Salford’s Hot Food Near Schools Ban – A Nanny State Policy Without an Evidence Base

They justify their new SPD – restricting such uses within 400m of schools unless they only open after school hours

A 2008 report from the Nutrition Policy Unit of London Metropolitan University found that food outlets in close proximity to, and surrounding schools were an obstacle to secondary school children eating healthily. Both the Chartered Institute for Environmental Health

The problem is this research is totally discredited, and foillowing the recent windfarms case policies without supporting evidence are illeagal, I repeat from Jan on this blog

There is no dispute that public health is an important material planning consideration – the work of HUDU has been very important in raising, rightly, its profile. There is also no dispute that spatial proximity of one use to another – and the impact of one use on another is the very foundation of planning.

There are many issues relating to spatial proximity that are material however which will not besignificant enough to weigh in planning judgement, that is even before any national policy which determines the weight to be given to the application as opposed to other matters. For example proximity of a housing scheme to an SPA would me material in planning terms because of the likelihood of visitors, however the scheme might be far enough away as to not be significant. It is the significance of one marginal extra A5 use which is the issue.

In a densely built up urban area like Tower Hamlets there is likely already to be many many A5 outlets close to schools. Indeed a mapping exercise of fast-food outlets in Tower Hamlets, undertaken by Tower Hamlets in partnership with the Food Policy Unit at City University, found that there were 627 fast-food outlets, newsagents and groceries and that there were 42 junk food outlets (including fast-food restaurants and cold food outlets) per school in Tower Hamlets. So here we are talking about the marginal impact of the 43rd use, how big an impact will that have?

How far are these uses from schools? Tower Hamlets is so built up you hardly find any outlet which is more than 400m from a school, and so they apply a 200m threshold covering about half the Borough . An arbitrary figure which seems more policy based evidence (to avoid an unreasonable blanket ban) rather than evidence based policy.

So lets look at the evidence. The Tower Hamlets partnership commissioned a study from Public Health consultants Dr Foster together with Land Use Consultants.

There are four issues with any piece of research aiming to show geographical public health impacts sufficient to refuse a scheme:

  1. Is the result statistically significant;
  2. Is the strength of the effect significant;
  3. Would the effect of a restrictive policy have negative significant effects?

The first two issues are often confused. A result might be statistically significant because of a large sample size but the effect might be very low in strength (to the extent of not worth bothering about. I am troubled by the Dr Fosters/LUC study because it makes no attempt to prise out the different aspects of significance, all it is is a literature review with very unclear results.

For example an extract:

The same study that found associations between eating fast-food and a high BMI also found that proximity of fast-food restaurants to either home or work was not causally related either to eating at fast-food restaurants or to higher BMIs. (Marmot (2010) op. cit.; Cummins and Macintyre (2006) “Measuring outcomes from active transport interventions for children”, inInternational Journal of Epidemiology, 25, p100-104)

Research published only this year has found no correlation between the proximity of fast-food takeaways to schools and childhood obesity (although it should be noted that this was based solely on a ‘buffer zone’ of 800 metres, with no analysis apparent at the 400 or 200 metre level). (Currieet al. (2010) “The effect of fast-food restaurants on obesity and weight gain” inAmerican Economic Journal: Economic Policy, 2:3, p32-63)

Another American study found that, while proximity to food stores impacted on dietary intake and weight, proximity to restaurants (including fast-food outlets) did not. (Howard, Fitzpatrick and Fulfrost (2011) “Proximity of food retailers to schools and rates of overweight ninth grade students: an ecological study in California” in BMC Public Health, 11:68)

Another UK study found no independent relationship between indicators of healthier eating and the local retail environment. (Pearson et al. (2005) “Do ‘food deserts’ influence fruit and vegetable consumption? A cross-sectional study”, in Appetite, 45, pp195-197)

Now the literature review did include other studies which showed a small but statistically significant effect but the literature review overall is entirely unclear and not firm enough to base ANY planning policy changes on.

