Is Kit Malthouse having a good first two months as planning and housing minister?

He is on top of his brief but in his first two months he has:

  • Very nearly screwed up the massively important CaMkOX project by writing a bombastic letter free of any due process, immediately  ‘clarified’ by his civil servants;
  • Called for the privisation of social housing
  • Poo poohed land value capture (the only way private and philanthropic affordable housing ever worked of course} contrary to his own manifesto and despite the Treasury not wanting to fund his 300,000 homes
  • Made clear he considers Brexit much more important
  • Blamed the housing sector for lack of delivery, the guys who will have to deliver for him
  • Gone totally soft on all of the authorities on the local plan naughty step just as it was working (even though one now employs no policy planners).
  • Blames local authorities for lack of progress on local plans whilst calling in the East Hert’s Plan on the day it is due to adopt.


Make Friends in the sector and listen

Employ a good SPAD

Don’t perpetuate your predecessors disasters like Help to Buy

Make sure you stay on message giving speeches and interviews even if you sound anodyne.

Learn from Grant Shapps and do the opposite – like making sure you don’t make up statistics or re announce the same programme 10 times over. 

Realise anything a planning and housing minister does wont bear fruit for three to five years after you have left office.

Leave Brexit to Raab and May.  If you arn’t 100% focused on the government’s number 2 priority you will become Northern Ireland Secretary and have to bear endless meetings with the DUP.

Malthouse criticises his Housing audience he is relying on using May’s Brexit Trope for Omnishambles

Inside Housing 

How to make friends and influence people.  Opening a book now on whether the length of his tenure beats the recent Spinal Tap drummer average.

During Mr Malthouse’s speech, his audience – made up of a mix of developers, housing associations and local authorities – was polled on whether it thought the government will meet its target of delivering 300,000 homes a year by 2025.

After 93% of the audience voted no, Mr Malthouse compared them to Kodak, the camera company which failed to adapt to the growth of digital cameras, and criticised them for “a lack of ambition”.

Is FGDB ready as a universal masterplanning datransfer/datastore format? @ESRI

Sadly no.

The shapefile format is an increasingly archaic format.

The decision by ESRI to make FGDB open source was great news and more and more programs support it – though sadly still not Bentley for example directly.

The ability to store BIM data in geodatabases to my mind has been the news of the year.  The future of CAD and GIS being to use a spatial database to store and organise every aspect of a project from city scale down to every last screw.  On large projects you soon realise the world isnt flat as out of the box CAD assumes, and over several sq km you need to respect the projection or you run into serious errors.

FGDB also has some technical advantages over SHP.  For example it can store lines and curves not just lines, essential in use of road data.  

Increasingly I have been testing FGDB as THE datastore for masterplanning projects.  All kinds of problems.  Firstly FGDB cant understand anything other than arcs and straight lines, not clothoids.  With roads you need transition curves to stop cars and trains flying off corners from centrifugal force when you change speeds into curves.  So they come in as lots of points arrrrgh.  Secondly it just isnt robust.  As FGDB files enlarge they become corrupt.  You can restore them but the new files loses all structure and much data is lost.

Lets hope as ESRI cooperates with Autodesk (and one hopes Bently my own tool of choice) they can develop a robust and universal spatial database solution with the robustness we see for example in the new pool based file storage solutions from Apple and Microsoft.

Masterplan Released for Garden Village on SRFI site at St Albans

Herts Ads

The Taylor Wimpey masterplan.

Since some Green Belt in Park Street was included in the draft St Albans Local Plan, Taylor Wimpey has produced a document outlining housing proposals for the land, which they intend to use for a garden village.

However, SRFI developers HelioSlough also have planning permission for that same site, and have threatened legal action if St Albans district council (SADC) continues to pursue housing.

Taylor Wimpey is now asking residents of St Albans which they would prefer – SFRI or housing – in an online poll.ADVERTISING

Land and planning director at Taylor Wimpey North Thames, Andy Holloway, said they have been eyeing up the site for years: “Although we do not own the site, we believe that the garden village brings many benefits and will be the best option for the local area.

