London Planning’s Sex God

I was writing a piece on the history of the politics of tall buildings in London when Phillip Davie’s name popped up.

He – Director of Planning at EH london for 30 years –  of course was called ‘mad’ by Ken Livingstone for opposing certain tall buildings.

I recalled how quite a few women in planning in London, admittedly of a certain age, told me they found him their secret fantasy figure.

What did he have, certainly he had aged well, his raffish mustache as a young man, his posh denouement, his historian background and knowledge of the raj, his silver fox flick. Who knows men can only guess.

Gary Indiana Uses Mobile Apps to Tackle Rustbelt Blight

How the brownfield initiative should be done, a great article on City Lab.

A boarded-up house in Gary, one of thousands of blighted properties. (Joe Raymond/AP)

For more than three decades, the vacant Sheraton Hotel loomed over City Hall in Gary, Indiana, a billboard for the city’s descent from Steel City glory into postindustrial blight.

Once the city’s tallest building, it was hailed as “the gateway to the city’s future” by former Mayor Richard Hatcher upon its opening in 1971. It went dark just 14 years later. Entering or passing by Gary on the highway, visitors could see straight through the gutted building, its skeleton a rebuke to the neoclassical dome of City Hall right next door.

The then-abandoned, now demolished Sheraton in 2001. (Reuters)

Until last October, that is, when current Mayor Karen Freeman-Wilson delivered on a campaign promise to tear it down. Freeman-Wilson, a Gary native and Harvard-educated lawyer, becameIndiana’s first black, female mayor when she took office in 2012.

Critics dismissed the move, which received federal and state funds as well as city financing, as a mere public relations stunt. But demolishing the Sheraton could also be viewed as the opening salvo in Freeman-Wilson’s larger war on blight—a campaign she says also addresses crime, economic development and, crucially, the city’s image of itself.

“It’s extremely important,” Freeman-Wilson says. “There’s a sense of pride that you have when you can say, ‘My city looks good.'”

Even with the Sheraton Hotel gone, Gary still has a long way to go. The University of Chicago recently helped the city survey more than 58,000 parcels as part of a data-driven approach to tackling blight. Teams of students and Gary residents—including Freeman-Wilson—volunteered their Saturday afternoons to walk every street in the city, grading the condition of vacant and blighted properties, and making notes through a mobile app.

It could end up being a model for other shrinking post-industrial cities trying to make big plans with small budgets. “I think this provides an opportunity for Gary to lead the way,” the mayor says, “as cities all over the country deal with this issue.”

Freeman-Wilson “could not contain [her] excitement” last year when Gary got $6.6 million from the state’s Hardest Hit program to knock down and fix up abandoned homes. But with an estimated one in five of Gary’s buildings vacant, and more than one third of its properties blighted, that windfall falls far short.

Named for a founder of United States Steel Corp., Gary is what could be called a legacy city. The former company town flourished during America’s post-war heyday, crashing spectacularly with the Indiana steel industry. It has lost more than half of its population since its peak of about 178,000 in 1960.

Today it’s working to diversify its economy, Freeman-Wilson says, and struggling to provide for the citizens who still live there.

“People are maintaining pristine properties in the shadow of abandoned buildings,” she says. “When I look at people who went to school here, who are working on their property, those are really legacy residents. And their work, their commitment, their investment has to be honored. That’s really what this is about.”

Last year the Obama administration added Gary to its Strong Cities, Strong Communities program, helping it leverage federal funds and improve its pitch to foundations. The Hardest Hit funds it snagged last year—almost half of Indiana’s $15 million pot for blight reduction—could eventually demolish as many as 1,000 blighted structures. Compare that to the 30-45 properties the city’s demolition coordinator, Cedric Kuykendall, had estimated he could knock down with his existing budget of just $300,000 from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development’s Community Development Block Grant program.

“We don’t have a ton of resources,” says Joe van Dyk, Gary’s director of redevelopment, “so we have to be smart.”

Detail from, with the most blighted properties shown in red.

Van Dyk says by the fall, the city hopes to “get [its] data house in order,” synchronizing the new parcel-level database with information it already has at various city agencies, like the police and fire departments, and with development indicators such as business licenses and property tax payments. It will also overlay data from outside bodies like the U.S. National Park Service, which maintains the Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore nearby.

Once the final data set is in place, the city will revise its 1950s-era land-use and zoning ordinances. That work could take until mid-2016.

