The Four Reasons Local Plans fall short of Housing Targets

The following is pretty obvious but I have never seen it set down.

The three reasons being:

  1. Shortfall in stock of housing sites in Local Plan: When you allocate a site in a local plan the stock of potential housing sites increases. As the plan ages and isn’t updated the stock shrinks.
  2. Shortfall in the flow of Allocated Housing Sites to Permission: Once it is the stock it needs to flow from an allocation towards delivery. The flow also includes windfall sites.
  3. Shortfall in the flow of Permitted Housing Sites to Permission: Now it is down to housebuilders to get building.
  4. Shortfall in the flow of housing sites coming into the Local Plan: This can be represented by a formula representing the flow of numbers per year that need to be added to a local plan to replenish its stock to target, based on the length of the plan and frequency of review. So if a plan 15 years has a 6,000 target it needs to replenish 2,000 new units every 5 years. Any delay the flow increases.

I have mentioned this before but never fully set it out. It intrigued the ministry. What is interesting is its potential to get rid of diversionary bullshit (of which the LGA are the experts) about what the real source of the problem is. If you have sufficient site level data (which at the moment you only have in London) you can set out the contribution of each component and set out the rate at which each needs to increase to reach target. This would be far better than intervention measures such as the Delivery Test which only monitors one. What is more it makes it possible to use stock/flow simulation models (using ODE equations in a computer model) to forecast future supply.

25 Lost Years – Why the Northern Way Failed

in 1994 John Prescott launched the ‘Northern Way’ programme. It was rumored at the time the North needed to have something like the Thames Gateway. In 2010 it was abolished by the incoming conservative government. Yet its aim are very similar to the Northern Powerhouse as launched by George Osborne.

Why did it fail?

Some observations:

  1. Its funding was tiny, 100 million over 10 years equivalent to 150 million today. By comparison this was 10% of the funding for New Deal for Communities. At the time the Treasury kept strict rules on investment, and when it finally did undo the taps it was focused on the NHS. The budget had to be sliced from the DCLG budget rather than in the past regional policy being run from the department of industry, which since the 1970s had seen massive cuts in its share of national budget.
  2. It was driven by Regional Development Agencies. Which had a business and property. City Region government outside London had been abolished. Though the Northern Way focused on functional city regions, these had no mayoral seat at the table. Also the weft of the trans Pennine belt conurbations was watered down by including isolated towns such as Hull, which have limited potential for increases in productivity through increased agglomeration and very rural areas, which required different solutions than a national corridor/cluster based strategy. Of course we see much the same mistake in the powerhouse where we see what the Irish call an ‘something for every crossroads town approach’ something for everywhere rather than focusing on growth corridors, which again we see in the silly arguments for ‘gods own country’ Yorkshire government, which would be as disastrous as James Palmers focus on the fens approach in Cambridgeshire. This is not a argument against investment in rural areas and remote towns, rather a national programme focused on corridors and clusters should not stray outside these areas. Other areas need different funding streams and different governance. Otherwise you just get a great watering down with big lines running everywhere – which means investment focussed nowhere, as you see in the TfN transport strategy. Which is why I say Northern Powerhouse should be focussed on the trans Pennine corridor and not stray north to the Yorkshire Dales and North or East of the A1M
  3. There was no analysis of why there was a GDP output gap and its causes – in other words why it needed levelling up. You read policy documents focussing on strengths but not weaknesses or threats. Also there was no analysis of the economics of agglomeration or of productivity.
  4. There was limited, little or any, study of capital improvements to improve corridor connectivity. For example a transport prospectus from 1995 had no maps and no proposals other than a vaugue injunction to improve connectivity between trans Pennine cities. Sadly you also get the same deflation looking at regional strategies of the period, vague wordy documents of objectives without seriously studies and visonary spatial proposals. Without a visionary and very expensive capital project which had serious political support it was never too big to cancel. Small plans are easily cancelled.

The Lack of Connectedness of Bradford

My recent piece on levelling up got me thinking about the competitiveness problems of Bradford.

Bradford is unusual amongst Northern Mill town in that is built on top of a watershed not at the base of a dale. This created problems in water supply for industry and canals came late to Bradford and closed early. For rail the problems are even more pronounced. More than one none connected terminus was built and the height difference between them (21m) made a tunnel impactical whilst maintaining the stations.

In the event short sighted planning in the post war period saw both termini truncated (which is why Bradford does not have a grand Victorian railway station) and much of the land demolished for post war developments like roads and shopping centres that either never took place or, like a shopping mall, took years to commence.

