Category Archives: urban planning

Statistical Theory Argument Could Lead to Legal Challenge to Stratford Core Strategy Meeting

Seriously there could be a JR because of the way Stratford DC has ‘filtered’ its survey results on the latest round of its core strategy consultation.

It asked respondants to rank the preferred option location for its ‘Big lump’ of a strategic allocation.  Including the previous preferred option (At Gaydon, a new settlement) but also four more including another new settlement. Not ranked all of there responses 1 to 5.  Some for example ranked them 1,2, or 1,2,3 etc.  It was not until midway through the consultation that Stratford DC indicated you had to rank all five, and even then did not say they incomplete rankings would render a response invalid.

But now their committee report ‘throws away’ incomplete rankings – treating them as what is known in statistics as a ‘non response’.  This has seriously affected the result in terms of the most ‘preferred’ response, Gaydon would not have been top of the list but now is.  So the result of this decision could seriously sway councillors and lead them to select Gaydon or not. Naturally the anti Gaydon local group is furious.  It could end in the courts.

Now why would you want to do that?  Does it introduced distortions if you dont? Well in terms of statistical theory no – if you are only considering top ranked questions.  that is rank 1.  Then you can report without any distortion the top rank.  But then you lose all information on the 2, 3 ranks etc.  Its the same as asking a single response question on what one you prefer.

If you do want to use the rank 2, 3 response etc. in your analysis you get serious distortions if you don’t deal with the incomplete rank order questions responses.  That is because as we have all learned people arn’t just ranking their top order preferred response.  In reality many respondents are not ranking top preferences but least preferred.  Ranking lowest the area furthest way from them.  Here if someone ranks 1 to 3 and another ranks 1 to 5.  The rank order 3 of the first is not the same as the rank order 5th of the other  - you cant add them up.  If you want to do serious statistical analysis – to find out if people are ranking dispreference rather than preference, then you cant treat all responses the same.  You need to re-weight the response scores, and there are several techniques to do so, mostly pioneered in the marketing industry.  Then you can, for example, use spatial autocorrelation and other tests to see if people are simply always ranking worst the area closest to them.   Which of course not an unbiased preference.

But there is no indication that Stratford DC is doing this.  They are half aware of the problem.  Have chosen the clumsiest and worst method of all to ‘compensate’, throwing away all incomplete response and as a result have seriously distorted the headline result. They didnt need to anyway as they dont seem to be really analyzing the results below rank 1.  So they have committed a serious, though unintentional, statistical blunder and risk misleading cllrs at the forthcoming ‘final’ meeting on submission.

Myself and the entire English Planning profession thought we were so clever in pioneering this kind of question.  Instead we were idiots.  Questionnaire design and analysis without at least some grasp of statistics 101 is worse that not doing a questionnaire at all.

Stratford should pull the report and give the raw data to a statistical professional to analyse first.  It would be much cheaper than a ‘sadly’ well deserved JR, and published the raw anoymised results on its website (good practice).  (DPA means you cant include the full postcode but you can and should the postcode district).

After allhow can you be sure of what is ‘locally led’ if you dont even know what locals actually prefer or not?

Narrower Utility Corridors – Wider Streets

At last its taken four years but its here.  The National

New streets built in Abu Dhabi will be significantly more pedestrian friendly thanks to guidelines outlined by the Abu Dhabi Urban Planning Council.

The guidelines, which appear in the Utility Corridors Design Manual (UCDM) that was launched yesterday, aim to reduce the width of public right-of-ways by making more efficient use of the space below street level. The manual provides planners, developers and engineers with guidelines for the location and width of underground corridors for utilities such as water pipes, stormwater drainage, power cables, fibre-optic cables, sewage pipes and district cooling systems beneath new streets across the emirate.

“It will ensure utility corridors are efficiently planned underground, which in turn will create more attractive and walkable streets above ground for the benefit of pedestrians,” said Mohammed Al Khadar, executive director of development review and Estidama at UPC.

For pedestrians, the changes will result in wider pavements. The new guidelines also allow for a wider space in front of businesses.

