USAF Airbase Closures Should Lead to Huge Garden City Boost to East Anglia

Great news that Mildenhall, Alconbury and Molesworth are to close   This can and should lead to a huge housing boost for Cambridgeshire which can relieve overcrowded Herts and inaccessible Suffolk.

RAF Mildenhall is less than accessible and the closure will lead to a big need for jobs.  The solution is to relocate Marshalls from Cambridge Airport and redevelop it for the staled Cambridge East urban Extension of 13,000 houses.  They have long eyed Lakenheath but with military facilities being concentrated there there was no spare land.  The stupid solution would be to redevelop Mildenhall for housing at a lower density where it is much less needed.

Alconbury has been scaling back for years and has a planned Enterprise Zone which could now be expanded to a full Garden City.

Moleworth has so far had smaller scale disposals and is a bit more awkwardly located, accessible to the A14 but little else.  More speculatively it could be linked east and west through part of the former track bed of the old Kettering, Thrapston and Huntingdon Railway (and a new route over part as Molesworth is to the North of this) to form  a new rail link all the way from Northampton to Cambridge (or inbeed the East Coast Ports at Felixstowe via the old Newmarket, Ely line), and from Northampton via the planned but never built section of the Great Central Line to Brackley then over the Great Central abandoned route to Old Oak Common via the Acton Northolt line linking to HS2.  This would be cheaper maybe than the eastern part of the Varsity line and unlike the Varsity Line (which passes through Beds) would act as a real public transport alternative to the A45 and a genuine missing link east-west rail route we are so badly lacking.

Schumpeter – A Mistake on the Unit of Account?

he publication of the first English Translation of Schumpeter’s posthumous Treatise on Money has been awaited with much anticipation, even if though as rumored it misses rough drafts of three chapters.

I still await it from Amazon although i have read Jo Mitchells review and am intrigued how he seems to have adopted a flow of funds type model and is sharply critical of Chartism.

The following quote was striking:

“to speak of a quantity of existing units of account would make as much sense as to say that a certain number of units of length exist with which everything that has that length must be measured” (p. 244)

It is unfair to criticise a quote without having read the original so I risk of unfairness I think this is a bad and rare mistake by the great man.

We today measure today length in metres which was estimated (badly) as 1 millionth of the diameter  of the earth.  The choice of 1 million was arbitary but we still measure length in estimates of  ‘earths’. Everything we measure we measure in relative units of something else and multiplied by some scaling factor.

One of the great problems with Walrasian theory is that it has no definition of the measure of the unit of account.  There is no money.  3 ice creams in New York in April may equal 2 Ice Cream in Boston in July but it does  not define the scale of price according to the unit of account. An can produce an equation which results in a price of Xn, but what is n?

There is no problem in counting a unit of account if that unit of account is a physical thing.  If the unit of account of a currency was cowrie shells presumably Schumpeter would not have had a problem.

Here I think Schumpeter’s hostility to Knapp and Chartelism led him to error.  Lets say an ancient state creates a debt equivalent to the price of  5 days labour to produce food and requires that debt (tax) to be paid in a currency of its own printing.  That money is given to an army to buy food.  It can either buy the food or pay people to labour to produce the food.  Those to whom money circulates can pay others to labour to produce the food to sell to pay for the tax instead.  Ultimately the setting of the unit of account as a debt depends on the physical equivalent of work needed to pay the tax.

Hence it is possible to speak in terms of an actual physical measure of the unit of account in terms of the goods equivalent of public spending  and how that unit of account expands and contracts depending on the net changes between the amount unit of account created when a state spends and destroyed when the debt is cancelled (tax paid).


Inspectors Letters – the True Test of Whether Planning is Getting Simpler

The planning system is getting more and more complex and suited only to a team of higher powered experts.

Why do I say this after a massive programme of simplification of policy and then guidance and hopefully in the future secondary and primary legislation.

I say it because the benchmark test is how easy it is for a layperson to understand a decision letter, whether on a plan or appeal.

Inspectors letters did become easier to read for a time.  For a while after the 2004 Act so did plan reports, often too short (witness some 6 page reports), too uncritical and with headings like -findings on soundness test C- not easy to read.  Nor they they often pin down what the key planning issues were in an area.

Things did not last long.  The courts blew a whole in the policy presumption if favour of soundness, not supported by the act.  So inspectors had to be more testing.  Objectors soon learned you needed to challenge the evidence and where necessary produce your own if it was dodgy. The government in producing National Policy and Guidance of such stunning vagueness on the key operational and technical issues (with its authors given the traditional establishment reward for civil service failure an OBE) forced inspectors to fill in the gaps.  Hence we have reports now filled with pages of findings on Liverpool method,  the index HRR method etc. that require some effort to avoid suicide from boredom reading through.

The courts will clearly be on inspectors backs if they mess up.  This forces a certain formalism in report writing.  However much can be done to promote plain English and clearer reports.

I still get a surprising number of hits a day praising the famous plain English of Judge Sally Hawkins findings.  It would be great if she could give some PINS training.

Fundamentally inspectors reports need to have a classic three act structure, a beginning, middle and end, setting out what needs to be decided, the thought process, and the conclusions.  For plan reports especially this is often lost.

You can still read plan reports without being able to grasp what the main spatial planning issue in the area is.  Often inspectors hands are tied in not being able to make pronouncements on the main issue.  The recent Brum inquiry is an example.  The key issue was the overspill from Brum, the inspector rightly concluding that legally this could only be done through 11 separate examinations. Legally correct under the current lobotomized system but operationally barmy. Nothing is decided until everything is decided unanimously and at once.  This is not a duty to cooperate so much as a duty to prevaricate.  Inspectors cant even now lay down clear recommendations on the key issue in half of LPAs, the need for a Strategic Green Belt review. Examinations have become in some cases like the Chilcott Inquiry, seemingly designed to prevaricate forever, like the production of Duke Nukem Forever- local plans as vapourware.  There are rumours of a few local plans being adopted and even fewer being up to date.  These are mostly urban legends.  Local plans used to exist a gneration ago, now we have made it to difficult to produce them and subject them to a strange form of technical literary criticism using arcane termininology and tortuous language that even Tom Paulin would find too post-structuralist.

The reform of planning has failed to simplify because it was based on a false assumption.  The fundamental problem were not too much policy and too hard to get permission, these were just symptoms.  The fundamental problem was not enough simple and spatially specific policy on where new development should go and how much, an inadequate understanding of the key planning issues affecting an area as a result and consequently not enough land in the right areas allocated for development.

A good planning minister should be spending a good portion of his or her time sitting down under Chatham House Rules with inspectors on what lessons there are to learn about how helpful national policy and guidance is and what barriers there are to good planning in the local plan areas they have examined. As a good use of their time this is 100 times more valuable than meetings with the Country Land and Business Association or any one of many more self serving lobbyists.