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.