“The pavements, actually, are increasing. Today we have a huge right-of-way in Abu Dhabi, we have sometimes up to 160 metres, but the pavement sometimes goes to less than two metres, sometimes one metre,” Mr Al Hmoudi said.

The new standards will require pavements to be a minimum of two metres wide, generally, and three metres in high-density and high-traffic areas.

The UCDM guidelines will be applied to projects in Al Shawamekh, Al Shamkha, parts of Baniyas, Sector Z35 in Mohammed bin Zayed City, North Wathba Master Plan, Sila’a, Delma and Ghayathi in Al Gharbia. Many older streets will be retrofitted to meet these standards over the next 20 years.

Telegraph – Tories to Announce Anti Wind Farm Policies


Local residents will get new powers to block all new onshore wind farms within six months of a new Conservative government taking office, the party will promise on Thursday.

No subsidies will paid to operators of new onshore wind turbines if the Conservatives win a Commons majority next May, they will promise.

The commitment to stop the erection of new onshore turbines – revealed in The Telegraph earlier this month – is the latest hardening of Conservative rhetoric on green energy.

Subsidies for existing onshore wind would remain in place and wind farms currently under construction or given legal consent would still be completed, almost doubling the onshore wind sector’s capacity by 2020.

But no more onshore turbines would be put in place beyond that, Michael Fallon, the energy minister, will say.

The Tories would change those rules so that major sites would be processed by local councils, allowing local politicians to reflect the views of residents.

Planning policies would also be altered to give greater weight to local concerns about landscape and heritage.

If the Conservatives win the election next year, they would put new curbs on wind farms in place by November 2015, Mr Fallon said. The UK has “enough” onshore turbines he said.

“We remain committed to cutting our carbon emissions. And renewable energy, including onshore wind, has a key role in our future energy supply. But we now have enough bill payer-funded onshore wind in the pipeline to meet our renewable energy commitments and there’s no requirement for any more.

“That’s why the next Conservative Government will end any additional bill payer subsidy for onshore wind.”

Paint Streets with White Titanium Paint to Reduce Car Air-Conditioning

The National

On hot, summer days, the last place you would want to be is up on a roof – especially without footwear on.

They are hoping the cool paint will be used throughout Abu Dhabi and the UAE, believing it could significantly reduce the environmental cost of running air-conditioning units.

Its developers, Watergy International Group, claim the paint could reduce a building’s surface temperature by 20 per cent.

This in turn would reduce the cooling load of the building as a whole, energy consumption and carbon dioxide production.

The technology was tested on a 197-square-metre area of the roof at the Masdar field station, where Watergy workers painted a third of the area with gray cool paint, which matched the original colour of the concrete, a third was painted white, while the remainder of open roof area was left uncoated. Stepping on to the cool painted area, everyone took their shoes off under the glaring sun and started strolling around the cool roof.

The difference between the painted and non-painted areas was immediately noticeable.

Peter Armstrong, associate professor of mechanical engineering at Masdar Institute, said that the white paint is the coolest, but based on architectural requests, the paint could be provided in other colours, such as grey and black.

“It is best to have white on the roof because no one can see it up there,” he said.

Measuring the temperature on the unpainted area at 9.30am on a toasty Abu Dhabi morning, the reading was 46.6°C. Moving to the coated area it was 24.9°C.

Prof Armstrong believes it is not only buildings that could benefit.

He suggested painting the streets with it as “the cooling load of the AC in the car will be less”.

He explained that when a car’s air conditioning is turned up, while the car might be nice and chilled, you are adding to the heat of the street and the surrounding environment.

The secret to the cooling is titanium dioxide, a chemical used in sunscreens because of its excellent reflective qualities.

Prof Armstrong says the paint would have more dramatic effects on buildings with poor insulation.

“A typical villa with concrete or block walls with no insulation benefits the most from this paint – which is the case in most of Abu Dhabi,” he said.

Another useful way to take advantage of the paint is to apply it to AC units on roofs of buildings.

“Villas would benefit greatly. In a typical villa the AC unit is up on the roof so when you limit the heat on the roof you improve the performance of the AC because now where the AC is, it is a lower temperature,” he said. “The higher the temperature is where AC is trying to reject the heat the lower the performance.”

