Guildford Leader to Inspector – We’ll Increase Housing For Woking But I Really would Prefer Being a Nimby

Surrey Lives

Whata slimy low move – blaim an inspector doing his or her job simply because you didnt do yours and cooperate with Woking each trying to be more Nuimby that the other.

Guildford’s council leader has attempted to distance the council from additional sites proposed for the borough’s local plan.

Councillor Paul Spooner told a meeting of the council executive on Tuesday (September 4) that the proposed addition of 555 homes on green belt land was at the direction of planning inspector Jonathan Bore, describing the plan as “the inspector’s plan”.

He said: “I was very supportive of the Local Plan that was agreed [by the council] and I’m personally quite disappointed – although I’m not surprised – that the planning inspector wanted to find yet more housing, particularly in the first five years.

“These sites were not put forward in the main body of the draft local plan that was submitted and I believe there was a reason for that, and that is because we didn’t view them as ideal.”

Following a series of public hearings on the draft Local Plan that ended in July 2018, Mr Bore said the plan was basically sound but required a few modifications, including the provision of more housing in its first five years (2019-2024) and meeting some of the unmet housing need in Woking.

As a result, the council has proposed additional housing allocations for sites in Flexford, Chilworth and Send Marsh as well as 200 homes at the Aaron’s Hill site near Godalming.

These proposals must still go to public consultation, a process that was approved by the executive on Tuesday and is expected to begin around September 11.

Leader suggests council could disagree with planning inspector’s suggestions

Cllr Spooner encouraged members of the public to make their views heard on both the new sites and the proposal for more housing to meet Woking’s unmet need.

He told the meeting: “I do urge the public to look very carefully at [the sites] and provide objective comments in relation to those new sites.

“I am still also unhappy with the unmet need from Woking. I’m unhappy with the fact that that’s going through to the consultation stage and I would be very interested to hear members of the public and residents’ views from across Guildford on meeting unmet need from Woking, particularly when Woking have not undertaken a full countryside and green belt study.

“They undertook one study but only targeted to reach their own number of 500 [homes] that they wanted to look at in the green belt and therefore I feel it is unfair that Guildford seems to be bearing the result of that position in Woking.”

“It is equally important to remember that the inspector does not make the final decision.

“Whilst many would say we would be mad not to take note of the final position, I think we will be looking very carefully at where we stand when the inspector has finished his work and whether we agree with those findings.

“It would be very unusual for anyone to take a position where they didn’t support their own local plan, but I think I can say from the majority group and from discussion with the other groups in the council, we are very wary of protecting Guildford and so we will be looking very carefully at the position.”

Alderton’s Farm in Send Marsh Road was previously allocated for 200 houses, but now might be needed for 120 (Image: Grahame Larter)

Opposition leader suggests Woking ‘build another tall building’

His comments were echoed by Caroline Reeves, leader of the council’s Liberal Democrat group, who said she thought many residents would “struggle” to understand what was going on.

She said: “I have had residents saying they can’t understand why we have to meet Woking’s unmet need, why can’t Woking just build another tall building and fill it up with flats.

“Of course, one might say that is a very sensible thing for Woking to do.”

Cllr Caroline Reeves said constituents were asking why Woking could not build “another tall building” instead of having Guildford meet its unmet housing need. (Image: Grahame Larter)

Cllr Susan Parker of the Guildford Greenbelt Group argued again for the council to suggest a lower housing number to the inspector, but Cllr Spooner said it would be “extraordinary” to make such a proposal when the inspector had asked for a higher housing number.

The executive agreed to send the proposals out for a public consultation. Once the consultation is complete, the planning inspector will review the responses and write his final report.The full council will then have to formally adopt the plan, which is estimated to take place in March 2019 although Cllr Spooner said he was still aiming to have the process completed by the end of the year.

Local Plan Special Measures Basildon Reduces Housing Numbers in 1,920 page Full Council Report

Three of the siz naughty step authorities are in South Essex, Wirral doesn’t matter as it isnt cooperating at all, York and Thanet don’t matter as they have finally put put local plans or submission.  That just leaves Brentwood, Castle Point and Basildon all in South Essex

Basildon Full Council 18th October 

A nearly 2,000 page agenda all of it local plan.

Report is from page 31

Following a change of leadership of the Council in May 2018, an extraordinary meeting of the Council on the 7 June 2018 agreed a motion (Minute 2018:292) which rescinded the decision taken on the 22 March 2018. It instructed the Strategic Planning and Infrastructure (SPI) Committee to review seven specified components of the Local Plan
and the Community Infrastructure Levy (CIL), as listed below, and having done so provide a Revised Publication Local Plan and CIL for Council to reconsider. These components
i. Reconsider the merits of including 300 homes in H18: South West Billericay,
in addition to those recommended in the Higher Level Development
Framework 2017;
ii. Reconsider the merits of H10, in addition to H11 in Noak Bridge;
iii. Reconsider the options for meeting the Borough’s Gypsy, Traveller and
Travelling Showpeople 53 pitches and 3 plots need, including the ‘hub
iv. Reconsider the options for the Hovefields and Honiley Neighbourhood Area;
v. Reconsider the options for housing development in Ramsden Bellhouse;
vi. Reconsiders the options for Bowers Gifford and North Benfleet
Neighbourhood Area;
vii. Reconsider the implications of its recommendations for i-vi on the potential soundness and legal compliance of the Plan and take steps to engage with other public bodies, as required and necessary, to discharge the Duty to Cooperate; and
viii. Reconsider the options for the Community Infrastructure Levy PreliminaryDraft Charging Schedule.