Computer-generated image of the proposed rail freight terminal in Park Street

Computer-generated image of the proposed rail freight terminal in Park Street

“For that reason we have produced this indicative plan of what could be achieved and would like to understand whether the local community would prefer the garden village option to the rail freight option.”

The plan includes one new secondary and two new primary schools, parks and open spaces, health facilities, a central social hub with commercial opportunities, and 2,300 homes – 920 of which would be affordable.

There is also the potential for a new bypass to Frogmore and links to How Wood and Park Street stations.

St Albans MP Anne Main said: “Clearly considerably more work would need to be done and lots of studies undertaken, but this initial masterplan is a good starting point to have the discussion around the garden village.

“What I am very clear on however is that a garden village is far better for St Albans than rail freight. I would encourage everyone to take the poll and send a clear message – garden village not rail freight.”

Former St Albans MP Kerry Pollard said: “For many years I have been arguing that this site should be used to provide much needed homes in St Albans, particularly affordable homes.

“Rail freight provides no local benefits and will cause major disruption; I would ask everyone to take this poll and support new housing.”

Have your say in the poll above, which will run throughout September.

Contact for more information about the masterplan.

Some comments on the Masterpla – though these reflect too a few problems with the local plan.  By the way I have long advocated on here housing on the SFRI site

Masterplan, not very good, far too much screen planting and too little open space at heart of area, implies a very low density, cul-de-sacy arrangement.

Park Street?  The name very little along Park Street, where there are two stations where a rapid transit frequency is proposed, also the density and intensity hardy steps up along the proposed station on the eastern side.  Unless is does there will be no business case for the station.  the areas of structural open space and development need rethinking.

So Park Street Garden village is a daft name.  It isn’t a garden village.  I suggest Broadhand Garden Suburb.  St Albans is the oldest named placed in the UK and its original name meant broad hand.

Lots of roads shown but what about the cycle routes?  The key to achieving modal shift. 

A couple of afternoons work, must do better Taylor Wimpy, better still St Alban’s commission a proper masterplanning exercise and shape your submission plan around it.  You can bid for the funding to do so this funding round.

Land Value Uplift Should be Shared with Communities Says MHCLG Select Committee


Great Great Great

Extra funding for new local infrastructure and affordable housing could be raised by wide-ranging reforms to how the increase in value of land resulting from public policy decisions is captured, the Housing, Communities and Local Government Committee has concluded.

Significant increases in land value

Government statistics show that agricultural land, which is granted planning permission for residential use, would, on average, increase in value from £21,000 per hectare to £1.95 million per hectare. The report published today on land value capture makes the case for local authorities and central government to capture a ‘significant proportion’ of this uplift in value to invest in new infrastructure and public services.

Capturing land value

The Committee argues that there is scope for raising additional revenue from reforms to existing taxes and charges, consideration of new mechanisms for land value capture, and reform of the way local authorities can compulsory purchase land.

Reform of the Land Compensation Act 1961

The Committee also highlights the success of the first generations of New Towns, which acquired land at, or near to, existing use value, and captured uplifts in land value to invest in new infrastructure. It calls for reform of such powers – through amendment of the Land Compensation Act 1961 – which would lead to a ‘much-needed’ boost to housebuilding

Among the main recommendations are:

  • Reform of the Land Compensation Act 1961, to give local authorities the power to purchase land at a fairer price. This reform – which has growing political support – would provide a powerful tool for local authorities to build a new generation of New Towns, as well as extensions to, or significant developments within, existing settlements.
  • Further simplification of the CPO process, to make it faster and less expensive for local authorities, whilst not losing safeguards for those affected.
  • Reform of the Community Infrastructure Levy (CIL) to remove complexity and the extensive range of exemptions that currently limit its effectiveness.
  • More resources for local authorities to ensure they are able to negotiate robustly with developers to secure the appropriate level of planning obligations.
  • Securing the maximum value for new infrastructure and public services from public land put forward from residential development, with much to be learned from Germany and the Netherlands in this respect.

Land value capture is fundamentally about fairness and necessity

Clive Betts MP, Chair of the Committee, said:

“Land value capture is fundamentally about fairness and necessity.