Many different schemes have been proposed from tunnels to surface level. There is even a 1911 Act of Parliament involving a tunnel and bridge over Forster Square. Similar schemes have regularly been proposed but cost of course is an issue. Though estimated at 120 million the cost is miniscule compared to other schemes on a national level measured in billions.

The galvanising issue now is NP Rail, though this is likely to bypass the centre of Bradford maybe only having a park and rail stop to the south of the city at Low Moor.

Personally I think with the demise of the eastern branch of HS2 to Leeds a route via the Woodhead tunnel tunnel from Manchester branching off to Sheffield and Leeds. It would be much the cheapest option (estimated savings of 20-21 billion) then building through quite urbanised trans pennine corridors north of Manchester. The Network North consortium have recently proposed this.

Network North emphasises that the current Northern Powerhouse Rail proposal – scheduled to start in 2024/25 – relies heavily on the construction of both east and west legs of HS2 in northern England.

Instead, the group has proposed a design for a fully electrified rail network in the North, featuring a new high speed rail spine between Liverpool, Manchester, Leeds and Sheffield 

The idea here is that you take the savings from the revised NPR route and use it to integrate and connect rail throughout the northern region, including the Northern Hub project in Manchester (including the tunnel and below ground station proposed to link HS2 and NPR as one system), as well as rapid transit systems for Leeds, Bradford and Derby.

People will ask what about Bradford, well I don’t think a NPR station at Bradford not linked to existing rail lines would be a good idea at all, a parkway only station would just encourage road traffic in a city notorious for it lack of regional integration. It would be far better to develop a tramtrain rapid transit system comprehensively serving the whole of West Yorkshire with on street running between Exchange and Interchange stations in Bradford City centre. Their would still be steep gradients at each station. The solution would be to develop railway spirals (below) at each point.

This could also utilize former railway lines such as the Shipley Great Northern Railway branch line which via Thackley would create a fast new route to Leeds and link Shipley and Leeds directly, with a new spur to Leeds/Bradford Airport, and utilising existing track to interchange at Low Moor. Also without reversing and terminus headway for sub-regional trains capacity would be dramatically increased. I also give shout out to this Leeds Crossrail proposal to end so many trains terminating at Leeds which is the cause of so much congestion. With the capacity issues solved in Leeds city centre future street running in Leeds can serve much the same network as the Leeds Supertram proposal – but with much more segregated track in congested areas, removing a major objection to Supertram and learning from successful tram proposals in other cities

A tram train has already been studied by the West Yorkshire combined Authority. Though it didnt look at the Bradford stations connectivity issue. With on street trams failing several times in the last 30 years in Leeds Tram Trains are the way forward and much less expensive. It is now being trailed between Rotherham and Sheffield.

What is now needed from Transport for the North is a coherent and costed study to:

  1. Integrate HS2 to rail, including a NPR rail route and major cities
  2. How this should integate to other rail improvements including tram-train based regional metro routes
  3. I forever live in hope, how this can drive zero and low carbon options for major development in Leeds-Liverpool-West Yorkshire- South Yorkshire transpennine growth corridor.
Siemens Tramtrain

Zoning Reform Planned for New York – But will it be Progressive

Part of Staten Island Zoned only for Single Family

Gotham Gazette

City Council Speaker Corey Johnson on Wednesday unveiled legislation that would overhaul New York City’s long-term planning processes, eliminating duplicative procedures, streamlining agency coordination, and establishing a more proactive, holistic approach to land use and budgeting that prioritizes racial and economic justice. 

For decades, the city’s zoning, land use, and development have been subject to disparate sets of mandates and guidelines, some overlapping and redundant, in the City Charter, the city’s foundational governing document. There are more than a dozen planning documents that determine how infrastructure is built and how communities and boroughs grow. 

Over the last two years, Johnson and his colleagues, particularly Council Members Brad Lander and Antonio Reynoso, have been attempting to reform those processes into one centralized comprehensive approach that would act as an overarching strategy for everything from housing creation to school construction, public spaces, transit access, and economic development. The approach would bring about more equitable and sustainable growth across the city, addressing long-standing disparities and needs, particularly in Black and brown communities, while also meeting citywide goals.

Council members along with the Thriving Communities coalition of advocates and experts unsuccessfully proposed such a comprehensive planning framework before a Charter Revision Commission last year. They sought to have the commission present the policy to voters in the form of a ballot question, but the commission decided against including it in its final list of ballot proposals. 