And the response

At the meeting of the SPI Committee on the 3 October 2018, a Revised Publication Local Plan (Committee Version) was reported. This set out the amendments made to the Local Plan as a consequence of the policy steers provided by the SPI Committee, up to that date.
As part of that meeting, a number of deferred and outstanding matters were also reported to the SPI Committee. … in considering the Revised Publication Local Plan,agreed to recommend it to Council (Minute No. 2018:TBC), with the following additional amendments:
 A larger employment land allocation to the North of Burnt Mills Road, in order tosecure this strategic employment location in the long term and establish Basildon as an area open to business investment;
 An amendment to the site boundary of the housing allocation to the West of Basildon required in order to ensure the site remains justified and deliverable, and assists with the re-provision of pitches from the Gardiners Lane South site;
The inclusion of South Wickford as a broad location for housing growth in the longer term, aligned with any capacity improvements to the A127;
 A revised location for the relocation of Billericay Cricket Club; and
 Amendments to affordable housing policy reflecting revised, more favourable viability assessment of the amended proposals for East Basildon.

Lets be clear despite the political motivation some of the deallocations were sensible, such as one site near Billericy were a developer had oddly claimed it wasn’t ancient woodland because it didn’t appear on one old map (know for its inaccuracies) the ‘get out’ to make the plan stack up is a site which should be better called Dollymans (Dollymans farm) well located for proposed roads and housing South west of Wickford (straddling the Rochford Border) and where you could put a new station on the London Anglia Branch of the London Tilbury and Southend i.e.

The problem is this is a strategic long term site as its delivery would require a comprehensive solution to long-term improvements to Fairglen A13/A127 Southend Arterial, also two other possible  strategic growth locations in published or emerging local plans would be within 1-2km of this, one of the busiest junctions in South Essex and England, and due to get far busier with the Lower Thames Crossing opening.  All of the these locations require a design led and infrastructure led approach to unlocking good (but very difficult) potential sites around Fairglen.  They cant simply be dropped into a local plan (as a similar adjoining site in Castepoint – was) and hope for the best as it will be undeliverable and beyond the plan period.


MHCLG has made it clear that it still expects the constituent (south Essex Joint Spatial Plan) authorities to continue work on their own Local Plans – particularly the three authorities sent Intervention Letters by the Secretary of State in November 2017. Furthermore, as the work on the JSP is not sufficiently advanced to indicate how Basildon Borough’s unmet need can be accommodated, it was concluded as a result of the Planning Inspector’s Advisory Visit in January 2018 that it was necessary to formally ask the other authorities in the Housing Market Area (HMA) (Castle Point, Rochford, Southend-on-Sea and Thurrock) whether they could assist Basildon Borough in meeting its unmet need in the interim.
Formal letters were then sent to the HMA authorities by the Chief Executive on 14
September 2018. Responses were received from Castle Point Borough Council, Rochford District Council, Southend on Sea Borough Council and Thurrock Council

All saying they will be having difficultly meeting their own need, Castel Point receiving other need!, all bar potentially Thurrock will have to write to each other saying the same, can you accommodate some of our need.

It says

the case that for any reduction in need based on using the current standard method is expected to be short-lived, and Council is therefore advised to note the new figures, but not seek any amendment to the Revised Publication Local Plan in respect of them.

It says

In the Borough, particular regard has been had to preventing
the coalescence of the Basildon urban area with Thundersley to the east and West Horndon to the west, as this would create a continuous urban conurbation stretching along the A127 around 20 miles from West Horndon in Brentwood/Thurrock to Shoeburyness in Southend.

Which is odd as in terms of Thundersley this is exactly what is proposed when you add Dollymans and Lychgate Farm (the adjoining Site in Castle Point) the gap will be narrowed, as it would to the west when Brentwood and Thurrock Proposed strategic sites to the West at Dunton Hill and West Hordon (the famous Consortium Development Limited  Tillingham Hall site from the 1980s) are added.  So it expects adjoining areas to take their growth but rule out their main sites to potentially do so?

The Local Plan therefore makes land provision for at least 17,791 homes. When housing supply is compared against the housing need of between 19,491 and 19,771, the scale of unmet need is identified to be around 10% of the housing requirement. This is similar to the level of unmet need based on the standard method approach. While the need is lower at 17,232, the supply is also comparably lower at 15,531 as it does not include housing completions between 2014 and 2018.

as it says

The standard method does not use the base date of the data (2014), but rather the current year from which the calculation is to be taken. This means that if a Local Plan was prepared today for Basildon Borough it would have a requirement for 17,232 homes over the period from 2018 to 2034 (16 years) 

This is a bizarre artifact of the SOAN method, although based on 2016 based population and household projections, it has no 2016 base but the year in which they are published (now 2019).  This means all planning permissions and completions in 2016-2017 and 2017-2018 count for nothing.  This will mean howls of outrage from local cllrs when they realise this, ‘WTF have we been doing approving all of these planning permission for the last two years only for the clock to be reset and for them not to count’.  Yet another aspect of the SOAN not being thought through.

But the report goes on

Once completions between 2014 and 2018 have been taken into account to contribute towards supply, the remaining housing need for the plan period, including shortfall in provision for the period 2014-2018, as set out in this Local Plan, is broadly aligned to the figure calculated by the standard method.

