SoS Decision on Carbon Neutrality of Urban Extension

A typically sad recovered appeal in Swale of an allocated site, refused on vague reasons and costs awarded. Notable as the first urban extension case I know where carbon neutrality has been raised

35. The Secretary of State has carefully considered the case put forward by the Council. He
notes their view that the appellants have done the bare minimum and have not pushed the
design process beyond the standard estate layout (IR11.93). He has taken into account
the Council’s commitment to meeting the climate change challenge, including their
Climate Change Declaration, adopted in June 2019, which sets out the intention of making
the Borough carbon neutral by 2030 (IR11.86). This is set against a background in which
there is a national commitment to carbon neutrality by 2050 (IR11.96). The Council
considers that all local and national policy and guidance needs updating and the decision
maker should not apply the current set of standards (IR11.95). The Secretary of State has
further considered the Council’s representations of 26 November and 8 December 2020.
In particular he notes that the Council’s publication of ‘Guidance for complying with the
climate change planning condition to reduce operational carbon in new dwellings in Swale
by 50%’ of June 2020. The Council is therefore seeking much higher reductions via
proposed conditions SC11 and SPCC12 (IR11.97).

36.The Secretary of State has also carefully considered the Inspector’s analysis and has
taken it into account. He agrees that the scale and urgency of the climate change
emergency is such that tackling climate change is a material consideration to which
significant weight should be attached (IR11.99 and IR11.96). He further agrees with the
Council’s representation of 26 November 2020 that the need for housebuilding to become
greener, warmer and more energy efficient has become more urgent.

37.However, overall the Secretary of State agrees with the appellant’s case that under the
plan-led system it is not possible or desirable to predict what policies might apply in the
future and apply them now
(IR11.95). While noting the Council’s guidance of June 2020
(paragraph 34 above) he considers that it amounts to guidance only, which has not gone
through a public examination process, rather than planning policy, sufficient to justify the
imposition of conditions. As such he further agrees with the appellant that there is no
existing or emerging LP policy base for proposed conditions SC 11, SPCC12 (IR10.4).
Notwithstanding the high-level national commitment to carbon neutrality, and the
significant weight attaching to tackling climate change, these conditions also go beyond
current and emerging national policy. He therefore considers that the proposed conditions
cannot be said to be either reasonable or necessary. They therefore fail to meet the tests
set out at paragraph 55 of the Framework and the Secretary of State considers they
should not be imposed. However, given that Policy DM19 provides a policy underpinning
for the ‘Very Good’ BREEAM performance rating (IR11.164), the Secretary of State
considers that it is reasonable and necessary to impose revised condition 14.

As We Predicted the Housing Delivery Test is Toothless

Natanial Lictchfield

On 19th January 2021, MHCLG published the
results of the 2020 Housing Delivery Test. It
shows that 17% of local planning authorities
(55 authorities) face the presumption in favour
of sustainable development or ‘tilted balance’
Spatially, this under-delivery is most acute in
the greater southeast and southern coastal areas;
however there is a challenge amongst some of
the north-western local authorities particularly
those surrounding Greater Manchester. 20%
of the LPAs in question did not have an up-todate Local Plan. It seems likely that slow Plan
preparation (which in itself may be impacted
by the challenges surrounding Green Belt
designations) plays a role in under-delivery.
Ultimately, the HDT’s tilted balance mechanism
is designed to boost housing delivery in poorly
performing local authorities by making it easier
to secure permission for unplanned housing
development. However:

  1. The majority of the authorities in question
    (44 out of 55) either have a housing land
    supply evidence base which is out of date,
    or agree that they cannot demonstrate a
    5YHLS. In such areas, a review of appeal
    decisions has confirmed that inspectors
    are not applying ‘additional’ weight in
    these cases (combining the failure to meet
    the HDT and 5YHLS targets), as the tilted
    balance is already engaged.
  2. Most of the HDT presumption authorities
    are significantly constrained by the
    Green Belt and/or other footnote 6
    designations, meaning that the very special
    circumstances required to justify new
    housing development is likely to deactivate
    the tilted balance on designated sites. A
    review of appeal decisions has confirmed
    that in almost all cases, the tilted balance
    is disengaged or outweighed by the need
    to demonstrate VSC, which neuters the
    effectiveness of the HDT ‘stick’.
  3. Of the 11 authorities with a stated 5YHLS
    (meaning the tilted balance could be
    triggered as a direct result of the HDT
    failure), 7 are heavily constrained by
    footnote 6/Green Belt designations,
    effectively disengaging the tilted balance in
    many cases.
  4. Of the remaining 4 authorities, three are
    predominantly urban in nature, which may
    reduce the impact of the tilted balance on
    speculative greenfield housing sites in real
  5. The result is that in practice, housing supply
    in just one authority (Thanet) is likely to be
    significantly boosted by the presumption in
    favour of sustainable development triggered
    by the HDT.
    Based on the analysis above, it would appear
    that the Government’s HDT mechanism
    which seeks to address under-delivery is, in
    the vast majority of cases, toothless. Without
    significant reform, this represents a flawed
    policy mechanism which derives from the
    fundamental clash between the need to provide
    more housing versus the understandable desire
    to protect footnote 6 land.
    This is particularly
    concerning, given that the Government’s
    current proposals to reform the planning system
    recommend the removal of the 5YHLS penalty
    in its entirety, and to rely on the HDT alone to
    boost housing delivery in poorly performing
    council areas.

