Scottish Review Recommends Shift to a Zoning based System


Collectively, the evidence suggests to us that planning authorities at all scales are mired in the process of producing plans on time, but many cannot work proactively to deliver development. The focus on fitting complex and overly comprehensive work into the preparation timescale obscures much fuller consideration of the long term vision for a place. Frustratingly, despite the considerable efforts that go into preparing the plan, there appears to be little faith that it will form the basis of subsequent development management decisions. As a result, there are calls for plans to have greater certainty, with allocated sites being afforded planning permission in principle and key agencies being required to commit to supporting delivery of the action programme….

The certainty provided by the development plan in development management should be strengthened.
To incentivise this, allocated sites should be afforded planning permission in principle, could be exempted from pre-application consultation requirements and could benefit from fast-tracked appeals. Conversely, where non allocated sites are being proposed for development a charrette or similar fuller consultation or mediation exercise could be required….

The SPZ concept should be rebranded and evolved into a more flexible and widely applicable zoning mechanism which identifies and prepares areas to make them ‘investment ready.’

e have considered the role of a more ‘zoned’ approach to housing land to reduce the focus of the debate on the effectiveness of individual sites, and looked in more detail at the Simplified Planning Zones (SPZs) in Hillington and Renfrew Town Centre. We were also struck by the potential of SPZs to help to reintroduce residential use in town centres. Establishing a SPZ requires frontloaded site assessments and design work, and this can be costly. The evidence shows that the low level of uptake may be partly explained by the more limited scope for SPZs in Scotland – specifically that they cannot be deployed for schemes requiring an Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA). Our view is that this type of approach need not undermine the environment or quality of place. Frontloaded assessments, site briefs and masterplanning can support placemaking in a holistic way and embed in an infrastructure first approach to area-based development…
The written evidence highlighted the scope for delivery of quality places to be driven by development briefs and master plans, and the use of charrettes for housing sites. The need for multi-disciplinary teams to drive forward development is clear. Affordable housing needs are a key concern and a confirmed priority. Meeting these needs can support the prevention agenda by reducing housing benefit costs and contributing to wider wellbeing and equality.
We were inspired by the flexibility provided by Simplified Planning Zones and propose that their principles could inform an adaptable approach to zoning areas of land for development including housing. These areas would be identified to incentivise development by creating greater certainty as well as flexibility and should be rolled out across Scotland. This approach could help to kick start high quality housing development at a large scale in the immediate future,
but their impact would be much greater if pump priming of funding was made available to help establish them. We recommend that the new approach would relax current restrictions on SPZs in Scotland to allow for greater flexibility in their timescales, reduce procedure and enable them to come forward for schemes which fall under the EIA Regulations….


Oxford Report Proposes 10,000+ Green Belt Homes

Oxford City

The City Council has published a new report which sets out the technical evidence to support its case that Oxford’s unmet housing need is best addressed through urban extensions closest to the city.

The report provides authoritative evidence of the exceptional circumstances justifying the need for a review of the inner boundaries of the Green Belt to allow strategic housing allocations on the edge of Oxford. It also assesses the comparative sustainability benefits of the various options for urban extensions to the city.

A key conclusion of the report is that an urban extension to the north of the city in Cherwell District, providing 2,800-3,600 homes, and an urban extension to the south of Grenoble Road, providing 5,500-7,500 homes, would be the most sustainable and most readily deliverable options for addressing the need.

The Council has also assessed the transport opportunities and constraints associated with the preferred options and put forward high level mitigation strategies to effectively address the transport impacts.

Other urban extension options that may receive further consideration include Wick Farm/Elsfield estate to the northeast of the city, a strategic housing site at Begbroke/Yarnton, or an enhanced strategic allocation north of Abingdon.

Councillor Alex Hollingsworth, Board Member for Planning, Transport and Regulatory Services, said: “Successive Planning Inspectors have concluded that there are “exceptional circumstances” that justify reviewing the Green Belt boundaries mainly due to the severe housing crisis and the lack of suitable land for development that threatens the viability of the city.

Our evidence shows that properly planned urban extensions are an efficient and sustainable solution to housing need. They provide opportunity to extend existing public transport and cycle networks as part of an integrated transport strategy, and reduce the need to travel longer distances.”

The City Council has published the report as part of its responses to the Local Plan reviews of neighbouring local authorities.

‘”Earth will be zoned residential and light industrial” says Amazons Jeff Bezos

lon Musk wants us to build human colonies on Mars. Jeff Bezos has a slightly more measured take.

Onstage at the Code Conference on Tuesday, the Amazon founder and CEO said that we have to start bringing parts of the industrial economy to space in order “to save Earth.”

“Let me assure you, this is the best planet. We need to protect it, and the way we will is by going out into space,” he told Recode Editor at large Walt Mossberg. “You don’t want to live in a retrograde world where we have to freeze population growth.”

Bezos says tasks that require lots of energy shouldn’t be handled on Earth. Instead, we should perform them in space, and that will happen within the next few hundred years.

“Energy is limited here. In at least a few hundred years … all of our heavy industry will be moved off-planet,” Bezos added. “Earth will be zoned residential and light industrial. You shouldn’t be doing heavy energy on earth. We can build gigantic chip factories in space.”

Solar energy, for instance, is more practical for factories in space, he said.

“We don’t have to actually build them here,” he said. “The Earth shades itself, [whereas] in space you can get solar power 24/7. … The problem with other planets … people will visit Mars, and we will settle Mars, and people should because it’s cool, but for heavy industry, I would actually put it in space.”

No word yet, however, on when Bezos plans to move Amazon fulfillment warehouses beyond the surly bonds of Earth.

By Noah Kulwin,