Wolfson Prize shortlist: where are the neo-classical economists? #neoclassicaleconomicsisdead

This was a prize for the worlds ‘best and brightest economists’ on how  a country could orderly exit the eurozone without triggering a global chain of defaults.

 1 submission by an engineer – Catherine Dobbs

1 by two mathematicians

1 by the worlds leading expert on currency hedging – an economist

2 by global macro firms in the institutional/political economy tradition – one of which is run by an historian not a trained economist.

 Of those Roger Bootle in 2003 predicted the Financial crash on the same basis as most of the others who did such as Keen, Hudson and Magnus

From a 2003 review

Publisher: Nicholas Brealey Publishing (2003), ISBN: 1857882822

“Money for Nothing” is a somewhat controversial book written by the (London) City economist Roger Bootle. The author is a well known doomsayer who regularly hits the headlines with predictions of impending deflation and housing price crashes, never mind stock market crashes.

I’ve never taken seriously any economist spouting opinions on the real estate market (always dramatic, always wrong – witness the numerous press articles and parroting real estate agents), let alone about deflation.’

And Jonathon Teppler seems to hold firmly post-Keynesian views on debt and money. which you can find in his well known book Endgame. He qualification is as an Historian not an economist.

So in short not one neocon economist amongst them, no one who would have got a phd at freshwater or saltwater these days – apart from perhaps Neil Record who is difficult to classify as he is an expert in a specialist field, outside the mainstream, that he largely invented.

It would seem that this is the week that we can call as the end of the beginning of the end for neo-con economists. They cant model the real world and they have no exit strategy on the most pressing economic policy issue of today – the eurozone crisis.

I was thinking the DGSE part of the Keen/Krugman argument was all about semantics, however thinking again DGSE’rs had nothing to say, as they could not model global debt and counterparty chains.  At the point of a global crisis (eurozone debt) which as Catherine Dobb’s wonderful entry shows could be ‘seven times bigger than Lehman’ they quite literally had nothing of value to say.

Of course im no fan of Lord Wolfson, he is a frequent figure of fun on my website, and he surely would have wanted lots of Austrian entries (none on shortlist) – but the judges were balanced – unlike Lord Wolfson and the shortlist is telling.

If you want a laugh though read  Neil Records proposal for a secret German plot to force a country out – writing a script for Wolfgang Schäuble – the cats out of the bag now.

The Parsimony Principle in Reading and Applying the #NPPF #Planoraks

The principle of parsimony

Which is
1) Just because the NPPF doesn’t cover it it doesn’t mean that it is not material or cant be included in local plan – this is only the case if the NPPF rules out such consideration which it rarely does.
2) The NPPF is a tool kit to be ‘read as a whole’ just because something is missed out of one para doesn’t mean it should not be part of a rounded consideration – for example in applying brownfield first you also have to look at evidence base of need for additional public open space in the urban area – different paras rounded consideration.
3) There will be large parts of the NPPF where it will be found that certain terms and ideas will need to be ‘read in’ or taken as implied to make sense – for example it requires ‘proportionate evidence’ not ‘robust evidence’ I don’t think anyone would argue that plans should be based on proportionate flaky evidence or ignore the findings of robust evidence. That’s not even an issue for the courts – its an issue for sensible planning judgement.

York Inspector clarifies Process – Outcome Distinction on Duty to Cooperate #NPPF #planoraks

From David Vickery the Inspector and just published on the York EIP website.  I Have forwarded it to PAS to consider for inclusion on their revised ‘duty’ guidance.  The distinctions will be familier to readers of this blog.

The Duty to Co-operate
The Council will be aware that the National Planning Policy Framework was published on 27 March 2012. The Framework gives some further advice on the ‘duty to co-operate’, and so the Inspector has asked me to set out below his understanding of that duty in order to assist you.

The Inspector’s understanding is that there are two separate aspects of the ‘duty to cooperate’. One is the legal test under section 33A of the Planning and Compensation Act
2004, as inserted by the Localism Act 2011. The other ‘test’ is that explained in the Framework from paragraph 178 onwards, which is primarily concerned with the ‘positively prepared’ and ‘effectiveness’ soundness criteria mentioned in paragraph 182.

Therefore, for the purposes of the Exploratory Meeting the Inspector is solely concerned at this time with the first legal test under section 33A of the 2004 Act. The second Framework soundness criteria ‘test’ would be examined by him later as part of the hearings, should the Examination proceed.