So the solution is a different base year for supply than demand?  I’m sure a few consultancy objectors would have a thing or two to say about that, or are they saying you should carry forward a backlog from 2014-2018 based on supply 2014-2018  minus demand under SHMA 2014-2018, its all complex and very confusing.

South Essex authorities are in the position of needing hang together or hang separately, work together or nothing works, as almost every strategic site either crosses a LPA boundary or can only work with infrastructure which does.  Basildon’s problems cannot be met within Basildon etc. etc.

Put brutally have we come forward one inch since when in 1985 Shostack and Lock wrote ‘ put brutally Structure plans in the South East of England have created a housing shortage; ‘  and then planned Tillingham Hall (with a Letchworth’s or Ebbsleets of housing by final phase (15,000 units), with a new prime minister two years before overulling her secretary of state on development in the Green Belt.  So what are we due to get 34 years later – Tillingham Hall II (by the same firm now working for the local authorities), and the Joint Spatial Plan needs around 8 or 9 Letchworths over and above existing housing commitments to 2050.   Imagine 8-9 times the sheer rage and outcry next year from the Green Belt Lobby and the Essex Anto development lobby in full unison.   A loss of institutional memory surely here.

Don’t get me wrong its a doable site, and a necessary one, but its a site that looks good on a map site but when you get on the ground and look at the rectilinear reclaimed fen landscape with dramatic view of ‘big skys’ and the terminal morraine left when the Thames was formed at the end of the Last Ice age dumping 80m of till at the Langdon Hills and Jury/Thorndon Hills, you realise than only a ‘landscape led’ solution will work, and one that threads in new roads and the potential ‘Kent-Essex’ rail link (linking to Crossrail 1 via the proposed LTC tunnels) in an integrated solution, rather than the big blob planning (fuzzy felt planning as objectors have called it) in North Essex where the main fear  of objectors is not having a clue from such plans how to visualise the future, fearing contracting over the countryside and everything about a piece of countryside they love.  An approach which puts only housing first and expects urban design and  infrastructure to catch up a year or two later wont work as it would be politically killed off by protests and the fragile politics of councils in the west of the area.

So in a future piece, building on my hugely viewed piece on the LTC rail concepts (brought up to date) ill sketch out how it might be done in a way that might even satisfy  some of the Essex Groups that frequent this blog.

What goes around comes around – revival of Tillingham Hall in some form now inevitable (the scheme refused by Ridley in 1987 -from the Urban Design Quarterly 1988)

Councillor who voted against M&S Application because he said they were Zionists now wants to form Anti Racist Body

New Castle ChronicleApril 2018

One of Dipu Ahad's posts

In statement issued through social media, Mr Ahad said: “Five years ago I posted a comment online which I appreciate could be seen as being insensitive.

“At the time I immediately deleted the post and I wish to sincerely apologise if the subsequent publicity has caused offence….

, screenshots of Mr Ahad’s Facebook page show him saying he voted against a planning application for a Marks & Spencer store “on principal (sic)” – also saying the store was “directly killing innocent Palestinian people by directly funding the Zionist regime”.

Now hes been elected.

He also hounded Jewish Members of the Holocaust memorial trust so badly they walked out of a meeting & refused to participate further.

Now  want to promote an anti racists (sic Anti Semitic) assembly in the North East

To the alarm of those forced from the labour party for abuse for criticisng his election. like the award winning @francesweetman


A letter from My 8 Year Old Daughter

This made me quite weak with Joy today .

Daddy please print and keep it with you always.

We had a little help from our friend in primary five.

Dear Dad

You have gone really a long time without being thanked.

I am not taking about thanks for things like good treats but rather the thanks we owe you for shaping us into the girls we are today.

Thank you for teaching us what we deserve and for not letting us settle for anything less while the people here were telling us we are nothing, we are poor. You where there to build our confidence.

You have showed us what our great qualities are and helped us feel unique.

Without you daddy we would not be nearly as ambitious, outgoing or strong like building our home and needing a car.

It is hard to workhard when it is just for ourselves but so easy when it is for you daddy.

All at school nothing makes us happier than getting a good grade back because we know we have to get home to tell you.

With everything we do, you give us a purpose.

You are the prime example of what putting your family first looks like.

If us wanting something means that you can not get what you want.

You will always sacrifice.

Daddy being your daughters has not always been full of happiness and encouragement.

But that is what makes you intergral part of our lives.

Rather than sugar coating things and always telling us we are the perfect children, you always call us out when we are wrong.

But what separates you from other daddies is that instead of just knocking us down you help us to improve.

You help us figure out our faults and you stand by us every step of the way as we work to fix them.

As we are part of you, we look to the future knowing that we will carry a part your soul with us everywhere we venture.

We love you so much daddy.

Your daughters

Tyra and Rebecca Lainton


Dear Grandpa.

I wish we had a collection of memories spend together that shall never be forgotten.

The memories that we can treasure with our hearts and soul.

We wish we can say thank you for helping us grow into the young girls we are today.

But we have never got a chance to meet each other granddad.

They say spending time with our your grandparents fills us with strength, support and love like no other because you are the ones who know how to comfort, spoil and encourage us and the only price to enter your home and heart is just a hug and a kiss.

You believe less in discipline and more in spoiling us and less concerned in rules but much more with handing out treats.

They say grannies (sic) love is endless as part of you are parents, teachers and some even best friends.

And that is all we want to have with you our grannies.(sic)

You are our grandparents and the source of the most complete sweet love we have in our lives.

We love so much grandpa.


