LSE Debate on Housing in Greenbelt – Very Unenlightening


Ending the Housing Crisis: Should we ever build on the Green Belt?

Date: Wednesday 27th June 2012
Time: 6:30-8:00
Venue: LSE Wolfson Theatre
Speakers: Professor Henry Overman (LSE), Alex Morton (Policy Exchange, Senior Research Fellow for Housing & Planning), Professor Anne Power (LSE) & Tony Burton (Urban Task Force).
Chair: Professor Christine Whitehead (LSE)

This event forms part of our Hot Topics series.

House prices in Britain remain exceptionally high. We urgently need more housing, but where should we build it? Can we meet our needs by redeveloping existing built up areas? Or does the problem call for more radical solutions.

There is a long-running and fierce debate in England about the protection of green land in the context of demands to build more housing. Britain is a relatively densely-populated country with constraints on land use, leading to high property values and thus to pressure on house prices and rents. BG@LSE is holding a debate – putting the case for and against using green land (particularly the Green Belt) for more housing and business premises. LSE academics and outside experts will put each side of the debate, allowing contributions from the floor and a lively discussion.

You are all welcome to join the continuing discussion following the debate at the reception in the Senior Common Room at 8.00.

Suggested twitter hashtag #LSEgreenbelt.

This event is free and open to all with no ticket required. Entry is on a first come, first served basis. For any queries email or call 020 7955 6498

A really silly debate that is unlikely to enlighten anything as it is between those who think the Green Belt should be abolished and those who think it (and indeed largely greenfield) should be inviolate.  Where are those who would support sensible strategic release of green belt land for urban extensions where the alternatives are less sustainable, or indeed building beyond the Green Belt as Garden Cities?  Or smart growth forms of development where we do have to build whether Green Belt of not.

Treating the Green Belt as an aspatial good or bad thing in and of itself is the height of aspatial thinking.  Green Belt always and everywhere is a sptial construct designed to divert urban growth from one area and divert it to another area.  Whether or not that Green Belt at a specific location is a good or bad thing depends on the opportunity costs or benefits of that alternative location and the net benefits and disbenefits of the regional arrangements of controls and development areas of which it implicitly or explicily forms a part.

The issue then is not whether Green Belt is or not not a good thing but whether the spatial pattern of urbanisation it forms is the optimal planning form.  The solution to a suboptimal planning form may not even involve Green Belt extending or contracting.  There are plenty of other planning tools including promoting strategic development in the right place.  Something we have stopped doing in Britain.

England’s Windiest and Least Windy LPAs #NPPF

Because of the controversy last week about whether Northamptonshire is windy or not I have mapped and ranked all of England’s Local Planning Authorities (for Plan Making Purposes) below.  For each grid square of 1Ha for each LPA I took the wind measure for that area (which is at 1km resolution).  I made some technical adjustments so the two datasets didnt overlap which would have created distortions where LPAs have sea areas.  The LPA areas calculated are for land areas with modelled wind measurements only.  I then took the mean windspeed for each LPA.

Ranked as follows Isles of Scilly easily the windiest, followed by Northumberland NP, Barrow-In_Furness, Exmoor NP and Blackpool. Perhaps Blackpool should go for wind turbines rather than Casinos. The least windy, Chesterfield followed by Stockport.  So it wasn’t the wind that did for that spire then.

The ranking is graphed as follows showing that there is very limited variation at LPA scale, all of England is pretty windy.  Given that turbines cannot operate at very windy conditions this evens it out still further.

Finally a scatter graph of NPPF constraints (other than Green Belt) against mean windspeed.  This shows that the most LPAs have large areas without constraints, which means, together with the average wind data, that there is no reason to allow windfarms in the most sensitive areas such as AONBs etc, as there are plenty of areas outside them.  Of course the logic of this is that areas with high levels of constraint such should have less and the capacity shortfall should be made up to some extent for in less constrained LPAS/Regions.  Although this isnt necessarily what places like Northamptonshire would like to hear.  Under the Duty to Cooperate LPAs with high nationally protected area coverage like Cotswold District and Wiltshire could quite rightly argue under the Duty to Cooperate that the fair share for places with less coverage nearby but still windy should take more, such as Basingstoke and Deane, Cherwell etc.

