Nathanial Litchfield ‘Don’t get too excited’ about New Household Projections – Questions About Credibility as Basis for Planning Housing Need

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‘ The new projections show reductions from the 2014-based figures in every Housing Market Area except Ipswich, and in Cambridge it produces a negative figure – an output that raises an emblematic concern about the use of these new figures as the basis of housing need,’
ONS’s remit is to produce demographic projections based on past trends –its approach is not inherently wrong from a statistician or demographer’s perspective, but they now project forward trends that Government policy is explicitly seeking to reverse, raising questions as to whether they fit for purpose for planning for housing need. Perhaps the best examples of the concern is that the projections show zero or negative figures for Oxford and Cambridge over the ten-year period used in the standard method, which might imply no need for any new housing in two locations with acute housing problems. There is also an inconsistency in how communal establishments such as care homes are treated (excluded from the projections but included within the housing need figure).

Household Projections have Had Their Day in Projecting Housing Need @ONS @PlanningResourc #CaMKox

Analysis: New projections wipe out housing need in Oxford and Cambridge under standard method, experts say Lets call it.  Any method which makes such an obviously absurd prediction must be a bad method.  Imagine doing a PHD on housing need in CaMoX based on this you wouldn’t even to to a viva, you’d be laughed at. They had there day in the sun and for decades in roughly worked.  As the economy grew household formation would rise due to people being able to afford it through life choice events (such as getting married, having kids etc.) falling headship/household rep rates etc. Since the great recession that relationship has broken down.  people can now longer afford to form households in the way they had.  A generation rent of enforced sharers and couch surfers and failure to launch young people. If you have to ‘correct’ the national need by correcting up from 159k, to 300k, a correction factor of 100%, as 300-330,000 k a year is what many housing experts correctly state is what we need, then you do have to challenge the basis of a method that requires 100% correction. What is clear is there has been a radical suppression of household formation due to a lack of homes to form into.  Other explanations – such as less international migration, may only be temporary and play a much smaller part, as does the temporary blip up in mortality due to the severe winter last year which dumb trend projections project will happen every year for many years – hmmmm. Similarly the known dodgyness in estimating migration of students to Oxford and Cambridge which massively distorts the numbers. What might replace it?  Base it on population change and a multiplier based on what number of homes would be built in an area if enforced sharing and concealed households were zero. Lets call it the housing gap elimination ratio.  This could be estimated by questions at English Labour Force Surveys or English Housing Survey, with the sample weighted to improve local results in greater housing stress areas.

Friends of the Earth’s Alternative Plan for CamKox – Build a Million Homes on Retail Warehouse Parks in Oxford

Chris Church of Oxford Friends of the Earth and a veteran of 1980s road campaigns, says: “We have to make this so politically toxic that no one will pin their flag to it. We also need to demonstrate that there are viable alternatives.”
According to Church, these include the Varsity rail link to restore direct Oxford-Cambridge trains, and developing brownfield sites and rezoning underused retail parks for housing in Oxford to put affordable homes where jobs are.
Not serious.  If you want to be taken seriously come up with a plan that adds up to 1 million homes, not a few hundred from retail warehouse parks Brownfield sites are already included in each districts HELAAs and its hundreds of thousands short. Please if you want to be taken seriously
  1. Get out some maps
  2. Map what is already included in terms of planning permission and HELLA sites
  3. Then suggest some new sites so you don’t double count
  4. If you are planning homes around stations on the varsity line please also understand many people will need to get buses to those stations, industry and shops will need deliveries and yes some people will use cars.  A million homes will inevitably need new roads, and these problems wont go away if you image some fantasy ‘tup’ north’ area where they might be easier when in fact it is likely to be much more constrained and certainty as biodiversity sensitive.
So get real if you arn’t proposing, realsitically,  where it should go you are just a NIMBY in a fake green emperors new clothes outfit. This is not to suggest you shouldn’t build in sustainable locations, but there arnt simply enough sites within 20 minutes waling distances of stations existing or proposed.  So that will mean having to build BRT or some such, and that will mean some new roads even if bus only. And they will involve just as much habitat loss as roads with cars.  So the answer – plan routes which avoid sensitive sites and create as much habitat in new towns as you can. If course if you can’t agree a plan for fear of someone criticise it you become an ERG like joke.