“We have a piecemeal and top-down approach to land use and planning and we can’t afford to carry that ineffective approach into our future. The stakes are just too high,” Johnson said Wednesday, as he announced the new legislation and released an accompanying report, “Planning Together.” The report outlines the city’s broken planning procedures that have created inequities and critiques city government’s inability to realistically evaluate, budget, and build major infrastructure projects through the capital budget.

The report and the legislation, Johnson said, would “give us tangible and useful tools to plan for our future…We’re going to have clearly-defined, measurable, citywide goals, and every neighborhood is going to develop their own land use plan. These are real concrete things that New Yorkers can actually wrap their heads around.” 

The new legislation, which includes City Charter amendments, would incorporate and re-jigger all the current elements of city planning into a comprehensive planning strategy over ten-year cycles, mandating a regular effort at thoughtful, coordinated growth and that decisions on land use and the city budget actively seek to rectify historic inequities across the city for low-income communities of color and to prevent the displacement that may be caused by forces of gentrification.

The plan will be a living document, changing every five years to keep up with the evolving needs of the city and based on regular engagement with communities. If the legislation is passed in 2021, the ten-year process would begin in 2022, with a Long Term Planning Steering Committee and an assessment of needs from community boards. The plan itself would first be published in 2025, and then amended in 2030 as citywide goals, needs and land use actions are reassessed.

It would require regular appraisals of infrastructure needs, short- and long-term risks and the impact of land use decisions. The proposed bill would require that the city prioritize community input and create new, local decision-making bodies to weigh in on land use and development processes. And it would set quantifiable targets for “housing, jobs, open space, resiliency infrastructure, schools, transportation, and other infrastructure.”  

A comprehensive plan – New York is the only city never to have had one, even Houston which doesn’t have zoning has one, is a good thing. However the process is unlikely to result in an uplift in New Yorks low development rates.

To understand you have to understand the background of the Bloomberg era. This saw targeted upzoning of some areas, mostly poorer areas in Harlem, and downzoning in areas such as Staten Island and Lower East side. This had little to do with accessibility. Most of the downzoning occurred in places close to stations.

You also have to understand that very little of New York is zoned for conservation. Only around 3% of lots are in historic districts (equivalent to conservation area). Overall New York could easily triple their coverage IF it reduced the two thirds of the lots zoned for single family dwellings. Formally ‘redlined’ areas are underepresented.

Of course residents of well heeled brownstones can lobby harder for protection. But the problem is not protection but downzoned and lowzoned areas not worthy of protection.

The risk is a thread amongst ‘left nimby’ discourse of ‘hey if white people can get downzoning in the name of racial and social justice so should everybody else’. The totally discredited idea that the best way to stop gentrification is to stop development.

Planning Together

The City’s piecemeal approach to planning responds best to the neighborhoods with resources to agitate for change, which has resulted in an uneven, unequal, and unfair distribution of zoning policy—and the de-prioritization of the needs of low-income people, immigrants, and people of color. Over the last several decades, many of New York’s well-resourced neighborhoods have successfully advocated for restrictive and exclusionary zoning that prevents the development of critically needed affordable housing in transit-rich neighborhoods.

Meanwhile, less privileged communities with fewer resources to organize have often either been left with outdated zoning that encourages car-centric urban design and includes no housing affordability requirements whatsoever—or targeted for increased density with little explanation or citywide rationale for why their neighborhood must bear the burdens of growth over other neighborhoods. These restrictive, exclusionary rezonings and uneven applications of zoning policy across diverse neighborhoods have exacerbated racial and socio-economic inequality in New York City.

Although in and of itself the Planning Together document is spot on on the issue of injustice it says nothing about the biggest injustice, the shortage of homes and places of business. As such it could be used simply to pressure for downzoning of racially diverse areas and create a backlash in historically valued neighbourhoods. As we know in so many cities this doesnt end well and can exacerbate tensions.

The rezoning process needs to be done very carefully and they should start now with a comprehensive historical and character survey of New York as background evidence.

The way I advocate to zone to to classify areas on a two dimensional matrix, the first axis is suitability for density and the second is suitability for change. On the first you classify areas against transect (Central urban to suburban fringe), accessibility to transit and accessibility to services, and the other you classify areas as with Intensify, manage or conserve. For each classified area you specify the acceptable form, either contextual or an appropriate form for intensification. There would then be no ‘special zoning districts’ pickling areas like most of Staten Island as one dwelling per lot.

Also I would drop emotive terms like ‘upzoning’ and use the term ‘Urban Living’ which Bristol invented. Urban living being basically areas where you can live without a car and have appropriate urban form to create the population density to facilitate this. The key question in the neighbourhood consultation being – what FORM of urban living is appropriate here.

