Time for Car Free Superblocks in Manchester City Centre @Chris_Boardman

Barcelona has pioneered the concept of car-free superblocks in its City centre.


The basic concept being that through traffic is only permitted on a few grid roads, within the superblocks ‘filtered permeability’ applies with no through car traffic and priority to  pedestrians and cyclists.

We learn this week that Melbourne is looking to adopt a similar scheme.  The new Spanish government is looking to do this in all major cities for air quality reasons.

The City Centre in England with the strongest gridded pattern in Manchester.  In teh City yesterday was thinking on St peters Street, why is there through traffic, there is nowhere to park in this whole superblock?  Yes there needs to be access to the big hotels for taxis but that can be manged, as can bus access; by induction bollards for example. There is no need for through traffic.

Manchester has pedestrian areas, such as Piccadilly and Market Street and St Peters Sqaure and by GMEX, but they don’t link up.  It is streets between them, such as Deasgate and Cross Street that seem to be struggling.

So heres a rough plan.  It should be possible to penetrate into the city centre from the ring road but not pass through it unless you are a bus, walker or cyclist.  Access should only be main car parks like Arndale and specialist areas like parking for Chinatown.  All other car parks north of Canal street should be removed, quite simply by stopping up orders on the streets that access them.  That includes all NCP car parks other than China Town.   They should be redeveloped for housing, though one central one should be redeveloped as a secure automated cycle park.  Deansgate and Cross Street (north of Peter Street) should be pedestrian, cyclists and buses only (other than Taxi access on Peter Street), with the area between them the first ‘Super Block’.

It should no longer be possible to drive east west- west east from Bridge Street-Princess Street or Peter Street- Quat Street.

The route from Piccadilly Gardens to Piccadilly Station should be bus, cycle and pedestrian only.

The free bus routes should be extended to all day and should include a service to link the edge of cengre parking areas such as at Ardale to the main cultural attractions such as the Exchange, Bridgewater Hall/GMEX, Chinatown, the Gay Village etc.

The Second phase would be to extend superblocks to Chinatown, the Gay Village, Castelfields, the Northern Quarter and Salford Central.




Buenos Aires Bins Bidets


The city government of Buenos Aires is set to approve a series of housing reforms Thursday that include eliminating a requirement that homes have bidets and bathtubs.

Current housing codes — set in place in 1943 and last updated in 1977 — state that bidets and bathtubs must be built in all homes. The fountains have become a cultural staple in Buenos Aires, a city of three million people that clings to its European roots.

The bill passed the first hurdle in the city’s legislature in September. The final vote is set for Thursday. Lawmakers have called the measure, among others, as a way to modernize an outdated housing code.

Doing away with bidets and bathtubs are just two of many reforms City Mayor Horacio Rodriguez Larreta is doing in order to spread out the Buenos Aires workforce. Few neighborhoods are zoned as mixed use and as a result, workers must spend hours crossing the city to get from residential areas to the downtown work areas. Larreta’s plan would allow more office buildings to be built in residential areas.

Every day, most city residents, known as “portenos,” cram into buses, trains and subways that all converge in downtown Buenos Aires, an often overcrowded area. It’s common at rush hour to wait for two or three packed subways to pass before squeezing into one.

Other changes in the bill include:

  • Unisex bathrooms in public spaces such as universities

  • Mandatory drainage systems for flood prevention in new buildings

  • So-called green roofs to cool buildings

  • Unifying the legal height of buildings

  • A website so residents can see new housing codes on each block

Policy Exchange – Birmingham should Double in Size

Birmingham Mail

They are actually recommending less growth by 2040 than the modelling by the 3 LEPs report recommends.

Birmingham should be twice the size in order to become a wealthy “global city”, according to a major new report.

That would mean doubling the population to two million people, from around one million today.

And the West Midlands Combined Authority, chaired by mayor Andy Street, should help ensure Birmingham’s population grows by at least 200,000 people by 2040.

Those are some of the findings in a study by think tank Policy Exchange.

Researchers looked at the Government’s Midlands Engine policy, which is supposed to grow the economies of both the West Midlands and the East Midlands, and to encourage the two regions to work more closely together.

One of their findings was that the Midlands would be more successful if Birmingham grows significantly.