The advanced data will help Gary perform triage with scarce funds for demolition. But the city could also find new opportunities—its mostly vacant West Side, for example, has wetlands that could provide ecological services like stormwater retention, van Dyk says. Tackling blight then becomes about much more.

“We can reimagine our land use in this city. Because blight is such a challenge, we can really look comprehensively through that prism,” he says, “and not only ameliorate the issues of vacancy abandonment, but also facilitate growth in the most sustainable way.”

That includes recycling building materials. Gary is working with the Chicago nonprofit Delta Institute, a sustainability consultant, to divert some of the demolition debris from area landfills—an environmental benefit, but also a possible source of revenue for local contractors and craftsmen. The city’s still deciding how it will dole out the demolition work, but at least a portion is expected to go to local businesses. The Delta Institute’s Eve Pytel is managing their work with Gary. She says they hope to train those doing the demolition how to “deconstruct” buildings and sift for “hidden treasures” like old-growth lumber and custom midcentury doorknobs.

Mayor Freeman-Wilson (Cooley’s Video Productions/City of Gary)

Freeman-Wilson’s ability to bring in far-flung consultants and federal funds will play a key role in her bid for reelection later this year. Critics say she’s focused on blight reduction at the expense of police and firefighters, who haven’t had a raise since 2007. Freeman-Wilson counters that blight reduction is part of an overall strategy for breaking the cycle of disinvestment and depopulation in Gary.

She concedes that work has so far been in fits and starts, listing the city’s past efforts at piecemeal demolition and code enforcement, and even a program to sell homes for a dollar to buyers who could fix them up quickly and stay for at least five years. But with the University of Chicago data, Freeman-Wilson says the city can start to take bigger steps. (All the data is online, and the mayor encourages anyone to download and analyze it.)

Gary officials now have a roadmap as they make difficult decisions: Can the city shed some of its 52 square miles? Which neighborhoods need blight reduction the most? What’s the best use for vacant land? But van Dyk says the citizens of Gary have a knowledge not found in any data set, and that has to be part of the solution, too.

“There’s a big human element to it,” he says. “It’s not just crunching numbers.”

Why Oxford is the Most Expensive Place in Britain

Why is Oxford, Britains most unaffordable spot?

There are two several reasons it did not grow nearly as much as many other comparable cities, and with large gaps between its spines of expansion, quite aprt from the constraints of rivers and marshes, after all many similar cities simply leapfrogged these constraints.  Oxford did expans rapidl;y in the motor industry years but from a low base and as the historic centre was the service center in a lopsided and limited way.

1.  Chastity

A History of the County of Oxford: Volume 4, the City of Oxford. Originally published by Victoria County History, London, 1979.

Georgian and Regency terraces, so important a feature of many towns, are thinly represented in Oxford, presumably because of the city’s lack of economic growth, and the requirement at that time that dons remain unmarried and resident in college…

Until the development of North Oxford later in the century there was no suitable land available for the building of middle-class housing, and the middle classes remained in the centre or lived outside the city while working-class housing was concentrated in areas that were often low-lying, ill-drained, and subject to flooding.

It is a popular myth that dons drove the Victorian expansion of North Oxford, rather they slowed it down as a lack of a market led to its slow development.

It is a misconception that North Oxford grew up ‘when the dons were released from celibacy and became prolific’.By the time dons were allowed to marry, following the Royal Commission of 1877, a large part of North Oxford was already developed, and the movement of dons out of college was in any case a gradual process.

2.  Plans taking 20 years

Things never change

The floodlands of the river Thames and Cherwell restricted development and made town planning, especially when traffic became heavier, extremely difficult. A town planning sub-committee set up by the council in 1921 submitted proposals from time to time, including a plan to connect South and East Oxford by road and bridge, but the first comprehensive survey of the city was conducted in 1931 by the Oxfordshire Regional Planning Advisory Committee, representing the county council and other planning authorities. That report was the first to anticipate the need for expansion to be controlled, and over the next forty years it was followed by a continual succession of surveys, inquiries, and reports, including the seminal Oxford Replanned (1948) of Dr. Thomas Sharp. There was some agreement on the need to control growth, to provide services for the population east of Magdalen Bridge, to complete the ring road…. There was no agreement over details: the city’s own proposals omitted the suggestion of Sharp and others for a relief-road across Christ Church meadow…The Minister of Local Government and Housing, however, insisted on the inclusion of reliefroads, thereby precipitating twenty years of proposals, counter-proposals, decisions, and reversals that at times made the city a national laughing-stock.