Though there are many that have said that zoning in New York has become so legally complicted it will never have a comprehensive plan the massive rezonings on form based lines in cities like Florida and Milwaukie suggest it can and should be done.

‘Levelling Up’ Regional Policy under a New Name?

The first thing ministers should do with their newly free bandwidth after the conclusion of the Brexit negotiations is to work out what “levelling up” really means. They all have slightly different definitions, which suggests that if Johnson knows what it means, he hasn’t shared it with his senior ministers….Levelling up is in danger of becoming the sort of nebulous political catchphrase like the “big society” that David Cameron waffled on about. “It is an utterly meaningless, meaningful-sounding phrase,” complains one senior backbencher.

Isabel Harman Guardian

No it isn’t. How is it anything different for example than regional policy, or the definition of it by the EU which terms it ‘‘Cohesion policy‘.

Cohesion policy is the European Union’s strategy to promote and support the ‘overall harmonious development’ of its Member States and regions.

Enshrined in the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union (Art. 174), the EU’s cohesion policy aims to strengthen economic and social cohesion by reducing disparities in the level of development between regions. 

Spatial economic disadvantage needs to be seen through the lenses of competitiveness and the economics of agglomeration. Agglomeration economies has two components. Industrial – cost advantages of industries locating close to each other, and urban – innovation spillover effects from concentration.

Across Europe the areas which saw the greatest agglomerations were mainly coal mining areas. It is sometimes claimed the locational decisions of industrial pioneers were arbitrary, for example Wedgewood did not locate at St Austell where his clay came from. However that was not the main transport cost – that was coal. After all the Lancashire cotton mills were not located on the Missisipi.

Regional policy has had its ups and downs in the UK but is now on a resurgence. Its focus and policy tools have shifted. For a while the focus was ‘levelling down’ forcing relocation via tools such as development certificates and wrong headed policies such as preventing the growth of Cambridge or even Birmingham. Elements of this even persisted recently, for example John Prescotts disastrous view that you you shouldn’t plan for 20 years housing in the South East as by then people would be moving north. In the event the Blair Government has highly successful in reviving the economies of the Core Cities but this simply generated more housing need in the North and has done nothing to create a flow of South-North migration.

The term ‘levelling up’ does not mean ‘squashing down’ so it implies a rejection of policies to restrict housing or employment growth in the South. I’m not sure MPs in the south see it that way.

At a time of deindustrialisation it made sense to concentrate on urban economics of scale. There has been some cluster development in the North – for example financial services in London and Leeds, but other attempts at cluster development – such as for Culture and sports in Sheffield, have been less successful.

The core cities do not have a housing problem which is all the more odd why housing targets policy are concentrating on them. Apart from Bristol and Brum/Wolverhampton they are all exceeding their targets even the new ones. Therefore the new standard method will do nothing towards levelling them up, rather it is maintaining the cap on authorities in the South East with high affordability problems.

The real problems are in the rings of mill and manufacturing towns in the north around the core cities. It should be noted that most of England does not have the problem prevalent in Europe of depopulation in remote areas and rural hinterlands of industrial conurbations. This is because few areas in England are truly inaccessible and the ability of many to set up business in rural areas, often from home. In England its often escape to the Country rather than escape from it.

Expanding urban economies of scale will be difficult with the centrifugal shifts exacerbated by covid. However many northern towns are poorly connected to Urban Cores and cities to each other.

Two issues stand out – the lack of a rapid transit system in Leeds /Bradford – easily the largest conurbation in Europe to lack one, and of course the core Northern Powerhouse goal of better connecting Leeds and Manchester. There are also a number of potential ‘quick wins’ such as the potential to kick off Wirral waters through restoring the Birkenhead Docks branch as a streetcar system. Here the DOT should do a deal, we will fund it for a share of land value uplift on sales.

Across Europe the plan for most ‘peripheral’ deprived towns has been planned decline of population with considerable public monies spend on scrubbing up form coal and steel areas. England is unusual in having a number of good practice cases of reversal of population decline. Most notably Corby -aided by its central location and many shovel ready inward investment plots made by the former New Town Development corporation, as well as European Money to restore the former steel site. This does suggest that public intervention at key locationally attractive sites can make a difference.

For areas lacking in connectivity there are opportunities to make new links. I am not one normally to argue for new Motorway Links but the M65 was cut short and stops at Colne having crossed the Pennines and doesn’t get to Bradford. It was extended in the 1990s then momentum ran out. The DOT is now studying a link.