How the #NEGC ‘Fourth Way’ guarantees it is now viable and deliverable

See here from CAUSE

Perhaps unintentionally the Colchester Compromise undoes the fatal flaw in the submitted scheme.

Part iii is the key – without the road link and other infrastructure it wont go ahead.

Tbis is brilliant though probably unintentional as it now puts Marks Tey in the territory of the ‘Point Gaude’ principleBrilliant this now puts the valuation of the land in a no scheme world of agricultural value + compensation rather than housing minus infrastructure. And compensation that is far less than market value by ECJ precedent – see here.  That will add around 8-10 billion pounds on the positive side of the balance sheet.

What this means is the following can be cast into the dustbin and need re-evaluating with a fresh and open mind as they deal with a completely different scheme.

  1.  CAUSE’s etc. own viability appraisal
  2. The inspectors decision on option 2 having regard to 1
  3. CAUSE’s counsels opinion based on 2.

So lets move on – a suggested way forward

A. A completely independent valuation of fourth way options

B.  Training of all cllrs from the three authorities on understanding viability appraisals and SEA as they have asked.

C.  Following the viability appraisal independent counsels opinion on what options are now ‘reasonable alternatives’

D.  SEA – again fully independent

E.  Decision on Major modification etc.

All of the above should be commissioned through a joint panel including CAUSE and other groups, and I would recommend chaired by n indpendent broker – such as Kevin Murray who has a fine reputation in this regard on major proposals.

Lets not get bogged down in the argument about whether the inspectors first option is reasonable having regard to the Grand Union principles, its now longer determinate, the real issue now is what gets consulted on in terms of teh first way.

Blackpool has Right Approach – Future of High Street is reducing not protecting proportion of retail in town centres

PSE Online

A series of projects that will catalyse a £100m regeneration of Blackpool town centre has been approved.

Included in Blackpool Council’s major investment projects is a £26m state-of-the-art conference centre, a £23m tram extension and the development of Blackpool’s first five-star hotel.

Also included in the approved three-year timeline is the development of a Blackpool museum, the extension of the Houndshill Shopping Centre, and a £7m Quality Corridors programme which will see the refurbishment of a host of major roads.

The council say these projects will “breathe new life into the town centre” and attract visitors throughout the year.

Cllr Simon Blackburn, leader of Blackpool Council said: “The face of retailing is changing more extensively and rapidly than anyone can have expected, resulting in increased levels of high street retail vacancy in town and city centres right across the county.

“We are also conscious that a number of well-documented, reputable reports have shown that those town centres that are most dependent on retail premises have suffered most badly and those town centres with less retail, more offices and other forms of leisure activities have fared the best.

“All of these investments and proposals address that issue and will bring new footfall, spend and life into our town centre. Put together, they will deliver transformational change.”

What studies – well lets start with this one from the ERSC .

higher spending can be generated by a diverse town centre which can satisfy customers’ needs for immediate purchase of the goods they want. Other than factors relating to product availability and convenience, ‘softer’, experiential factors such as overall enjoyment from visiting the town centre and pleasure from the social interaction and appreciating the town centre atmosphere are also reported as contributing to higher levels of spend

Social activity enhances a town centre shopping visit, translating into added value in terms of time and money spent in the town centre. Evidence suggests that social interaction in the town centre, such as shopping with friends or family and combining shopping with having a refreshment in a town centre café or bar, increases dwell time in the town and therefore the probability of greater spend (Figure 6). Recent research19 demonstrates that the presence of coffee shops typically boosts local high street economies by 2 to 4% through a combination of increased footfall and dwell time. As such, local businesses are increasingly seeing the benefits of the leisure offer on their high streets to their individual trading.
As this Evidence Review has stressed, the ‘leisure aspect’ of shopping trips is a significant driver of footfall; the leisure offer increases not only dwell time, but also the average spent during trips to town centres and high streets. Local businesses are increasingly seeing the benefits of the leisure offer on their high streets to their individual trading. Additionally, people more and more see the value of leisure spaces – spaces for casual dining like cafes, pubs etc – as community meeting hubs and places for mobile working and networking. Overall, what becomes clear from the evidence reviewed is that the “experiential” side of the town centre journey – that is to say, social interaction, visits to cafes and cultural activities, together with the overall town centre atmosphere – heighten enjoyment, increase dwell time and spend in centres, and deter consumers from resorting to online alternatives.