In terms of Sharp’s plans, this is probably his defining work. Certainly he developed an attachment to Oxford, moving his home and office there and remaining engaged in its planning issues for much of the rest of his life (particularly through a series of public inquiries on roads) ..

Sharp’s ‘Prefatory Note’ very explicitly recognised the political difficulties of preparing a plan for Oxford referring, for example, to ‘the internecine struggle which still goes on in Oxford’ (p.11). This became all too evident in 30 years of subsequent struggles of road proposals. It was clear also in competing ideas about how Oxford should evolve. Some argued that eastwards industrial expansion around Cowley should lead to the creation of a new civic and commercial centre and historic Oxford should become essentially a University quarter. Sharp opposed these ideas in typically forthright terms.

Described as ‘largely a work of preservation’ (although ‘one piece of surgery is required to relieve the city from a pressure on its spinal column which will otherwise paralyse it’) (p.16) the plan was, like Durham before, largely based upon an appreciation of its visual qualities…

The plan seems to have been effectively ignored, neither gaining approval nor rejection, or that, at least, was what Sharp subsequently asserted (Sharp, 1956).

Though we are thankful that Sharps Inner Ring Road was ultimately rejected he perhaps, like Holford in Cambridge, made the wrong call in seeking to deliberately throttle the scale of the city (right to a degree but throttled too much) not building a secondary city centre to take the pressure off the city core and not planning for an outer ring road, after all the key views were already protected either from low lying undevelopable water meadows or more long distance views from hills which were not threatened.  One compares for example many of our historic cities with the late 19C and early 20C planned urban expansions by the pioneers of German Planning, which in some cities, such as the partially completed Sitte and Wagner plans for Vienna, are considered more important than the medieval cores.  Of course continental cities had lots of land for expansion because of the demolition of star fort walls and fortresses.  British cities defences were much smaller, because of the lack of threat of invasion, and as a result the image grew up of town and cities being set within and melding with the countryside which constrained it with an ‘Arcadian’ setting, cities being idealized as big villages.  Whereas on the continent it was very much the city which expanded as a city.



Prime Minister Announces Regional Strategy For The East of England

I replaced Long Term Plan with Regional Strategy in this press release, at the prompting of Phil Morris.  We still have RS its just  change of terminology only, done by Whitehall as it was in Nicholas Ridlys and doesnt do the really important housing numbers bit any more.  Just as top down, no longer regionally owned.  Not joined up.  Not meeting the need for homes.  Apparently the long term plan is to spend a lot of money on housing and infrastructure, rather than reducing the deficit.  If only it was (a lot of these in recent weeks including one for Portsmouth announcing half a billion defense spending as the ‘plan’ for the town, when of course defence spending is going down.

Jobs, transport, science, agri-tech, energy and defence are at the heart of the six point regional plan for the East of England

The Prime Minister today set out his six-point Regional Plan for the East of England showing what has been delivered, what is underway and what more can be done to make the regional economy prosperous in the long term.

In a speech at Felixstowe Port, the Prime Minister set out the detailed plan as part of a day long tour of the region. The plan aims to:

  1. increase the long term growth rate of the East of England to at least the long term growth rate of the whole UK, adding more than £12bn in real terms to the East of England economy by 2030. This is equivalent to nearly £2,000 more per person compared to the East continuing on its long term average growth path
  2. create 250,000 extra jobs in the East of England by 2020, by backing the new and existing strengths in industry in the East, business investment and new start-ups
  3. take forward £4.2bn of investment in transport in the East of England, boosting road and rail connections across the East – including widening the study into the East-West rail line, looking at the case for electrifying the rail line from Felixstowe to Birmingham, reaching an important milestone in delivering the new East Anglia rail franchise, and delivering on road improvements, including the A11 and the A47
  4. build on the East’s world-class science and technology base by supporting universities and high tech industries, and maximise the East’s role in defence – including funding the Cambridge Science Park Technology Centre, welcoming exciting new science projects such as the University of Essex’s Knowledge Gateway, and cementing the East as the first line of defence at home and abroad with the RAF’s fast jet hub
  5. capitalise on the inherent strengths of the East, boosting the rural economy and reaping the benefits of the more than £50bn that will be invested in the energy sector over the next 20 years, in offshore wind farms, oil and gas exploration and extraction, and nuclear energy. This includes backing agri-tech, plans for new Food Enterprise Zones for the food industry, and the potential expansion of the energy Enterprise Zone at Great Yarmouth and Lowestoft
  6. ensure a better quality of life in the East, supporting the construction of over 15,000 new homes, making improvements to local education so that over 90,000 more pupils attend outstanding schools, and backing culture through investments in local sights and encouraging more regional protected food names