Are Modern Masterplans too Dominated by Giant Swales?

I hope i’m not being too contrarian here. The introduction of Sustainable Urban Drainage has been an undoubted good. After accessibility the fundamental driver of masterplanning is gravity. I have long learned there is little point in beginning a masterplan without a hydrological study. Waters flows downhill and that dictates street layouts in large parts.

However I have noticed in many recent masterplans swales dominate. It is almost if the strategic landscape layout has been designed by a water engineer rather than a landscape architect or masterplanner.

Part of the reason for this is the Environment Agency rule that run off from the site needs to be no more than its greenfield state. This requires large areas of water storage. As the slopes of Swales cant be too steep they have to be long and fairly wide. However they are often not usable for public open space. Wet swales are not safe and dry swales you cant put paths in their centre. When they are full of nice planting they become purely ornamental rather than something you recreate in. Hence because of their size they squeeze traditional networks of open space. District and local parks seem non-existent. All that is left is pocket parks, and a large open space at the lowest and boggiest part of the site. What is worse there is a risk of repeating the great error of 1970s layouts, clusters houses separated not unified by open space. There is also a discouragement of truly urban layouts with narrow streets and high figure ground ratios.

What can be done? Check dams can be used to increase storage and reduce swalle size. More can be done to increase water storage at source, such as rain gardens in and at the edge of properties. French drains (ground level) can be used instead of gutters and storage area integrated into front and rear gardens. Urban streets can be designed as ‘cloudburst’ streets designed to flood to a set level. The concept is to retain water in the higher parts of the layout and gradually release it, rather than overly dominating the layout with a marshy lower level retention area.

You can also use permeable pavements and surfacing. Finally the longer the transect along the flow of water the more opportunities you get to slow runoff. Therefore you need to think strategically and ensure as far as you can that sites and linked ‘with the grain’ of shallow slopes. In Wuhan for example rather than assessing runoff parcel by parcel they have a strategic city wide target of containing 70% of runoff. This is a much smarter target than the Environment Agencies In areas with medium to high slopes with can zig zag layouts along contour lines and create parks on the inside the ‘v’.

Note the terms ‘Spong City’ SUDS and Water Sensitive design are all used around the world to mean essentially the same thing.

OANishambles 2 leads to Loss of 7 years work on Joint Stoke -Newcastle Under Lyme Local Plan

Stoke Sentinal

Controversial housing blueprint looks set to be scrapped after years of delays and hundreds of thousands of pounds spent.

The joint local plan between Newcastle Borough Council and Stoke-on-Trent City Council could have seen around 33,000 homes built across the two areas.ADVERTISING

It included some highly contentious sites, such as the former Keele golf course, where more than 1,000 homes were earmarked on Green Belt land.

A consultation exercise, beset by delays, was finally set to go ahead in autumn, after being delayed again by the coronavirus crisis.

But now the borough council has announced it it ‘taking a step back to review’ it, citing economic fears of Brexit and the fallout from the pandemic.

Its cabinet met last week and hammered the final nail into the beleaguered plan.

The joint local plan will cover Stoke-on-Trent and Newcastle
The joint local plan will cover Stoke-on-Trent and Newcastle

Instead, Newcastle planners will begin a ‘standalone borough plan’, for which a cost of £635,000 has been earmarked. The costs include staffing, external commissioning and examinations, and could go higher.

More delays are also predicted for the timescale of the new standalone plan.

The cabinet report states: “Work has now been ongoing for a period of approximately seven years to produce a plan, with a range of council employees, agency and specialist commissions deployed on various aspects of the plan preparation to date.

“To cease the preparation of a Joint Plan at this stage will mean that that funds will have been deployed on a project which is not progressed to fruition.

“Newcastle-under-Lyme’s expenditure to date on the preparation of the joint local plan is estimated to be circa £316,000, plus staff time. A further £90,000 in external commissions would be required to progress to adoption.”

Council leader Simon Tagg said: “I feel at this stage, as the report says, it is the time to pause and ask for some advice and to consult with those people and bring something back in January, so if we do decide to do our own borough plan, we can get on with it.

“The borough then will be the centre of the thinking for our local plan, instead of being attached to a large city which has got different ambitions and different growth targets than a borough.

“I’ll just say, Staffordshire Moorlands, which is the other side of the conurbation from us and the rural area out towards the peaks there, has its own local plan, and has had one in place for a few months now.

“They cracked on and got their local plan on their own and I don’t see why us as a borough can’t get on and do that.”

