Some Notes on the Pomponi Study on Optimal Sustainable Density

A study by Francesco-Pomponi (professor at Napier) and colleagues is gaining at lot of attention.

Decoupling density from tallness in analysing the life cycle greenhouse gas emissions of cities in Urban Sustinability (part of the Nature family).

Achieving optimal use of space and maximal efficiency in buildings is therefore fundamental for sustainable urbanisation. There is a growing belief that building taller and denser is better. However, urban environmental design often neglects life cycle GHG emissions. Here we offer a method that decouples density and tallness in urban environments and allows each to be analysed individually. We test this method on case studies of real neighbourhoods and show that taller urban environments significantly increase life cycle GHG emissions (+154%) and low-density urban environments significantly increase land use (+142%). However, increasing urban density without increasing urban height reduces life cycle GHG emissions while maximising the population capacity. These results contend the claim that building taller is the most efficient way to meet growing demand for urban space and instead show that denser urban environments do not significantly increase life cycle GHG emissions and require less land.

A frequent criticism of the mantra that denser is more sustainable is that denser is more energy efficient is that when you add in lifecycle costs of buildings taller is not necessarily more sustainable. The study is right to add in lifecycle costs and does so by a novel method of decomposing FAR from a single scalar value into a vector of height and land coverage components.

The study is also novel in using parametric methods of 5,000 sample 1 km grids. The result though does not look appealing in terms of open space access or daylight and sunlight, neither of which were analysed, though they often are using parametric methods.

The fault in the study lies in it looking at the 1 sq km grids in isolation and not considering transport costs or land values. You need to analyze an urban system and not just isolated grid square (and probably use hex bins to reduce axial spatial distortion). The study tell us about building energy use but not about optimal urban planning strategies and whether slightly or even a lot taller in some areas is an optimal urban planning strategy if it minimises city energy use

Did Crichel Down Rules led to Rutland Scrapping its Local Plan and Turning Away HIF Funding?


Officers advise Midlands council to withdraw local plan after it refused £29.4m infrastructure funding

IN march this year the Council refused to accept the HIF funding necessary to make the St Georges Barracks scheme viable and the local plan sound. After a meeting closed to press and the public. All that was said aftwrwards that it was too risky for RCC to be the accountable body

Why should it do such a seemingly dumb thing? An FOI request from St Georges the developer shows why.


Can you advise the legal advice on the applicability of the Crichel Down rules for disposal of Government Land obtained under Compulsory Purchase provided to the CEO of RCC regarding the proposed development of St Georges Barracks


Rutland County Council has not received any legal advice on the applicability of the Crichel Down rules for disposal of Government Land obtained under Compulsory Purchase regarding the proposed development of St Georges Barracks.
Please be advised that for information regarding Crichel Down rules, please contact the Ministry of Defence (MOD).

However the Crichel Down rules may apply. Whatever the reason the minnows of Rutland seemed unable to bear any risk on 29.4 million. Which shows the idea of tiny districts locally leading and being accountable for massive developments in a non starter. Developments have to be backed by Homes England or the government including the government setting up ‘accountable bodies’ where necessary.

Also as the DCHLG select committee has suggested the Crichel Down rules are archaic and are holding back massive sites on former military brownfield sites. Even so mystery remains, does not the risk on Crichel Down rest with the owner the DIO?

Gatwick Announces Plans for Second Runway


Gatwick bosses today unveiled £500 million plans for a second runway that would boost the airport’s capacity to 75 million passengers.

Chief executive Stewart Wingate said a 12-week public consultation on the proposal would begin on September 9.

The scheme would involve upgrading Gatwick’s Northern Runway and repositioning it by 12 metres in time for an opening in summer 2029.

It is only currently used as a taxiway and as a standby for the main runway during maintenance and emergencies.

The would be used for takeoff only by smaller European shorthaul aircraft with the main runway still being used for all landings.

The bill for the airstrip itself is estimated to be around £500 million with extra terminal capacity and other work pushing the total cost up to the high hundreds of millions.

Mr Wingate said that despite the current depressed level of international travel the expected passenger numbers to recover to pre-pandemic levels by 2025 or 2026 with London’s capacity being exceeded by demand once again soon after that.