There are no quick fixes to achieving these important goals, so the Prime Minister and Chancellor are also setting out a specific timetable to deliver the key concepts of this plan over the five years of the next parliament, and the following decade. As important next steps in the plan for the East of England, the Prime Minister announced a number of new measures to improve transport links and invest in the science, defence, and energy sectors:

  • exploring the case to electrify the Felixstowe to Birmingham railway line, launching a new competition for the new East Anglia franchise, considering reviving the Wisbech-March-Ely line and welcoming £260m new private investment at Felixstowe Port
  • government will also extend the study already underway of the East-West Rail (Bedford to Cambridge) to explore the options for the Eastern section of the line and consider the possibility of a new station south of Cambridge at the new Addenbrookes campus
  • new funding for the new Science Park technology centre in Cambridge and backing exciting proposals that aim to turn science into growth, such as the University of Essex’s Knowledge Gateway. The long term plan will also cement the East as the first line of defence at home and abroad as the RAF’s fast jet hub
  • we will support the secondment of thirty excellent middle leaders to work in challenging schools in the East to help raise standards in the region’s schools
  • the plan backs jobs and marine expertise in Lowestoft by developing long-term plans for CEFAS. We will support the unique strength of the East’s food industries through Food Enterprise Zones and increasing the ambition for Protected Food Names
  • the government is inviting the energy Enterprise Zone at Great Yarmouth and Lowestoft to build on its contribution to the local economy and consider expanding its activities, taking action to ensure that local businesses are able to access the supply chain for Sizewell C, providing support to the gas sector in the region, and tackling skills barriers across the energy sector

As both the Prime Minister and Chancellor have set out clearly, the only way for the UK’s recovery to be truly sustainable is for it to be truly national. While the challenge is significant, so is the prize ahead. By pursuing this plan the Prime Minister and Chancellor aim to achieve real outcomes for the people of the East of England who have already seen the fastest employment growth in England outside of London under this government.

The Prime Minister will be visiting a variety of businesses and institutions across the East of England to hear how the government’s regional plan is delivering for them and what more can be done to support the region.

Prime Minister, David Cameron said:

Our regional plan is working in the East of England. The region has 80,000 more businesses and the fastest growth in employment in England outside London. Nearly 200,000 more people have the financial security that a job and regular pay-packet bring since 2010. I am determined to go further and we will keep working through our plan to secure a brighter future for hardworking people across the East of England by making the most of the region’s strengths in science, defence and energy, ensuring we have world-class infrastructure and backing business to create more jobs.

Chancellor of the Exchequer, George Osborne said:

The East of England is growing and creating jobs and on many measures is doing so more quickly than other parts of our country. We need to maintain this which is why the Prime Minister is today outlining the next steps in our long term economic plan for the East of England. That plan aims to deliver 250,000 new jobs and boost the East of England’s growth by over £12 billion.

Timetable for Action – Implementation in the East of England 2015-2030


Employment and productivity

  • in the £48.5m expansion of the New Anglia Growth Deal, announced 29 January, government committed to:
    • supporting the expansion of the flagship Growing Business Fund to help ambitious SMEs to grow and create new employment
    • supporting innovation within Norfolk and Suffolk by building Innovation Centres in Ipswich and King’s Lynn, providing the right environment for innovative business to set up and grow. This includes the King’s Lynn Innovation Centre, which will house 15 new businesses, and the Ipswich Waterfront Innovation Centre
  • through the £22.3m expansion of the Hertfordshire Growth Deal, announced 29 January, government has made £19.63m of borrowing available to Dacorum Borough Council at the Public Works Loan Board project rate to support regeneration in Hemel Hempstead. The proposed projects, which will bring additional employment, housing and leisure uses together with substantial urban realm improvements, are part of a holistic plan to regenerate Hemel Hempstead’s town centre
  • on 29 January, government announced a £46.1m expansion of the South East Growth Deal. This includes support for the regeneration of the town centre in Purfleet, linked to investment in new film, TV, media studio development. In the initial phase, this project is expected to create up to 530 homes and 200 jobs