Your granddaughters

Tyra and Rebecca Lainton

There are loads of even more lovely letters to darling Granma too – now living in a lovely retirement community near Penkridge.

Tyra is eight and has a British passport but lives in Uganda, which expired and its renewal being caught up in the hostile environment policy with all her paperwork lost by the Passport Office when it was first made and despite the British Embassy in Beirut scanning every page of her old one and notarising it and the (thankfully ex) head of the passport office, in a classic ‘Computer says no’ letter writing to the very helpful Geoffrey Cox Mp (now attourney general)  when he was my constituency Mp that I need to produce her original passport and any child protection risks she faces in Uganda are my fault;  despite being told many times the unavailability of her original passport – lost Airflight baggage –  (to an email address they gave many times which was wrong and is only for outgoing mail). She has never seen her grandparents in the flesh both of whom are now in care.

The Guy who Invented GIS has a Vision for the Future of Urban Planning, but It Requires Open Data and Standards to Make it Happen @Esri


ND: What would you want to do next?

JD: I can share that. A big one is augmented reality for urban planning. I see it as a technology for getting citizen engagement. I think it must be balanced with this notion that, with citizens, they can put on some goggles, walk down a street, and see a proposed development, and get engaged in their urban planning and what’s going to be.

I think one of the big things for me is creating a future. My background is landscape architecture and urban planning. And in that space, we’re trying to push geodesign, which is all about linking science to the design field.

You saw some of that on Monday [at the conference plenary] with the ArcGIS group. Urban is a new product which, while collaborative with GIS, is a total standalone technology, a platform for city planners that will be an information system for them to creatively do 3D zoning design—which is the backbone for 3D building design—and do transactions on an integrated smart city in such a way that we could quickly evaluate the alternative consequences of one design versus another.

Geodesign as a background is the idea that would bring all the GI science into the design process and then allow designers to create alternative scenarios and quickly give feedback. And then make rational decisions.

Linked to ArcGIS Urban was this effort we’re doing in community engagement. In addition to planners having cool tools to involve developers, involve realtors, involve the private sector in creating different evolutionary steps of a city, one of our goals is to involve all the citizenry in the city so that people are connected. And understand the—transparently—the consequences of this decision versus that.

Take for example my own little hometown. Some years ago, a few people quietly made decisions about zoning on our western side of the town. As a result, all these big box warehouses that are empty and not clearly performing for our community got built. And if the city only knew or if the citizens really knew—because my town has a lot of people that really care about their town—it probably wouldn’t have happened. And so, we didn’t really have involvement. And this is going on in virtually every city around the world. What we need, I think, is better understanding of the consequences of future scenario.

[My idea is] to tell you what I really dream and hope about: that we leverage all of our geographic knowledge in such a way that it can be set up for people that who make decisions— about urbanization and urban planning or actually any kind of decisions—and enable the involvement of citizenry so they’re smarter.

Then we can stop creating footprints that are only for one objective function and more holistically involve all the environmental considerations, all the social considerations, in an open forum. And I think the language of what’s happened with 3D GIS is enabling that.

ND: You were mentioning that things are now evolving with the 3D GIS. You’ve got this whole really cool 3D ArcGIS Pro. It’s amazing, but I feel it’s missing the 3D basemaps. Is that something you’ve considered?

.[There’s a need to] sort of harmonize all of those into a single basemap for the entire planet. That’s a big job.

And there’s multiple technologies. There’s the 3D features approach. There’s this sort of photometric approach. There’s the voxel approach. There’s, as you know, different technologies, and different people are advocating 3D realities in cities using different footprints.

A single basemap for the entire planet – that a big job.  To be usable for example for even pre-concept design at a city scale – say designing a new city and the road and rail servicing that city – you need absolute positional accuracy of less than 1m DEM, the closest global dataset we have is SRTM DEM at around 30m (just over 1 arc second).  Doing work in several countries trying to piece together LIDAR and other data at around the 1m resolution, with huge holes around airports, national security areas etc.  its a nightmare – even here in the UK which has open source at less resolution than Nasa at  50m and with its wonderful Lidar Finder  of open source piecemeal LIDAR  STM and DSM for flood defense purposes (typically 1m) but lots of holes.

We cant total station the planet, we need a better way of scanning the large parts of the planet where urbanisation is happening most quickly to make a difference.

Of course as every GIS person, or into GIS Urban Planner or Urban Designer know the basemap is only 20% of it.  The other 80% is the data.  We don yet have global open data standards and models of recording data on cities, places, streets and parcels.  Usually we have to make a guess, an interpolation, from the data we have.  Luckily Esri now has good tools for this but if you mention Empirical Baysian Regression Kriging in a room of planners you are likely to cause an accident as they rush to the fire doors.

I speak to many residents groups, environmentalist etc who oppose even the finest and most ecologically sensitive new designs simply because they cannot visualize them.  They walk down a country lane, the local agricultural landscape crushed by years of intensive farming and see the few trees left, the few patches of native biodiverse plants left, and think any development will inevitably crush them all beneath concrete and tarmac because they think all developers and planners are lairs, promising them one thing and delivering another.

Many of these groups would love access to data so see the alternatives, to see what could be done, but it is so hard, even for someone like me working 30 years in this field.  I also speak to many boutique firms struggling to fill the gaps in the geodesign field, one firm doing a spreadsheet model of viability, discounted cash flow and peak debt for a development, but no spatial interface, another firm doing 3D city models but needing a better interface to CAD masterplans and models which calculate masterplan parametrics in order to balance the land use budget, other firm developing cloud based urban transport and/or economic models but needing a smooth two way interface to GIS and masterplans.  The list goes on – but they all have a common need.  Not so much to link from product X to Product Y but link from Product X to any product by a common API and a Common open source data standard stored in an open source database updated in real time.  (see my article for JAIP on the why this is the common bedrock of all planning tasks ).

