DCLG cocks up and backs down in Islington A4D row

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A row has erupted between Islington Borough Council and the Government over local approaches to housing.

Last year Islington became the first council in the country to try to remove government-given rights for local developers to convert offices into flats without planning permission. Planning minister Nick Boles ultimately revoked the Article 4 direction this July on the grounds that Islington was failing to deliver on housing targets.

However the secretary of state for communities and local government Eric Pickles has now agreed to overturn his department’s decision in the next few weeks. The Department for Communities and Local Government has acknowledged it made ‘a mistake’ by failing to take all types of housing.

Cllr James Murray, Islington’s executive member for housing and development, said: ‘I am pleased Eric Pickles accepts his department made a mistake, and I hope this means we can now have a proper discussion about how we can protect jobs and provide decent, affordable homes in Islington.’

He added that the policy was having a ‘damaging effect’ on Islington, resulting in the borough ‘losing jobs but getting lots of one-bed and bedsit flats, with no affordable housing or other community benefit’.

‘No-one would deny that London needs new homes. We are one of the top boroughs nationally for building new homes – we’re actually building thousands of genuinely affordable homes for social rent,’ Cllr Murray added.

In response, housing and planning minister Brandon Lewis said Islington was ‘out of touch’ if it thought ‘more one-bedroom and studio flats in central London for young people are a bad thing’.

Lewis added that the Government’s development reforms were ‘providing badly needed homes, especially in London where there is a particularly acute need for more housing’.

‘It is disappointing that Islington is using public funds to try to oppose new homes for Londoners,’ he said.

‘Their latest judicial review attempt relates to a technical point on housing numbers in London. We are happy to have a dialogue with the council on these issues, but we have been clear about the real need for more homes, especially in London.

‘These reforms are helping promote brownfield regeneration, protect the countryside and increase housing supply at no cost to the taxpayer,’ Lewis concluded.

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Conservative Home ‘ The Piecemeal approach to Building New Homes Has Failed’

Con Home Manifesto – Just published

(1) Ownership first – Britain doesn’t just need more homes, it also needs better, more affordable homes. A building boom that sucks in cheap money looking for a quick return will not deliver affordability. We must therefore freeze out the property speculators with an ownership first condition on the development of new housing. Councils would be given the power to reserve the sale of new homes to those intending to live in them.

(2) New Garden Cities for the 21st century – The piecemeal approach to building new homes has failed. We need a vision for the development of strategically located areas like the Thames Estuary. Therefore we propose the creation of Garden City Corporations, empowered to clear the obstacles to large-scale regeneration. Existing residents would have a direct financial stake through the allocation of shares in each corporation – and the closer the impact of new development, the more shares they’d get.

 

Smart Shoes Show you which way to walk

AFP

New Delhi: “Wizard of Oz” heroine Dorothy only had to click her ruby red slippers together and they would spirit her home to Kansas.

Now, an Indian high-tech start-up is promising to do the same in real life with a new, GPS-enabled smart sports shoe that vibrates to give the wearer directions.

The fiery red sneakers, which will also count the number of steps taken, distance travelled and calories burned, will go on sale in September under the name LeChal, which means “take me along” in Hindi.

The shoes come with a detachable Bluetooth transceiver that links to a smartphone app to direct the wearer using Google maps, sending a vibrating signal to indicate a left or right turn.

They are the brainchild of 30-year-old Krispian Lawrence and Anirudh Sharma, 28, two engineering graduates who founded their tech start-up Ducere in a small apartment in 2011 with backing from angel investors and now employ 50 people.

“We got this idea and realised that it would really help visually challenged people, it would work without any audio or physical distractions,” said Lawrence in an interview.

“But then we were trying it out on ourselves and suddenly we were like, ‘wait a minute, even I would want this,’ because it felt so liberating not having to look down at your phone or being tied to anything.”

“The footwear works instinctively. Imagine if someone taps your right shoulder, your body naturally reacts to turn right, and that’s how LeChal works.”

Growing sector

Smart shoes aimed at specific demographic markets — such as dementia sufferers and children whose parents want to keep track of their movements — are already commercially available.

But Lawrence and Sharma believe theirs will be the first to target mass-market consumers, and have focused on creating stylish rather than purely functional footwear.

As well as the red sneaker, they are marketing an insole to allow users to slip the technology into their own shoes.

“Earlier, wearable technology was always seen as machine-like, nerdy glasses or watches, but now that is changing,” said Lawrence.

They say they have 25,000 advance orders for the shoes, which will retail at between $100 and $150.

Demand has so far mostly been through word of mouth and through the lechal.com website. But the company is in talks with retailers to stock the shoes ahead of the holiday season in India and the United States.

It forecasts it will sell more than 100,000 pairs of the shoes, which are manufactured in China, by next April.

Wearable technology is a growing global sector. Market tracker IDC forecast in April that sales would triple this year to 19 million units worldwide, growing to 111.9 million by 2018.

The industry’s rapid growth has given rise to fears about privacy, although Ducere says it will record no data on users and maintains robust security.

Intuitive

The company still hopes its product will be useful for visually impaired people, and experts at the L.V. Prasad Eye Institute in the southern city of Hyderabad are testing its suitability.

“It’s a perfect intuitive wearable item. You may forget to wear a belt or a helmet, but shoes you can never leave the house without,” said Anthony Vipin Das, a doctor at the institute.

“LeChal solves orientation and direction problems, it’s a good assistant to the cane.”

Possible problems include battery failure or loss of Bluetooth connectivity, which Das says could be fixed by providing a live feed of a user’s position to a friend or relative, with their consent.

The company says it could use a portion of any future profits to subsidise the shoes for disabled users.

For all the shoes’ high-tech features, Lawrence’s favourite thing is that he no longer loses his phone — if the wearer moves too far from his or her phone, the shoes buzz to warn them.

“I’m a very forgetful person and the best part is that the shoes don’t let you forget your phone,” he said.

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