Transport and connectivity

  • government’s rural broadband programme has seen over £100m of public money invested in the East of England, with almost 300,000 more premises now able to access superfast services
  • Cambridge is one of the UK’s 22 Super Connected Cities. SME broadband connection vouchers are available in the city, and wifi will be live in 91 public buildings by March.
  • broadband connection voucher scheme is now also available in Peterborough, and will be available in Norwich and Ipswich from 1 April
  • BT will begin trialling their ultrafast G.Fast technology, which can provide speeds of up to 500mps, in Huntingdon in the summer of 2015
  • The new East Coast franchise, starting in March 2015, will benefit all passengers between London and Edinburgh, with upgraded train interiors being introduced from 2015 to 2017
  • Road Investment Strategy announced at Autumn Statement 2014 will see £15.7bn committed to new and existing schemes nationwide, starting from 2015. £3bn of that will be spent in the East
  • Port of Felixstowe are investing £60m to upgrade berths 8&9 to accommodate the largest container ships, with this work in progress during 2015. In future they will also be investing £200m to construct a wholly new berth, the port’s tenth
  • government has committed to Local Growth Funding for 2015, through a number of Eastern Local Growth Deal allocations, including £4m for a new Eastern Relief Road in Bury St Edmunds, investment in the A414 Maldon to Chelmsford Route Strategy, and £3m for redevelopment at Bourges Boulevard, Peterborough, including improved access to the railway and bus stations
  • work will begin on the A5-M1 Link road – a new junction 11A on the M1 north of Luton plus a road linking to the A5 north of Dunstable
  • Postwick Hub A47 junction improvement is due to complete in October 2015
  • Ipswich Town Centre Transport Package is due to complete in September 2015. This is an integrated package of changes to the town centre bus interchanges; expansion and improvement of other bus facilities; an Urban Traffic Management and Control system; a Real Time Passenger Information system; and a detailed programme of improvements to walk/cycle routes and crossings in and around the town centre

Science, technology and education

  • As part of the £22.3m expansion of the Hertfordshire Growth Deal, announced 29 January, the government will:
    • support a scientific Knowledge and Innovation Hub at the University of Hertfordshire that will integrate Knowledge Transfer and Doctoral Training Programmes in an incubation facility attached to the University’s School of Life Sciences;
    • support redevelopment of the Oaklands Welwyn Garden City campus to include a STEM centre; and
    • support the development of a North Herts College Design and Innovation Centre
  • Cambridge University Maxwell Centre for physical sciences completion is expected by October 2015. The new facilities will provide the space and environment for research scientists from industry to collaborate with university research groups to address both shorter term industry challenges and more exploratory blue skies research. The project also aims to increase collaboration with SMEs and act as a hub for doctoral training. £63m project with £21m government contribution from the Research Partnership Investment Fund
  • government has already opened 573 academies, 30 free schools, 6 University Technical Colleges and 5 studio schools in the region over this parliament. This commitment to education will continue with another 61 academies, 8 free schools and 1 University Technical College due to be established. It is estimated that the new free schools and UTC will provide another 4,865 school places between them

