Unauthorised Basement could cost Beijings Candidate for Hong Kong Boss job – blames wife

Henry Tang was Beijings candidate for the Chief Executive of Hong Komng, in an election where only 1,200 people, mostly appointees get to vote.

However a planning scandal threatens to cost him the jobs and has led to a collapse in his popular support.

Rather than excavating a 3m deep basement for storage only he built a 5m deep one complete with win cellar movie theatre and swimming pool, and then it appears tried to forge the paperwork to cover it up.  The building inspectorate have launched an investigation.

Why does it matter?  Well firstly he tried to blame it all on his wife.

“I apologise to all Hong Kong people,” Mr Tang said. “It was my wife’s idea and I knew it was illegal.”

He added that since his marriage had been at a low ebb, he was reluctant to inflame the situation by handling the matter swiftly.

Its at en even lower ebb now.

Secondly the basement is about 5 time greater than the size of the average Hong Kong home causing popular outrage, and of course he tried to cover it up. The anti-Beijing Chinese language newspaper Appple Daily said Mr Tang’s credibility had been “buried” in the “underground palace”

Finally though the use and additional size would have attracted a very large property taxliability which he tried to avoid.

Property developers gave Tories £2,700 a day after #NPPF published – Telegraph


Figures published by the electoral watchdog last night show that construction and property firms gave £510,000 to the party between July and December last year – more than £2,700 a day.

In the final quarter of 2011, developers gave more than £267,000 to the Tories – 9p in every pound – outstripping the £243,000 for the previous three months, according to the Electoral Commission’s figures.

Last night Labour criticised the figures and said they were evidence of the Tory party’s “unhealthy relationship” with developers.

Roberta Blackman-Woods MP, Shadow Minister for Planning told The Daily Telegraph: “These revelations clearly suggest that there may have been an unhealthy relationship between property developers and the Tory Government.

“The Government must come clean about these allegations and any undue influence these donors may have had in the drafting of the Coalition’s controversial National Planning Policy Framework.”

The increasing amounts being given to the Conservatives coincided with the publication of the controversial National Planning Policy Framework, which campaigners say will make it easier to build on parts of rural England.

The NPPF, which was published on July 25 last year has been heavily criticised for making it easier for developers to build on rural parts of England, and is being fought by campaigners. The Daily Telegraph is also urging ministers to rethink the reforms…

A Conservative Party spokesman said: “There is no question of individuals either influencing policy or gaining an unfair advantage by virtue of their financial contributions to the Conservative Party.

“Donors are motivated by a genuine desire to support the Conservative party and help it to win elections.”

Also in Prospect David Davis accused Cameron of being too close to big business to the extent that it risked ‘crony capitalism’.

Confirmation – consultation on sustainable development duty for national parks delayed until after #NPPF published

Hansard 21 Feb 2012 : Column 740W

National Parks Authorities: Sustainable Development

Fiona O’Donnell: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs when she plans to launch a consultation on whether existing legislation for National Parks Authorities should reflect better their role in promoting sustainable development. [95132]

Richard Benyon: We have chosen to delay the consultation until after the National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF) is published. It is important to give our stakeholders an opportunity to consider the role of sustainable development in the NPPF before responding to the consultation on National Park Authorities.

Roll up roll up – get your signed plastic lump from Rem Koolhaas

Rem Koolhaas is auctioning off a signed crude 3D printer plastic model of his latest commission in Glasgow.

As ever it shows his education at the AA cutting up lumps of polystyrene with hot wires, im sure the fumes did a lot of damage leading to loss of the part of the brain that deals with urbanism and context.

What do you call a lump of plastic ‘sitting on an oak wood base, is displayed in a 31 x 31 x 14 cm acrylic perspex showcase’ err a lump of plastic.



So #NPPF is associated with Eugenics Now – Colin Mile’s Latest Bizarre Claim

Writing in the Guardian Local Government Network Colin Miles states

Williams-Ellis, architect of the dreadful Portmeirion, was a fellow of the British Eugenics Society and believed that lower class undesirables should be prevented from breeding…The real issue in this current debate about planning reform is population control. It is the topic that dare not speak its name.

It is certainly the case that before the second world war there were certain social reformers who favoured eugenics, and some of those also promoted town planning.

‘The Webbs supported eugenic planning just as fervently as town planning.” Adrian Wooldridge, author of Measuring the Mind: Education and Psychology in England 1860-1990

But to tar all of those views as discredited because of this – you might as well reject keynisanism because of John Maynard Keynes support for it, or reject female reproductive health because of Marie Stope’s support for it.  Eugenics is now seen as a discredited historical curiosity shared by a previous age, similarly should we reject physics because of Newton’s fondness for Alchemy.  Interestingly Newton’s papers were bought by Keynes at auction as a perfect example of the fallibility of human theorys.