Furthermore a look at the research showing a small positive correlation between concentration of fast food outlets and obesity shows that it does not correct for the effects of spatial autocorrelation – I have a special filing cabinet for such studies as I have said many times, my waste paper basket. What do I mean by this? That the studies fail to correct for other factors which may cause obesity. For example dense urban areas are more likely to have concentrations of deprived ethnic minorities, the dietary habits of which may create risks of obesity – such as for example as is likely in Tower Hamlets a diet with large doses of clarified butter. Also densely developed urban areas have large amounts of schools which will automatically create a population which may be prone to obesity before any issue of fast food outlets arises.

But even if a correlation is shown the effect is likely to be very small. For example in Tower Hamlets only 1 in 5 uses a fast food takeaway more than once a week, so here we are talking about the marginal effect of the 43rd use on 1/5th of the population – very small.

If that extra 44th use which restricted what would children do, as likely as not they would simply walk a few extra metres to the next nearest use. As local competition would be restricted they might also pay more, and having to walk further may be late after lunch.

None of this is to suggest that obesity amongst children and teenagers is not important or that there is no correlation between proximity and consumption. This is not the kind of liberatarian rant you got at Mayor Bloomberg’s proposal to restrict go large coke sizes. Rather I am simply suggesting this policy falls way below the normal thresholds for incorporation of public health issues into regulatory policy.

If you really want to impose a policy which is shown to have positive public health outco0mes you make a product so expensive and so infrequently available that you control consumption. The classic model being state alchohol sale monopolies as in Sweden and India (and historically some Candadian states). There is wealth of evidence that this restricts consumption – though little on the difference between the price effect and the proximity effect. Diane Abbot hints at movement in this direction with her remarks on local shops sales. Do we really want to go down that illiberal route especially as it would harm greatly the viability of so many (ofrten ethic minority owned) small shops.

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‘the Downing Street consensus is that planning reform is dead this side of 2015’ Telegraph

Isabel Hardman

Were Help to Buy a schoolchild, it would be standing forlornly at the edge of the playground, the last to be picked for the netball team. The Government guarantee for mortgages with a high loan-to-value ratio is now the Billy No Mates of policies.

George Osborne said that Help to Buy would meet “the most human of aspirations”, but right from the start, the scheme found few avid supporters, even in the Conservative Party. In recent weeks, those monitoring the UK economy have been lining up to criticise it, from the International Monetary Fund to the Council of Mortgage Lenders and the Governor of the Bank of England. When the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development joined the opposing team this week, Help to Buy started to look very lonely indeed.

Like the IMF, the OECD said the scheme would push up house prices, because insufficient numbers of new homes are being built. Indeed, the latest figures for England show that construction got under way on only 101,920 new homes in 2012/13, when economists estimate that at least 250,000 are needed each year.

Such a shortfall may come as a surprise, given that restrictive planning laws were supposed to have been relaxed earlier this year to create a building boom. But despite the furore those planning reforms caused, they have had little immediate effect beyond aggravating homeowners. The laws in this country still assume that communities will welcome a field being covered in new homes in the same way they did in the Sixties. But people, rightly, don’t just accept new development any more.

Nor do the reforms give residents a say over the sort of construction that is allowed. Meanwhile, the Government continues to push new housing through on appeal, piecemeal style, rather than in consultation with the community. No wonder so many are feeling a little Nimbyish.

So what can be done? Well, the Treasury lists a number of people who support Help to Buy who aren’t called George Osborne; they are developers such as Berkeley and their representatives at the Home Builders Federation. But there’s no point in making it easier to buy if there’s nothing to buy. And though the Government could have responded to the wise words of the OECD and the IMF about a lack of supply, it isn’t going to. It seems its strategy for mortgage finance is too ambitious, while its strategy for planning reform isn’t ambitious enough.

