Fuck All to do with Brexit – @michaelgove Proposes Review of National Parks


Whose headline was

New wave of national parks could be created under Michael Gove’s plans for a ‘Green Brexit’

ur national imagination has been shaped by our shared inheritance of natural beauty. Wordworth’s love of the Lake District, Edward Thomas’s attachment to the South Downs, R D Blackmore’s devotion to Exmoor, are all examples of breathtaking landscapes inspiring the writers who have helped define who we are.

And it’s because some landscapes are so precious, so beautiful in themselves, but also so valuable environmentally – habitats for threatened wildlife and homes for endangered species – that we, as a nation, protect them in special ways.

We have a network of National Parks, Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONBs) and other protected landscapes, which previous generations established for the nation as a whole.

They exist for all of us. There is almost certainly a National Park within an hour of your home. And one of the things which makes them so precious is that they are living environments which not only, by law, “promote opportunities for enjoyment” for visitors but also, crucially, provide homes for the farmers who keep our countryside both productive and beautiful. Unlike the wildernesses that other nations have for their national parks, ours are working countryside.

Over many generations, farmers and farming have helped shape the landscapes we love. The commoners of Dartmoor, the sheep farmers of the Lake District, the dedicated men and women who make a living in the austerely beautiful Peak District – they all help sustain some of our most iconic landscapes. Their hard work has built the dry stone walls and raised the sheep which graze on the moorland. It is thanks to them that National Parks and AONBs are both beautiful and ecologically diverse.

Which is why I want to ensure we do everything we can to protect them, and enhance the environments in which they operate. In order to ensure our protected landscapes are in the best possible shape to meet future challenges I have asked the acclaimed writer Julian Glover, a passionate advocate for the countryside and a resident of one of our National Parks, to lead a review into how we can guarantee our most precious landscapes are in an even healthier condition for the next generation.

A previous generation of enlightened politicians saw how critical access to beauty and the right to roam was to ensuring that the gifts nature can give could be enjoyed by all

The goal of Julian’s review is not to diminish their protection in any way, but to strengthen it in the face of present-day challenges. Are we properly supporting all those who live in, work in, or want to visit these magnificent places? Should we indeed be extending our areas of designated land? Could we do more to enhance our wildlife and support the recovery of natural habitats? These are among the questions Julian will ask.

We put enhancing the beauty and heritage of our natural world at the heart of our 25 Year Environment Plan, for very good reasons.

We know that time spent out of doors, appreciating the beauty of nature and the wonder of creation, is vital for our well-being. It improves both mental and physical health and re-connects us with the other species with whom we share this planet.

But we also know that the economies and environments in our National Parks and other special landscapes are vulnerable. They need support from all of us if we’re all to have access to these amazing national assets in the future.

A previous generation of enlightened politicians saw how critical access to beauty and the right to roam was to ensuring that the gifts nature can give could be enjoyed by all. Inspired by the great Liberal Sir Arthur Hobhouse, the National Parks and Access to the Countryside Act was introduced as a “recreational gift to Britain’s returning Second World War servicemen and women” to recognise, conserve and enhance access to landscapes “of national importance and quality”.

I want Julian explicitly to consider how we can extend and improve the protection we give to other precious landscapes

I see Julian Glover’s work as in the tradition of Hobhouse – a report which will make sure our National Parks continue to flourish in the 21st century and beyond. And I want Julian explicitly to consider how we can extend and improve the protection we give to other precious landscapes.

The nation is in debt to Sir Arthur and other supporters of countryside access – including The Ramblers’ Association, the YHA and the 
Council for the Protection of Rural England – for recognising the true worth to the public of our protected landscapes.

It now falls to us to ensure that we do not just protect and preserve but enhance and extend the protection we give to our landscapes of special aesthetic and environmental value.


Mystery Solved – Why the Government’s OAN Method Produces Reduced Numbers in the Places of Highest Need

One of the perverse features of ‘ Planning for the right homes in the right places’ is that it suggests lower housing numbers than SHMA need in places like Oxfordshire and Cambridge City that are crying out for more housing.

