Graeme Bell – Turn Heathrow into a Garden City

Peter Hall and Tony Hall suggested this a decade ago good to see it revived.  The design is very 2nd generation new town naff though.  All radburny neighbourhoods dispersed not connected and no relation of the housing density to the existing tube, whilst the open space is just one extended urban fringe with little attempt apart from the water features (which dont work at this scale look at the national mall in Washington) to create a sense of drama or the picturesque.  Also the road layout in impractical for many reasons with local roads connecting the national road network to local distributors.  The roads sinuate without purpose and no attempt to create vistas. 30,000 residents!  Come on a site with 3 tube stations can take over 2o0,000.  Nice idea Graham but not a practical urban design.

Evening Standard

Heathrow’s runways and terminals should be bulldozed to make way for a “garden city”, says a new report to be published tomorrow.

Former government adviser Graeme Bell said it was time to “reinvent” the site that is increasingly ill-suited to the needs of a modern hub airport.

Airline bosses prefer a third runway at Heathrow to solve London’s capacity crisis rather than a disruptive shift.

But Mr Bell is in favour of a new airport elsewhere, possibly the Thames Estuary. Many experts believe that would only be viable if Heathrow, which supports 250,000 jobs, was closed down.

Mr Bell said the five square mile airport site would be the perfect location for a new sustainable community of more than 30,000 residents in the traditions of Hampstead Garden Suburb and Welwyn Garden City.

The senior planning chief said the demolition of Heathrow, which started life as Harmondsworth Aerodrome in 1930, could provide “the biggest redevelopment site in Europe”.

His 16-page paper Heathrow Garden City by the Town and Country Planning Association, foresees four low-density garden suburbs with “allotments, community gardens and orchards” of about 5,000 people each and two urban villages of about 10,000 in total. As well as homes, it would have shops and offices that would make it a “west London counterpoint to Canary Wharf” and an educational campus based at the Terminal 5 building, the only structure that would definitely be kept.

There would also be 1,000 acres of parkland — roughly the same as Regent’s Park, Hyde Park and Kensington Gardens put together — and 86 acres of open water, more than three times the size of the Serpentine. The garden city would be served by the four existing railway stations and a new Crossrail station.

Mr Bell, currently director of planning for Devon county council, said he was inspired to draw up his vision when he drove to pick up a friend from Heathrow.

He said: “Rather than park in a BAA car park, which costs an arm and a leg, I decided to park in one of the streets off the A4 close to the end of one of the runways. I was aware of the colossal noise when planes were taking off and the awful smell. It really can’t be doing you any good to live with that noise and smell. I thought, ‘This is a really bad use of a piece of land inside the M25.’ Airports ought to be accessible but outside the city limits.”

Mr Bell said he had not costed Heathrow Garden City but said the huge development value of the site would make it financially viable.

Death in Fake Venice – How a Critical Design Fault may have led to death of 19 (13 children)

The Middle East may have some of the most opulent and extravagant buildings in the world but it also has some of the latest construction standards in terms of fire safety, often ignored in the rush to build.

The Villagio Qatar  Mall is a classic example of opulence, its Venetian themes gives it a grand canal at its centre, 220 stores,  360 000 sqm of retail GFA, Marks and Spencer, Next and Lois Vuitton as well as an incredible footfall for the region (where malls are often near deserted due to oversupply) of 42,000 per day.

Yet this morning around 11.00am a major fire break out close to Entrance three.  Reports from social media suggesting casualties were quickly dismissed however it is now confirmed that there were 19 deaths, including 13 children (including 3 triplets), 2 nursery supervisors and 2 firefighters.

Why was the causality rate so high.  Looking at the mall plans you can immediately see a number of key design faults in terms of means of escape.

We know the fire broke out near gate 3 and two major stores were gutted.  These were likely to be the Masimo and Zara stores flanking the entrance from the TV images.

