Dover Shows Why English Urban Planning is the Pits

CPOing these lubyanka’s – yay

Which replaced this Georgian Townscape

And Replacing it with this scheme – the St James Scheme –  via CPO – not going to win any awards – unless there is an urban design equivalent of the Razzis.

Tear down a lubyanka put up a parking lot – yeah yeah yeah

To this errr ‘masterplan – criminally turning its back on the Seafront area – and not even connecting the Sea?marine Parade to the town centre.  If I had seen any student producing this – sorry E-.  Almost a caricature.


And preventing the through link to Marine Parade and the Marina – potentially the most exciting seafront/town centre opportunity in England (if you can solve the A20 issue)

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Can Kickstarter ‘Regional Planner: The Board Game’ Help Fix the Least Affordable City in West

From the guy who brought you the smash hit games ‘The California Water Crisis’and High Speed Rail the Game’ comes…Regional Planner.  You have drawn a bust card, bankers do not go to jail.

City Metric – Begging for versions for London, Brum and commuting areas

Monopoly is one of the best-known board games of all time. It pits players against each other with the goal of dominating real estate markets through a series of land grabs, jacking up rents and hotel fees, and being a generally nasty human being.

Now, though, there’s a new board game that’s turning that premise on its head, challenging players to work together to solve a housing crisis. And, in a doubly ironic twist, it’s focusing on an urban area known for shunning low-tech board games in favour of start-ups and apps: San Francisco.

The choice of location is certainly apt. San Francisco’s housing crunch is one of the most acute anywhere in the world, rivalling other global cities like London and New York.

Housing horror stories abound. The city’s landlords make use of California’s Ellis Act, which allows landlords to remove tenants and go out of business, to evict low income tenants with ruthless efficiency. Single room occupant housing – an affordable place to stay for lower income San Franciscans – is closing all around town. Some landlords have exploited rent control loopholes to raise rents by as much as $6000 within a span of a few months.

And the proliferation of tech companies in the city has led to a plethora of tone-deaf computerised solutions to the city’s rent woes. An app launched to combat homelessness has made little headway, and has been criticised as simply a way to “snitch” the location of the homeless. And last year, AirBnB took it upon itself to launch a snarky ad campaign criticising the city government for wasting its tax money, in hopes that loosening restrictions for them would somehow lower housing costs for locals.

Game designer Alfred Twu had a different idea. Instead of looking for a high-tech solution to the solution, he would try a less technological, if equally unorthodox, solution: a board game.

Twu has already built something of a name for himself as a designer of board games tackling somewhat wonky subject matter, releasing games such as “California Water Crisis” and “The US High Speed Rail Game”. But in late 2015, he decided to set his sights on the housing crisis that, as a resident of nearby Berkeley, hit close to home for him.

On 6 December, Twu launched a Kickstarter campaign for his new game, “Bay Area Regional Planner”. The campaign immediately began drawing favourable media coverage, getting picked up by both Curbed San Francisco, and then by Citylab the following day. This attention helped make his campaign a success, far surpassing his initial goal of $500, for a total of $18,361 by the end of December.

Given the game’s subject matter, it’s no surprise to find its objective framed in unconventional terms. Instead of being asked to plop costly houses and hotels on top of colourful tiles and nab “get out of jail free” cards, their goal is to “Get ready to compromise and make coalitions!”

The game, which is now in production, can be played by 2 to 12 players, and takes roughly 60-90 minutes to play through. Played on a board formed into a large grid resembling the Bay Area, it asks players to work together to up-zone various squares on the grid, representing Bay Area cities, to provide housing to meet the demand from 2m hypothetical new residents.

Though housing is the main goal, players also have to worry about other goals, including traffic and historical preservation. They will also have to deal with the overall economy; turns begin by drawing economy cards (including “recession”, “boom”, and “bubble”) that may constrain zoning options.

On the game’s Kickstarter page, Twu details the planning principles that went into the game’s creation. He lays out the connections between zoning for greater density and increased traffic congestion (while also offering a hypothetical transit map of a densified San Jose), as well as a discussion of the effects of retail space on housing costs. He also talks about how his own experiences at planning meetings fed into the creation of the game.

Will the game make a difference? Critics point out that, at the end of the day, it may be no more effective than the apps that have drawn fire from activists. And its steep price tag of $44.99 might be offputting to those Bay Area residents, struggling to get by, who would benefit the most from more housing options.

Despite these drawbacks, however, the game may serve to bolster one element often glossed over by apps and AirBnB ads: collaboration, something sorely lacking in Bay Area regional planning.

Many of the area’s current housing woes are due in no small part to the rampant NIMBYism that runs the length of the San Francisco Bay. Though residents are proud to point out that this once had positive effects – San Francisco’s property owners banded together back in the 1960s to defeat freeway plans that would have plowed through the city’s neighborhoods – today it is a major obstacle to desperately needed new housing. All too often, existing property owners stand in the way of new building, fearing its negative effects while conveniently increasing the value of their own homes at the same time.

To put it in board game terms, many in the area still see housing as a game of Monopoly. Perhaps a few rounds of Bay Area Regional Planner might help to change their minds.