Its a mystery but I think I figured it out.  The clue is the areas in the South East in blue below are areas that have had little house building relatively and are highly constrained.  Take Oxford for example which did not experience a late Victorian wave of terraced housing.

This has impacts on the formula in two way.  First on the demographic base – if this is low the projection of that base is low.  And as this is a household npt homes requirement it will always be below need.  Secondly the adjustment for affordability.










Consider the formula.

‘ We propose that as the next step in the standard method, plan makers
should use the workplace-based median house price to median earnings ratio from the most recent year for which data is available.’

The problem here it uses the whole population rather than say the lower quartile used conventionally in affordability calculations.  This produces a distorted metric of affordability in these areas.  In areas where low paid workers cant afford to live and have to commute in the metric produces a lowering of housing need rather than as it is an increase.  An issue worsened by the fact that the method is housing led rather than the jobs led method used predominantly in SHMAS.

Hence the method produces a perverse feedback loop of less and less relative amounts of housing in areas where lower paid workers cant afford to live.

Cambridgeshire’s Mayor in Crazy Call to Stop Building Busways

Its crazy because the Mayors own plan is a busway – with tunnels in the centre – and using autonomous vehicles. This will still need dedicated  corridors in Cambridge and to Cambourne and Park and Rideaeas because it will not be able to the whole rural areas.  There is therefore complete alignment.  The disruptive force here against the plans worked up for years by County City, Districts and the GCP – and agreed by teh government as part of devolution deals – is Mayor Palmer.  There is a relatively small lobbby against the busway just as there was before the bus way was first started and there always will be in Cambridge.  The Mayor’s proposals do nothing to assuage this as his scheme will still need a dedicated corridor through West Cambridge – that is the sort of hard choice that needs to be made.  The combined authority isnt working – better to do like Dorset  have two unitaries for Cambridgeshire – one for Cambridge and South Cambridgeshire and the other for the Fens – simple.

Cambridge News

Cambridgeshire’s mayor has called for a halt to plans for a new city busway to ensure public money is not wasted.

James Palmer warned that current proposals were incompatible with his vision for a new Cambridge metro system.

The Greater Cambridge Partnership (GCP) has yet to decide on controversial plans to build a busway route between Cambridge and Cambourne.

Proposals to build new park and ride sites around Cambridge are also being developed.

But Mr Palmer said such work should be “paused” while his Combined Authority developed its own regional transport plan.

He also criticised the GCP’s lack of progress in delivering “serious infrastructure improvements” over the past four years.

The Cambridgeshire and Peterborough Combined Authority transport plan is due for completion in spring 2019.

Mr Palmer said: “In the meantime it’s important to ensure that nothing is done that potentially jeopardises the ambitions of the combined authority to transform public transport infrastructure in our county.

“It is therefore necessary for the GCP’s current plans to provide new busways and park and ride sites to be paused until such a time as the Combined Authority is certain that there is full alignment.

“This will ensure that public money isn’t wasted and that there is a coherent approach to providing significant new public transport infrastructure in greater Cambridge.”

The mayor said a summer consultation would help determine where there could be alignment between the two organisations’ plans.

“I very much hope that much of the work so far carried out by the GCP in relation to busways can be integrated into the emerging metro proposals,” he added.

“However I believe that much of what they’re proposing is incompatible with the vision for a new metro.

“Both during my election and since my election as mayor I have been clear my view that significant new park and ride sites in and around Cambridge are not the long term answer to our problems.”

People are angry about the proposed new link between Cambridge and Cambourne (Picture: Phil Morley)

Mr Palmer said there were significant local concerns around the GCP’s proposals and that his position was back by councillors in South Cambridgeshire.

Earlier this month, Cllr Aidan Van de Weyer, the newest board member on the GCP said the Cambridge to Cambourne busway should be scrapped.

In the mayor’s interim transport statement he spelled out 10 strategic transport schemes that will be taken forward by the Combined Authority.

These include a new Cam Metro, an upgrade of the A10, an M11 extension, dualling the A47, a new Oxford to Cambridge expressway and another railway station to the south of Cambridge.

Mr Palmer said he was developing proposals to have the new Cambridge South station built within three years and was looking at the metro proposals with similar urgency.