The major source of casualties was the Gyampanzee children’s play area (B91 on the map) which despite being a high risk play area for children has no direct means of escape the nearest fire exist being over a ‘bridge’ over the ‘grand canal’ and out onto the service yard.  Many would I imagine attempt to pass down the cramped alleys next to the canal where the direct means of escape would be directly to the source of the fire gate three and the better gate 4 being a long dogleg away.  Smoke would have quickly filled the area.  As an open plan mall there are no fire doors.  The poor children didnt stand a chance.

Comparing to British Regulations – and Part E of the building regs has a special section for enclosed shopping centres with malls, you will see dozens of breaches.  In particular I would stress E7.8

Every crèche provided within an enclosed shopping centre with a mall must be designed so that it is –

c. located adjacent to an external wall and has at least 2 exits, one of which must be directly to a place of safety.

No one seems to be owning up to be its architect, however whoever it was should deserve a jail sentence.

Update:  We now learn there was no sprinklers or smoke alarms at the mall – incredible.

Teignbridge Reduce Housing Targets by 32% since 2010 #NPPF – The Laughable Results when Cllrs do Forecasts

Teignbridge consulted on  Plan Teignbridge, between January and March this year, determined a need for 14,800 new homes over 20 years from 2013-2033. This was based on a previous Strategic Housing Market Assessment (SHMA) produced in 2010.

As you might expect in Devon this produced some opposition and so ‘Opinion Research Services’ were hired to produce update the 2010 study (which covered the wider Exeter City and Sub region), with new analysis using the latest ONS data of the earlier interviews, this recommended 12,400 homes over 20 years, an Overview and Scrutiny Committee tasked to review it instead rejected its recommendations and opted for the suspiciously round figure of 10,000 units over 20 years.

A powerpoint presentation by four cllrs on the scrutiny committee asks:

Do we really need 12,400 new homes ? –more than double last 5 years completion rate

They consider that with the latest ONS migration numbers the ORS figures are too high.

But they seem to have made a number of very basic errors in their amateurish assessment.

Firstly as the ORS study says:

The number of migrant persons leaving Torbay for Teignbridge has fallen in recent years. However, the number of migrants leaving Teignbridge for Torbay has risen in recent in the past two years. It is difficult to claim this as a long-term trend, but the increased migration to Torbay may reflect housing pressures in Teignbridge.

It is also noteworthy that recent dwelling completions in Teignbridge have average 354 units per annum, well below the growth identified in any set of household projection. It is difficult to ascertain with confidence, but this low level of dwelling delivery may have played a role in the slight rise in the number of people leaving Teignbridge as households struggle to compete in the local housing market with in-migrants.

In looking at one small area and not the entire housing market, and by failing to reconcile the flow data both within the region and nationally the Cllrs have committed many classic demographic & statistical cock ups (such as interesting a fall in a response rate of 6 to 4 over a five year survey as statistically significant, the list goes on and on and on)  which will likely be torn apart at the EiP, if the plan ever gets to submission with this silly number.  In particular the Cllrs from their presentation did not seem to understand the difference between household formation and population forecasting (adding households and population together in one rotfl slide)  and projected that the economy and housing market would continue to flatline for the next 20 years!!!

This case like so many others shows how dodgy interpretation of data under ‘localism’ is not substitute for rational allocation of housing numbers across a housing market sub area.  Indeed where is the duty to coperate agreements with all the other authorities now expected to take the changes in migrations assumptions from the RSS.  670 units for example with London would go down by around 127, have they got signed agreement with the Mayor of London under the Duty to Cooperate for the extra housing 270 housing units needed in London from the people in London who will no longer move to Teignbridge because Local Cllrs want to build nearly a 1/3rd less housing?  And so it goes with dozens of other LPAs  What is every authority in the country did this?  Believe me many are trying.

The Cllrs reject the ORS study as unsound (despite endorsing it only months ago – because its ‘complex formula’ is not transparent.

Here is the ORS formula

Housing Requirement =Housing Supply =Net Housing Requirement =Established Households +New Households +In-migrant Households
Housing Supply =Established Households +Household Dissolution +Out-migrant Households
New Housing Requirement=Gross Housing Requirement -Housing Supply

All rather simple but a little too complicated for these 4 cllrs who instead did their own back of the enveleope calculation without any proper balancing of stocks and flows, attempting to forecast foreward the great recession by 20 years and ingnoring evidence that shifts in migration is due to local housing becoming less affordable due to squeezed local budgets rather than more.

