Don’t Postpone Local Plan EiPs – Do them Via Microsoft Teams

Link Here

So this is PINs resilience plan – the world stops until the panic is over.  Pathetic.

Should a significant number of examination participants not be able to attend the hearings the Inspector(s) will need to consider (in consultation with the Council) whether specific hearing sessions or all the planned sessions in their entirety need to be postponed to a later date.

Why not just purchase a corporate licence for teams and send out links to join each session.  On Thursday I organised a Team conference between 6 parties in three time zones on a slow fibreless location and it worked like a dream.

Whos is Really to Blame for Car Giant Problem at Old Oak Common?

The  SoS letter on the London Plan States

Critical strategic sites have stalled, epitomised by your Development Corporation in Old Oak and Park Royal being forced to turn away £250 million of Government funding because of your inability to work successfully with the main landowner.

This is more than a little disingenuous as the money was earmarked for a CPO and the Planning Inspector stated that the scheme was unviable given the rising of industrial land values in London given that Car Giant wanted both to develop housing on their site AND be relocated in NW London – an impossible circle to square.

Given the HS2 decision Car Giant are simply the wrong use on the wrong piece of land.  At the time of the Olympics central and local government worked together and moved the awkward squad, notably one very loud salmon processor.  Similar joint working is notable by its absence here as for political reasons cooperation with the Mayor of London had ceased.  The SoS is to blame.

Where to go – well there is a whole grid square in Basildon marked for urban intensification, but where land of similar size could be economically developed at 5-6 times the density in London.  A deal is to be done if Homes England a. thought strategically and b. were directed strategically by the SoS.



When and Where to Build Roads in A Zero Carbon Strategic Plan

The above I think is the most difficult technical issue in planning right now.  It deserves a conference.  It deserves its own joint research programme by the professional institutes working together, it deserves a joint NIC/CCC report, it deserves a targeted ERSC research programme.

Its a hard nut technically to crack

The Chinese have a saying ‘ if you want to get rich build a road’  They have a point

Going back to the origins of classical economics with Cantillon and Turgot, roads got your agricultural surplus out to cities and your industrial surplus out to markets.   It is impossible to build new or expanded cities without new roads.  Roads make cities; what matters is how the roads are used.

However a century of planning experience shows that if you just build roads for car borne commuters they clog up reducing their ability to get you rich through supply trade (and killing cities in the process).  Hence the classic planning concept from Benton MacKaye of the ‘Townless Highway and Highwayless Town’ .

We also have the complex business of induced traffic.  Building roads can induce traffic from elsewhere on the network and from public transport (the Down’s Thomspon Paradox).  In some cases closing roads can reduce traffic (Breasses Paradox)  Each of these are network effects of transport choice and land use.  They don’t apply to every road link everywhere and they all depend on the network (or otherwise) of public transport in an area.

What we don’t have a clear picture of is what changed road patterns would look like in a zero carbon strategic plan.  Which is just part of the wider question of what changed public transport and land use patterns would look like.

What we do have is a series of strategic way markers.

We know for example that with the right patterns (regional scale BRT and cycle networks etc.) you can get car modal share down to 40% or less, which with growth of population and households in a strategic growth region means that ‘in theory’ the modal shift would absorb all of the ‘residual’ growth of car traffic.  If strategic car use is then fixed the issue then is the direction of growth.

Some localised road improvements would be necessary, you cant expand Crawley for example and still rely on its 18th C Farm roads which count as West Sussex’s B Road network.  A large new town within the orbit of Cambridge for example would clearly require new roads to get its logistics in and out.  The problem is ensuring those new roads don’t clog up with car commuters, which may require new forms of traffic management (such as ramp control – with compulsory engine cut off-   out of major housing areas accessing on roads to strategic roads, well before the strategic road ramps), public transport prioritisation (zooming past the deliberately created car blockages) and targeted  road-pricing.  This means rethinking concepts like prioritising reducing congestion, and planning for car ‘levels of service’  from strategic housing sites, and towards  planning on how to creatively create it to disincentive car use on strategic roads at peak periods.   The overiding target should be level of low carbon service and travel times not the metric of congestion.   Low travel times should be a negative in any benefit cost calculation if it is at the expense of busting a carbon budget.

Where to study?  Well Homes England have lots of strategic sites and no sustainability plan (no plan at all really) so lets start there, forcing Highways England to be a strategic partner on the study (junior of course) would also be a nice discipline and learning exercise for them.



The Political Show of the SOS issuing Directions on the London Plan.

The SoS has issued directions on the London Plan.   

Annex with details of changes.

This is all about show than substance.  The Mayors SDS is as a matter of law not subject to a binding inspectors report.  But as a matter of policy the new NPPF makes it binding.  But as a matter of national policy the new NPPF is not binding this round.  Phew.

There has been rows for years between the Mayor and SoS, most notably when Brandon Lewis was SoS.   A lot of this is played out for the benefit of Outer London Council leaders and readers of the Evening Standard.

The key changes the panel secured are their.  The housing figures are too high, the crude fix of the small sites policy to make up the gap deleted, the London Green Belt must be reviewed and Green Belt policy must be no tighter than national policy.  The SOS’s intervention does not change the housing numbers or Green Belt policy or even the London Plan new policy on Garden development despite the noise on ‘garden grabbing’. . The changes are largely tactical and the political noises for show.

The panel report allows things to move on from political shadow boxing and move towards resolution of  the real outstanding issues.  Like how to unstick certain strategic sites and how to deal with London’s inevitable overspill of housing need.

The SoS may have a point that Khans housing performance has been less than stellar.  Khan has prioritised affordability over volume and has rejected certain affordability models from central government even where grant funding is available because of the implied mix – both his political choice.   However the comparison in the letter to he West Midlands is ridiculous.  The average of 37,0000 over the last three years is almost double the historical long term average in London.  London has seem a step change in housing delivery which surpasses any other city.

The SOS rightly criticises the length and complexity of the plan.

‘Your Plan added layers of complexity that will make development more difficult unnecessarily; with policies on things as small as bed linen’

Ojne recalls Sir George Younger’s Letter to Ken Livingstone on the Greater London Plan criticising it for having policies on picnic tables.

Notably the letter looks ahead beyond the current plan to the next.  Though not to the SoS’s taste on affordable mix the plans policies on affordable housing were too complex to unpick.  For the beginning of the process Central Government and the Mayor’s office have agreed to get this plan out of the way and argue about the next one.  Hence the play acting in this letter.

As to the future plan it adds

Producing and delivering a new strategy with authorities in the wider South East to offset unmet housing need in a joined-up way

A regional strategy.  There you go.

Of course the first thing authorities in ROSE will say is ‘why should we review our GB until you are reviewing yours’

So the urgent question of strategic numbers in the south east will be delayed another four years.  Especially as the letter says.

I had expected you to set the framework for a step change in housing delivery, paving the way for further increases given the next London Plan will need to assess housing need by using the Local Housing Need methodology

A local need methodology which increases the target for places like Greenwich fourfold, reallocating it from places with market demand and brownfield capacity like Leeds to London and expecting people to move accordingly.  Thankfully the formula is going to change to remove such nonsense.  The noise on urban capacity being more political noise as cover for the ministry having made such a catastrophic technical mistake.