He added: “If we’re ambitious it’s entirely possible that parts of the new system could be open within the next few years, something supported by the initial options appraisal that was jointly funded by the Combined Authority and the GCP.

“The fact is that the GCP has failed to deliver any serious infrastructure improvements over the first four years of its existence, I struggle to see why there is any reason that things will be any different over the next four.”

Mr Palmer said he had tried to build a “close working relationship” with the GCP but that the organisation had shown “little or no interest” in joint working.

Responding to the mayor’s comments in a statement, the GCP Executive Board said Cambridge faced the arrival of 44,000 new jobs alongside several major housing developments by 2030.

“This requires short term measures to tackle the pressing issues we face whilst working, in parallel, towards medium- and long-term ambitions,” it said.

“We do not believe the two are incompatible and the case for evidence-based interventions was recently backed by the Cambridge and Peterborough Independent Economic Review in its interim report.”

The GCP board it was working with the combined authority on schemes that provided the “building blocks” for the mayor’s transport vision.

The statement added: “This mayor’s transport statement has been published. It was not discussed with the GCP board in advance and we will now need to have further discussions with the mayor to understand the evidence base that underpins it, and how it will help us achieve the city deal targets we agreed with Government before the combined authority existed.”

Cllr Lewis Herbert, interim chair of the GCP Executive Board and Cambridge City Council leader, said: “The Greater Cambridge Partnership now has public transport projects in development west, south east and north of the city, and is close to starting delivery on schemes that have been subject to detailed consultation and which local residents and businesses need completed for the early 2020s – rather than asking them to wait for long-term solutions which have not yet started and that are projected could take years to deliver.

“The GCP is committed to working together with the mayor and the combined authority, and with wider partners, to deliver for our local communities all the benefits of long-term investment in our region.“In addition, we will continue to advance the case on behalf of Cambridge and South Cambridgeshire, for delivering what is needed sooner too, to give people additional and earlier, attractive alternatives to driving into central Cambridge or locations like Addenbrooke’s particularly at the most congested times.”

Cllr Herbert said the GCP Executive Board would wait for the outcome of the Combined Authority Board’s meeting on May 30 before making any further decisions on current plans.

The Craziness of Two (incompatible) Strategic Railfreight Applications in the Same Village

The village of Milton Malsor just south of Northampton has a unique locational advantage, as it is here that the M1, the A43, the A45, the WCMl and the WCML Northampton branch all cross.

It is no surprise that the area is being eyed up for an SRFI, however two are proposed, one to the east and the other to the South of the village.    The Northampton Gateway proposal now submitted, Rail Central very soon.  It is obvious that the two are incompatible, and that the best site would take in some land for both with both access to the A43 and the A45 to spread traffic and reduce impact on the village.  the CPO powers that go with a DCO makes that possible.

Instead we are in another DCO ‘race’ as under the legislation there is no provision to examine both together and determine one and not the other.  So what the final decision is before parliament and they are sovereign.  If inspector at a joint hearing want to make that recommendation they’re perfectly free to.

Where is Northamptonshire’s Response to Cam-MK-OX?

The NIC report contained a recommendation that the ‘central’ part of the Cam-MK-Corridor come up with joint strategic planning arrangements  or the government should impose them.  Its been nearly six months and so far nothing.  Admittedly Northamptonshire has been convulsed by the bankruptcy of the County Council and the agreement to go with two unitaries.

In terms of planning however we already have two joint committees and plans, though the West Northamptonshire plan never had the ownership of the district so it refused the first urban extension on allocated land that came forward post adoption.  East Northamptonshire doesn’t even seem to be in the corridor curiously.

The title of the NIC report now includes Northampton but it hardly gets a mention in the whole report.  This is clearly the main missing link from the report.  Northamptonshire in not getting its act together has no ‘big asks’ in terms of infrastructure.  Not even the restoration of a WCML station and service at Roade, which will be possible with increased capacity on the four tracks here with East West Rail and HS2.   Now Northampton Castle has been upgraded this cannot be seen as a diversion.