Indeed the sector most tainted with eugenicism is public health/social housing – the sector to which Colin belongs.  Indeed before the war most social housing in Leicester was planned to further Eugenic principles.

Rather a desperate argument Colin.

The history of town planning is full of progressive and regressive ideas, and is sadly not immune to examples of eugenicism – as you would expect though these were much more popular in Germany which built at least two eugenic new towns I know of, on the edges of Bremen and Strasbourg (Jardins Undermach – below -right next to the European parliament), which were let to families who had lots of babies – sounds similar to the letting/development policies of the housing associations that Colin is involved in.  So before we talk about population control lets not forget the rather blatantly eugenist policies of state subsidies to large families !

On Line Guardian Event on #NPPF and Neighbourhood Planning today 12-2

And ill be on the panel.

Live discussion: How local government can prepare for community planning and the NPPF on Wednesday 22nd February between 12pm and 2pm

To get to the live discussion please follow this link on the day



So now Smart Growth leads to Crime – Another Heartland Institute Promoted Myth

With the anti-science, fake the evidence and slant the discourse Heartland Institute in the news it is opportune to highlight one of their other canards apart from global warming denialism.

In 2004 they published ‘Smart Growth=Crime, Congestion and Poverty’ 

This is a strong strain of thought and a rather laughable expression of it has just been published by Joe Verdoorn of SEC Planning.

Smart Growth…can create unintended negative consequences. The criteria to which I refer includes:

  • grid street patterns
  • connectivity to adjacent neighborhoods
  • mixed, non-residential land uses
  • alley access/rear loaded house

The inflexible application of these tactical criteria enhances opportunities for criminal activities to occur….

Advocates for highly connected neighborhoods contend that dispersing driving patterns over a greater number of neighborhood streets minimizes traffic congestion. However, it also creates a means for non-residents to traverse neighborhoods without undue notice. These dispersed travel patterns also allow potential criminals easy access and familiarization with neighborhoods in which they have little first hand knowledge.

[this] design relies on straight streets, rectangular blocks and interlinking grids to connect adjacent neighborhoods and provide numerous access and departure points for residents and non-residents. The grid system also provides criminals a means to anonymously cruise their target without detection.

The problem is the very poor quality of the research.  30 years ago there was a number of studies showing crime levels were lower on cul-de-sacs than grids.  However these were flawed as by definition cul-de-sacs are at the bottom of a street hierarchy and grids are more likely to be city centres, with higher levels of traffic and density.  Indeed Bill Hilliers research found these studies (such as Alice Coleman’s) fell part when these were taken into account.

More recent studies have focussed on the connectivity and traffic flow – and have shown very little correlation from each factor individually but some when placed together.  However again high connectivity and high flow locations are again more likley to be central to a street network and increasing the number of culs de sacs will simply increase connectivity and flow at certain points which may simply transfer crime from one place to another.  For these reasons it is impossible to compare crime levels on a street by street basis, you have to compare them settlement by settlement, as well as allowing for what almost none of these ideologically driven american researchers do, density of population and the socio economic characteristics of different settlements.  Older poorer neighbourhoods have more crime but because of when they were built they are more likely to have grids, so the research is missing the direction of causality and is a classic example of ‘spatial autocorrelation’ – assuming there is a spatial cause to social factors when it is simply an issue of autocorrelation with an another determining variable. Indeed those advocating such retrogressive defensible space approaches should conduct a study of the several hundred new urbanism projects against a control because anecdotal evidence suggest that crime levels in them are very low.

Often quoted in these American writings is the work of Bedfordshire PC Peter Knowles who c concluded that New Urban-like housing had five times the crime and cost police departments three times as much to keep secure as neighborhoods designed to defensible-space standards. This study is thoroughly discredited though as he confused New Urbanism with an outdated Radburn type layout.

Judicial Review Threatened over £10,000 cost over Tesco Referendum in Bristol

BBC Devon

Tesco sign

Tesco is reviewing the external design of the store before making a formal planning application

A row has broken out in Brixham over the cost of a £10,000 referendum on plans to build a Tesco store in the town.

The referendum will be held on 22 March after campaigners held a meeting which supported it.

But local residents Sue and Michael Furminger say it is a waste of money and are threatening a judicial review.

Plans for a supermarket on the site of the town centre car park would be part of a £20m redevelopment of the town.

Campaign group Brixham Residents Against Tesco Supermarkets (Brats) secured the poll by holding a parish meeting and getting a vote in favour.

People in Brixham will be asked to vote on the question: Do you support the proposal for a Tesco supermarket development in Brixham Town Centre?