Agri-tech and rural economy

  • a total of £49.18m has been invested in the East of England between 2010 and 2015 under the Rural Development Programme. This funded schemes including the Rural Economy Grant, Farming and Forestry Improvement Scheme and Flood Recovery Fund – all help support and grow the regional economy. Some of the projects funded include:
    • £422,000 to provide commercial kitchen space for local artisan food producers and educational facilities at the Suffolk Cookhouse Project – creating 33 new jobs and benefiting 12 businesses
    • £761,000 to build an advanced grain processing facility and extra storage capacity at Yaregrain PLC in Norfolk to improve the quality of cereals supplied to key customers. 53 farm businesses are using the facility, with 2 new jobs created.
    • £125,000 to build an irrigation reservoir for an arable farming business (Charles Wharton Ltd) in Norfolk. The reservoir increased the irrigable area by 235ha, safeguarding 6 jobs and raising profitability
    • £163,000 to the Stoke by Nayland Resort Project in Essex in order to transform a 3-star hotel into a 4-star international golfing resort. This increased overnight stays, created 4 new jobs and safeguarded 10 more
    • Between 2015 and 2020, the East of England will benefit from its share of over £3bn of funding for environmental schemes and £141m for farming and forestry productivity under the Rural Development Programme 2014-2020. While this money is yet to be allocated, priorities for investment by the regions LEPs include:
    • Support for vocational training
    • Investment in infrastructure
    • Farm and business development
    • Advisory services, farm management and farm relief services
    • Basic services and village renewal in rural areas, such as renewable energy, energy saving, broadband infrastructure, tourism
  • East of England will also receive a further circa £47.45m from European Agricultural Fund for Rural Development via the Local Enterprise Partnerships and the LEADER Local Action Groups
  • £3.2m from Regional Growth Fund in 2013 was used to create the Eastern England Agri-Tech Growth Initiative to invest in new market and supply chain development, essential skills training, and the progression, application and commercialisation of R&D across the Eastern area. In 2014, £0.5m of this grant was awarded to the Agri Gate Research Hub to develop a new agri-tech innovation centre in Soham. In total, there is a planned investment of £1.76 million into the new scheme over the next three years. The project, led by the National Institute of Agricultural Botany (NIAB), will provide a facility for farmers & growers, food businesses, schools & colleges and other users to complete applied research work to reduce waste in the food chain and improve production efficiency, creating a link between research generated by the major research organisations in the region and end users, ensuring that local businesses remain at the forefront of technical developments. Overall, the project will create 77 new jobs, 15 apprenticeships and safeguard 148 jobs, with further growth across the industry as a result of the research undertaken at the Hub
  • government will commit £1.5m to help plans get off the ground for the redevelopment of Drill Hall in Great Yarmouth to support a dedicated circus and street art development centre. The project aims to regenerate the surrounding area through providing community spaces, increased tourism and developing derelict land. Energy and coastal communities
  • thanks to government’s field allowance for large shallow water gas fields, the Cygnus project is due to start producing gas later this year. The project is driving £1.4bn of investment, supporting more than 4,000 jobs
  • on 29 January, the government announced a £48.5m expansion of the New Anglia Growth Deal. This includes:
    • support for developing the skills of local people by creating a skills programme and also building a new Engineering and Innovation Technology Centre at West Suffolk College, Bury St Edmunds. This new centre will provide more apprenticeships, training for employees and full-time higher education focused on the energy, engineering and advanced manufacturing sectors
    • additional funding for the Growing Places Fund and further investment in the Great Yarmouth and Lowestoft Enterprise Zone, to develop the energy sector.
    • development of flood defences at Lowestoft
  • homes across the region will be better protected from floods thanks to an unprecedented six-year £2.3 billion flood defence programme, announced at Autumn Statement, providing better protection for at least 300,000 households nationwide by 2021. The programme will also support economic recovery and growth, working alongside partners including private companies, local planning authorities and Local Enterprise Partnerships (LEPs). It will help avoid over £30bn in long-term economic damages. A wide variety of flood risk management schemeswill be delivered, including work to improve flood storage and to prevent tidal erosion. Examples of new schemes include:
    • 17 schemes that will be led by Internal Drainage Boards (IDB) and will deliver improved flood protection to 2,800 properties for £18 million of government investment. This includes Islington Flood Risk Management Scheme delivered by Kings Lynn IDB that will protect 820 residential and commercial properties
    • first project supporting the Wash East Coastal Management Strategy will be developed in partnership with the Borough Council of Kings Lynn and West Norfolk and the local community. This project will look to provide continued protection to 570 properties and 4,500 static caravans
    • new phase one Flood Risk Management scheme at the Thames Estuary is attracting over £62 million in Grant in Aid funding between 2015 and 2021. This scheme consists of a number of flood risk management activities that will protect communities, homes and businesses located along the estuary
    • new tidal works, attracting over £17 million in government funding, will help protect homes and businesses in Great Yarmouth. Many people were affected by the tidal surge last December and this continued investment will help protect them from high seas in the future
    • £18.6 million of government funding will continue the investment in delivering a new coast protection scheme for Clacton-on-Sea and Holland-on-Sea. These defences will protect homes and businesses along a 6km stretch of the coastline and encourage further regeneration of the area
    • £7 million of government funding is set to be contributed to a new flood defence scheme at Lowestoft which will help protect around 840 properties
  • Continuing government commitment to building more houses in the East of England:
    • Affordable Homes programme has invested £442m to deliver 22,380 affordable homes in the region
    • through Help to Buy, over 9,000 households have been supported into home ownership in the East of England
    • The Get Britain Building scheme has committed to an investment of £11.9m which enabled work to start on 379 new homes in the East of England
    • HCA Land Programmes have invested £47m to support local economic growth and regeneration in local communities, and has seen work start on 1,539 homes (1,402 of which have been completed)
    • Builders Finance Fund – First starts on site for schemes during 2015. Bids have been received for £44m of funding which, if successful, will deliver up to 735 new homes
    • Local Growth Fund/Large Scale Infrastructure Fund – Projects will be approved and contracted during 2015/16
    • Large Sites infrastructure Fund – First schemes to contract in early March 2015


