A Readers Guide to Unwin’s Town Planning in Practice – Part 12 – Building Bye Laws

Today we’ll cover the final chapter 12 of Raymond Unwin’s ‘ Town planning in practice; an introduction to the art of designing cities and suburbs‘  of 1909.

This chapter covers the same ground as his famous 1912 pamphlet ‘Nothing Gained by Overcrowding’ .

the English building bye-laws do not work altogether satisfactorily when considered from the point of view of good architecture. …the abrupt and arbitrary manner in which some of these regulations work has produced a type which is practically bye-law architecture.Forms are distorted ; the roof is exaggerated or depressed ; lines of space and height cut the buildings at awkward angles ; street corners are spoiled by spaces being left between the buildings just where it is important that they should be carried round in a continuous group…What is required is that we should give to our bye- laws something of that elastic character which belongs to natural restraints ; so that while the height of a building, for example, may be as strictly limited as at present, a little give and take, a little averaging of one part with another, may be permitted, and the rigid form which results from the present arbitrary rules may cease to be required.

Unwin continued on this theme of flexibility in regulation

The limitation of the number of houses to the acre ; the reservation of sites for probable public buildings or other requirements ; the proper distribution of works and factories ; and many other similar matters, will need to be brought under some public control if towns are to be adequately managed, and developed along the best lines. Upon many of these points it will be peculiarly difficult to frame regulations, so difficult that probably it will hardly be practicable, unless some means can be discovered of introducing the element of discretion and affording some opportunity for the individual case to be considered on its merits. Rules may be framed that will cover the majority of cases and work out satisfactorily, but there must arise in a minority of instances circumstances not allowed for in the regulations, where some special consideration is required. It is these few cases that cause nearly all the friction and outcry against bye-laws ; except, of course, the general outcry from jerrybuilders

Unusually for his time Unwin championed consultation on draft by laws, ensuring they were published free of charge and issues were ‘thoroughly ventilated’ in his terminology.

A particular concern for Unwin was building bye law on widths of streets designed as ‘a means of doing away with objectionable courts and narrow alleys’ but as he said ‘ but other and more direct means should be taken for dealing with these evils’.

Unwin was a great advocate of the German System where zonal design control was implemented rather than blanket district wide building controls, a system in Germany that still applies in essence to today.

At present, in England, bye-laws are usually adopted for a whole town, and any regulation which is deemed advisable in the most closely built up centre of the town applies equally to the most sparsely built areas on the outskirts. It is obvious that this must mean that either too little is secured for safety in the centre or needlessly much is required on the outskirts. In Germany towns are divided into zones or areas, and certain of the bye-laws apply to the inner zones only, while certain others vary for the different zones. The building plots are further divided into classes according to the use which is to be made of them, and very elaborate regulations are framed for these classes — fixing, for example, the proportion of a site to be left unbuilt-upon, which varies from one quarter of the site in some parts to two-thirds or more in other parts ; and in some of the zones and classes, only the land behind the building line is reckoned as unbuilt-upon land for determining this proportion. In the same way the maximum height of buildings is varied both for the different classes of site and in relation to the width of streets, and altogether the system enables the bye-laws to be adapted to the requirements of the particular districts of the towns with much greater exactitude than is possible in our country.



NFU – Food and Drink Now Britains 4th Largest Export Sector

As we have said on this site several times the Farming Sector, especially the CLA and far less so the NFU has been appalling at its own PR not always realising that claims with a sense of entitlement especially the th top tier of landowners in terms of wealth go down like a lead balloon with the public.  Some attempt at reversing that come from the latest NFU report ‘Farming Delivers’ and which is a good read.  As Peter Kendall NFU president in the forward states

the range of outputs expected of the industry has been widening. Farmers and growers are no longer simply producers of raw materials for the food industry. That is still an important role, especially in a period in which food security can only move up the list of national priorities, but to it have been added the imperatives of producing safe, high quality, sometimes local and organic food; of providing what are known as ‘eco-system services’, like landscape management, water quality and flood risk reduction; and of making a vital contribution to renewable energy supplies.

In the NFU, we decided that it was time to move on from explaining why farming matters to Britain, to measuring and recording the very real benefits
which farming delivers for Britain. In so doing, we wanted to move away from the inward looking yardstick of farm incomes as being the be-all and end-all of the industry’s success, to an outward-looking series of indicators measuring farming’s contribution to the economy, the environment, renewable energy, employment and careers and the security and quality of the nation’s food supplies.

Farming’s GVA totals £8.84 billion – or has seen an increase of 25 per cent last year. The report website is here.  The report is here

Deregulation agenda stalls green economy plan says Environmental Audit Committee

The HoC Elect Committee report published today

Joan Walley MP, Chair of the Environmental Audit Committee, said:

“The Treasury seems to see environmental regulations as nothing more than costly red-tape, but what we are talking about here are vital laws to give us clean air, safe food, and a thriving countryside. If this process reduces bureaucracy and improves outcomes, as the Government claims, then we will support it. But it would be irresponsible to get rid of sensible regulations in a desperate dash for growth and we will be watching Ministers very carefully on this.”