The result of the poll, which will be paid for by Brixham Town Council, will not be legally binding on Torbay Council which will make a planning decision.

Resident Sue Furminger said: “Whatever any of us thinks about the Tesco proposal, the decision as to whether or not the supermarket goes ahead is one for Torbay Council as the planning authority, not Brixham alone.

“This vote would be nothing more than a very expensive opinion poll.”

Her husband Michael said: “When essential local government services are being cut this is no time to be spending council tax payers’ money on a vote that won’t decide anything. “

Julie Richardson, of Brats, said: “Brixham is a beautiful historic fishing town with a stunning natural environment,” she said.

“This is what attracts visitors and tourists and why we are so proud of our town.

“We want development that enhances what is special and unique about Brixham, not become another clone town, where individuality is replaced by bland global chains.”

Albourne Property, the developers considering submitting at planning application at the end of spring, said in a statement: “Following the public exhibition in December and subsequent consultation with Torbay Council, Albourne Property remain committed to the regeneration of this important town centre scheme.

“We are currently reviewing elements of the external design, taking on board relevant feedback received as a result of the exhibition, with a view to submitting a planning application at the end of spring.

“The town council’s decision to agree to undertake a referendum is understood, but in our experience referendums predominantly attract those objecting to development proposals, and reflect the views of a very small percentage of the population.”

A Torbay Council spokesman said: “A poll has been called for in accordance with legislation and as a result will be held in Brixham on Thursday 22 March.

“The poll is run by Torbay Council but the cost is paid for by Brixham Town Council. The poll is advisory only and its result is not binding on the council.”

As the proposed question includes a fascia test Torbay would be acting unlawfully if they gave any weight to the results of the referendum whatsover.

The New Homes Bonus isn’t working – Guardian

Peter Heatherington

Almost two years’ ago, amid much hype, we were promised a housing revolution: out went Labour’s housing targets, labelled “Stalinist” by the housing minister, Grant Shapps. In came another regime, led by a scheme called the new homes bonus.

Shapps said it represented a “powerful incentive” for new housing with the aim of turning nimbys – people opposed to development – into yimbys (yes, in my back yard). The aim was to reward councils “promoting growth” through the government match-funding additional council tax raised on new housing for six years and, hence, encouraging more new homes.

But the bonus – along with a measure to somehow fund more affordable homes by promoting more council house sales – is embroiled in controversy. Far from unleashing a new wave of housebuilding, it is clear that the impact of the bonus is marginal in many areas. Some cash-strapped councils are using it to plug a huge gap in finances caused by unprecedented government cuts. Others, such as Kensington and Chelsea, seem to be exploiting its potential by redesignating older properties as “houses in multiple occupation” to raise more money.

It wasn’t meant to be like this. Organisations including the British Property Federation (BPF) have complained that some town halls are “manipulating” the scheme by reclassifying properties to increase revenue: turning a single-lodging house into flats where all tenants are liable for council tax, for instance.

But surely the title of the scheme – new homes bonus – was meant to boost building rather than encourage a technical redesignation of properties? That’s certainly the view of Ian Fletcher, BPF’s policy director. “This is something that needs addressing if the bonus is to fulfil its potential,” he says.

A recent written parliamentary question from Labour’s former housing and local government minister, Nick Raynsford, asking what proportion of homes submitted for the bonus were newly constructed, as opposed to old and redesignated, has failed to produce an answer from Shapps.

But, based on annual figures produced last autumn, Raynsford found that while 106,000 new homes were completed over a 12-month period, 158,535 qualified for the bonus. Assuming that some of the additional 52,500 “properties” might include empty homes being brought back into use, the government has some explaining to do – as do some councils. And a survey by Inside Housing magazine found that less than a quarter of town halls planned to plough money from the bonus back into new housing.

With housebuilding in England flatlining almost two years into a government that promised so much, it’s no surprise that several initiatives will be rolled out around the time of next month’s budget in a desperate attempt to boost building: a new government-backed mortgage indemnity scheme, for instance, offering 95% mortgages for new homeowners, alongside a national planning policy framework with a “presumption” in favour of housing development.

And what of David Cameron’s wheeze, unveiled at the last Conservative conference, to accelerate a right-to-buy policy for council and housing association tenants? While the PM claimed that the cash generated would produce many more affordable homes, with each providing cash for another new house, a study by the Hometrack research agency finds that the one-for-one replacement policy does not stack up, because the average sale will raise £64,700 after a £50,000 discount – the essential carrot to persuade tenants to buy: not enough to build a new home.

Time, perhaps, to ditch the gimmicks and concentrate on policies that stand a chance of working.