Sheffield Trees PFI Chainsaw Massacre Halted by Crowdfunded Judicial Review


This post is solely designed to be forwarded to National Newspaper Environmental Journalists as it is a huge story that has been missed (with the gallant exception of one small Indy Story).

For the past few months Sheffield has been implementing a highly controversial ‘Streets Ahead’ PFI Project.

Contractors are assessing 36,000 roadside trees on behalf of Sheffield City Council to decide which need to be felled as part of a £2bn improvement” scheme.’ Clearly as part of any such contract some will be dangerous and have ill suited species and will need to be felled and replaced with better suited saplings.  The problem is the scale and choice and where and when to wholesale fell.  The suspicion being it was a cover for cuts over the street tree maintenance programme, after all a felled tree replaced by a sapling is cheaper to maintain and more profitable for the contractor in a badly designed contract. 50% of the cities trees are at risk of felling.

Things have become so heated a protest camp has been set up in  one Park and Sheffield Tree Action founded.  Nick Cleggs involvement in support must have guaranteed media disinterest.

An interesting aspect is their use of crowdfunding (on to fund a JR of the PFI programme over the lack of consideration of alternatives and environmental impact.  They hot there first btarget in 24hrs.

The JR has been successful.

Yesterday, 5th February, the High Court issued an interim injunction preventing any further felling of street trees in Sheffield pending the outcome of a judicial review. Sheffield City Council have 48 hours to appeal the interim judgement.

The legal action has been brought by Dave Dilner on behalf of Sheffield Tree Action Groups (STAG). Legal services are being provided pro bono (i.e. free of charge). The associated costs have been funded by a phenomenally successful crowdfunding campaign.

On 3rd February Save Nether Edge Trees made a stand at the Full Council Debate, on behalf of the trees of Nether Edge and of the whole city.

They asked the council to cease felling trees, until such time as
– a full Environmental Impact Assessment has been conducted
– and until there has been an open and fair consultation with ALL the residents of Sheffield.

Disappointingly, the council refused to vote on the request and simply said “no” based on the fact that it would cost too much money.

Questions were asked at the debate which remain unanswered:
1. Where is the Environmental Impact Survey?
2. How do we submit evidence to the ‘Independent’ Tree panel?
3. Why is the felling of healthy trees continuing across the city, without an acceptable tree strategy in place, to guide and inform decision making?
4. Why is there so much damage being done to the trunks and roots of our trees, if all Amey staff are supposedly NJUG trained?
5. Why is such poor Amey workmanship continuing to go unsupervised by SCC?

Following the disappointing council meeting, STAG launched a crowdfunding campaign on CrowdJustice to raise funds for a legal case aimed at defending OUR trees. CrowdJustice is a legal crowdfunding site empowering communities to access justice. The money raised will cover the adverse costs exposure, and court fees. The initial target of £5000 was achieved in less than 24 hours: following legal advice this was increased to £7000 which has already been reached. Following this success, to ensure there are adequate contingency funds for further fees, the stretch fund has now increased to £10,000.

The judicial review seeks to ensure a proper environmental assessment of the Streets Ahead programme, and an open, honest and balanced tree management strategy that is not driven by corporate interests and profit margins.

David Dilner is bringing the challenge, and is being given pro bono legal support by top environmental lawyers at the Environmental Law Foundation, and barrister Charles Streeton of Francis Taylor Building.

Please continue to share this petition with your friends, family and interested contacts, keep telling people about the campaign in Sheffield, and join in with further campaign activities. To keep up to date, see Sheffield Tree Action Groups and Save Gleadless Valley Trees on Facebook and Twitter, or see the STAG website

Thanks so much for all of your support so far.

Save Gleadless Valley Trees

However as the image above shows the issue is a tough one. much of Sheffield has been planted with the wrong species of tree which have been allowed to grow too large and and mangling pavements – Sheffield having some of the worst in the UK, leading to large insurance payouts to nearby houses.  Equally various alternative means of managing root spread have not been considered properly.

The implications of this case are important – how much will local people and local elected representatives and officials have a say on street trees as austerity bites and these kind of contracts become universal.  This is not to say PFI on street works is a bad thing – replacing street lights with LED lights is becoming a global environmental success story.  The issue rather is how the ever controversial issue of the best arborocultural technique to use to manage a mature street stock and how the interests of those living on such streets is transparently managed with the wider public interest.

This image of áfter’ Amey on Humphry Road illustrates the issue.

After 10 years there will be a more modest canopy regrown and the pavement  damage much less, but in those 10 years the residents will completely lose their green canopy and be rightly angry.  Also on that road many trees were felled where there was signs of extensive pavement damage.

There are examples of good practice which Sheffield patently didnt follow.

You could have an Urban Forest strategy – such as this exemplary example from Darbin Vistoria State Aus – and review major pruning and felling against,and with street by street consultation e.g.