Transport and connectivity

  • September 2016 Network Rail Initial Industry Plan for the five years of funding from 2019 onwards will be informed by a Network Rail study looking at the costs and benefits of electrifying the railway between Felixstowe and Birmingham
  • government will explore the case for electrification from Felixstowe to Birmingham, with a report expected in 2016
  • government is launching the competition for the new East Anglia franchise by issuing the OJEU notice (in 2015) which sets out the government’s strategic intentions for this line during the next franchise period. This is the next step in supporting the key recommendations of the Great Eastern Main Line Task Force. Bidders for the new franchise will be incentivised to submit plans for achieving a reduction in journey times from Norwich to London to 90 minutes. The specifications of the timeline will be released to bidders in August 2015 and the new contract will commence in October 2016
  • work will begin on the A14 Cambridge to Huntingdon – a major upgrade to the A14 between the A1 and north Cambridge, widening the road to three lanes, providing a new bypass around Huntingdon, creating distributor roads for local traffic and remodelling key junctions along the route
  • government is extending in 2015 the study already underway of the East-West Rail (Bedford to Cambridge) to explore the options for the Eastern section of the line. Specifically the study will consider how East West Rail could connect Oxford with Ipswich and Norwich. The study will also consider the possibility of a new station south of Cambridge at the new Addenbrookes campus, with a report expected in 2016
  • government has committed to additional Local Growth Funding between 2016 and 2021, through a number of Eastern Local Growth Deal expansions, including: £38m for Greater Cambridge Greater Peterborough Local Enterprise Partnership which will include contribution to the construction of a new Ely Southern Bypass; improvements to access and reduced congestion in Chelmsford city centre as part of a £46 million expansion of the South East LEP Growth Deal; £5m towards the A13 Widening project in Thurrock, Essex

Science, technology and education

  • Cambridge Science Park Technology Centre, which is benefitting from a £4.8m government investment, is expected to open for business in September 2016. It will create 160 jobs in high-tech small businesses, with continual churn of new businesses every 5 years
  • as part of government’s £300m investment, infrastructure work will continue at RAF Marham in order to get it ready as a base for the new Joint Strike Fighter fleet
  • expected completion in September 2016 of the Cranfield University Aerospace Integration Research Centre. This world-leading research capability in aerospace systems design and integration will research innovative aerospace technologies with the aim of achieving ambitious performance, emission control and efficiency targets for future aircraft. It is a £30m project with £10m government contribution from the Research Partnership Investment Fund
  • Cell Therapy Catapult’s manufacturing centre will be built on the Stevenage Bioscience Catalyst campus. This is a £55m state-of-the-art manufacturing centre that is expected to create up to 150 jobs, generate £1.2bn of revenue by 2020, and drive economic growth in the county

Energy and coastal communities

  • Cygnus project is expected to supply 5% of UK gas production by in 2016, enough to power over 1.5 million homes in Britain
  • key flood defence work is expected to see investment of approximately £22.6m in financial year 2016/17
  • ongoing investment in essential waste management infrastructure through PFI credits in the East of England will amount to £67.1m in financial year 2016/17
  • further schemes under the Large Sites Infrastructure Fund will proceed to contract by March 2016

Quality of life

  • 30 excellent middle school leaders undertake one-year secondments to challenging schools in the East of England


Transport and connectivity

  • superfast broadband will be available to 95% of premises nationwide
  • completion of the A5-M1 Link road – a new junction 11A on the M1 north of Luton plus a road linking to the A5 north of Dunstable. This will serve as a diversion for the A5 through Dunstable, allowing strategic traffic to bypass the town

Science, technology and education

  • as part of government’s £300m investment, infrastructure work will continue at RAF Marham in order to get it ready as a base for the new Joint Strike Fighter fleet
  • government has committed to rebuilding 15 schools in phase 1 of the Priority School Building Programme by 2017, with the capacity for around 13,886 places
  • £55m Cell Therapy Manufacturing Centre expected to become operational in Stevenage