The Council will be aware of the provisions of section 33A for the first legal test: – it is on preparation only; the requirement is to engage constructively and actively on an ongoing basis on strategic matters; it is to maximise the effectiveness of preparation; it must consider joint agreements or plans; and it must involve adjoining authorities and statutory consultees as defined in Regulation 4 of the Local Planning Regulations 2012. The Inspector will be asking himself whether the evidence shows that, within reason, all the various bodies have been given an adequate opportunity to influence the Plan; and that there have been serious discussions on the Core Strategy and its implications, and discussions on any outside implications that might affect the Core Strategy.

To do this, the Inspector will be looking for the forthcoming paper from the Council to show who was consulted, what that body was asked about, when it was asked, and how it was asked (e.g. meeting, letter, email); and through this the paper should explain how the section 33A requirements were met.

This should not be over-complicated or minutely detailed or too long. Other councils are also having to grapple with this legal duty and have produced supporting papers on it for their examinations. One such is Eastbourne’s (Submission Document CO9), which can be seen on the web link below. The Inspector gives this solely as one example (there are others) and he is not holding it up as a suitable template or an acceptable document which the Council should slavishly follow here. He merely gives this example in order to show that the task is not a difficult one.


If you have any queries, please let me know. The Inspector has asked me to place this letter on the web site for all representors to see, as it will no doubt assist everyone at the Exploratory Meeting.

Kate Henderson @KateTCPA – can the #NPPF be visionary and workable?

Public Service

The true test for the new National Planning Policy Framework will be whether it delivers genuinely sustainable places as well as economic growth, writes the Town and Country Planning Association’s chief executive Kate Henderson

The planning movement has been one of the most influential mechanisms for delivering sustainable development and social justice for over a century. It began as a visionary and progressive force, a movement which blended utopian garden cities with environmental protection and a radical idea about redistributing resources for ordinary people.

Many have argued though that in the last few decades planning has become increasingly bureaucratic as well as disconnected from local people. In response to this, the coalition government has set about a radical reform to the planning system with two primary goals; to shift power from the centre to the local and community level through the Localism Act and to promote economic growth though a series of deregulatory reforms to the planning system.

Last week saw the publication of the government’s National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF) which seeks to simplify and streamline planning policy. For the Town and Country Planning Association (TCPA), our key objective is to ensure that the new NPPF is both visionary and workable, delivering a strong and fair economy without undermining the quality of life of local people, or the environment.

… the final NPPF assuaged many …earlier fears by including a reference to the 2005 Sustainable Development Strategy definition, and along with a tightening up of the wording around the presumption in favour of sustainable development (including the removal of ‘the default answer to development being ‘yes’), it has re-asserted the plan-led system to decision making. It will sometimes be appropriate to develop on unprotected greenfield land and a robust definition of sustainable development should give local authorities the security they need to ensure that the right kind of development happens in the right place. Crucially, the local plan will now, more than ever, be the corner stone of decision making and local authorities should ensure they get their plans in place.

The NPPF also saw improvements to the language around Town Centre First policy and the preference towards brownfield development. On a first look, there did not appear to be any change on the Framework’s approach to tackling climate change, however, on further inspection it includes a footnote (16) which states that local authority approaches to adaptation and mitigation strategies should be in line with the provisions and objectives in the Climate Change Act 2008. While it is unclear at this stage what this might mean in practice for local authorities, it is an important hook for embedding approaches to tackling climate change. In particular, the Climate Change Act contains a target to reduce carbon emissions by 80 percent by 2050, from 1990 levels. [NB very important for renewbale energy applications and zoning]

However, the future of social and affordable housing provision has been left with greater uncertainty. In the new localised era, government have moved away from centralised target setting, but when combined with the emphasis on viability within the NPPF, it may be more challenging for councils to secure as much social and affordable housing as part of new developments.

If we are to meet the needs of a growing and ageing population, we have to reverse the shortage of affordable homes. The TCPA has welcomed the recognition in the NPPF of the benefits of planning new settlements or extensions to existing villages and towns that follow the principles of garden cities. The garden city vision combines the very best of town and country living to create healthy homes for working people in vibrant communities. The inclusion of this guidance provides a unique opportunity for councils to plan for new settlements which enhance the environment, provide high quality affordable housing and locally accessible.

Finally, the addition of transitional arrangements is welcome in helping to smooth the changeover from the old to the new system. For example, those local authorities with plans in place since 2004 [Not quite check latest PAS advice – saved policies too] will have 12 months to review their plans in light of the NPPF’s policies. In this time their existing plan will still take precedence. However, the range of scenarios that different local authorities will face (only half of local authorities have a plan in place) and the ambiguity over what conformity with the NPPF actually means in practice, means that at present there is likely to be confusion and possibly legal challenge in the coming months.

In short, the government has produced a new planning policy framework which has sufficiently moved on to meet the demands of those who wanted to see the environment given greater recognition while still retaining the pro-growth rhetoric. At the TCPA we will be working with our cross-sector membership to move from the policy debate into plan-making in practice. The key test for the NPPF will now be whether it delivers truly sustainable places and life styles as well as opportunities for new jobs and business.