With Heathrow’s planned expansion increasing its capacity to 120 million passengers, the two schemes would increase London’s overall capacity to well over 250 million by the 2030s including Stansted, Luton and Southend.

Mr Wingate said the project would create 18,400 extra jobs for the area by 2038.

The plans would be considered a Nationally Significant Infrastructure Project requiring the airport to apply for a Development Consent Order. It hopes to have planning consent by 2024.

Gatwick has operated as a single runway airport since it opened in 1958 and was banned from building a second runway by a council planning constraint that expired in 2019.

Mr Wingate said: “While we are currently experiencing low passenger and air traffic volumes due to the global pandemic, we are confident that Gatwick will not only fully recover to previous passenger levels, but has the potential to continue to grow back into one of Europe’s premier airports.

“Our plans to bring our existing Northern Runway into routine use will not only help to secure that growth but will also ensure many thousands of additional jobs and a vital boost to the economy for our local region.

But opposition group, Communities Against Gatwick Noise and Emissions, condemned the plans, which they said were motivated by “greed”.

A spokesperson said: “This move can be for one reason only; shareholders seek to sell Gatwick with 2 runways.

“Whilst the children are off school and elected members holiday, Gatwick Airport choose a time when the skies are quiet to announce a public consultation that flies in the face of the climate emergency, we are all facing”

“It is despicable for a company to ignore the emissions that planes in and out of Gatwick produce that is causing grave danger for future generations that will have to pay the price for today’s greed of this leisure airport.”

Land Use as a System and Net Zero Planning

Land use planning needs to undergo a systemic revolution in its tools and methods to achieve net zero.

This needs to include but go well beyond plot by plot design.

Take for example a tree. As it grows it absorbs CO2. When it dies it rots and releases it, the carbon cyle.

If that tree is used as a building material it becomes ‘stock’ of carbon and release is delayed, so long as it is used, reused or recycled. If the wood or disused building materials is burned it releases it – it becomes a flow and increases atmospheric CO2. If you replant in forests trees more quickly they become a new carbon sink, at least temporarily. Though there is no enough land on the planet for this to be an effective geo-engineering strategy.

Take energy recovery. A few years ago this was seen as unproblematic renewal energy. Now it is a net carbon release problem. The two energy recovery plants approved in the last years in the UK each have conditions requiring best in class carbon capture technology to be used over their lifetimes, even if that technology hasn’t been invented yet. Yes I’m skeptical of that, I think we have to shift to anaerobic methods of energy recovery (even if the technology is still flaky) which produces biochar as ‘waste product’ which can be fed back to soils and is carbon negative. Yet this is an example of planning hesitantly and pragmatically creating solutions for net zero and understanding that solutions will evolve rapidly.

Recently I got into a twitter discussion about the possibility of zero carbon construction where I suggested using softwood. I was criticised because the person said cutting down trees released carbon and you could never replant trees fast enough. I suspect they had read an article on the carbon effects of deforestation effects for charcoal and confused it with commercial forestry. What this does illustrate though is the need to understand the lifecycle carbon costs of building materials and the opportunity costs of building (i.e. what alternatives the site could be put to). These issues are complex and require a systems level understanding of land use and land use economics, rate of change of inputs and rate of change of outputs – wasn’t it always thus.

A systems level understanding is essential because across a spatial plane it is quite possible to have intensification of agriculture on one part, urbanisation with improved biodiversity on another, more forestry on another part, and rewilding on what remains – and not starve and not die.

There is a cohort of those who, failing to take a systems view, looking at each site individually, believe there is no solution and so we must stop building all together. What this paleolithic brand of Nimbyism take out of the equation is people. If humanity died off the planet would be better off so no need to build houses or improve human welfare as development and ‘growth’ is bad. This kind of misanthropic Nimbysim cannot be bought off with better design and more participative planning, though other brands can be. This brand – the Advocado Nimbys (Pretending to be green but espousing brown policies identical to fascism once you scratch the surface) must be defeated not placated, because if they are not defeated people die because of a defeatist attitude to global warming and extinction to which the poorest and unhoused suffer first. Worst of all they have no plan to go carbon negative, and throw global warming into reverse, because they see it as a technological fix and some kind of evil conspiratorial plot by profit seekers.