The theory is that economies are more productive if there are more people around. This is known as agglomeration.

The Policy Exchange report said: “By locating close together, workers, businesses and families can access a common pool of ideas, skills and people, creating a city that is greater than the sum of its parts.”

If the UK was like most other developed countries then Birmingham would have around two million people, the report said.

Referring to the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), which includes 36 wealthy countries, the report said: “If Birmingham matched the OECD average for the relative size of a second city, it would be almost twice as large, or around 2 million people.

“By itself, assuming standard agglomeration effects, this might increase productivity by 3-8 per cent, helping close the gap with the South East.

The report said that the UK currently only has one “global city”, which is London, but it could have more.

It said: “Given its population and economy, the UK should be able to support more than one global city.

“In 1950 both Manchester and Birmingham were among the 30 largest cities in the world – today, neither make the top 100 and are rarely brought up in other lists of global power or influence.”

The Rotunda towers over the Bullring shopping centre.

And it said that the West Midlands Combined Authority, the region’s new council which is chaired by the mayor, should help ensure the city grows by at least 20% by 2040, which would mean roughly 200,000 extra people.

Policy Exchange’s Head of Economics and Social Policy Warwick Lightfoot said: “Britain stands out among advanced economies for the poor productivity performance of its second cities. This is not the result of a law of nature. Regional decline has been as much a result of political mistakes as economic destiny.

“The Midlands currently punches below its weight economically – but is fortunate. Unlike some areas of the UK, many of the fundamentals are in its favour, from technological developments in manufacturing to the region’s geography and close connection to London.

“While more needs to be done to address the region’s underlying weaknesses with skills and infrastructure, the reality is that these are secondary to developing world-leading sectors.

“If the Midlands is to substantially close the productivity gap with the rest of the G7, it will have to develop more world leading technologies of its own – and not just be a local base for production.”

Has an NPS for #CAMKOX Oxford-Cambridge Arc been announced by Treasury?

Getting  several reports that the productivity minister announced this at a conference yesterday – though he hasn’t confirmed yet.  As sought by England’s Economic Heartland and the NIC.

Some implications:

The Planning Act 2008 allows them to be locationally specific but doesnt mandate it, some like ports are aspatial.

The 2008 Act will need amendment to cover housing.

Undercuts completely the legal challenge on no SEA for the Expressway, as an NPS must have an SA, and subject to ‘political’, not ‘administrative’ approval the European SEA directive doesn’t apply.

It will be a huge challenge for the government to manage consultation on it.  They should delegate most of the engagement to local partnerships.

A proper justification will be needed for the housing target, not the back of an envelope and outdated (different boundary) number in the NIC report (relaying on a rather poor report from Savills based on 20 year out of date  numbers and geography and the old London plan housing target for overspill).

How and when will it emerge, at what point will specific proposals for Garden communities emerge and from the AECOM ‘vision’ or the next steps work due in 2020, and how will this sync in to the emerging JSPs for the area?  It looks to be like the NPS will increasingly drive the big numbers locations and the JSPs will have to follow.

To what extent will the NPS take up the challenge of ‘Zero Carbon by 2050’  as the JSP for Oxon is looking towards?   This is the big strategic planning challenge, net zero requires new communities to be accessed and designed in a compreletely diferent way, deign led with a focus on sustinable infrastructure and design, with transport networks designed around mass movement of people by transit.  This implies a very different kind of East-West Rail and corridor wide BRT and rail investment.







CPRE Furious – ‘Staunchest Defender’ of the Green Belt – South Oxfordshire – has now ‘Stabbed it in the Back’

Soon there will be no awkward squad/Nimby ‘we arn’t taking your oiks’ authorities left.  the day of reckoning will soon come for South Staffordshire.

Oxford Mail

UP TO 1,700 new homes could finally be set for a controversial site near Blackbird Leys that the city council has wanted to see developed for more than 20 years.

Land off Grenoble Road, near the Kassam Stadium, has been earmarked by the council for decades for potential homes, but it is in South Oxfordshire and on the Green Belt.

South Oxfordshire District Council (SODC), after months of uncertainty, has now said it could select the site for homes in a vital plan, infuriating campaigners.