Castlegate Sheffield – However is this not a Conservation Area?

There hangs a tale. In 2019 a consultation on declaration was pulled day it was due to start. Public locked out of consultation event. In Sheffield pressures over property sales led the portfolio holder to review all 38 conservation areas as they were holding up development.

It has some extraordinary buildings including a four storey dog hospital.

There are also two other areas in the City Centre which should have been declared in the early 70s (Devonshire Quarter and Milton Street).

Full Flickr album here.


Arc Options Milton Keynes

I’m concluding this series on options for strategic sites in the forthcoming Arc framework and local plans by looking at Milton Keynes (here) and in a couple of days Buckinghamshire (new unitary).

In theory options for Milton Keynes should be straightforward as it is the only part of the Arc to have a published strategic growth study: MK2050 (undertaken by David Lock Associates and published in 2019), growth is not was however as across three flanks Milton Keynes District is tightly bounded by Central Beds, West Northants (new unitary) and Buckinghamshire (new unitary), the study was jointly commissioned with then South Northants and Aylesbury Vale. Central Beds declined the invitation to partner in the Study but wished to be kept informed.

Before the general election the government was due to announce support for the MK:500,000 project, the aim of supporting Milton Keynes Growth to 500,000, necessary to support the current rate of growth (the highest in the uk) over 30 years. However with opposition from local mps the government bottles the launch. This was a mistake this was the one part of the arc where plans for growth could have been in the bag, well almost there could have been legal problems without consultation involving the affected overspill authorities, and now with the forthcoming framework we have a platform to do this. It should be stated though that some of the directions for Growth take you out of the traditional, even expanded, reasonable definition of what is Milton Keynes into Marden Vale and around Winslow, growth in these two areas is good but they should not be part of a city of Milton Keynes with a new expanded development corporation, they are places in their own right and Marston Vale should be planned as a whole not split in half as at present. An expanded City of 500k is possible however it means much more growth to the North – of which more in a moment.

The growth of Milton Keynes has been controversial over whether to expand its grid or not. The initial plans for the western and western growth of MK 15 years ago planned to abandon the grid in favour of a more new urbanist form along hige density ‘city streets’. This led to objections by fans of the original grid plan such as Urban Eden, though local plan policies sought expansion in grid form for main road and the green infrastructure grid. Certainly the road and landscape patter is so strong that it should be continued where the expansion of the grid makes sense, providing pedestrian and cycle orientated district and local centres can be created away from the grid. Where you have to leapfrog, such as the M1 or a river, it makes no sense to continue the original 60s grid form, the grid squares are too large and the road pattern is too car orientated in terms of contemporary city design thinking. There is also the problem that the original masterplan proposed strategic roads running right through the city, such as the A5 and A421, though in some places on the A421 there were only single carriageway, now being expanded to two. Milton Keynes was never built with bypasses, as its car orientated design was not thought to need one, however there is only so far you can expand any grid layout before you start to get critical conflicts and congestion through mixing of strategic and local traffic.

Lets go through section by section the David Lock Study which forms the basis of the local plan consultation.

I should stress that overall the above growth corridors have been modelled alongside a BRT based rapid transit model, and an expanded Green Grid.

I wont cover in depth the plans for intensification on Central MK and remodeling of outmoded existing estates, as this has been much studied and plans are evolving. Nor will I consider the proposals for growth around smaller settlements such as Olney. Nor will I consider Marston Vale which I have already looked at.

Looking first at land south of Newport Pagnall which is already in the local plan. There are already two bridgings of the M1 and third as a transit spine is proposed. I agree broadly with the concept below although continuation of the City Grid should not be rigid due its distorted form and the ability to be more innovative east of the M1.

The second area ill consider is South East of Milton Keynes. Here the proposals have been somewhat undermined by the decision to drop the expressway. They proposed two tunnelled section of expressway on a route to the South of Milton Keynes

This is not going to happen. Was this to provide access, in which case it would be car deominated, or to provide a strategic route and south of Milton Keynes bypass? Here a series of connector roads rather than one through route is much more likely, if you are to bypass Milton Keynes to the South I think it is only viable south of the Green Sand Ridge.

To the South Easy of Milton Keynes a growth area is proposed focused around a new Station on East West Rail. This makes perfect sense providing you can get the station. With the dropping of the expressway it would still be necessary for a more localised link road between Winslow and the A416, and for a road to the new Southern COnnector Road to link to the proposed Wadden Chase communitiesbelow.

The study looks at a growth corridor out to Cranfield and Cranfield univeristy. I proposed this myself independetly and it makes perfect sense.