The biggest problem though is trying to make accurate predictions from the new ONS hyperlocal migration assumptions, that simply doesn’t work.  They are based on GP registrations and  many migrants wont register with a GP, especailly if it is a second home.




Why the Shepherd Bush Market DPD quashed?

Sadly not clear from the planning resource piece what the reasons are for the DPD being overturned

From the Golhawk Road Traders Press Release:

  1. That its decision was procedurally flawed in that it failed to follow the proper procedure for adopting a Development Planning Document (DPD).
  2. It is procedurally flawed in that adopting a document that was a DPD failed to conduct a sustainability assessment.
  3. Whether or not the document was a DPD or an SPD the decision to adopt it on 27 October 2010 was procedurally flawed because it failed to apply its mind to whether an environmental assessment was required before adopting it, pursuant to the 2004 Environmental Assessment Regulations.

Michael Webster, a Partner in the firm of Webster Dixon representing the Claimants states “the decision of Mr Justice Wilkie is a damning indictment of the Council’s planning practices and procedures; even one of the grounds would have been enough to quash the decision however the Judge found in our favour on three grounds. Despite several warnings the Council continued to plough on with their unlawful policy of the regeneration of the market. In our view the purpose of the regeneration was not the market itself but the development of 200 flats for which the developer Orion stands to make millions of pounds. The Council has in reality used the SPD procedure to prepare a policy which ought properly to have been subjected to a more detailed examination and public scrutiny, circumventing the more time consuming and expensive procedures attached to DPDs and its adoption is as a consequence, unlawful. The Council should now reconsider its position to ensure that it complies with its lawful obligations to allow proper public scrutiny and consultation of its regeneration policies.”

What are we looking at? The Selective Release of Architectural Imagery

There is an increasing trend in the staged release of architectural imagery on major projects before submitting planning applications.  Thankfully we are well past the helicopter imagery age dominated by images from viewpoints few would ever see and of architectural models that give little sense of scale or views at street level.

The trend is a welcome focus on street level views, especially of the animated public spaces within a scheme and vistas and links opened up.  A classic example being the release of images for PLP Architecture’s project to redevelop Sampson House and Ludgate House in AJ, what will the scheme look like from across the Thames, no idea.  There are many other examples, perhaps the most breathtaking was the recent exhibition for the redevelopment of Sainsbury’s at Vauxhall – an exhibition focussing on reopened railway arches and ground floor active frontage uses but giving no clue as to the height of the towers on top, and at a riverside site.

The aim clearly is part of the PR/Engagement strategy for the site.  Release images of ‘urban design goodies’ first to get people exited, new open spaces, dramatic new views, life breathed back etc.  Do those images say much if anything about the overall site vision, architectural concept, how it will look from middleground views, is massing and form – no.  So we have imagery of streetscape but not wider urban design – let alone architecture.  So im setting a new rule on here which in vain I hope the professional press follow, not to publish images of schemes which dont allow you to form some impression in your mind of what you are looking at in terms of the form of the project in space. A 30 second sketch on the back of a napkin can allow you to do that – thats all we need, as in the recent skecths for Battersea Power Station for Chelsea, which showed that a large part of the pitch will spill over onto an adjoining waste and concrete wharf in different ownership showing straight away the scheme was a non starter unless it bought and shifted them.

Massive Hong Kong Land Reclamation Plan Condemned as Unnecessary – Guardian


The plan is part of a broader aim to create 1,500 hectares of land to provide homes and land space for millions more people. The planners talk of creating 25 islands and waterfront extensions of hundreds of hectares each. They would dump concrete in the sea to join up islands where weekend sailors see porpoises and turtles, and wipe out natural pebble and sand beaches.