Treasury sources insist “we’ve got lots done, there’s more development in the pipeline, but there are no plans for more reform”. This initially sounds odd because last summer there was quite a hoo-ha over reports that the reviled National Planning Policy Framework might be rewritten. The Treasury even succeeded in getting the talented Nick Boles into the Department for Communities and Local Government as what other ministers called “Osborne’s spy”. He wasn’t very covert, talking to various newspapers to argue for more housing. But since then, there has been precious little movement and not much more building.

The mood has changed, and the leadership feels hamstrung. It believes that to ask anything more from Conservative MPs – already under the cosh from grassroots members over unwanted development – would cause uproar. A recent Commons revolt on rather minor plans to wave through more extensions and conservatories convinced ministers to rewrite those proposals. It appears they wrongly read the row as a sign that Tory MPs had reached their limit over the liberalisation of the planning system; the real problem was that these reforms had very little to do with giving local people a say and more to do with sparking wars between neighbours. And all the while, Ukip is using local planning rows to hoover up Tory malcontents, which makes backbenchers even more nervous.

So the Downing Street consensus is that planning reform is dead this side of 2015. “At which point we can go back to the party and ask them for more, as they’ll see the need by then,” says one senior figure. This approach assumes, of course, that the Tories will be in government after 2015.

There are some tweaks ministers could do now, if they were feeling brave. They could remove those rules that prevent locals having a say, or encourage more self-build, which is the antidote to developers imposing their unattractive rabbit hutches on unsuspecting villagers.

But there’s no appetite for this. Which is a shame, because the political mood has turned against the development of more suitable, affordable homes not because Conservative voters oppose young families clambering on the housing ladder, but because it was a botch job from the off.

Instead of answering that most human of aspirations, the Government has offered a lesson in how to lose friends and alienate people.

Row as York Keeps its SHMA Secret – Despite Agreeing local Plan

The Press York

THE Government has told York’s leaders to be “open and transparent” about their city vision or face a public backlash, as a secrecy row intensifies.

The Liberal Democrats and Labour have clashed over the latter’s refusal to make public a consultants’ report, which is said to have been used to justify controversial housing plans.

Labour wants to build 22,000 new homes in York by 2030 and has outlined its proposals in the draft Local Plan. But they say the report by the consultants, Arup, can remain secret for now because it is only a draft report. New laws introduced last year say any background papers on key decisions must be made public.

Lib Dem councillorNigel Ayre said residents were being “treated with contempt” and said the council may have “a legal as well as a moral case to answer”.

He said: “It is a scandal that the publication of this taxpayer-funded report, which is cited as key evidence and should have been published before the cabinet decision was taken to support the draft Local Plan, is still being delayed.”

The Lib Dems are now considering taking the matter to the Local Government Ombudsman. They questioned making key decisions on the basis of a draft document and said a request to council officials and a Freedom of Information Act request had been rejected.

“Decisions about what goes into these plans should be open and transparent, including the evidence being used. If local people feel this isn’t the case, they should hold their council to account.”

Andy Docherty, the council’s assistant director of governance, said the authority recognised its legal duty to publish such papers, but said: “Any documents which are only in draft form are ‘excluded’ from this requirement.

“The Arup report is not classed as a background document because it is in draft form. All documents related to the Local Plan will be published as part of the consultation starting on June 5.”

The Labour-run council has launched a public consultation on the plans.

The Local Authorities (Executive Arrangements) (Meetings and Access to Information) regulations state “background papers must be available for public inspection” and it is illegal for councils to withhold them except in “special cases”.

Former council leader Steve Galloway said the exceptions did not apply as the Arup report was intended for publication, and said it was “not good enough” for it to be published after a decision had been made.

No the Negro DGSE model does not Predict the Great Recession

A great deal of chatter on the blogosphere on a paper by Negro, Giannoni and Schorfheide  of the NY Fed that DGSE can predict the great recession.  Noahopinion discusses it the day after he mused about what use was DGSE.