The root of the problem here is that politically Northampton thinks t had ‘seen off’ the 35,000+ expansion of the town from the South East Plan.  However as we know from Milton Keynes and elsewhere all of the South East Plan proposals have come back with a vengence.  The case for expansion of Northapton, its underperformance economically, its strategc location in the centre of England and ability to take London overspill and ease overheating elsewhere in the corridor are more pertinent now than ever.

The South East plan forsaw expansion to the South East of the Town, effectively a mirror of the New Town era expansion.  Growth here a around Roade are the logical ares for expansion., and at Long Buckby if it had its station restored and the Northampton arm. as it it so close to employment growth at DiRFT.

The intriguging possibility here is to use the former Northampton-Bedford trackbed as a BRT line (Easier in teh short run than rail restoration) which woul also enable north Western expansion of Bedford (badly needed given the demiseof their Garden Village).  If you doubt the need for this try travelling from Bedford to Northampton by bus.

If this fells far fetched just ask yourself who first proposed locations for 5 major Garden Cities in the corridor – Iv’e got to publish that report soon.


MK Half a Million – Where did That Idea Come From?

One of the few curious things in the NIC Corridor Study was its talk of MK increasing to Half a Million target population ‘in line with local aspirations’

There has as far I am aware never been such an aspiration.  The design size of the New Town was 250,000 – still not reached today when you extract the small rural population.  The South East plan implied around 320,000 by around 2030.  The submitted local plan has no specific target though on the basis of its growth it implies around 309,00 by 2026.  The MK Growth commission repeated this figure.  Although of course some of the growth will be over the border in Central Beds and Aylesbury Vale.  So roughly 320-330,000 by 2030 now seems to be the figure if you are careful to exclude development at Wilmslow and Marston Vale.

So where does the figure of 500,000 come from?  I think it is a typo and should be 400,000.  The reference to 400,000 comes from a David Lock report from MK50, a Milton Keynes Partnership project. ‘Directions and Scale of Growth for Milton Keynes‘.  Which is evidence base not approved strategy.    This mentions a figure of 400,000 based on transit based communities in all obvious directions, although this includes development in Marston Vale at Wilmslow etc. which would be hard pressed to call MK.  This study – though good – was value about density.  If you included the kind of densities Suggested in Studio 5s report for the NIC and expanded some of the growth corridors. South East of the City and towards Cranfield you might get more towards 430,000.  If you included growth at rail nodes at Castlethorpe and Cheddington possibly 450,000.  500,000 would be very hard.  You really would be up against the natural limits of the city size then and I doubt 1/2  million could be accommodated with the current strategic road network and the capacity limits of the M1.    Also repeating the 1960s grid, though there is a strong lobby for this locally, would repeat car orientated sprawl, a smaller grain grid with less collector roads is needed.   Were however as the David Lock report suggests development to leap Waddon Chase to a new community grid then to its west then you could develop a a north South Road off the proposed East West Expressway effectively forming an MK bypass and linking to the M1 South of Castlethorpe.  One of the problems with MK’s current structure is you have to drive through the centre of MK to get anywhere North South of East west from the city’s fringes.  Then you might just about to hit 500k, but the question remains why would you when locations with rail access or potential rail access exist elsewhere in the corridor. I think 450k is more realistic.

Put Very Simply – The Flaw in the Government’s OAN Method – and How Ireland Shows Us How to Simply Fix It

We have covered OAN in great depth and very technically on this site – I fear from the recent government’s response to the consultation which battered every point aside without explanation that it was over some people heads.

So lets put it very simply. The government’s method takes a demographic baseline from ONS household projections.  It then recognises that this is too low as it does not translate from households to homes, second homes, frictional vacancies etc. are not assessed.  So it takes the figure ‘experts’ have recommended as the national need (300,000, now out of date more like 340,000) and rounds it up with a formula based on how unaffordable housing is in the area.

The problem with this is it mixes two things up.  One is the correction to the baseline (households to homes) the other is correcting for suppressed household formation where house building in the past hasn’t kept up, so reducing the demographic baseline as they are fewer existing households to spawn new ones.

This creates a problem.  Lets say unaffordability  increases everywhere but more in the south rather than north – as has happened. then under the government’s method the North would get less housing and the South more, indeed under their method  there would be a net transfer of housing from South to North.  This would be exacerbated by the governments decision to make the figures ‘backward looking’ in terms of past employment trends rather than forward looking in terms of employment potential.  This hits hard on the North.