Cabinet member for planning and growth, Paul Northcott, said: “It’s important that we take a step back now, while we have the chance to look at this.

Of course the real reason – hinted at above is the 25% uplift applied to only Stoke as a Labour Authority. Of course Newcastle will be bound to fail the DTC if it doesnt take its fair share.

Lets hope its reassesses as well. Kelle Golf course is quite the worst major housing site I have seen of very many I have walked. Its 25 degrees in large parts, heavily wooded and forms a clear green belt function on the edge of the green bowl that separates it from Keele. The only reason it was persued was because it was council owned. There are far far better sites.

The Justification of Local Plan Strategies – the Problem and how to Fix it?

At last weeks MCHLG Planning White paper hearing there was a discussion over sub-regional planning (the minister used the term) where he rightly said the DTC wasn’t working as it should and gave an example – SW Devon (he could have added Newcastle Gateshead) as an example of where it worked. Of course there are so many more where it has fallen apart – such as Greater Exeter, North Essex, Greater Manchester and West of England. The DTC ensures that plans that fail to plan strategically fail. But does nothing to ensure strategic planning succeeds.

This is the greatest problem with strategic planning now, less the lack of it, the bigger problem is when it is tried it fails. This is the central problem my forthcoming book – Big Planning – aims to tackle – and it gets quite technical with GIS and other techniques used around the world. The underlying theme though is very simple. Big problems need to be reduced to small world problems.

Planning is still fixated on the more evidence the better. Even though Herbert Simon’s dictum that there is never enough time to gather all the information you need – so decisions will not necessarily be optimal is well understood the underlying dictum is that this is somehow sub-optimal and explains ‘irrational’ decision making.

This is not rational. Producing and digesting evidence consumes time and energy. This can be counterproductive. The consumption of time and energy has a cost, and if animals such as humans consume too much they can risk their survival. It is only rational to spend time on energy on evidence if the cost of gathering it outweighs the delay and benefits of making a faster and more frugal decision earlier. This new approach is called ecological rationality.

The greatest and consistent source of Non DTC failure at plan examinations is failure to plan for realistic options – typically leading to failure of the SEA directive.

In terms of evidence all you need is JUST enough evidence to reliably differentiate between a limited number of realistic options. Any more you risk taking so long to gather the evidence it will be out of date.

Here PINS are often to blame – such as issuing 150 questions, have you done this have you done that – at the outset of examinations.

Most planners of this generation have been schooled in the doctrine of Eric Reade that too much planning in the past was not evidence based. He was right but now the bigger risk is evidence overload.

I would add the need for three techniques to go on an evidence diet (more details in my book).

The first is structured simplification of the data;

The second is to provide a common reporting structure for the data you need to differentiate options

The third is to produce a simple, consistent model to produce the outputs needed for that structure.

The first and third of these require longer treatment than this blog post. There are examples of projects from several countries in my book.

This post refers to the common reporting structure.

Evidence for a plan is of two forms Baseline (self explanetory) and Options Report.

The report is the same as the environment report for SEA, they are not seperate things

Each option is a table, anticipated development by when, so the impacts of an option at various phases can be tested.

One of the most contentious things at examinations these days is years to start and completions per year. This means the majority of completions take place after plan end date. This is not a big deal when a garden community say meets a strategic need. However where and how strategic needs shall be me met is not even covered by national policy. It is entirely unhelpful. To simplify planning the Government needs to set down standard assumptions such as no more than 5 years from a development corporation stating to first completions – unless there are unusual infrastructure perquisites – and 4-600 units a years completions (as achieved at the peak on MK completions). Nor should it be assumed that a few hundred completions before say a major junction is upgraded is a big deal – the extent of additional harm will be minimal and then the problem will be fixed. This is precisely where the Government and Homes England need to proactively derisk strategic developments through land value capture and near zero interest rate borrowing – and make all the silly circular arguments that developments are unviable because of hope value go away.

Back to the common reporting structure. Not a bad one is Home England’s Garden Communities prospectus (though it is very inconsistent with the prospectus) form. Some of the financial requirements are excessive and it needs to have more info on options considered and their planning implications, but is a structured starting points. PINS should not be asking for more unless it relates to pressings and specific local circumstances.

The Fastest Way to Reduce Carbon Emissions in Britain – Get Rid of Farming on Marginal Land and Let Trees Grow

It has recently been suggested that the best way of rewilding is to simply let areas naturally seed and reforest. Of course this requires removal of grazing.