SODC said 1,800 homes could be built there, with both sites are in the Green Belt.

Others are worried contentious locations, like Chalgrove Airfield, might still be built on.

Oxford City Council‘s deputy leader Linda Smith welcomed the decision over Grenoble Road, which could pave the way for the South Oxford Science Village (SOSV).

And Jane Murphy, SODC’s leader, said it was ‘vital’ the council has a ‘sound’ Local Plan – which outlines where it wants to build major developments until 2034 – that can be passed by the planning inspector.

Campaigners have been opposed to building on land off Grenoble Road because they claim it would badly affect the division between the city and the countryside, creating ‘urban sprawl’.

The Oxford Times:

Until now, SODC has been reluctant to support building at Grenoble Road – with former leader John Cotton claiming there would need ‘exceptional’ circumstances and that it is ‘not an attractive site’.

Michael Tyce, of the Campaign to Protect Rural England, said: “The purpose of the Green Belt is to protect urban sprawl. Grenoble Road is exactly the type of thing the Green Belt it is designed to protect [from development]. South Oxfordshire had always been a staunch defender of the Green Belt.

But Linda Smith, who is also the city council’s executive board member for housing, said: “This is excellent news. Our city needs to grow and the land at Grenoble Road is ripe with potential for a new community to be built with homes, schools and jobs for Oxford people. It’s not like it’s pristine green belt land bursting with nature and amenity value.”

SODC has said it still plans to build 1,850 homes in Culham, also in the Green Belt. It said originally it wanted to build 3,500 homes there but potential development is now set to be slower than anticipated.

In March, Prime Minister Theresa May said: “The answer to our housing crisis does not lie in tearing up the Green Belt.”

All Oxfordshire councils must work together as part of the £215m Oxfordshire Housing and Growth Deal, particularly for an unprecedented plan for the county which will look at planning until 2050.

They must all submit their Local Plans by April 1, 2019 at the latest. Only West Oxfordshire District Council’s plan has been completed.

Regarding other proposals, SODC’s Chalgrove councillor David Turner vowed to stand against any development at the airfield, which could be used for about 2,025 homes. That is down from an expected 3,000 earlier this year.

Ejector seat manufacturer Martin-Baker has said it is strongly opposed to being kicked off the airfield site, but the Government’s Homes England agency wants to use it for housing.

The council still wants to use other sites at Berinsfield and Wheatley for homes.

In its draft Local Plan, SODC said it was confident it will ‘exceed people’s high expectations in terms of healthy living, sustainable travel and the design of buildings, homes and public spaces.’

SODC’s scrutiny committee will look at the plan next Thursday. It will make recommendations to the council’s cabinet, which will meet on December 18. The council will then be asked to sign the plan off on December 20.


The Oxford-Cambridge Arc – A Quick Update

What we have learned since the budget announcements – the Aecom study etc.

  1.  The Expressway – timetable now clearer, corridor B chosen, whether North or South Oxford  – specific route consultation on options next year.
  2. East-West Rail, consultation on route options for central section (Bedford to Cambridge) early next year, will this be integrated with consideration of potential new Settlement  locations in the assessment/SEA. CBA – of course not that would be far too much like good practice or common sense to be considered.
  3. Oxfordshire- launch of JSP process in January.
  4. South Oxfordshire – now about to agree local plan (last in Oxon – which includes GB sites around Oxford).  That deals with growth to 2035 ius – now that is ‘agreed’ JSP can begin to look at longer term options.
  5. The 1 million chancellors target is out of date – as then the arc didn’t include South Bucks or North Northants – both are now in.  The Budget documents didn’t mention a housing target.
  6. There are submissions to the Garden Communities proposal – but they are small.  Nationally only add up to half a million, average 5,000 each. No sign of the large settlements of 50,000+ favoured by Homes England, no way forward suggested of how these will come about other than through JSPs.
  7. Cambridgeshire is stalling.  Crazy combined authority events  are slowing everything as the post 2035 JSP wont conclude until the infrastructure plan till 2035 is agreed, and James Palmer v Cambridge/South Cambs has become a soap opera.    He ran against a busway, is now in favour of a busway with tunnels (no budget for tunnels and sacked the finance director for saying that) and complains against Greater Cambridge Partnership for saying that as he is now backing a busway lets build a busway to Cambourne.  yes its that petty and silly.  The leader in the Arc is now the laggard.
  8. Northamptonshire – broke – going to two unitaries. So nothing happening strategic wise, consumes everything
  9. Bucks – going to one Unitary – which makes it interesting as any plan will now have to consider the 15,000 overspill from Slough and the Western edge of Heathrow
  10. Milton Keynes – announcement on expansion to 400k delayed after intervention from local mps.  They seem to have an ambition to grow to 500k also which seems just to be a number plucked from mid air
  11. Central Beds – got there submission in which if adopted will give them 5 years under the HDT.  What incentive do they now have to contribute to teh ARC wider aspirations and SOAN – none.  Good example of lack of joined up government thinking.
  12. Heart of England – the real driver and leagues above any similar partnership in England.