The Masterplan is dead – long live the Temporary Autonomous Zone #PlanningBreakout #NPPF

A fascinating event at Ash Sakula  last night, and a good chance to catch up with some people I hadn’t seen in a decade, suburbanism and family life takes you away from urbanist chatter.

The theme of the Planning Breakout was with the balls in the air with the planning reforms how to catch them.  For many small practices this is critical as many sources of funding that took them through the recession have dried up.  The location is very appropriate for these austere times. Hatton Garden shops have cash for gold signs up.   Last time I was there was 20 years ago to buy an engagement ring for a statuesque Lithuanian beauty who broke my heart and really only wanted me for three things 😦  Ash Sakula’s offices remind you nothing so much as a haberdashery shop or do it your self hardware store with loads of little boxes of craft cupboard type materials all ready to do creative things with – very nice.  None of the anal crisp Canary Wharf type offices you find at the likes of  SOM, and it shows in the joy of the outputs. Its a probably unintended interior design theme they should push to its logical extent – and of course like architects do, do a manifesto to ride the Zeitgesit.  Many there of course loved nothing more than snooping around another practice’s offices much as the fascination of looking around other people’s homes.

The Ash Sakula Offices are the Fantastic Craft Cupboard for Midtown

Some of the talk though inspiring had this austerity make do and mend feel, with lines that could have come from a victorian self help manual. No longer great shining glass towers, but making best use of long life loose fit buildings.

A big theme, as it has been across the whole of the Urban Design community for a while is the ‘Masterplan is Dead’  well it isn’t dead but it isn’t the dominant thing it was.  Of course the great fundings streams, especially from regeneration bodies, have gone and of course far too many were vanity projects that did little but nark the local communities and bypassed local authorities who in many cases could have done better if they had the same resources to fund design expertise.  I can remember writing an article in Planning at least 15 years ago on how development frameworks are a much better fit than masterplans for many large regeneration projects and Im glad that this is the dominant theme in London now.  But of course for many projects with private funding – such as the revised one needed for Battersea Power Station – masterplans are still essential.  One problem with masterplans is they dont scale very well – certainly not above the multi- square kilometre range.

Take the largest cities around the world today, expanding at the 100,000+ dwellings a year range with virtually no design expertise for the scale of planning needed, to do much planning at all.  You simply cant ‘masterplan’ such expansion, there wont be enough hours in the day to do it and the rate of change is such will mean it will be largely ignored.  What is needed is a much looser ‘City Framework’ that just lays out the main roads and sewers and sets out generative rules on how to create great places in the gaps in between.

Kelvin Campbell of Urban Initiatives was hinting at that with a presentation that applied complexity theory and urban morphology theory to generative urbanism – a potent theoretical combination – and there are actually several planning systems around the world that do some of that – such as Germany.  Kevin really should write a book on his ideas.

What I felt was missing here was a cross fertilisation between this and the revolution of ideas in Landscape Architecture brought about by Ecosystems Services Thinking and Sustainable Design – I can see a conference/collection of papers book idea there – just needs a catchy theme – ‘Grow Your Own City’?

Tim Stonor of space syntax made a very powerful point when when he showed two slides of an identical urban form, a boulevard, one an interesting place – the Champs Elysyee and the other a dreadful landscape urbanism type space in Jeddah with nothing to stop off for along it.  He was making the point that its not just form but movement – and what kind of movement – movement by car spending money on petrol or movement by foot transacting in shops etc.  I asked him is Jeddah was the best example as (intraurban) boulevards dont work there but traditional medina spaces with natural overshadowing does, he agreed.  I wonder if pedestrian comfort measures is added to the Space Syntax method?  As Tim rightly said modelling matters.

I cover a fascinating talk on neighbourhood planning in mid Kent by Richard Eastham in a later post as I come from that part of the world and have a few observations.

There seemed to be some hope that neighbourhood planning would fill part of this masterplanning funding gap- sadly not, at least if people expect it from government the funding stream runs dry this coming financial year.

One of the themes about using the gaps and spaces awaiting construction was meanwhile uses and events/Temporary Urbanism.  Cany Ash showed a fantastic such project turning part of Canning Town into a great trading post over the April 1st Weekend celebrating the 40 cultures of its inhabitants.  I had visions of a spice trail from Canning Town to Woolwich with camels on the Woolwich ferry.  Very inspiring, long live the TAZ, with little more than a raiding of the craft cupboard, salvaging, and a few(not) bob spent down at B&Q.