So for example you could change a road alignment (or any other parameter) and bigo no more one months work recalculating everything at a city and regional scale There are lots of ideas brewing up here.  In the UK Future Cities Catapult and Transport Systems Catapult .

Indeed in writing the last line of this post calling for the community to work on such a standard I find that FSC at the end of August launched such a project. So Esri, Autodesk, Bentley etc. everyone, get involved.  The productive way with these things is not so much to argue for years about the standard but build a crude and horribly imperfect prototype, based on my ‘Planagon Planet’ project for a global spatial addressing planning information and modelling system, the Esri XML data model for cities and utilities, and possibly Bentleys AECOSIM CIM model- in which crazy task ill be almost live blogging on in the coming weeks and seeking the community’s input on where i’ve gone right and wrong.

Final Letwin Review to Recommend Increased Land Value Capture – But May Resists

So why have MHCLG official been playing this down (i.e. reform of the Land Compensation Act 1961 to extend the no scheme world principle to all development land?)  as the article says Downing Street and Treasury ‘locked in the discussion’  the pull back cant be Gavin Barwell – who put LVC in Manifesto – it must be the Prime Minister as ever. putting the brake on measures which could radically increase housebuilding.


Landowners to be forced to sacrifice profits for more affordable houses, under plans expected to be unveiled in budget

Councils would be able to strip landowners of large portions of profits from the sale of their land, under proposals expected to be unveiled in the Budget, The Sunday Telegraph can disclose.

An official review commissioned by Philip Hammond, the Chancellor, is to endorse controversial calls for the state to “capture” more of the increase in value of sites when they are granted planning permission.

Sir Oliver Letwin, the former minister carrying out the review, is expected to recommend that local authorities should be able to seize greater amounts of landowners’ profits in order to fund the construction of local infrastructure such as roads and affordable homes.

Downing Street and the Treasury are now believed to be locked in discussions over how radical an approach the government could endorse. Sir Oliver’s final report could go as far as recommending the compulsory purchase of land at discounted prices that exclude the “uplift” in value from planning permission.

 But some are pushing for less radical measures, amid fears the use of compulsory purchase laws would be toxic among many traditional Conservative supporters.

Mr Hammond is planning to set out Sir Oliver’s proposals in the Budget on October 29, although the Chancellor is likely to fall short of formally adopting any ideas until they have been further scrutinised by the government.

Separately, sixty councils across England have pledged to build council homes on a scale not seen since the 1970s, in an open letter following Theresa May’s decision to lift a borrowing cap currently imposed on local authorities.

Sir Oliver’s report comes amid growing calls from MPs, charities and think tanks, for the state to claw back more of the increase in value that landowners gain from planning permission granted by local authorities, including with a radical overhaul of compulsory purchase laws.

Developers warn the campaign advocates a “wholesale erosion of private property rights” and insist that existing mechanisms already allow councils to extract money for local infrastructure.

Sir Oliver’s focus on further capture of land value came in the final months of his review of the “gap” between the number of planning permissions granted to developers and the number of homes actually being built.

“In carrying out the review he has alighted in the fact land owners are making more money than they should,” said a source familiar with Sir Oliver’s discussions.

Addressing current slow “build out” rates of homes due to be constructed, Sir Oliver is expected to set out recommendations designed to ensure a greater mix of homes on large sites, including by handing over portions of the biggest sites to smaller developers in order to help increase the rate of construction.

He told The Sunday Telegraph in March that the main reason for the slow rates of construction was that homes on the largest sites were too alike, both in terms of the buildings themselves and their surroundings, and the “tenure” of the properties – whether, for example, they were ultimately aimed at private purchasers or renters, or those who would be renting through local authorities or housing associations.


Plans for where to rehouse Houses of Parliament all goes Pearshaped as Cheap Barge Plan Dismissed

Building Design

Commons are cruising for a brusing against SAVE /Richmond House facadism- they would lose a listed building fight with EH and Westminster, they cant use crown immunity because of separation of powers and  even a special act of parliament would be subject to EIA under European Law even after Brexit – John Bercow you need a good planning barrister.



Making a Model, Doing A Design, Estimating Unknowns – How to Urban Plan

Draft article for JAPA

What is urban planning?  What do urban plans that don’t work all have in common?

This is not a philosophical article or an introduction to a 300 page book on planning theory, this is about what  urban planning is and should be at its rawest level.  This is the reason why this peice, quite deliberately, has no citations

Urban planning and urban design being the same thing, just different angles, different ways in to the same set of problems.

Plans that don’t work have made a mistake in their underlying model of place.  Planning by its nature being based on a necessarily a simplified model of place and a forecast of that model into the future.

These models are always wrong, but somethings fall apart catastrophically:  models that project forward employment levels but don’t square with the employment zoned, models that project forward household housing needs but somehow assume they will be magically met without housebuilding, the examples are endless.  All plans are an assumed series of equations and mathematical identities about activities in space:

An example Yield (for a zoning district) = Area_HA * ER*Density_DPH

In a spreadsheet (good) or a gis (far better).  Note: I would always recommend the NASA rule for not crashing into planets- do all dimensions and calculations in metric, specify the units in your formula and then convert to the locally idiosyncratic measuring system, like rods or furlongs etc. only at the end.  ER here being exaction ratio, or gross to net ration as it is called in some countries.  Density as dwelling per hectare.