Planning thinking has nowhere near enough understanding of the global systems of land use to be able to see, definitively, what zero carbon planning is. However we have to learn, and the best way to learn is to do. Its like broccoli – its time to stop pushing it around on the plate and start eating some.

Bob Seely Mps Ridiculous Myth of Declining Northern Towns Able to Mop up the 5 Million Houses Needed in South


Whilst better design is part of the issue, frankly numbers, density and providing homes for local people is just as important. It is not rocket science to understand that when a community has seen 50 or 100 percent population increase – when northern cities have gone through active depopulation over the past 50 years – people get fed up

There are currently no large northern cities declining in population. The only places declining according from 2010 to 2020 population estimates are:

Barrow-in-Furness: 69,429; 66,726; down 3.9%

Copeland: 70,629; 68,041; down 3.7%

Blackpool: 142,753, 138,381; down 3.1%

Scarborough: 109,014; 108,737; down 0.3%

Isles of Scilly 2,228; 2,226; down 0.1%

All but one of these are seaside towns, three have narrow coastal strips on edges of national parks.

Go to any Northern Town bar perhaps Liverpool and you will find they simply don’t have enough land in their boundaries to meet all their needs, and often even more constrained, national parks, AONB, moorland etc. ITs simply a myth that you can solve the isle of wights problems in areas with declining populations – like errr the Scilly Isles.

Bob Seeley MP Admits Opposition of Planning Reform is Just Opposition to Housing Numbers and Embracing Nimbys


Around 100 Conservative MPs are preparing to fight changes this autumn to planning rules which they fear could lead to unsightly development in their constituencies.

On Sunday night Bob Seely, the leader of the group of Conservative MPs fighting the planning reforms, criticised the use of the term “Nimby” by Mr Boys Smith.

He said: “Nimby is a daft term and we should not be using it. Most so-called Nimbys are generally people who care and love their communities and are fed up when they see their communities damaged by the imposition of large, soulless housing estates that are not build for their communities or their kids. 

“Whilst better design is part of the issue, frankly numbers, density and providing homes for local people is just as important. It is not rocket science to understand that when a community has seen 50 or 100 percent population increase – when northern cities have gone through active depopulation over the past 50 years – people get fed up.

“We need a planning Bill that respects and recognises the concerns of communities and seeks to work with them, not impose housing numbers on them. We need a Planning Bill that is community-led, environment-led and levelling-up led.”

Low Carbon Planning is Like Broccoli – Nimbys, time to Stop Pushing it Around on the Plate and Start Eating Some


“Climate change has become the broccoli that everyone wants to push around on the plate,” said Foote [ Laura Foote, executive director of Yimby Action}. “It’s easy to argue that one housing project won’t make the difference between averting climate change and global warming killing us – but really, we need to be saying yes to as many of these housing projects as we can in order to avoid climate catastrophe.”

The perfect message to the hyper nimbys on my Twitter stream that say because of the climate emergency we cant permit anything on any deliverable site.

Kent please just give us something, anything strategic

Planning in Kent is a mess. Although the South Essex strategic plan is moving at the pace of a Greenland Glacier flowing downhill under global warming at least they have something.

Canterbury is proposing to build more than its OAN to fund bypasses east and West. Swale has completely ignored the Thames Estuary 2050 report that housing numbers here should be jobs led. The west Kent authorities found their found unsound after conspiring not to ask each other to cooperate on meeting each others needs.

Elsewhere proposals for new settlements and major sites such as RAF Manston operate in a strategic vacuum.

The problem apparently is a disagreement over whether you have a North Kent strategic geography or a Kent wide one. The governments response to the Thames Estuary 2050 report in 2019 suggested having something was more important than simply keeping to an Estuary Geography. They were right.

Yet absolutely nothing has emerged. Does this have to do with concerns over opening up the Pandora’s box over local government reorganisation, which has created strategic planning paralysis in areas such as Hampshire.

I suspect also there is concern that the less you mention Kent strategy the less the government will be reminded it is a growth area, and this suits the Politics at County Hall. The number of civil servants dealing with the Estuary (formally known as Gateway) has shrunk to one (part time) its seems forgotten about.