How will planning cope with up to 20% cuts? #planorak

Planning has handled cuts before but not of the up to 20% variety in one year that many planning authorities now do, given that cuts in local government, unlike most of the rest of the public sector, are front loaded and not end loaded.

There was some hope of a rise in fees but that has been so delayed that Head of Planning are being forced to make budgets that include inevitable redundancies.

And the New Homes Bonus is of little help when housing completions are at there lowest level since the 1920s and planning departments get little of the non ring fenced funding.

Cuts of 5% or so could be handles through corporate efficiency savings, but these cuts will outpace that jobs will go.

Similarly the public sector wages freeze would mean that in an otherwise static real budget savings would be achieved in the proportion of budgets spent on wages, but again the pace of cuts outpace that.

And in most parts of the country outside London the fall in development means a fall in fee income.

The fall in income will mean the first think likely to go will be discretionary spending  as opposed to spending on statutory functions.  Things like development briefs, urban designers.regeneration work and local partnership working (not covered by the duty to cooperate).  Interesting Croydon gets it that these are the most important areas by actively recruiting in this area.

Facilitating Neighbourhood Planning is of course now a statutory duty but few authorities will do more than the minimum they have to – for fear of slowing down other local plan work as neighbourhood planning is so expensive.  Expect no overtime budgets for evening and weekend meetings and very few are going to be so foolish to attend these meetings pro-bono if they are in their own authority areas.  Of course this would also risk in some cases breaching the EU working time directive some planners already attending so many out of hours meetings and their health suffering for it.

So we are talking cuts to front-line services.  Plans being produced more slowly, planning applications being determined more slowly.

There is a risk of a return to the bad practice of simply refusing applications once the 8/13 week deadline hits.  Of course most heads of planning realise how dumb this is as appeals are time consuming and costly.  But there is an increased risk of appeals of non-determination if DM staffing levels fall.  It doesn’t take much if a cut in staffing to see backlogs created and mount very rapidly.

Of course many heads of planning or DM will be looking out for modern management techniques to increase throughput and remove bottlenecks – such as one of our favorite tools on here the Theory of Constraints (TOC) and the approaches – such as ‘Systems Thinking’ which apply it.  An example

‘im sorry my backlog is mounting up but there anrn’t enough hours in the day – I have cases ready to write up but no time, and letters to write but no time’

Both classic examples of a resource (people) constraint bottleneck under TOC.

One simple method to tackle this is to offer simple bonuses to ensure cases get written up faster and letters get written more quickly – such as a financial bonus for the number of cases written up and not rejected by the delegated officer.

But then the head of planning might say, hey I have no budget for that?  But what has happened is that the bottleneck has shifted from a resource constraint to a budget constraint – and the money is there.  Where – well the trick is to look at the lines of expenditure that would increase if the backlog increased – here it would be the appeals/legal budget.  In this case resources can be freed up by CUTTING the appeals budget.  This is counterintuitive but many companies have used an identical approach to improve productivity.  What happens is that because more cases go through the system with the bottleneck eased, and because most decisions are approvals, you get fewer appeals, so at the end of the financial year the budget you thought you needed you didn’t.  So start with a modest 10% funds transfer, and if that works increase it, and if the bottleneck shifts, which it always does, fix that.

Easter Weekend reading for Heads of Planning /Development Management/Policy

Commons Libary Note on Town Centres #NPPF #Portas

This note covers the debate over the way that the planning system protects retailers in the town centre by restricting supermarkets.

• Before the Election, the main debate was between two groups. Some wanted to retain the “needs test” so that consent was only granted for retail development if planners considered that more retail development was needed. Others, like the Competition Commission (CC), wishing to replace it by a competition test to ensure the approval of applications that would increase competition. The Labour Government replaced the needs test by an impact test.

• The Government announced it would retain the Town Centre First policy.

• The Government published the draft National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF) in July 2011. The NPPF will replace all Government planning guidance in April 2012. The impact and sequential tests are retained but the need test has not returned.

• The CLG Committee argued that the drafting of the NPPF would weaken the Town Centre First policy.

• Research at the LSE in 2011 suggests that restrictive planning policies have reduced productivity in the retail sector by 20%.

• The Prime Minister commissioned Mary Portas to write a review of the high street. The review in December 2011 called for the Secretary of State to have exceptional powers to sign off all new out of town developments.

• Other issues relating to supermarkets are covered in: Supermarkets: Competition Concerns (SN/BT/3653) and The Groceries Code Adjudicator (SN 6124).

• On 27 March 2012, DCLG published the final version of the National Planning Policy Framework. It came into effect immediately, superseding the 2011 draft and all other planning guidance (except on waste). This note (and several others) will be updated to take account of the new guidance as soon as possible, but it may take time to work out the implications of the new guidance. Until then, this note may contain statements that are superseded by the new guidance.