Where possible, Council favours retaining and preserving the trees in its urban forest. Street trees will be removed as they fail, become hazardous, decline or exceed their safe useful life expectancy (SULE). In some cases trees may be removed before they appear dead to ensure long-term viability of the urban forest and to allow for successional planting ….No tree should be removed without first undertaking an objective assessment. As part of this assessment, each tree will be assigned a retention value that is based on the desirable and undesirable qualities of each tree and a risk assessment that considers the tree relative to risk are included in this policy. A tree amenity evaluation method is used to place a monetary value on trees when required by Council. Tree Retention Values A tree’s retention status is based on the individual qualities of each tree surveyed and is not biased in favour of particular species or type (for example native opposed to exotic trees, green leaves opposed to purple)

Crown Thinning and Crown Heading Cuts can also be assessed as laternatives to heavy pollarding cuts as we see above.

Example of Crown Heading of London Plane – generally considered a sub standard practice to crown thinning by properly trained staff.

As tree experts state

Topping of trees using stub cuts and heading cuts should not be done for several reasons. Topping reduces the ability of a tree to produce food. Shock and long-term declining health resulting from topping can make a tree more susceptible to insect and disease problems and can lead to its death. By removing the branches that protect a tree’s crown, topping can lead to sun scalding of remaining branches. The stubs and sun scalds resulting from topping cuts are highly vulnerable to insect invasion and the spores and actions of decay fungi. Numerous water sprouts resulting from topping are weakly attached and grow so rapidly that a tree can regain its original height in a short time with a more dense and unwieldy crown. With their natural form and beauty disfigured, topped trees are ugly to most people. Topping can reduce the value of a large ornamental tree by thousands of dollars. Although tree topping may cost less and take less time and knowledge than using reduction cuts (the proper pruning technique), you would be paying for an inferior service.

This requires skilled tree surgeons to make a tree by tree assessment, not poorly trained and cheaply paid guys with yellow jackets and chainsaws forced to work by the work programme.

For those drawing up PFIs – ensure there is a clause – with penalties – to ensure that each tree is assessed and managed according to an agreed standard and there is street by street  consultation with residents so that felling notices dont appear on trees overnight.  Rather Sheffield has conducted a classic PR programme not meaningful community engagement.




Now Who does Brandon Lewis Remind You of?

I was wondering what the nickname should be for our triathlon and seaside loving, Affordable Housing hit man, planning minister should be, after Anchorman, and Brandon’s predecessor ‘Stupid Boy’.

It hit me whilst gunning a guy in front down with an assault rifle during a Triathlon, the lead character in the most successful entertainment franchise in history  Micheal De Santa.

Planning Committee to Purchase own Fleet of Drones

With optional GT Encampment and Houses in Barns, Enforcement Attachment


Epping Forest

Purchase of Aerial Camera System PDF 442 KB

(Governance & Development Management Portfolio Holder) To consider the attached report (C-063-2015/16).


(1)        That two aerial camera systems and associated training be purchased for £5,000, under the ‘Invest to Save’ scheme, to enable the Council to carry out its own aerial photographic surveys for a number of different sections across all four Directorates.


The Portfolio Holder for Governance & Development Management presented a report on the proposed purchase of an aerial camera system.


The Portfolio Holder stated that the purchase of a Council owned and operated aerial camera system would enable the Council to carry out its own aerial and oblique surveys of sites, with a subsequent cost saving from not having to buy bespoke commercial photographs and videos, and would enable the use of a flexible and responsive system to carry out these surveys at short notice and to a bespoke option to suit the user. The potential users would include Development Management, Planning Enforcement, Trees & Landscape, Private Sector Housing, Housing Repairs, Emergency Planning, Council Tax, and the Engineering, Drainage and Water Team. It was envisaged that more sections would find uses for the system as it came into operation. There was also the option to use the system to generate an income stream for the Council in the sale of air time to other authorities and agencies. The Cabinet was requested to authorise the purchase of the equipment and training for a cost of £5,000. The systems would be purchased and operated by the GIS Section.


In response to questions from the Members present, the Portfolio Holder stated that the aerial photographs for an average meeting of Area Planning Sub-Committee East, with ten applications, would cost approximately £1,200 as they currently cost £120 each. The applicant and neighbours could be alerted about possible overflying when the Council wrote to inform them about the planning application; covert operations would be covered by the Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act 2000. There could be potential issues if the operators were not properly trained, but Council staff who operated the system would be properly trained. Flying in controlled airspaces, such as North Weald Airfield or Stansted, would require prior written permission.


The Portfolio Holder felt that residents were now more relaxed about aerial views of their properties; the reliability of the cameras were better and the training of the operators were better. There was the potential to sell the aerial photographs commercially, but the Council would still be subject to the provisions of the various Data Protection Acts. The intention would be to fly high enough that there would be no danger to either humans or livestock. The aerial camera systems would be available for use across the Council, but there had not yet been any discussions with neighbouring Councils regarding their possible hire. It was intended to transport the drone to the required location, rather than fly it from a central location within the District to the required location. A policy for the usage of the systems would be drafted and agreed.




(1)        That two aerial camera systems and associated training be purchased for £5,000, under the ‘Invest to Save’ scheme, to enable the Council to carry out its own aerial photographic surveys for a number of different sections across all four Directorate