England’s current woodland covers only 10% of the country and current regenerative plans are only planning to increase this by 2%, by 2050.

If woodland cover was increased to 26%, 10% of the nation’s carbon would be adsorbed naturally, whilst supporting dwindling wildlife.

Rewilding – allowing woodland to regenerate naturally on a large scale – is the most effective way to increase woodland cover.

Allowing trees to naturally establish over huge areas could massively expand Britain’s woodlands more effectively and at a fraction of the cost of tree planting, according to research by Rewilding Britain.

Britain is one of Europe’s least wooded countries. Rewilding Britain says the UK government’s draft England Tree Strategy, open for public consultation to 11 September, is woefully inadequate for tackling the climate and nature crises. More ambitious targets and a fresh approach are needed.

The government’s unambitious plans also focus on manual tree planting as a quick fix. But a Rewilding Britain study to be published later this year shows that allowing and enhancing natural regeneration – supported by native tree planting in suitable sites – would be the most effective long-term approach for landscape-scale reforestation.

There is scientific support for this, as the areas around the world that have most rapidly reforested are those that have experienced the most rapid reforestation are those that have experienced the most rapid rural depopulation. Removal of grazing leads to natural forest regeneration.

Gulmi District and many other parts of Nepal — especially its middle-hills region — have experienced a forest resurgence over the past several decades. A forthcoming paper by a NASA-funded research team, using the most detailed analysis of Landsat satellite images of Nepal to date, has found that forest cover expanded from 26 percent in 1992 to 45 percent in 2016. This makes Nepal an exception to the global trend of deforestation in developing countries.

Many locals and experts attribute the forest regrowth to policy changes from about three decades ago, when the government began devolving management authority from bureaucrats to local communities across the country. Community forestry helped to reduce illegal logging, and many villagers undertook tree-planting campaigns to re-establish local woodlands.

One study showed that areas with the highest out-migration experienced the most forest recovery.

But there is another factor at play in Nepal’s forest resurgence: human migration. In recent decades, millions of Nepalis have left the country to work in the Persian Gulf, Southeast Asia, and beyond. As Nepalis wire money home, population and economic pressures shift away from agriculture to other types of rural and urban livelihoods. The families of migrants often rely less on forest products or they abandon farmland, aiding reforestation and helping create what one 2016 study termed a “remittance landscape,” referring to the funds sent back to Nepal. A 2018 study, which mapped the spatial distribution of reforestation and out-migration in Nepal, showed that the areas with the highest out-migration experienced, on average, the most forest recovery. There is a “strong positive effect of international out-migration on forest regeneration in Nepal,” the researchers concluded.

Globally, migration has important – though complex, and often ignored – impacts on forests. In many countries, forests appear to recover as people leave rural areas for work elsewhere. In El Salvador, for example, rural migration to cities and the United States has contributed to a forest rebound, as people have become less dependent on farming. 

Of course farming on marginal land in Britain is not a natural state of affairs. It only exists because of subsidy, a subsidy which puts animals on the land which fart vast amounts of methane – a greenhouse gas. Of course there are many upland areas whose natural state would not be forest but heath or moorland. These are the areas where it is defensible to use public subsidy to maintain a Beatrix potter landscape of Hardwick sheep and rare breeds cattle. On the rest of marginal land we should be refocusing subsidies overtime towards coppicing of naturally regenerated woodland to create woodchip zero-carbon biofuel. If we plough the fields we biochar from woodchip waste we even have a negative carbon cycle. Its no argument to say areas will return to bracken. Bracken is a superb biofuel.

There is no argument here about loss of food, as I have written here many times. We can easily make this up through zero carbon greenhouses and market gardening on better land nearer urban markets, as they are doing in netherlands where energy consumption of the horticulture sector has halved in the last 20 years.

So pension off the ‘dog and stick farmers’ we subsidise to chase around there cows and sheep to increase global warming. They are carbon dinosaurs.

Note the NFU report that we can offset beef emissions through biofuel makes no sense – where does the lane for biofuel come from – err beef or other food production. Its just special pleading.

Why Rejection of a Rail Mode for the Lower Thames Crossing has to be Revisited

As the Lower Thames Crossing Grinds its way to examination.

New Civil Engineer

Infrastructure projects like the Lower Thames Crossing should be “multi-purpose” and span more than one sector, according to Expedition Engineering director Alistair Lenczner.

According to Lenczner, the Lower Thames Crossing should be redesigned to include a road and railway.

He added that this would help improve the project’s benefits and reduce its carbon impact.