Industrial areas and warehouses could also benefit greatly.

“For example, car shops have fans in their warehouses. Let’s say the fan is sending down air at 40°C,” said Wamid Zori, managing director of Watergy. “So imagine the impact if we can get it down to 30°C.”

Cool paint costs as much as any good-quality paint, “so it is not so expensive, yet worth the other savings”, Mr Zori said.

The paint has already been tested on a hangar roof in Sharjah and a supermarket in Milan, Italy with positive results.

Meanwhile, Watergy has signed a memorandum of understanding with Masdar worth Dh10 million to test the paint in two 50,000-square-metre areas of Abu Dhabi.

Prof Armstrong is keen to get started painting straight away.

Giant UAE developers introduce measures to reduce speculative ‘flipping’ of off plan homes

The National

Aldar Properties [Abu Ahbi's largest] is to introduce strict resale restrictions on its latest launches in an attempt to curb speculation.

“Buyers must pay 50 per cent of the property value – no one is allowed to pay less – before they can sell the property,” said the Aldar chairman, Abubaker Seddiq Al Khoori. “All factors point to the fact that the market has learnt from the mistakes made last time. Buyers are now more careful, developers are more cautious and study the market carefully because of the problems of the past.”

Speculation on off-plan property sales was one of the elements blamed for fuelling the UAE property bubble that burst dramatically in 2008.

As property prices rocketed, speculators turned to “flipping” off-plan homes by putting down small deposits on them and then selling the contract on for a quick profit, inflating prices even further.

The practice has prompted companies such as Emaar to attempt to curb speculation by saying it would refuse to transfer the names on purchase agreements until buyers had paid up to 40 per cent of the value of the home.

Nonetheless brokers say that speculators have been getting around the new restrictions by drawing up their own agreements to sell, regardless of the required contractual milestones. Properties sold by Emaar under similar rules have appeared for sale on property website Dubizzle just hours after they were purchased off-plan, often at much higher prices.

They also warn that relaxed payment plans for off-plan properties are making it easier for buyers to make risky purchases.

Aldar said that its new flats would be sold to off-plan investors through a payment plan where investors pay 50 per cent of the value of the property during construction and the other 50 per cent after the properties have been built.

The new off-plan sales launches are Aldar’s first aimed at the mass market since the company was hit by the global financial crisis, prompting it to sell some of its major assets to the Abu Dhabi Government and to merge with its rival Sorouh last summer. Since then, the company says it has turned itself around by cutting debt and costs.


Garden Cities Need not Contain a Single Affordable Home – Boles


A Tory planning minister has admitted that the coalition’s new wave of garden cities would not have to contain a single affordable home, despiteNick Clegg‘s claims that they would offer low-cost accommodation andhelp solve the UK’s housing crisis.

As the government unveiled plans for new garden cities containing 15,000 homes each, it emerged that developers would not need to reserve a certain proportion of the properties for those struggling most with the cost of living.

Asked by Labour whether the first garden city in Ebbsfleet would contain low-cost homes, Nick Boles, a Conservative minister, said the government would “not impose a particular level of affordable housing for housing schemes”.

“Unrealistic Section 106 agreements [which specify how many affordable homes should be built] result in no development, no regeneration and no community benefits,” he added.

Under changes brought in by the coalition, developers can challenge requirements for affordable housing imposed by councils, with some firms arguing that they depress the prices they can get for properties in the rest of the development.

Clegg said a new wave of garden cities would “provide affordable homes, good schools, and jobs for the next generation, whilst at the same time preserving the countryside” as he invited communities to bid for funding from a £2.4bn pot to host the new developments by 2020.

However, the prospectus launched by the government only said that local areas “may wish to consider” mixed-tenure homes which were “affordable for ordinary people”. It added: “The government does not wish to impose any definition of what garden cities are, but instead intends to work with localities to support them in developing and delivering their own vision.”

Clegg said he hoped that a new set of cities would help create an “ark of prosperity” in the south-east, where people wanted to live but were currently unable to find houses.