A masterplan is the same.  The term ‘balancing the land budget’ really means doing one which is not mathematically impossible and can be built.  masterplans are driven by a series of mathematical identities, relating to population, units, blocks, streets, neighbourhoods etc.  If you have got these wrong and haven’t, for example, provided enough space to fit in the schools your density requires in terms of pupil product then your land budget doesn’t balance and you haven’t found a solution to the implicit solution set the zoning regulations and standards for the area imply.  It is also true for traffic models of a planning intervention, showing LOS RED for example., and viability models, where your discounted cash flow and peak debt models show your scheme wont make  a profit and no-one would fund it.

So producing a plan where the underlying model is explicit, transparent, tractable, understandable and manipulable is key to test what works and doesn’t and whether the reasonable assumptions made are resilient to stress testing is key to success, at least for a period of time.

We never have all the information we need for a perfect model and some spend so much time chasing it they never get down to plan or find their evidence base is now so out of date it has to be redone – rinse repeat.  So we have to estimate.  Formalisation of this is apace – so we talk of City/Construction/Civil Information modelling – for which we don’t yet have an accepted acronym and accepted open source standard as we do for BIM.  But we dont have to be held back by doing nothing till everything is standard, agile simple swift models, and wiring the models we have together,  are the way ahead and plugging these into the oncoming tsunami of models to model the world eventually is the way forward.

I hope within five years we will be able to realign a road in cad and have all zoning and planning parameters, and the 3d CIm City model for the model, and traffic model and all utility models update automatically in the cloud presenting a dashboard of metrics to help determine design intent.

Sometimes this estimation is hard – we might be planning in a country where we have no census, or even count of dwelling, GDP information but not at the geographical level we need etc. etc.  So planners have developed an ingenious suite of techniques for ‘zero data planning’ where we make best mathematical guesses of the Rumsfeldian problem set of known unknowns.  These guesses all involve in some form use of a geostatistical model (in GIS)  to guess the unknown in space by what we do know in space. Then with the unknowns plugged into the ‘model’ we have now completed to run this model again in estimation mode – to find the most optimal solution to the model from the (more than atoms in the galaxy series of possible states) using a series of swiss army knife approaches that make the problem tractable.  This should not be scary, you don’t need a PHD in GIS or statistics, you just need to learn and share best practice in this emerging field.

Many other fields are facing similar problems and are trying similar solutions, but are often struggling.  In economics for example it even has names like the ‘quantification problem’ and the ‘replication problem’ (no-one can repeat your model results – if you cant its not a science, crisis – crisis!)

Don’t worry planning and design is not a science its an art.  We seek an imagined vision of future based on our model of the present  switched to forecast mode.  A parametric model where the computer does the hard work and we can experiment with good design and good planning at every scale.  So lets design some models to help solve our design problem.

Spend a whole day reading London Plan just ticking off policies for a report – London Planning has become a Joke

Report on redevelopment of London Studios South Bank

Nice report – format with tabs of metrics seems very familiar ( 🙂  ) but somehow the date, architect, agent and developer seems to have been accidentally missed off front page.

The list – laundry list of London Plan (LP – so reports have glossaries of acronyms now – like those indecipherable inspectors reports that can only be machine read by planning robots not by non planner plan english speaking human beings)  policies.