So lets sum this up, joint planning by sector is none existent or now dysfunctional everywhere in the Arc except Oxfordshire – who would have predicted that  two years ago when peace breaking out in Oxfordshire would have been as likely as an Iran-Saudi Arabia friendship agreement.  Four key roadblocks now to progress:

  1. Strategic Infrastructure corridors disjointed from strategic planning
  2. Local Government is unstable – unstable local government cannot plan
  3. Combined Authority – introduction was a big step backwards disrupting joint working in South Cambridgeshire that was at last working well.
  4. No real incentive for anyone to put forward large new Garden Communities to meet larger than local need.


Bedford Local Plan at Executive for Submission Tonight – 5 years knocked off plan period

Trying to hit the deadline for being examined under the old OAN.

On May 10th 2018 Executive considered the responses to the consultation. A key allocation in the published plan was a new garden village around Colworth Park close to Santa Pod Raceway. It relied upon agreement between the garden village promoter and the operator of the raceway to deliver a range of noise mitigation measures. The response from the operator of the raceway to the consultation explained that it had not been possible to reach such an agreement and for that reason they could not support the proposal. Executive resolved not to recommend to Full Council that the Local Plan 2035 be submitted to the Secretary of State for formal examination, but instead to instruct Officers to carry out additional work on the evidence base, including a review of reasonable alternative options….

The main changes were to the period covered by the plan from 2015-2035 to 2015-2030 and consequent amendments to numbers throughout the plan; the removal of the garden village policies 26 and 27; the introduction of a development allocation for 500 dwellings at Sharnbrook Key Service Centre which had previously not been included as a result of the close proximity of the garden village allocation,
and a development allocation of between 25-50 dwellings at Willington where the availability of school places is no longer a constraint….

The main issues raised in the two consultations can be summarised as follows.
• The time period covered by the local plan.
Some objectors consider that the revised plan period is not consistent with Government guidance which says that plans should be ‘drawn
up over an appropriate timescale, preferably a 15 year time horizon…..’
• The objectively assessed need for further housing development.
Some objectors believe that the Council’s calculation of the objectively assessed need for further housing development is overstated and
is based on incorrect assumptions. As a result the amount of growth that the plan provides for is too much. Other objectors comment that
the figure is understated when compared to the standard methodology now included in Government guidance, which means that true
need will not be met and the local plan will be out of date soon after adoption….



I didnt think I would live to see the day but South of Grenoble Road is in the Draft South Oxfordshire Local Plan

Grinding its way towards full council

Chalgrove stays – 3,000 homes

South of Grenoble in – 3,000 homes

Wheatley Campus stays – the planning application for it refused last week.

I don’t think it was necessary to mention the three different GB studies saying three different things on South of Grenoble, washing dirty laundry in public – just what the current assessment of the exceptional circumstances test is now.  In the end they were helpful to the assessment but didn’t drive it.  Difficult choices drove it.

RIBA President – Architects should shun ‘dreadful’ Office to Resi PD work

Ben Derbyshire – 

Do such schemes ever go above technician level – with architects simply signing off the fire buildings regs work – as only they can?

Misery for residents and profiteering for developers unleashed by change of use

At this year’s Civic Voice conference, one of the audience asked the panel for advice about solutions to the growing problem of transient populations in areas where homes are being converted from offices. Don’t blame the people, I replied – blame the policy.