What they do is take the most well known New Keynsian model Smets-Wouters (2007) New Keynesian model and add on the  the “financial accelerator” model of Bernanke, Gertler, and Gilchrist (1999).  In the Financial Accelerator model credit shocks transmit through the real economy through amongst other reasons undermining the value of collatoral.

Both Noah and Mark Thoma’s reaction is ‘pah’ we could have predicted the Great Recession all along, we knew how we just didnt put two and two together’.  But the Negro et al. is not a ‘forecast’  had they had the model in  2007 they would not have predicted the Great Recession.  This quite apart from the criticism made by some commentators that they have engaged in post-hoc calibration of parameters to fit the result.  I don’t make that accusation simply that the result forecasts nothing because their baseline data

begin[s]  by estimating the DSGE model… based on macroeconomic data from 1964:Q1 to 2008:Q3. ..A forecaster in the fourth quarter of 2008 would have observed the Lehman collapse and have had access to current-quarter information on the federal funds rate and the spread (pg 13)

That is they take a pre-existing credit shock and project its results forward.  If the Credit Accelerator theory is correct then it is no surprise that the results are broadly accurate.  What the model does not do and cannot do is predict the causes of the Lehman collapse, the financial conditions that caused the ‘shock’ and overall fragility in the system (implicit in the baseline data).  In other words as a predictor of the recession it has no value, as a predictor of events AFTER the commencement of the great recession it has some value.

So we are back in the mathematical dark ages introduced to Economics by Friusch, where steady cycles can only be disturbed by ‘Shocks’ – such as too many people going on holiday at once.  The rest of the applied mathematical modelling community has long abandoned this approach for a systems dynamics based approach where modelling of state can create limit cycles and chaotic breakdown of stable systems  (see this paper for the mistake Frisch made in criticising Kalecki’s dynamics).

Moreover even if the Financial Accelerator theory is correct the DGSE approach cannot tell us about the direction and strength of causation.  This Bayoumi and Darius paper argues convincingly

instead of changes in the value of wealth driving bank lending, our empirical results imply that in general changes in willingness of banks to lend (often associated with changes in bank capital used to provide a cushion against lending) drive wealth.

So get over DGSE and properly model mathematical state, including net credit and debt of agents.  Mark and Noah, get around to reading some Wyne Godley and begin to understand why such stock-flow consistent models did predict the great recession.

Now the EU criticises the Green Belt

Here para 11.

Playing to UKIP  – Help to Buy also gets a predicable bashing

The government has taken action to reform the spatial planning laws but residential construction remains at a low level and the planning system, including green belt restrictions, continues to be an important constraint on the supply of housing. Government interventions that stimulate housing demand more than supply,
including the recently announced Help to Buy scheme could potentially exacerbate this situation by increasing house prices and household debt.

Recommendations on page 7

Take further action to increase housing supply, including through further liberalisation of spatial planning laws and an efficient operation of the planning system. Ensure that housing policy, including the Help to Buy scheme does not encourage excessive mortgage lending; and lead to higher house prices. Pursue reforms to land and property taxation to reduce distortions and promote timely residential construction. Take steps to improve the legal framework of rental markets, in particular by making longer rental terms more attractive to both tenants and landlords.

That really worked in Spain and Ireland didnt it.

Civic Voice calls for Smart Growth

Civic Voice

“We have been clear all along that the Government’s approach to sustainable development must balance economic, environmental and social issues more equally in order for communities to be able to secure the development that meet their needs. Quite simply, the Minister should allow the changes to the National Planning Policy Framework to take effect before suggesting other concepts”.

“Developers will always chase low density, greenfield development regardless of the environmental and social consequences because that is what makes them the most profit. A strong planning system based on a smart growth approach is needed to ensure top-quality homes, built to the highest standards are located in the right places, with the support of the community. The Planning system is not stopping house building; it is an inability of people to access affordable mortgages from the banking sector that is the real issue”.