Fairness, because the current system allows landowners, through no effort of their own, to make multi-million pound profits from the substantial increases in land value that arise from public policy decisions, such as the granting of planning permission. As these increases are significantly created by the actions of the State, it is right that a significant proportion of this should be shared with the local community.

Necessity, because if the Government is to meet the challenge of providing enough new homes over the coming years, then they will also need to find the funds for improving the surrounding infrastructure.

Our proposed package of reforms to taxes and charges will ensure a fair proportion of the increase in value arising from public policy decisions can be used by national and local government to invest in new infrastructure and public services.

In particular, there is a growing consensus that the Land Compensation Act 1961 requires reform. The present right of landowners to receive ‘hope value’ is distorting land prices, encouraging land speculation and reducing revenues that could be used for affordable housing, infrastructure and local services.

Ensuring local authorities have the power to compulsorily purchase land at a fairer price will provide a powerful incentive to build a new generation of New Towns and the extra homes that we so desperately need.”

The Most Environmentally Damaging of the Three Options for Oxford-Cambridge Expressway Chosen?


and here 

Easy read here

Option B1 or B3 – Rejecting B2 Straight through Otmoor.  The options the local wildlife trusts strongly recommended against.

Following technical analysis and stakeholder engagement, Corridor B has been identified as the best performing option. This will deliver better benefits for the region as it out-performs Corridor A and C in supporting strategic transformational growth, regeneration and redevelopment.

We have rejected Corridor B2, whilst it offers similar benefits at a similar predicted cost to B3, the environmental impacts around the Horspath and Wheatley areas are substantially more difficult to overcome. There are also a number of significant constraints as the corridor heads north toward Bicester, including Otmoor Nature Reserve.

We will be developing viable route options for Corridor B1 and B3 (see description below) for public consultation next year:

Corridor B1 – a central corridor broadly aligned with the proposed East-West Rail route from Abingdon to south Milton Keynes via Winslow. This option passes to the west of Oxford

Corridor B3 – a central corridor broadly aligned with the proposed East-West Rail route from Abingdon to south Milton Keynes via Winslow. This option passes to the south east of Oxford.

You can find out more information about our findings and assessment in our Oxford to Cambridge Overview booklet.

You can see the area for the development of route options in our map.

What’s next?

Now we have established the corridor we will provide everyone with the opportunity to get involved and help shape the final project. In the next stage we will continue to engage a wide group of stakeholders to help us identify all the information we require in order to shortlist viable routes. We will consult widely before making any decisions on the route’s location. We will then consult again, asking for your feedback on more detailed plans before we submit the planning application to build the scheme.


Autumn 2017Commitment by the Chancellor for construction to commence on the missing link before the end of the Road Investment Strategy (RIS2) in 2025
2018Corridor announcement
Autumn 2019Public consultation on route options*
2020Preferred route announcement*
2025Construction starts*
2030New link opens to the public

*Indicative timetable, subject to preferred route options.

The BCR between the three options ranged between 1.1 and 1.2 nothing, and the locations for new strategic scale development havn’t even been chosen yet.  It is inevitable that west of Calvert the route would have to take a sharp southwards turn to avoid the most sensitive woodland and marsh areas, removing completely the time advantages of option B.  The scoring of the three options biodiversity impacts is simply not credible.

But all is not lost – the corridor chosen is so wide it almost duplicatesoption A at its southern portion.  I strongly suspect this will be the route chosen.  However the Highways Agency is spreading fear through huge great swath maps could as is already happening whip up such environmental opposition to the expressway it could sink the whole corridor project. It will be another two years before the final route is chosen.  How is anyone supposed to plan for large Garden Cities in the area without knowing which side of Oxford the route will go in the meantime?

Well you can to a degree as the commonality between B1 and B3 is clear through to Clavert and knowing the National Trust properties etc. you have to doge you can guess the route here to a few dozens of metres.  

Of course the problem is Bucks who unwisely said in 2017 that with Aylesbury chosen as a Garden Town (adding nothing to planned growth} there would be ‘no New Town’  a good example of using the Garden Communities process not to further growth but to temporally and disingenuously stop it.