The coalition government introduced a range of change-of-use permitted development rights including conversion of commercial buildings to residential. These came into force in April 2016, unleashing a disastrous, unintended tide of profiteering by developers and misery for residents of their projects.
Government planning statistics reveal that in the year to June 2018, 5,400 applications were for changes to residential use, of which 3,700 were allowed without going through the full planning process. There is no indication of the resulting number of individual ‘dwellings’ but the total will be many times larger – 40-50,000 is not an unreasonable guess.

The government impact assessment for this policy predicted there would be little uptake, it would be cost neutral, it would save local authority planning department resources and that housing in unsustainable locations was unlikely. How could this assessment have been so totally wrong?

Research led by Ben Clifford from UCL shows this policy has brought a wave of extremely poor quality housing that does little other than enrich unscrupulous developers. I have seen plans with ‘studio flats’ of just 13.2m2 and the UCL research reports an overall rate of just 30% meeting nationally described space standards, with no access to private or communal amenity space. Homes have been dumped in the middle of industrial estates or next to some of the busiest, most polluted roads in the country. There was direct evidence of the profitability of conversions for developers and land owners, but little sign of contribution to the public infrastructure needed for this additional housing. The consequence must surely be a heavy burden on social services and health departments, owing to the stressful circumstances in which people are being forced to live.


We should boycott this dreadful policy, turn down commissions that involve the creation of such poor living conditions

I have no objection to ‘micro flats’ provided they are well designed, their clientele is carefully selected, there is a management regime to support them and good facilities in the neighbourhood. But I object in principle to projects that are not subject to any sensible consideration of the human condition of their occupants and yet are enabled by this profoundly misguided and shortsighted policy.

The call to end this egregious and exploitative loophole in the planning system is one of the key asks in a new document from the RIBA Expert Advisory Group on Housing. Together with case studies of RIBA award-winning housing projects, it shows how good new housing developments can be when you combine a talented architect and a responsible and enlightened developer.

Clifford’s UCL research concludes that developers’ agents should provide robust advice about this, particularly if there are professional conduct and ethics implications.  I would like to think that RIBA members would offer such advice based on evidence that already exists and turn down commissions that involve the creation of such poor living conditions. We should boycott it, campaign against it, and lobby with research-based evidence that will lead, ultimately, to the repeal of this dreadful policy.

The commitment shared by all five architecture institutes of the UK and the Republic of Ireland, to strive to put the public interest at the forefront of all we do, will, I hope, result in a stronger Code of Professional Conduct and Code of Practice. I look forward to the outcomes of our Ethics and Sustainable Development Commission as well as the Conduct Review working group, which I hope will rule out our involvement in such poor projects.

Garden Pimples – Garden Communities Bids Only Averaged 5,000 homes each

Kit Malthouse talking 22nd Nov

The government had received 100 applications for new garden communities, equating to half a million new homes. This was “an extraordinary signal”, he said, that local authorities “are willing to embrace ideas of greater capacity and design.

Thats an average of 5,000 each.  I personally was involved in two bids totalling 135,000 homes.  So that means the vast majority of bids were well under 5,000, despite the very strong preference in the prospectus for sites of 10,000+ homes capable of supporting a secondary school and town level services.  Given some were large most would have had to have been very small to produce that average.

Overall its less than two years supply.  Given that in terms of new settlements we are talking to a horizon of 2050 and beyond thats probably less than a third of the total garden community housing we need over this period to plug the gap, if we are to avoid endless sprawl in poorly located suburban and village sites.

What does this mean?  Lots of strategic growth location that would have come forward anyway dressed up as garden communities, and most likely garden suburbs.

Little appetite so far for putting hard numbers on larger sites, why because may will come froward as part of strategic plans – new style JSPs- in the corridor which have yet to consult on, such as the CAMKOX corridor, some such as in South Essex will be in Green Belt, and publicising these in advance of plans would be disastrous

What it shows is that the government despite warming to the idea of strategic planning, is moving too slowly and too tentatively to provide a supportive framework for studying and developing Garden Towns and Garden Cities.  All the risk lies with local authorities and few have the resources to develop the regional or national scale transport infrastructure that would make Garden Communities work.