This of course is part of a much broader shift in undertstanding of town centres.  With ideas from thinkers such as Jahn Gehl, on what makes people dwell, and Peter Jones link/place concept – links maximiing movement of people, places maximising number of people not moving (turning the traffic planning concept of generalised cost of travel on its head) and pulling all this neatly together Brent Toderians concept of sticky streets, maximising the factors that make people want to stay. 

Yet despite this tsunami of evidence British Planning still has a hangover of URPI (unit for retail planning information) thinking and their 35% rule for non-retail.  This finding almost 50 years old now.  Of course areas with a high proportion of non retail had less turnover, because they has included fringe areas with less footfall.  They had made the number 1 planning research mistake of spatial autocorrelation – mistaking correlation for caution by misindentfying the independent variable and the spatially driving factors. 

consider Anywhere County Town High Street.  It is is worried about the closure of big names, House of Frasier and BHS has closed, the future doesnt look good for Debenhams, even Marks and Sparks have relocated to an out of town retail park.  It produces two options

  1.  Consolidating retail at one end of the town centre, with a ‘cafe quarter’ at the other
  2. Abolishing the primary frontage and encouraging a mix of vital uses including retil throughout

What does the evidence suggest.  Clearly option 2, even though 90% of local plans throughout the UK would suggest the former. 

Lets look into their data – the part of the centre with the closed big named stores has the lowest proportion of non retail active frontage uses, the part of the centre with the highest proportion has the fewest retail vacancies and the shops which are trading better.

There is no point in protecting a notional % of retail if that number is dominated by pound , vaping and charity shops because the low footfall can only support a bottom feeder market.  In constrast centres which allow more bait to be spread have bigger fish they people keep coming back to catch.

Our approach to planning in town centres has become an ideology, a dogma, without evidential support.  if our high streets are to survive we have to cast it out. 

Fantasy Need and Fantasy Supply – The Underpants Gnomes are driving the London Plan EIP

  1. Made up ‘objective need’ using Brokenshire’s red pen SOAN which assumes people from the North of England will move their need to London even though these people don’t exist in the ONS or GLA migration or employment forecasts + Made up Supply using Sadiq Khan’s red pen in the London Plan where magically small sites (really windfalls) with no evidence of availability or deliverability as required by the NPPF are magicked out of thin air to fill the supply gap
  2. ????????????????????????????????????????????????
  3. Published London Plan matching need and supply

Sound like the Underpants Gnomes to me.

Perhaps they should be invited participants to the London Pan EIP – as only they could perform phase 2 a period where early electioneering for 2020 has replaced all evidence and objectivity.

The panel should have none of this nonsense.  The kind of nonsense that happened in the first London Plan EIP where the GLA successfully lobbied the Planning inspectorate directly to give them a soft ride.  Something Chris Shepley told me would NEVER EVER have happened on his watch.  Either the inspectorate are independent, analytical, objective, fair to all parties,  and challenging of BS or they are nothing.

They should require all parties to come back with real numbers that seperate Need, from Policy Target and evidenced supply, from Desired Supply and necessary overspill to outside London.

Without this it is impossible for the panel to do their job.