And the outcome.  West Northamptonshire ranked at 120 is above national average, flatter North Northamptonshire is 179 just below the National average, so bog standard windiness in other words.

Mapping Pirate Booty

Chatham House has released a report where they use nightlight emissions and high resolution satellite imagery to look at the effects of piracy on the Somali economy and establish which groups benefit from ransom monies.

  • Pirates appear to be investing money principally in the main cities of Garowe and Bosasso rather than in the coastal communities where pirate activity is located.
  • The positive economic impacts of piracy are widely spread, so a military strategy to eradicate piracy could seriously undermine local development.
  • Villages that have gained little from hosting pirates may be more open to a negotiated solution which would be to their benefit.

Consultation on new rural/urban statistical boundary definition

The Office of National Statistics is consulting on a new statistical boundary for the rural-urban definition.

Although the amount of coverage of urban areas was quoted at the highest levels in the su7mmer planning debates we have not had an accurate delineation since 2001 – when it was 10.6 % – so no idea where the Prime Minister gets 9% from.

The ONS is looking whether to go for a manual delineation based on polygons as below – accurate but time consuming,

Automatic based on polygons- very inaccurate will require manual tidying up or automatic based on 50m grid squares, as below (small holes would be filled in).

On a national scale the three produce identical results.  The issue is cost and usability.  Personally from a GIS point of view you will need both polygon and raster versions of the dataset, polygon as an aid to planning, raster for analysis, and I can see no reason why the initial grid square results can be used with some simple programming to refine a polygon boundary.  It just needs a good recursion based algorithm.  I cant see why ONS needs to consult on their results of them not have solved a simple programming issue.



ESRI announce new GIS based urban planning tool

The purchase by ESRI of CityEngine is coming to fruition


the upcoming release of CityEngine is designed to tighten the link between GIS and 3D urban landscapes even further. However, the fact remains that CityEngine is aimed more at professionals in 3D content creation than at everyday GIS users. Urban planners, in particular, actually need a combination of the best elements of CityEngine (rule-based, high-end 3D content creation) and the best elements of ArcGIS (data management, analysis, and sharing), all made available in a workflow-based solution. Esri started work on a new solution to meet this need.

The primary goal of this new solution is to make it simple to visualize, design, and understand urban environments, especially as cities explore more vertical solutions for people to live and work within. This new application will allow users to experiment with internal designs, proposals from developers, and even fundamental zoning laws (like maximum building heights and offsets) and get immediate visual and analytic feedback regarding the impact of these decisions. For example, approving a proposed high-rise development could impact many existing residents with increased shadows or reduced views. Or, changing zoning laws to increase the maximum building height could result in more residents than the current road or sewer network could handle. Designing urban environments, especially in the higher-density cities of the future, is a complex and critical problem GIS can help solve.


Forget Phone Hacking – Rupert Murdoch now has a UAV Drone

Rupert Murdoch’s Daily project now has a md4-1000 drone – you can see the results of its flights on the daily drone where it has taken photos of disaster areas.

Kashmir Hill at Forbes has been digging around and it seems that it use may be unlawful, but so might any commercial private drone, despite 1000s now being used from everything from crop monitoring to aerial photography.

ARCGIS for Home Use $100 a year

Excellent news the market leading but ferociously expensive GIS software will now be available for $100/ a year, ‘for existing ArcGIS users who want to use the same powerful software at home for noncommercial personal use and for individuals who want to expand their GIS skills.’  It also includes the key extensions i.e.

  • ArcView
  • ArcGIS 3D Analyst
  • ArcGIS Geostatistical Analyst
  • ArcGIS Network Analyst
  • ArcGIS Publisher
  • ArcGIS Schematics
  • ArcGIS Spatial Analyst
  • ArcGIS Tracking Analyst
A question arises if you use it at work can you use it at home for work purposes?  Although the licence doesn’t cover this many of the licences are being sold through workplaces so it would seem that ESRI are taking a pragmatic stance.  Now a lot of people will be able to work part time from home without their companies having to buy two licences or running complex virtual desktops (as slow as hell) in order to make use of floating licences.
In sure ESRI have realised that 10s of thousands of students, private researchers etc are using prirated versions anyway and these people will become GIS evangelists when entering companies, which is where ESRI make their real money.  It is effectively using almost an appstore model for this segment (well for an app that uses up a whole DVD
Details here.