“No one thinks about integrated projects and this is a perfect example where there is a clear opportunity and a clear benefit,” he said. “We need to think of a complete picture of national infrastructure.”

The current set-up in the UK “conspires against” such collaboration, Lenczner said. He added that the National Infrastructure Strategy (NIS) – published last month – misses “significant opportunities” by organising infrastructure in separate “silos”.

Roads, railways, airports, energy and water, for example, are currently planned and delivered by separate agencies, with none responsible for identifying opportunities for multi-purpose projects that could deliver benefits across two or more sectors.

“It’s a complete blind spot and opportunities are being missed,” Lenczner said.

“There’s nothing in the NIS which looks at the potential for projects which are across sectors – road and rail, rail and energy – they’re all just doing their own thing but no one’s looking at it. Combining projects could allow better land use, better value and delivery of infrastructure in a more effective way.”

We have of course promoted the concept of a Kent Essex Rail on here several times.

Lets look at why it was rejected by government.

Options for a Lower Thames Crossing 2013

The Department for Transport commissioned a study in 2009 to review
the ways in which the capacity constraints at the existing crossing could
be addressed. The 2009 study concluded that there was a problem at
the existing crossing which required resolution through the provision of
additional road-based river crossing capacity in the Lower Thames area.
It also concluded that the provision of rail freight as part of any new Lower
Thames crossing would not address the rail freight capacity issues that are
forecast for the area. Passenger flow volumes on a cross-river rail route east
of London are also likely to be limited, meaning the inclusion of passenger
rail services would be unlikely to represent value for money.
As such, rail infrastructure has not been included within the proposals discussed in
this document.

The study referred to be xxx is here although it has not been archived properly and links to the chapters are broken. As I understand it however it modelled ‘as is’ rail movements and transport modelled existing points of trip origin and end plus growth.

There is of course a problem here – much like the much quoted fable of Brent Toderian saying ‘there is no demand for this bridge how many people do you see swimming this river’.

All I am suggesting at this stage is that after digging the three tunnels the digging machine rather than burying itself under the Thames turns and digs two more tunnels that are capable for fitting out for rail in the future. The marginal cost therefore is very low.

We have of course not seen any South Essex strategic plan, or one for North East Kent. I doubt we ever will as 5 years of work has never seen the light of day. One can only conclude the authorities are afraid of the blowback given that almost all strategic development options outside one in Basildon would be on Greenbelt. No one authority however can solve housing growth by themselves given the tight boundaries every startegic site spills over. The local authorities therefore are in a hang togther or hang apart scenario.

The new standard method means that there are all currently planning for 1/3rd to one half of there new ‘capped’ standard method numbers. The shortfall needs to be met elsewhere. Strategic plans in the past always assumed shortfalls would be met in the greatest concentration of brownfield in the South East. The Thames Gateway. Which is here and not considered ‘urban’ in the new standard method. When of course it is one of the most heavily urban parts of Europe alongside comparable areas such as the Randstadt. Imagine the Randstad with no bridges across the Rhine and no rail travel between Rotterdam and Amsterdam. This is the equivalent here. Nor does it account for the network benefits of new train paths – for example rail freight being totally taken out of the eastern side of London and freeing up capacity of terminals at cpacity such as Fenchurch Street, enabling more trains into London and more stops at development nodes at stations.

Given that over 150,000 units will need to be allocated both North and South of the Thames where shall it go? One obvious location is around South Hornden Station which potentially could be an interchange station between a Kent Essex Rail and C2C linking to Brentwood in the North and Medway and Gravesend to the South. This would radically reduce trips that would otherwise be forced to cross the Thames by car. Furthermore HS1 disappears beneath the Thames at Grays. The only reason Ebbsfleet happened was because Thurrock in their well known shortsightedness campaigned against a station. There is still potential however to link in HS1 to C2C nd its very fast and satright line to Southend. A 2km tunnel would link this to Soutehnd Airport (Southend International rail station) and the massive potential for rail based growth north of Southend and Essex largest brownfield site at Foulness Quinetec Ranges. More importantly it creates new travel to work areas and increases the economic benefits of urban agglomeration. Remember this was considered the MAIN benefit of the CAMKOX Arc, yet in the Thames Estuary 2050 Project (as the Gateway in now known) these potential benefits not even been studied.

There are a number of structural problems here in government. The first of course is the inability of the MoT to consider land use options not just transport options. The second is the ability of the MCHLG to lose interest in the Estuary every few years as progress has been so slow and the lack of progress by local authorities – always begging for money and never producing plans for more housing.