The London Plan (MALP 2016) (as amended)
Provided below is a list of the key London Plan policies which are considered relevant
in the determination of this planning application:
 Policy 1.1 Delivering the strategic vision and objectives for London
 Policy 2.1 London in its global, European and United Kingdom context
 Policy 2.10 Central Activities Zone – strategic priorities
 Policy 2.11 Central Activities Zone – strategic functions
 Policy 2.12 Central Activities Zone – predominantly local activities
 Policy 2.13 Opportunity Areas and Intensification Areas
 Policy 3.1 Ensuring equal life chances for all
 Policy 3.2 Improving health and addressing health inequalities
 Policy 3.3 Increasing housing supply
 Policy 3.4 Optimising housing potential
 Policy 3.5 Quality and design of housing developments
 Policy 3.6 Children & young people’s play and informal recreation facilities
 Policy 3.8 Housing choice
 Policy 3.9 Mixed and balanced communities
 Policy 3.10 Definition of affordable housing
 Policy 3.11 Affordable housing targets
 Policy 3.12 Negotiating affordable housing on individual private residential & mixed
use schemes
 Policy 3.13 Affordable housing thresholds
 Policy 3.15 Coordination of housing development and investment
 Policy 4.1 Developing London’s economy Economic sectors & workspaces
 Policy 4.2 Offices
 Policy 4.3 Mixed use development and offices
 Policy 4.5 London’s visitor infrastructure
 Policy 4.6 Support for & enhancement of arts, culture, sport & entertainment
 Policy 4.7 Retail and town centre development
 Policy 4.8 Supporting a successful & diverse retail sector & related facilities &
 Policy 4.10 New and emerging economic sectors
 Policy 4.11 Encouraging a connected economy
 Policy 4.12 Improving opportunities for all
 Policy 5.1 Climate change mitigation
 Policy 5.2 Minimising carbon dioxide emissions
 Policy 5.3 Sustainable design and construction
 Policy 5.4 Retrofitting
 Policy 5.4 A Electricity and gas supply
 Policy 5.5 Decentralised energy networks
 Policy 5.6 Decentralised energy in development proposals
 Policy 5.7 Renewable energy
 Policy 5.8 Innovative energy technologies
 Policy 5.9 Overheating and cooling
 Policy 5.10 Urban greening
 Policy 5.11 Green roofs and development site environs
 Policy 5.12 Flood risk management
 Policy 5.13 Sustainable drainage
 Policy 5.14 Water quality and wastewater infrastructure
 Policy 5.15 Water use and supplies
 Policy 5.16 Waste net self-sufficiency
 Policy 5.17 Waste capacity
 Policy 5.18 Construction, excavation and demolition waste
 Policy 5.19 Hazardous waste
 Policy 6.1 Strategic approach
 Policy 6.3 Assessing effects of development on transport capacity
 Policy 6.4 Enhancing London’s transport connectivity
 Policy 6.7 Better streets and surface transport
 Policy 6.8 Coaches
 Policy 6.9 Cycling
 Policy 6.10 Walking
 Policy 6.12 Road network capacity
 Policy 6.13 Parking
 Policy 7.1 Lifetime neighbourhoods
 Policy 7.2 An inclusive environment
 Policy 7.3 Designing out crime
 Policy 7.4 Local character
 Policy 7.5 Public realm
 Policy 7.6 Architecture
 Policy 7.7 Location and design of tall and large buildings
 Policy 7.8 Heritage assets and archaeology
 Policy 7.9 Heritage-led regeneration
 Policy 7.10 World Heritage Sites
 Policy 7.11 London View Management Framework
 Policy 7.12 Implementing the London View Management Framework
 Policy 7.13 Safety, security and resilience to emergency
 Policy 7.14 Improving air quality
 Policy 7.15 Reducing and managing noise
 Policy 7.18 Protecting open space and addressing deficiency
 Policy 7.19 Biodiversity and access to nature
 Policy 7.20 Geological conservation
 Policy 7.21 Trees and woodlands
 Policy 7.29 The River Thames
 Policy 8.1 Implementation
 Policy 8.2 Planning obligations
 Policy 8.3 Community infrastructure levy
 Policy 8.4 Monitoring and review

Phew, pity the case officer. What a waste of time and what a monster the London Plan has become.  Its a site as complex as it comes in England – and yes ill hold up my hand I did write the original version (now much enhanced site site specific urban design wise wise) of the local plan policies and the key SSP the site was judged on, but those site specific matters and its location on the South Bank Cultural Area opposite Grade I listed buildings etc is well summed up in the report in two paragraphs.

What cllr will read all those LP policies – none.  Its going through the motions.

Which LP policies really make a difference – very few such as CPZ (sadly not analysed in report it is not about ITV returning to the site, as a central activity they are not allowed to move in favour of a none central activity use, there is no fall back housing only position in line with the development plan – wool pulled over eyes by planning agent there) that aside, the only policies in the London Plan of any bearing which add value to the local plan are affordable housing, which mainly is of merit in its SPD (the policies could be 10% of length on that front).

Planners in London should rise up with their pitchforks and uniform manuals and hurl them at City Hall just around the corner from here and not let anyone from the London Plan team out until 400 pages is torn page by page from the door stopper before the EIP, or let the EIP panel tear them out for you.

One last thing – surely one of the top 10 sites in London deserves something that repeats the same mistakes from the sites development in 70 and looks like it wasn’t knocked up in half an hour in sketchup.

The Financialisation of the Land Economy and House Prices Inflation – Even So Releasing More Land will Decrease House Prices

‘The ‘housing crisis’ needs to be understood primarily as a product of the banking system.’
— Mick Peel (@Mick_Peel) October 15, 2018

No the financial crisis may be in terms of lending, but all speculative bubbles have origins in bottlenecks in the real economy and capitalists have always got their riches from these bottlenecks.

Katie Allen in FT alphaville picks up on an excellent book by the look of it

With great flourish, Theresa May last week announced that she was lifting the borrowing cap which constrains local councils’ ability to finance new housebuilding.

“We will only fix this broken market by building more homes,” the prime minister said. “Solving the housing crisis is the biggest domestic policy challenge of our generation. It doesn’t make sense to stop councils from playing their part in solving it. So today I can announce that we are scrapping that cap.”


In reality, councils – or anyone else for that matter – building more homes will do very little to address the fundamental problem in the housing market, and if you want to understand why, there’s a new book which explains it.

‘Why Can’t You Afford To Buy A Home?’ by Josh Ryan-Collins – a researcher at University College London’s Institute for Innovation and Public Purpose – is about the phenomenon which he dubs ‘residential capitalism’.

It follows on from his less snappily-titled volume ‘Rethinking The Economics of Land and Housing’, which was written jointly with fellow economist Laurie Macfarlane and policy wonk Toby Lloyd and published last year.

Both books address the question of why a growing number of people are being priced out of the property market, with rising house prices accelerating away from household incomes.

The answer is financialisation – and it is not an aberration, according to Ryan-Collins. The ‘housing crisis’ needs to be understood primarily as a product of the banking system.

For starters it’s not just a British problem; this is a trend which has gripped developed economies across the world over the past three decades.

“Two of the key ingredients of contemporary capitalist societies, private home ownership and a lightly regulated commercial banking system, are not mutually compatible,” he writes. Instead they “create a self-reinforcing feedback cycle”.

The post-War popularisation of home ownership put pressure on governments to reduce property taxation, which made it more attractive for banks to lend, with the result that mortgage lending replaced corporate lending as banks’ main area of business.