They also propose a transit/TOD corridor to the West of MK through Wadden Chase and linking to a much expanded Winslow north of the East West Rail station. This makes sense but requires more study as the proposals here need to be more ‘landscape led’ around the restoration of a Wadden Chase Green corridor and have the necessary supporting connector roads.

Finally a Growth Area is proposed North of the Great Ouse.

This would require a new Motorway junction M14a and potentially could see reopening of Castlethorpe WCML station.

This would need to be a sister city rather than just a grid extension as to avoid disrupting the Ouse Valley most north /South connections would be pedestrian /cycle only. To justify therefore a new station and motorway junction it needs to include a new major employment area, nearer the M1, and more population, nearer 40,000-60,000 I suggest than 20,000, 4-6 secondary schools rather than two, and extend further to the North and East of Castelethorpe and a new more direct road to the V6 at Wolverton. Also the opportunity should be taken for a Northern bypass of MK here from new junction 14a serving the new startegic employment area south of Hanslope Park and linking to the A508/A5.

The new expanded bounds of Milton Keynes should be enclosed by a New Green Belt and series of Nature Recovery Areas/New Parks.

PD Rights for Shops to Resi Double Auction Prices – Will Local Parades Survive?

Sheffield Star

A parade of high profile Sheffield shops sold for £750,000 after being put up for auction at £400,000.

The shops, between 665-675 Chesterfield Road, Woodseats, were auctioned by city property firm Mark Jenkinson, which said the parade is on a site with rear car parking and offered potential as a development/investment project.

Auctioneer and partner Adrian Little said: “The shops are in need of modernisation but are in a high profile position in a popular area.”

Rethinking Zero Carbon Urban Form in the Arc

The Oxford Cambridge Arc Project gives us an ideal opportunity to rethink appropriate urban forms of Garden Communities.

From previous government announcements on the Arc the predominant thinking seems to be an approach of having a ‘few big blobs’ of development along a rail corridor. Once you start to adapt evaluation methodologies to zero carbon reality it is clear that this is no longer appropriate – let me explain.

The two key drivers in evaluation methodologies are as follows:

  1. Regional Economic models which evaluate urban and industrial economies of aggregation;
  2. Cost Benefit Ratio evaluation of transport options.

The first is indisputable, once you accept that the urban area is a functional city region not just a single blob.

The second is problematic once you consider the fixed constraint that zero carbon planning provides.

Look at rail. New rail has a high upfront fixed cost (track, land etc.) and a moderate variable cost per passenger (trains, labour) and an almost zero marginal cost once you have the track and trains. Which is why it makes sense once you have the track and trains to subsidise the journey.

However CBA is based on the evaluation of the economic cost of time. The more trains stop the longer it takes to get to a destination. This means that the CBR of an express limited stop service will always be lower than a short stop commuter service. You add more passengers as you increase capacity but the benefit in terms of time per passenger goes down, so the CBR is always lower. This is clearly influential in the planning of East West Rail for example, where across the whole length of the project it will only have two new stations and net less stations than at present. Options such as four tracking will always have a lower CBR than dual tracking, diesal will always have a higher CBR than electrified services.

The problem with CBA often is calculating the counterfactual ‘do nothing’ scenario. Once you exclude positive carbon as a policy option this transforms the decision space. The cost of global warming is incalculable. Therefore CBR should only be applied to alternative zero or negative carbon options.

Applying this principle to new settlement/rail options you would have to exclude express service/big blob new settlements. The housing at the edge of the settlement would be car based and the time taken for interchange too high. Options need to be based around high frequency, high capacity short stop services around routes with high density development within walking distance of stations, like classic train and streetcar suburbs.

This is not to say you should have ridiculously short distances between stations, such as the current Marston Vale pattern sensibly proposed for rationalisation. Dutch planning teaches us that if you have good cycle infrastructure to stations you can extend distances between stations. On Marston Vale for Example you could have high density development around fewer stations and employment areas in between, which is certainly not what you find in current local plan proposals.

Once you understand this you gravitate towards a polycentric urban form in a string of pearls arrangement. You manage the higher frequency services through a combination of interleaved stopping services, passing loops and ideally 4 tracking. Also as recent reforms to the Green Book indicate CBR is not the only criteria, you also need o consider policy objectives such as the ability to move people in a zero carbon network. I often find a ‘headway obession’ (headway is time to turn around trians), in uk transport planning, which is haven’t found for example working with the Japanese, where ability to move the masses is always the priority.

This polycentric urban form was of course advocated by Fred Pooley in his pre development corporation plan for Milton Keynes. Set aside the silly monorails it is still a good pln, the best ever unbuilt plan in the UK. So new settlements in the Arc need to be Polycentric, between 50-150,000 in population based around networks in multiple stops. By contrast all we seem to have in the Arc is two big blobs at Tempsford and North of Cambourne.

Indeed once you start looking at CBR for rail and BRT in the ARC new options open up. It would even be worthwhile I think to split the central section South of Sandy, one route North and one Route South of the Sandy Hills both converging at Shenford South of Cambridge, the reason being that this opens up large development opportunities in the southern corridor, plans for which I have published before.