield or “previously developed land” in England ready for building on, of which 10,000 are in the south-east. This is enough to build more than 1.2m new homes.

Building on brownfield sites is more expensive, especially in the short term. But the great danger is that the social cost of building on these essential spaces between our urban areas will far outweigh the benefits in the longer term. The fear is that we will end up with sprawling conurbations whose peripheries boast upmarket homes that few starting on the property ladder can afford. It is this concern that the government must address.

Indeed it was successful. So successful that in many areas such as much of the South East previously developed sites are running out. A situation worsened by the policy shift against ‘garden grabbing’ which has had the consequence of evening discouraging well designed suburban intensification. The debate is shifting, yes we need housing but no we don’t want sprawl we need well planned and well designed communities in the right place. The choice will be between planning or sprawl. You will be hearing a lot more about this – and not just from me I hope.

Developers Build Up Landbanks Ahead of #NPPF Telegraph

From Richard Grey in the Telegraph

Figures compiled from the UK’s leading house builders have revealed that they have enough land to build 617,724 homes. Less than half of this land has been granted any kind of planning permission.

The figures have sparked fears among countryside campaigners that changes to the planning regulations proposed by the Government will allow a housing boom in the face of local objections – and that some of it could be on green belt land.

Under the Draft National Planning Policy Framework, the current planning rules will be changed so that applications will be treated with a “presumption for consent”, meaning applications will be automatically granted if they meet certain criteria.

The new rules require councils to have local plans for building in their area and if applications fit with these they will be granted permission.

Local authorities with no plans or outdated plans could also be forced to grant permission to applications….

Last night, Peter Nixon, director of conservation at the National Trust, said: “There could be a race against time to push through planning proposals before local authorities have the chance to establish local plans.

“The NPPF, in its current guise, loads the dice firmly in favour of the developer, rather than taking the approach we advocate in deciding whether development works for people, the environment, as well as the economy.”

The NPPF is intended to streamline complicated planning rules by reducing more than 1,300 pages of national policy to just 52 pages.

Analysis of the number of homes being built by the same developers has revealed that the gap between the number of completed properties and the amount of land stored in their “land banks” has grown to the highest level since 1998.

Now figures taken from the UK’s 11 largest housing developers have revealed that they are sitting on land that has no planning permission – the equivalent of 335,731 homes.

Bovis, one of the country’s biggest developers, said in its annual report that “as visibility over the effects of the changes to the planning environment improves, the group intends to increase its investment in strategic land”.

Taylor Wimpey bought nearly 5,000 more plots for its strategic land bank in 2010 compared with 2009.

Separate data released last week shows that planning permission approvals have fallen to the lowest level since the start of 2009, which the Home Builders Federation suggest is due to the uncertainty that has been surrounding the proposed policy.

A spokesman for the HBF, which represents housing developers, insisted developers were not collecting land banks in expectation of the changes in the planning laws.

He said: “We have had a policy vacuum since the election that has seen housing output fall to record levels – last year saw fewest homes built since 1923.

“There is now more confidence, both in the economy and in the planning system than there was 18 months ago, and so there will be an increase in the amount of land purchased.

“Builders need a supply of land to keep their businesses running – the alternative being to shrink their business.”

My take.  Housebuilders even 18 months ago were running down their landbanks in the face of the recession.  Selling large parts off to smaller developers.  In the current climate they are in the market again.  Landbanks of housing at all stages of the planning process have been too low, falling to under 300,000 at one point, just over a years supply.  As I stated here a reasonable level is three years supply, about 750,000. The new evidence suggests that speculative landbanks have dramatically increased.

The problem is not the size of the landbanks, they had to recover if we were not to see a further housing crisis and slowing of recovery when the recession ended, Rather the issue is the kind and type of sites added to them. 

If the expanded landbanks were all on good sites there would be no issue.  But the feedback ive been getting is much of the activity has been on sites that would never in a months of Sundays get consent.  For example a town might need say 600 houses over 15 years to meet requirements.  But there are options and SHLAA submissions around that town for two or three times that amount, the owners of which are all in a race to get their sites in first in the post NPPF world.  Adding up all the speculative sites can create a misleading picture.

It is the plum sites around the pretty market towns and nicer commuter villages that are being targetted.  Of course much of the housing need rests in larger towns.  But many marginal brownfield sites are now being left till the future in favour of the prospect of getting many more green field consents.  Once 5 year (+1 under the NPPF) supplies are restored in local planning authorities, whether by appeal, consent or local plan, attention may turn back to developers to the more profitable brownfield sites.  An odd reversal.  Rather than brownfield first it has become greenfield first.

“We will turn out the lights and we’ll lock the doors” The Tea Party and Environmental Deregulation – Will it come to the UK?

Today Republican presidential candidate Michelle Bachmann boasted that she would close the agency down in a single trip. “We will turn out the lights and we’ll lock the doors”. Most other republican candidates have threatened similar. Environmental protection is seen as somehow ‘jobkilling’ or a barrier to a mythical Energy Independence that the States has not joyed for over 50 years.

The EPA has become a lightening rod for discontent. If you consider that there are no systemic flaws in capitalism, and that shortage of demand is not an issue then you are forced to go casting around for a supply side blockage. A regulatory barrier that if waved away would magically cause the reappearance of growth. In the US the shibboleth is the EPA, in the UK it is town planning.

The Idyllic Village Too Rough for Gary Numan

Gary Numan is moving out of the beautiful (and one of my own favorite) Sussex Village of Waldron because of its ‘Thugs’.

Dick Angel, Wealden District councillor, said: “The village is composed of a church, a pub and mainly retired pensioners. The only recent record of any crime is when someone had the wheels of their car pinched when they were in the pub and that was 15 years ago.

“It is one of the lowest crime areas in the whole of the country. I had never heard of Mr Numan before this but people are treating his comments with some amusement.” Father David Charles, the priest in the 12th-century All Saints church in Waldron, said: “This is a very quiet village with only a couple of hundred residents. I’ve not seen much evidence of youth violence or gangs. People here feel Mr Numan’s perception doesn’t match the reality. It’s a quiet and happy place.”

Although it did have a very mysterious murder in 1926