Smoked Filled Room Deal Breaks North Essex Garden Communities Deadlock

Last Night Lots of work done before the meeting between the Lib/lab coalition and the Tory group apparently – well done. They however insisted no coalition chair – hence technically ‘deadlock’ where an officer has to chair. Colchester Gazette
CONTROVERSIAL new towns containing more than 20,000 homes must have a Government commitment to new infrastructure before even one house is built, council bosses say.
Alongside Tendring and Braintree councils, Colchester Council was presented with three options from a planning inspector after the controversial proposals were judged to be “unjustified” and “unsound” at this stage.
But the committee agreed a “fourth way” which had been thrashed out by leaders of Colchester Council’s main parties.
The agreement gives a commitment to continue working alongside the two authorities but also states commitment is “dependent on funding for the necessary strategic infrastructure being confirmed, them being proven financially viable and environmentally sound”.
It adds: “The North Essex authorities will provide the further evidence requested by the inspector under an alternative option which will show any Colchester and Braintree Borders Garden Community being planned for the later years of the housing trajectory of the local plan and any Colchester and Braintree Borders Garden Community and Colchester and Tendring Border Garden Community proposals dependent on necessary strategic infrastructure being committed.
“It will also be imperative to prove the economic viability for garden communities and to ensure future housing growth is matched with economic growth.”
The move also calls for a larger number of potential alternative sites to be carried out. It is believed that could include areas such as Weeley and Thorpe le Soken, which already have main line train stations.
The agreement adds: “Should the necessary strategic infrastructure for the garden communities not be committed after a reasonable period of time, this will trigger a review of the local plan to manage the consequential shortfall in housing delivery in a way that does not overburden the infrastructure of existing communities/settlements.” Colchester Council leader Mark Cory told the meeting: “It is important to understand that we have listened and we are addressing some of the points which have been turned up.
“We have listened to the inspector and his letters and [have put forward] what we want to see for our communities while accepting the need for growth.”
The senior Lib Dem added: “This is a hybrid which allows us to make progress and carry out the work on the sustainability assessments.”
The leader also reiterated his pledge to see no development south of the A133 in relation to any Colchester/Tendring border settlement.
Labour boss and deputy leader of the council Tim Young outlined the reasons a local plan must be in place – to deter “greedy developers” – and added it is “essential” a road linking the A133 and A120 is in place before any work on the planned eastern settlement begins.
He added: “If that isn’t the case, it is a non-starter. We must have the infrastructure and that is loud and clear in our wording.
“There is housing coming in Colchester and there needs to be. There are a lot of families who just cannot get on the housing ladder and we want to address that in this local plan.”

The Choice of the Final Western Route for Ox Cam Expressway Should be Devolved to the Oxfordshire JSP – The Project will Fail Otherwise @kitmalthouse

Highways England is in danger of creating 2 years of blight across a 30 km wide corridor in Middle England, potentially derailing the whole corridor project a it, necessarily, becomes the focus for opposition.

This is potentially a cluster*** you can she coming years in advance.

The Romans never built roads to nowhere, straight lines yes but between their towns and Garrisons set up in strategic positions.  We are now faced with a chicken and egg position of delaying the Oxfordshire Joint Strategic Plan and choice of strategic growth locations consultation till 2020.

This is unnecessary.  Why not consult on ‘realistic options’ (as required by law, on the expressway route western section and strategic growth locations AT THE SAME TIME.  What a radical silo bust thought.

The route south of Oxford, if effectively would support growth at Grenoble, Hadenham/Thame and Culham, North might notionally support growth any Begbrooke/Yarnton but a southern route would take a lot of traffic off the A34.  In any event IT WILL BE IMPOSSIBLE FOR HIGHWAYS ENGLAND TO MODEL ANY IMPACTS WITHOUT ADDING TRAFFIC ASSESSMENT UNITS TO THEIR MODEL WHICH INCLUDE THE PREDICTED LOCATION AND SCALE OF GROWTH.

What is more or the first time and place there will be an ‘Administrative Process’ for the Corridor, in that the NPPF (and new NPPG as set out yesterday) set one down for JSP strategic policies.  As such the Highways Agency will likley face multiple legal challenges if they dont do an SEA of the New Town/Garden Communities options and Route options together if they merely assume the growth options (prior to any consultation) in their two models.

If you can see an omishambles coming – time for transport and planning ministers to speak to each other.

Devolve the decision.  It will be a tough one, the leader of Oxfordshire CC and South Oxfordshire are die in the ditch over the route, but in a tough decision like this it if far better the flack is taken locally.  The condition, if they dont take it within 12 months they should lose ALL government growth and housing funding.