There was a good reason for this as recommended by LPEG.  Not everywhere can have ‘above average’ employment growth.  there is a risk of double counting in terms of over ambitious LEP based projections.

Also the affordability based weighting, can have perverse effects.  For example can you justify Berks having a 30% uplift and Central Beds 100%?  Which seems down to a previous cheap area having a housing boom as it was one of the few cheaper areas within a commute of London.  Or can you really justify Oxfordshire having a reduction (which seems solely down to a low demographic baseline)?

I think the correct approach is:

Step One – Correct the demographic baseline with a proper household to homes conversion

Step Two – Correct for the suppressed household formation for the recession, but in a way that does not create a low housebuilding-low household formation feedback loop.

This compromise approach has been suggested by Savills as opposed to the huge global fudge factor in the original Nat Litch method for LPEG.  What you do is correct for the recessionary suppression of household formation but weight this element in terms of unaffordability.  What this does is normalise for this element nationally breaking the feedback loop.

This then creates a ‘corrected demographic baseline’.

Now you have to project this forward.  You could do a trend projection.  But I rather like the approach adopted in Ireland’s new NPF which uses an econometric model showing the growth potential of second tier cities, Dublin expands but second tier cities expand more.  Why not do this with the growth ambitions of Northern powerhouse etc. using Cambridge Econometrics or Oxford Economics Regional Models.

Step Three:  Project Forward using consist Regional Economic Models and balance internal migration accordingly.

This should include a feedback loop recognising that areas that bulld homes more will grown more and attract more work based in migrants.   It should also assume the gradual building out of the backlog of home over 15 years or so.

There you have it.

The problem is that it will still mean large increases in London and the South East (Green Belt) areas.  The government’s approach was to have a ‘cap’ on the proportionate increase   Which would have created a systematic underprovision of housing.  I suggest tehre should be a cap, but that shortfalls from the cap should be redistributed to all LPAs (capped and uncapped) based on a GIS based method on how unconstrained they are, with redistribution’s only occurring within commuting distance of major cities.   This ‘fund’ would not automatically go on OAN, rather LPAs under the DTC would be required to demonstrate how they would contribute to meeting it jointly.  Something that would encourage the new wave of joint statutory strategic plans.


Lizz Truss tells Tory Voters Build on Green Belt or Get PM Corbyn

Spectator Fraser Nelson

If some Conservative voters are reluctant to support the expansion of towns and villages, Liz Truss has a warning for them. “It’s a lot less uncomfortable having the field next to your house built on, than it is having your property appropriated by a bunch of Socialist-Marxists,’ said the Chief Secretary to the Treasury. She was giving the keynote speech at the Spectator Housing conference, sponsored by Lloyds, in London’s Southbank Centre yesterday and said in public what a lot of Tories have said in private: that the choice is between more housing, or a Corbyn government.

A choice, she said, that she’s taking at home as well as in Westminster. She said that there are “plans to build behind my house in Norfolk, which some people locally are opposing. And I refuse to do that, because you put your money where your mouth is. We have to support new development. Even if it is on the field that our house personally overlooks.”

She also made the argument for deregulation, so that cities can grow to face up against ‘the likes of Sao Paulo or Shanghai’ through building up and spreading out; for more cooperation with private firms to secure funding through partnerships; and for the bolder regeneration of existing infrastructure – ‘we’ve got Canary Wharf, now let’s have Canary North.’ There was plenty she didn’t like too – she named and shamed the recently-floated idea of the Citizen’s Inheritance – a proposal that citizens should be given a ‘gift’ of £10,000 at the age of 25. ‘As we say in the Treasury, there’s no such thing as a free lunch. Those young people would end up paying for that money through their taxes in future years.’

She said she believed in the free movement of people – but within Britain. Not for her the talk about regional development: she said she is a great supporter of people being able to move from the regions to London (or other cities) in pursuit of a better-paid job.