Even an informal non statutory strategy like Leicestershire, without saying where growth will grow, seems off the table as some district administrations, like Sevenoaks and Swale, don’t like the term growth – they have caught the South Oxfordshire variant and it is highly contagious.

Clearly nowhere needs strategic planning as much as Kent, great linear bands of constraints and narrow corridors of where growth can possibly go needs a positive framework.

So now we have the national embarrassment of a private sector led garden town quantum of growth being put forward by the private sector. Simply because who else is doing the planning, national government, Kent CC, the district? Nobody, how can you say something is ‘premature’ when there is no strategy of any kind for Kent Thameside and no plan to produce one. Of course it isn’t premature, whatever you think about the location, it is long overdue. Lets hope that this is a long overdue wake up call to central government. If you wait for local governmOne final ent to come up with strategic arrangements capable of making big overdue decisions you will be waiting forever.

One final thought, Kent County Council, if you cant or won’t take big strategic decisions, and use your economies of scale to leverage infrastructure and delivery around those decisions what is the point of your existence, and why are you blocking structures that will serve that function?

Widening the A12 to ‘stop congestion’ the most misconceived infrastructure scheme in the UK

Highways Agency

The A12 road is an important economic link. It provides the main south-west/north-east route through Essex and Suffolk, connecting Ipswich to London and the M25.

The section between Chelmsford and Colchester (junction 19 Boreham Interchange to junction 25 Marks Tey Interchange) carries high volumes of traffic, with up to 90,000 vehicles every day. Heavy goods vehicles are between 9% and 12% of the traffic on this section due to its important freight connection, especially to Felixstowe and Harwich ports. This section of the A12 is also an important commuter route. The resulting congestion leads to delays and means that, during the morning commute, a driver’s average speed is particularly slow in both directions for a dual carriageway A-road of its kind.

The proposed changes to this stretch of the A12 road will:

  • improve safety for road users, especially at the junctions and slip roads through better design while also removing the current direct private accesses onto the A12
  • reduce traffic congestion by increasing the capacity of the road, making journey times more reliable. The proposed scheme will save motorists as much as 1.5 hours in a working week if they travel daily between junctions 19 and 25
  • take long-distance traffic off the local roads and put it back onto the A12 where it belongs, so that local roads aren’t used as rat runs, affecting local villages and their communities
  • ensure that the road can cope with the predicted increase in traffic from more jobs and homes in the area
  • make improvements for walkers, cyclists, horse riders and public transport users, to give them better connections and safer, more enjoyable journeys

What are the odds after a few months journy times are back to the original because of induced traffic. All transport theory tells us that.

What it also tells us is that there is a public transport deficit. The rail route through to Ipswich and Norwich should be four tracked to allow for stopping services and Garden Communities.

The Times – New use it or lose it Proposal – Deadlines combined with Levies


Housebuilders will be told to “use it or lose it” under plans being discussed by ministers to force them to use land for which they have planning permission.A crackdown is being considered on the practice of “land banking”, with the introduction of time limits on planning approval for big developments.More than 1.1 million homes have been approved for construction in the past ten years but have not been built, according to analysis by the Local Government Association. Critics have accused housebuilders of restricting supply to drive up house prices.

Robert Jenrick, the housing secretary, warned developers this year that the government would tackle land banking. He told the Home Builders Federation: “We can’t deny that there is a major perception problem — people feel strongly about this. So we want to take action to ensure builders build out at the pace promised.”The Times now understands that the government is considering a “sunset clause” — an expiry date for planning permission by which point plots of land must be developed. The deadlines could be combined with levies. Bo th options would apply only to larger sites to ensure that small and medium housebuilders were not treated unfairly. “We’ve got to tread carefully, but a mixed approach could work,” a government source said.The government may also tighten rules on retrospective planning permission to ensure that developers obtain approval before starting work. Fees will be increased and enforcement will be stepped up for those who deliberately break the rules. Boris Johnson has set a target of building 300,000 homes a year by the middle of the decade as spiralling prices lock millions of young people out of the property market. The average age of a first-time buyer has risen to 34.