The Planning Minister made his comments “Building houses will create more ‘human happiness’ than preserving fields” in an interview with the Daily Mail http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2331847/Houses-better-green-fields-Ministers-explosive-claim-unveils-new-plans-concrete-countryside.html

Paula Ridley finished by saying “The Minister needs to focus on keeping our cities alive, and preserve our countryside through smart growth. Good quality, high density housing schemes on brownfield sites should be the priority.”

Civic Voice believes the planning system has untapped potential to engage people in becoming more actively involved in their community as well as managing land use change and development for the widest public good. It combines vision with necessary regulation and plays a critical role in protecting and improving the quality of local places. That is why we are recommending that Government try and find more ways to harness local support – in addition to neighbourhood planning – by funding research into where communities and developers have worked successfully together.

Civic Voice is again calling for:

  • Smart growth – avoiding the economic deadweight from urban sprawl due to higher infrastructure and travel costs by planning for high quality, well designed development in towns and cities which respects their history and protects open space

  • Strong local voices –ensuring planning policy that respects community views in deciding what is important and protects everyday places

  • An end to “planner bashing” – recognition at the highest levels of Government that far from being a barrier to enterprise – 80% of planning applications are granted and less than 1% take more than a year to decide – the planning system is key to informed discussion about the kind of society we want to live in and the places we inhabit

As Policy Exchange Promotes Bungalows Uganda Outlaws Them

All Africa.com

The Government is coming up with physical planning regulations that will forbid construction of bungalows within the vicinity of Kampala’s Central Business District and promote only high-density buildings of ten storeys and above.

The minister of lands, housing and urban development Daudi Migereko said on Tuesday that this is intended to provide sufficient housing for the ever-rising population in Kampala city.

“The plans we are coming up with require that we build going up in the sky because the population is going up and services must be provided. Construction should be of high rise structures to optimally utilize land,” Migereko said.

“Individuals who want to have one-acre pieces of land and build bungalows, and maintain their secrecy behind wall fences will move 30 to 50 miles from the capital city,” Migereko said.

The minister however did not explain what will happen to the existing bungalows in Kampala. He was on Tuesday speaking during the breakfast meeting at Imperial Royale Hotel on the need for changing cities and providing adequate housing. The meeting was organized by the Shelters and Settlements Alternatives, Uganda Human Settlements Network and the Uganda Cooperative Alliance.

Present were Members of Parliament on the physical planning committee, officials from banking institutions, lands ministry and representatives of tenants within Kampala.

Migereko said that with the increasing population, there is need to emphasize the respect of laws relating to physical planning in the country and strictness in following of the urban physical plans.

He also cautioned people who set up unplanned structures in the country, that they risk losing their investments, and asked officials not to approve plans for structures that do not conform to the laid out physical plans for areas.

According to Migereko, Uganda currently has a shortage of houses of up to 1.6 million units, which challenge also presents an investment opportunity in the construction and real estate industries.

He said the housing sector in Uganda faces challenges such as unreasonably priced land and houses in urban areas, fraudulent land titles, costly building materials, as well as limited information on the construction industry.

He said that government is revising the law on construction codes, which sets the specifications of building materials to be used in the country. Migereko said that with advance in construction technology, there are affordable innovations such as prefabricated materials, steel and glass, which is moving away from the conventional use of blocks and bricks as building materials. Ends…

Boles Daily Mail Interview – Houses Cause More Happiness than Fields

Daily Mail

Building houses will create more ‘human happiness’ than preserving fields, the Planning Minister has claimed.

Nick Boles says the Government is determined to speed up the rate of house building, despite opposition from countryside groups.

And he said communities who refused to support the initiative risked losing their hospitals and high street shops as their populations shrank.