Labour accused the government of failing to tackle the housing crisis early enough and of ignoring the issue of whether any new homes would actually help those struggling to find affordable accommodation.

Roberta Blackman-Woods, a shadow communities and local government minister, said: “The government is failing to tackle the housing crisis and as a result, home ownership remains out of reach for too many low and middle-income earners. It is vital that the government takes affordable housing seriously in any plans for new development, but so far they have avoided such a commitment. We would expect that any proposals brought forward for new garden cities to address the growing need for affordable housing.”

A spokesman for the Department for Communities and Local Government confirmed there were no Whitehall targets for the number of affordable homes in garden cities.

MK Conservatives – Developers treated like ‘Poor Lambs’ who ‘Squeel’ by Government


A government decision to let housing developers scrap affordable homes to maintain profits is “storing up trouble for the future” and fuelling nimbyism, a leading Tory council has warned.

The leadership of Milton Keynes has complained that the decision to water down the requirement for developers to include affordable homes in their plans was a reaction to “squeals” from the construction industry.

Twelve months ago ministers amended planning laws to make it easier for developers to renegotiate deals with town halls over the number of affordable homes they must supply. Now, in an act of open rebellion, Milton Keynes’s Tory leadership claims the policy has “swung the balance much too far in favour of the developers”.

If the policy persists, the town will build 500 fewer affordable homes over the next five years, according to its figures. For example, the developer of 211 homes at Bletchley that was due to include 63 affordable homes recently successfully resubmitted plans with no affordable homes at all, on profitability grounds.

The attack will be particularly embarrassing for George Osborne, who last month used Milton Keynes, earmarked for a 28,000-home expansion, as an example of how “our predecessors had the ambition to build for Britain”.

“We are trying to build a city that is sustainable and we are not being allowed to,” said David Hopkins, deputy leader of the council. “They are setting up problems not today or next year but in five years time, and there will be a shortage of affordable housing. That will lead to problems in the service sector and public sector because people won’t be able to afford to live in Milton Keynes.”

Hopkins claimed the problem has been caused by ministers treating builders as “poor lambs” after they “squealed” about the viability of developments where they were required to build 30% or more affordable homes. He has written to the planning minister, Nick Boles, demanding he drop a policy “that unfairly and inappropriately favours the interest of developers over the needs of present and future residents”.

The policy was introduced in reaction to falling property values, and councils have been told they must take account of commercial viability calculations in order to prevent schemes stalling.

But with rapidly rising house prices – up 9.5% on the same time last year, according to Nationwide – there is growing pressure to drop it.

Boles told the Guardian that planning deals negotiated during the last housing boom are “economically unrealistic, meaning no development, no regeneration and no community benefits”.

“The latest figures show that as a result of our measures, the number of stalled sites with planning permission is falling,” he said. “Since 2010, the government has helped deliver 170,000 new affordable homes, and we have a £20 billion investment programme in affordable housing up to 2015, and a further £23 billion after it.”

But since 2010 the construction of affordable homes nationwide has fallen sharply from 60,480 to 42,830 in 2012-13, well short of the equivalent of 55,000 a year the government plans to build between 2015 and 2018.

Labour’s shadow housing minister, Emma Reynolds, called for the policy to be scrapped.

“There is a massive shortage of affordable homes across the country,” she said. “Now even leading Tory councillors are attacking their own government for their failed housing policies. David Cameron is presiding over the lowest levels of house building in peacetime since the 1920s, and he has no answers to tackle the shortage of affordable homes.”

An investigation last autumn found that of the 82 biggest housing developments in 10 cities, 60% fell short of local affordable housing targets. Last week the launch of 600 flats designed by the architect Frank Gehry at Battersea Power station was engulfed in controversy after it emerged none would be “affordable”.

Milton Keynes has threatened to mount legal challenges to developers who insist they can only build homes profitably if social housing is cut.

“The development control committee is frequently confronted with applications where developers have submitted viability assessment that show a development is only viable if affordable housing is greatly reduced often to a level of less than 20%,” Hopkins said. “Why is it that those in need of affordable accomodation … should bear the cost of the difficult market conditions rather than the developers and lenders … taking a reduced profit?”