The MPs warn that the recent financial crisis has demonstrated the clear risks from such a market-led approach, particularly when markets do not reflect the value of the services provided by nature – such as clean fresh water, pollination of crops, etc. The reliance on consumer demand to stimulate the green economy is unlikely to work.

The Government needs to take a longer-term view driven by a clear definition of a green economy, according to the Environmental Audit Committee. The current definition adopted by the Government crucially does not address all three interdependent pillars of sustainable development, including the social pillar, well-being and environmental limits.

Hilton Briefed Against Cameron – So the ‘little Hungarian fascist’ wont be back then

Bruce Anderson at ConHome – the lesson here – dont expect a journalist not to welch on their source if the sourse is leaving the country.

Steve Hilton left his job at 10 Downing Street. Bruce Anderson reflects on the “highly divisive background briefing” – including claims of £25 billion in extra welfare cutsthe uselessness of the civil service and a ‘chillaxed’ style of premiership – that has been credited to the PM’s outgoing guru, all sourced from a series of valedictory lunches.

Steve Hilton had some outstanding qualities, which is just as well for him. Otherwise, a man who can also be so impossible could not have survived in any important role. David Cameron hired him, respected him and put up with him because of his creative energy. He has now rewarded his boss and close friend with one of the most despicable instances of disloyalty in political history. At this fraught juncture, serious people in No.10 have had to divert time and energy to refuting Mr Hilton’s poisonous and nonsensical briefings. As a Prime Ministerial advisor, he turned out to be a whining, egomaniacal perpetual adolescent.

It could have been so different. The oysters of government can benefit from infusions of grit. The team is better if it includes someone who is constantly trying to extend the frontiers of the possible. That should have been Steve’s role: the orchestrator of creative tension. But he failed. It was all tension and no creativity.

Government is difficult. It is not like driving a small motor-boat around a sheltered harbour. It is much more a case of steering a vast super-tanker through narrow waters, in darkness, when the charts no longer seem to give a clear picture of the rocks ahead. In this hazardous voyage, the civil service has a crucial role, as the custodian of risk-averseness. Civil servants have the job of pointing out difficulties; frequently, of telling ministers what they do not want to hear. Dealing with really good civil servants in a cautious mood can be like stuffing newspaper through wire mesh, but there is a consolation. Once a policy has been argued over and hammered out and drafted by a conclave of intelligent and determined minsters plus their very able advisors, it should stand up to the buffets and storms of the outside world. If the Minister’s nerve fails, there are only two conclusions. Either the policy is no good, or the Minister is no good – or, of course, both.

Policy is not to be confused with fantasy, which was Steve’s endemic problem. It is simply no use suggesting a course of action that would involve the Prime Minister in breaking the law. Nor is there any point in proposing to abolish the civil service.Partly because the Labour government spent thirteen years in demoralising them, many civil servants are not functioning properly. In some areas, there has been a failure of leadership. But that cannot be rectified by witless denigration.In government, everything needs to be thought through. The major tasks must be approached in the spirit of Montgomery planning a battle and a victory, not of Prince Rupert taking a punt on a cavalry charge. Steve would come up with a scheme. People would tell him why it would not work. Instead of trying to deal with the objections, Steve would sulk. Then articles would appear claiming that the Hilton proposals would go ahead. At the beginning, Steve was a good friend of George Osborne’s as well as David Cameron’s. By the end, Mr Osborne had become terminally exasperated…

The PM tolerated this for three reasons. First, he never saw the worst aspects of Steve’s behaviour. Second, David Cameron knows himself to be an inveterate English pragmatist. At least in private, most Prime Ministers indulge in ‘what if’ moments, thinking wistfully what it would be like if the constraints of reality were less burdensome. Not Mr Cameron: he is a consummate realist. So the attraction of an absolute romantic, especially one from such an extraordinary background, is easy to understand. David Cameron would refer to Steve as the little Hungarian fascist; it was meant affectionately. Finally, with all faults, as they would say in the antiquarian book-trade, Steve is likeable.

But he has behaved so badly. He has let everybody down: his colleagues, his friend the Prime Minister – and himself. His reputation does not deserve to recover. If you are in his job, there should be a bond of absolute loyalty. If he disagreed with what was happening, he had any amount of access to the PM to make his own case. If he still found the situation intolerable, his duty was clear: to resign. Instead, he has created a myth: that there was a radical moment in which David Cameron could have transformed the country, if only he had listened to Steve Hilton. There was never a radical moment. There has merely been a radical two years. Health, education and welfare: British social policy has been transformed, with little input from Steve. To be fair, he did fling himself into one major initiative: the Big Society. Two years later – no-one knows what it means.

It is still not clear why exactly he has gone to California. He has let the world know that he was fed up with the government. As he is also uxorious and devoted to his small children, he hated being so separated from his family. Would he have left Downing Street if he had been less disillusioned? It is probably impossible to tell.

But he should feel at home in his new surroundings. His children are at the age when they start chucking toys out of the pram. So Steve will be able to chuckle delightedly and say: “That’s what Daddy used to do, when he worked for the Prime Minister”.