In the early 1980s, business lending equated to around 40 per cent of GDP on average in advanced economies, while mortgage lending was around 25 per cent. By the time of the financial crisis, mortgage lending had grown to 75 per cent of GDP while business lending had only grown slightly, to 45 per cent.

Much of the reason why policymakers have failed to tackle the ‘housing crisis’ is because they have not grasped that land is fundamentally different to other economic inputs, Ryan-Collins argues: “Land is immobile, irreproducible and appreciates in value over time.”

Lending to business supports capital investment and wages, fuelling growth, but lending on existing property and land is by comparison unproductive. Land is unusual in economic terms, in that it exists in fixed quantity; increased lending against it serves therefore only to drive up its value. And the banking sector’s health has become dangerously intertwined with property prices.

Breaking this cycle means radical banking reform, partly by changing their ownership structure – a shift from shareholder-driven banks to stakeholder-driven banks (though Alphaville hates the woolly word ‘stakeholder’).

State investment banks, co-operative and regional banks are some examples of alternative ownership structures and relationship banking models put forward by Ryan-Collins, though the under-scrutinised investment activities of the German Landesbanks suggest that this on its own would not be a panacea. They were some of the biggest holders of Carillion, to use just one recent example which led Alphaville’s colleagues to dub them ‘dumb German money‘.

Ryan-Collins also argues that central banks need to guide credit away from property and into productive areas of the economy. Policymakers could be given an explicit mandate to steer credit more proactively, while restricting property lending through capital and liquidity requirements. It’s about creating an incentive system that more closely aligns the interests of banks with those of their business customers.

In short, the ‘housing crisis’ needs to be understood primarily as a product of the banking system, not a function of construction volumes – it represents a market failure, not a supply/demand imbalance.

And no, Mrs May, more borrowing by councils will do little and probably nothing to address any of that.

‘Why Can’t You Afford To Buy A Home?’ by Josh Ryan-Collins, published by Polity Books

I agreed with every last line of that until you got to the point

In short, the ‘housing crisis’ needs to be understood primarily as a product of the banking system, not a function of construction volumes – it represents a market failure, not a supply/demand imbalance.

Which is fundamentally wrong.

Consider a real market failure where prices do not reflect fundamental supply demand conditions.  Where for example only one ice cream seller on a beach is licensed or all beach goers are forced to be ice cream sellers.  In a capitalist monetary production economy the price of ice cream unhindered by (in the above cases regulation enforced) market failure the price of ice cream will reflect market conditions  so that the profit of ice cream selling is the same as everything else.

However if you cant freely sell ice cream on that beach someone owns it, and good beaches and hot summer days are in short supply then the owner of the beach will be able to charge a rent and the ice cream seller will have to charge a monopoly price to pay the rent.  However if the beach were not owned they could still charge a monopoly price, they simply keep more of the economic surplus.   

The problems many on the left grapple with is there is a triple market failure in the housing market and many in this space- such as the author of this article, the otherwise always spot on Anne Pettifor , and Ian Mulheirn confuse the three, delightfully picked up by Nimbys everywhere who want to stop housing for oiks near their countryside homes which might devalue their house prices and their future stream of rentier income, oh the irony.

  1. Is monopoloy ownership of land to be able to taken runtier income a bad thing – yes
  2. Does financialisation enable banks to cream off some of this income and fuel land speculation – yes
  3. Is the planning system overly influenced by those protecting their house prices restricting new land for housing coming on the market – yes

Yes and ALL THREE AT ONCE in a system.  No good can be financialised unless it’s rentier income is predicted to rise in the future.  No rentier income arises in any good unless there is some restriction, physical or regulatory, on its production, and the production of land zone for housing is restricted both by space and regulation.

Indeed I would go so far as to say that there is increasing evidence and theory  to suggest we are tentatively understanding the interrelated roles that space and regulation play in the capitalist space economy and the production of space.  You really need to understand this to understand the housing market.  At heart its an issue of economic geography, needing to be combined with a sound understanding of capitalist land and growth  economics.  The ‘New Economic Geography’ has attempted this (and got Krugman his Noble – deservedly), but there is no financial system (or money) anywhere in the writings of the ‘Market urbanists’ in their arguments that regulation is the sole cause of house price rises.  Now on the left in Britain we have precisely the opposite flaw from the ‘financialists’.

We see in the history of capitalism it is the interrelationship of these factors that often lead to financial crisis, whether it be the Florida land boom of the 20s (and many similar in following years in many us cities) triggering a chain of events which led to the crash of 1929, of the collapse of the fastest growing land market market in the worlds fastest growing city Mekkah – at the same time as an oil price collapse creating instability in KSA, both here and every house price boom when you examine them were built on the backs of people profiting from the fact that consumers had their rights to housing services monoplised and restricted in complex ways, and capitalists quite litterally running out of money and land as physical constraints kicked in.

In a future series of posts ill be examining the relationship between ‘filtering theory’ as it is known, planning regulation and financialisation, and backed by empirical evidence to show:

A) We really do have a housing shortage and

B) Building more homes can reduce house prices

C) But this requires new ways of capturing land values and financing building of cities to work and not trigger a new financial crisis.

Note:  In this article i’ve kept it simple and not looked at the interrelating rates of changes (elasticities) of various factors such as house prices, credit for mortgages, rate at which land comes on the market and households form and are suppressed from forming. They are all crucial and will be picked apart later.