Hong Kong reclamation sites

Thousands have signed petitions against the plans. Experts on population, environment, urban design and sustainability say that instead of creating new lifestyles for residents, the plans will allow the government to save the cost of shipping waste to China and garner huge profits from land sales….

The government’s civil engineering and development department(Cedd), which refused to be interviewed, says it is merely seeking public opinion on the best way to meet future development needs. It issued a brochure suggesting that new land could be created at 25 locations outside Hong Kong’s central harbour area, which is protected from development by law. It embarked on a “public engagement process”, in which the plan was outlined at seminars and exhibitions. Responses are being analysed with a view to shortening the list of 25 sites down to 10.

The trouble, says a range of experts, is that the department’s assumptions are wrong, its reasoning faulty, and the process flawed. Take the Cedd’s claim that Hong Kong’s population (of 6.9 million) will reach 8.9 million by 2039. “I don’t believe it,” said Prof Paul Yip, Hong Kong’s top demographer, from the University of Hong Kong’s department of social work and social administration.

Hong Kong has one of the lowest fertility rates in the world, at 1.04%, and a rapidly ageing population. The daily quota for 150 new migrants from mainland China is rarely full. Without a massive inward migration programme it is hard to see how it could produce such significant population growth.

As for the need for new land, the countryside is already scarred by storage of shipping containers and old factory areas are left to rot. The government has admitted that 200,000 flats are standing empty; more than 5,000 hectares of other land has also been identified for rezoning.

“Reclamation should be the last resort,” said Roy Tam Hoi-pong, chairman of environmental pressure group Green Sense. The Hong Kong Institute of Planners says that reclamation “at an appropriate scale and level of overall sustainability is a possible option” but warns that study of a large number of criteria, including environmental and ecological, is necessary.

“The identification of 25 sites, prematurely released and belatedly presented, is confusing … ‘island’ sites in particular are extremely unlikely to be viable,” it said in a submission to the government.

Government sources the Cedd’s plan was a surprise to policy units usually involved in such significant planning processes. A 2007 government study called Hong Kong 2030 stressed the need for a more sustainable quality of life and warned against rampant reclamation.

“We’re suffering from a lack of decision-making,” said Peter Cookson Smith, architect, urban planner and president of the Institute of Planners.

Some allege a broader lack of vision, saying Hong Kong’s land needs depend on its future relationship to the mainland. The border between the two different jurisdictions is becoming more porous, which is partly why mainland Chinese feel less need to live in more expensive Hong Kong. It also raises questions about why Hong Kong should build more land, when there is the huge space of China next door. For Barretto, the most disturbing aspect of the 25-site plan is that the government appears to have forgotten, or thrown out, the most basic principles of international practice for sustainable planning.

After researching the figures, local commentator Tom Holland said: “It’s hard to conclude anything except that the planners and their construction industry cronies have run completely amok, crazed by the prospect of getting their hands on the government’s huge fiscal reserves, and using them to build ever more grandiose, expensive and unneeded civil engineering projects. They need to be stopped.”

Hong Kong’s reclamation tradition

When British and other foreign traders’ ships first sought safe harbour in Hong Kong in the 1840s, the island offered a mere strip of flat land which rose precipitously to the 550-metre peak. Reclamation – taking land from the sea – was envisaged from the start.

Begun in 1889, the first major project added almost 4.5 hectares of new land, creating what is now called Central, the primary business district A subsequent reclamation of what is now called Wanchai added another 4.8 hectares.

Since then, Hong Kong has grown exponentially. The government has been creating 500-700 hectares of land every five years, until 2005 when new environmental awareness and legal sanction cut the growth back to under 100 hectares over five years.

As of early 2011, about 6% of land in Hong Kong (6,824 hectares) has come from reclamation, the government says.

Traditionally, reclamation has been done by dredging, using rock and sand fill and taking out mud that could not be built upon. New techniques involve the use of large concrete blocks. This involves less dumping of mud, and makes better use of existing construction waste. Engineers say it also provides more stable land.

Hong Kong’s international airport was built on new land made by taking marine mud away. If a third runway is agreed, the new land it will require will almost certainly involve the use of construction waste.