Andrew Whitaker, planning director at the Home Builders Federation which represents housebuilders, said: “Private housebuilders deliver the majority of affordable housing in this country. In a few cases, sites where planning permissions were negotiated some years ago are no longer viable to develop in the current market. Renegotiating the level of affordable housing on such sites allows the site to come forward, and much needed housing – including some affordable homes – to be built.”

Growing pot – ‘My Cat is guilty not Me’

A Man arrested for gopwing pot in Dubai has blamed his cat.  The National

I smoked the substance then threw away the seeds from the window and they fell into our garden where they grew. But since we have a cat that keeps messing the plants, my mother removed them from the garden into pots and placed them on the balcony,” said the Emirati defendant S F, 31, at the Criminal Court yesterday.

Stunning Time Lapse Film of Dubai and Abu Dhabi

Funded by BBC by . From a skyscrapers eye view.  Not taking with a movie camera but still with timed exposures.  As the camera dollies, zooms and pans I was left thinking how the **** did he do that. He must have a very clever rig to do it without camera shake.  The closing credits give the answer.


The Nobel Prize for Planning Petitions – ‘We are opposed to star architects constructing their angular spectacles of glass and steel’

Building Design - All the press reports about England having the most ‘bogged down and protracted’ planning system in the world are wrong.  Protests and JRs in Sweden often mean that major projects can take decades.   Though David Chipperfield seems to be gaining a rep for insensitivity re Heritage Assets and Settings

The Nobel Foundation has insisted that a campaign to block David Chipperfield’s Nobel Centre will not succeed in moving it to another part of Stockholm.

The site, on a promontory in the heart of the Swedish capital, was donated by the city authorities which has been saving it for just such an international cultural project, a spokeswoman told BD.

Thousands of protestors have joined a Facebook group objecting to plans for a “monumental building” in a “fragile” part of the city.

And nearly 2,000 have signed a petition against the plans, with 400 adding their names in the week since Chipperfield was named winner of the international design competition.

It declares: “We are opposed to star architects constructing their angular spectacles of glass and steel right in the middle of the protected historic environment, as monuments to themselves, at our expense and the city’s.”

They are particularly upset that construction of the Nobel Centre will result in the relocation of ferries and the demolition of a number of historic harbourside buildings in the Blasieholmen area.

These include the Customs House, dating from 1876 and designed by Axel Fredrik Nystrom, architect of the capital’s Old National Archives and the Naval Academy. Stockholm’s last two surviving wooden harbour warehouses, dating from around 1910, are also due to go.

Caroline Silfverstolpehe of the Preserve Blasieholmen network, described Chipperfield’s design as a “giant colossus – a de facto convention centre on the mediaeval quayside pillaging everything in its path”.

In a fast-developing city, buildings that speak of its past are more important than ever, she said.

“[The Nobel] is obviously an important part of Sweden and its history that absolutely deserves to get a special place,” she wrote on the website Stockholm Skyline.

“But does it make sense that this is at the expense of other important values​​, such as the city’s cultural, historic buildings and shipping? The answer is no. Stockholm has room for both these buildings, shipping and a Nobel Museum…

“It is difficult to imagine a more vacuous locus for the solemn Nobel festivities than the one currently planned. It’s time to open both eyes.”

But Annika Pontikis of the Nobel Foundation said: “This is the site that has been given to the project by the city of Stockholm. The city has been saving it for a very long time for a cultural project with international outreach and they felt the Nobel Centre would be perfect.”

She said such campaigns were a typical part of the planning process in Stockholm. The public could have its say through a consultation process that has just begun.

“It’s a city where larger projects of this kind are met with all kinds of discussion and groups of this kind are quite normal,” she added. “We wouldn’t anticipate anything but a debate.”

Chipperfield, who was not available to comment, will now work on detailed plans with a view to submitting the project for planning in the autumn.

The architect was replaced on the redevelopment of the Geffrye Museum in east London after protestors objected to his plans to demolish a Victorian pub. But its plans for Elizabeth House were approved by a planning inspector despite complaints that it would damage views from the Westminster World Heritage Site.


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