In an exclusive interview with the Daily Mail, Mr Boles acknowledged that rural rights campaigners and Conservative supporters were ‘very worried’ when greenfield land was replaced by ‘the sheer ugliness and soullessness of housing estates’.

But he insisted that current planning laws were sending Britain ‘back to the 19th century’ when only the wealthy could afford their own home.

He said: ‘The sum of human happiness that is created by the houses that are being built is vastly greater than the economic, social and environmental value of a field that was growing wheat or rape.’

His comments were met with a furious reaction from environmental campaigners who said the reforms would cause  ‘further sprawl’ in the countryside.

In Mr Boles’s Grantham constituency, 7,000 homes are being built on greenfield land.

Defending the plans, he said: ‘The only way we will get to hang on to the services we want to have, the local hospital, the only way we’ll get M&S back and get a John Lewis at some future point, is if the population of the town grows.’

The minister revealed he intends to bring in a further wave of changes to planning rules to ease the housing crisis, including:

  •  Bribing home owners with compensation if new development causes their house price to fall;
  •  Allowing agricultural barns to be converted into residential housing without the need for planning permission;
  •  Changing high street planning rules to make it easier for shops to be converted into homes;
  •  ‘Bullying’ developers into building ‘more beautiful’ homes rather than ‘soulless, identikit rabbit hutches’;
  •  Pressing developers to speed up building on land that has planning permission.

Mr Boles said: ‘It’s a difficult thing to be a Conservative MP arguing for more houses to be built, sometimes on green fields.’

But he branded councils who refuse to co-operate ‘deeply irresponsible’.

He said: ‘There’s no question that some local authorities are dragging their feet.

‘Some of them think to themselves they will sit on their hands and let applications come in and refuse them and then blame Nick Boles. It’s deeply irresponsible.

‘They’re elected to serve their communities and take responsibility for the difficult stuff as well as the easy stuff.’

The Campaign to Protect Rural England chief executive Shaun Spiers said the moves could damage both the countryside and town centres.

He added: ‘Housing can make people happier than fields but that doesn’t mean it is necessary to spoil fields to produce the new houses that we need.

‘All this is the antithesis of good planning. You get transport on inappropriate roads.

‘You suck the life out of high streets, empty inner cities and create further sprawl as you drive people out of towns to go shopping because Nick Boles has converted town centre shops to residential use.’

Redbridge Chamber of Commerce – Bole’s Reforms will Stop Growth

Ilford Recorder

Redbridge Council will not be exempt from new rules that will allow offices to be developed into housing without planning permission from May 30.

Zones in 17 English local authorities, including 10 London boroughs, have been exempted from the change.

Cllr Thomas Chan, cabinet member for regeneration, business and community, did not believe there would be a great impact because there is little unused office space in the borough.

He added: “We need housing, but I think we need long-term homes for families, not flats. The danger is that we will get a mish-mash of developments.”

Geoff Hill, chairman of the Redbridge Chamber of Commerce, said successful firms need space to grow.

He added: “For a number of years office space has been converted into housing throughout Ilford and one of the complaints of local businesses is that they have nowhere to expand into.

“I think if you’re going to have the ability to change use without regulation or consideration it could be very bad for business.

“We must also ensure we don’t have short-term jobs through construction here and there – we need long-term jobs and a lot of that depends on businesses.”

Ilford Business Improvement District (BID) manager Ben Collins was also wary of the change, but said bringing more residents into Redbridge could be beneficial.

He added: “It could increase footfall and bring more people in for shopping and leisure. No one likes to see empty units.”

The move is part of a wave of government changes to planning permission, including allowing temporary change of use between retail, restaurants, pubs, takeaways, offices and leisure for up to two years.

Communities secretary Eric Pickles says new rules will provide “knock-on” benefits for the community.

He added: “We’re providing a great opportunity for outdated, redundant or underused offices to be brought back to life by converting them into homes – protecting the green belt and countryside.”