This is about personal opportunities and it’s about social mobility. It’s about being able to fulfil the potential we have. The Resolution Foundation suggested that by moving, people could gain as much as £2000 in their salaries, as well as better prospects for future earnings.”

Her speech was an appeal to those Conservatives who occupy a step on the property ladder or a seat at the table, to think of the greater good – because if they don’t the stakes are high. ‘We need to challenge that mentality of the comfortable, and say: life will get much more uncomfortable for people with property under a Labour government, who fundamentally don’t believe in property and want everyone to live in a commune.’

There is a heated debate in the Tory party at present about how just bold Theresa May ought to be on housing – and whether the party can win again if it doesn’t do something radical. After last year’s election, the Telegraph’s Allister Heath concluded that “the property have-nots have sent the property-haves a final warning: help us to join your ranks, or you will regret it”. James Forsyth made a similar point before the election. The Prime Minister is reputed to be one of the biggest Nimbys in government. Liz Truss’s speech is a reminder that the Tory party is moving very much in the other direction.

‘Agent of Change Principle’ At Santa Pod blocks Nearby 4,500 Home Garden Village

BBC Email

Colworth Garden Village was a key allocation in the published plan. The proposed scheme would deliver 4,500 dwellings (2,500 before 2035) and new high quality employment land along with a parkway rail station and community facilities. The station would serve the local existing and new community, the extended Colworth Business Park as well as intercept traffic on the A6 heading for Bedford Midland Station. However the scheme relied on joint working between Wrenbridge (the site promoter) and the operator of Santa Pod Raceway to resolve concerns about noise. Despite ongoing negotiations it has not been possible to reach agreement about noise mitigation works on the Santa Pod site and without these a satisfactory noise environment is unlikely to be achievable. The operator of Santa Pod Raceway has objected to the plan on that basis and there is no sign that an agreement will be forthcoming in the foreseeable future

For that reason the plan as it stands is not ready to be examined. The Council must believe the plan to be ‘sound’ when it is submitted for examination and, as the garden village proposal is unlikely to be deliverable, this is not the case at the present time. This will be explained in a report to be considered by the Council’s Executive on May 16th. The purpose of the report is to explain that other options for meeting the required number of dwellings now need to be considered, the plan amended and a further period of consultation held before the process can move forward. The meeting on May 16th will not agree how the plan should be changed; more work is needed before that decision can be made. The papers can be viewed on the Council and Democracy part of the Council’s web site.

CPRE Bedford  

Bedford Borough Council have emailed Town & Parish Councils explaining that their Local Plan 2035 which has just finished its final public consultation is to be put on hold because the proposed New Town of at least 4,500 new homes (bigger than Ampthill) at Sharnbrook /Colworth will not be able to be developed due, the council say, to noise issues from the nearby Santa Pod Raceway.

Susan Walls, Branch Manager for CPRE Bedfordshire said:

“This is a great success for CPRE Bedfordshire – together with the campaign group Keep North Beds Green, local residents from Souldrop, Sharnbrook and the villages of north Bedfordshire, we have fought against the proposed Sharnbrook/Souldrop New Town which would have been built on beautiful open countryside.

We have always believed that this was a seriously flawed proposal which would have had a massive impact on Souldrop, Sharnbrook and the villages of North Bedfordshire.

There is a note of caution however – this is not the end of the battle – there is still an outside chance that the New Town may go forward and we remain very concerned about any potential alternative sites that BBC may choose to develop.”

She went on to say:

“The overall housing numbers proposed in the Local Plan are far too high – FOI requests have established that the housing needs of all the people of Bedford Borough can be met with just 50% of the number of homes proposed by BBC – the remainder are for people that will be encouraged to move into Bedford Borough from elsewhere in the UK destroying our countryside and urban green spaces.”

You can read the full text of the BBC email below.



It was an excellent site as well next to a railway station and the former Unilver Research Station.   Its a Pyrrhic victory for the CPRE as it means inevitably 4,500 extra houses at Bedford and the Marston Vale.   Ive long suggested the former Northampton Bedford rail line be developed as a BRT to facilitate growth South EEast of Northampton and North West of Bedford.   This corridor is lacking any kind of vission being located off teh main spine of the Cam-MK_ox corridor.