Energy and coastal communities

  • key flood defence work is expected to see investment of approximately £16.8m in financial year 2017/18
  • ongoing investment in essential waste management infrastructure through PFI credits in the East of England will amount to £73m in financial year 2017/18


Transport and connectivity

  • IEP trains start service on the East Coast Main Line – the Intercity Express Programme represents a £2.7bn investment into new rolling stock, maintenance depots including a full maintenance regime serving the East Coast Mainline, increasing the number of seats during morning peak into Kings Cross by 18%. Passengers will benefit from more reliable services, more seats, increased luggage space, faster journey times (from 2019), and improved wi-fi and mobile coverage
  • Thameslink will enable 24 trains per hour to use the route through central London enabling services from the East Coast Main Line to use the route

Science, technology and education

  • RAF Marham will be ready to receive the first Joint Strike Fighters to arrive in the UK, following infrastructure works as part of a £300m government investment
  • HMS Queen Elizabeth will begin sea trials for JSF. JSF will be based at RAF Marham
  • The Cambridge Institute of Therapeutic Immunology and Infectious Disease is expected to be complete by March 2018. The Institute has three interrelated ambitions: to drive therapeutic breakthroughs in immune-related diseases; to explore new strategies for the control of globally important pathogens; and to increase the likelihood of discovering important, high value, new medicines. £88m project with government contribution of £25m from the Research Partnership Investment Fund

Agri-tech and rural economy

  • by 2018, £1.76m will have been invested in Agri Gate Research Hub’s a new agri-tech innovation centre in Soham. The project will have provided a facility for farmers & growers, food businesses, schools & colleges and other users to complete applied research work to reduce waste in the food chain and improve production efficiency, creating 77 new jobs, 15 apprenticeships and safeguarding 148 jobs, with further growth across the industry as a result of the research undertaken at the Hub

Energy and coastal communities

  • key flood defence work is expected to see investment of approximately £23.3m in financial year 2018/19
  • ongoing investment in essential waste management infrastructure through PFI credits in the East of England will amount to £97.1m in financial year 2018/19


Transport and connectivity

  • completion of upgraded railway junctions at Ely and Peterborough and capacity enhancements on the Felixstowe – Birmingham line that will enable both growth in Port of Felixstowe container traffic to be met and growth in Kings Lynn and East Coast main line passenger services
  • Crossrail will provide significant additional capacity from Essex across London to Heathrow and Maidenhead

Energy and coastal communities

  • key flood defence work is expected to see investment of approximately £23.2m in financial year 2019/20
  • ongoing investment in essential waste management infrastructure through PFI credits in the East of England will amount to £99.1m in financial year 2019/20


Pickles – You Are Local Decision Makers and You Will Make Exactly the Local Decision I Tell You to

How Eric Pickles has Successfully Navigated the English Planning System

There was a time when civil servents made purely factual written responses.  Today in the world of the SPAD you find deliberate ommission, deliberately misleading focus on statistics and a misdirection away from the real question and problem.  I fear to avoid challenges from SPADS civils serevents are falling into teh same hibaits.

Take the typical written response from Pickles on planning appeal statistics.

The table below shows the number of appeals since 2009-10:

Appeal decisions Allowed Dismissed
2009-10 5,852 11,443
2010-11 5,195 10,633
2011-12 5,021 9,475
2012-13 4,757 8,705
2013-14 4,884 8,995

Note: Planning inspectorate decisions, including written representations, hearings and inquiries.

The table shows that since the National Planning Policy Framework was introduced in March 2012, the number of appeals is lower, as is the number allowed. 99% of decisions are made locally with only approximately 1% of planning applications overturned on appeal. This is in the context of rising housing starts, higher housing construction and rising planning permissions. This means there is more local decision-making, and our reforms are supporting badly-needed new homes within a locally-led planning system.

However this is not even supported by the data

Appeal decisions Allowed % Allowed Dismissed % Dismissed Total
2009-10 5,852 33.8% 11,443 66.2% 17,295
2010-11 5,195 32.8% 10,633 67.2% 15,828
2011-12 5,021 34.6% 9,475 65.4% 14,496
2012-13 4,757 35.3% 8,705 64.7% 13,462
2013-14 4,884 35.2% 8,995 64.8% 13,879

As the proportion of local decisions supported on appeal has slightly risen since the last full year pre-NPPF.

So how then can there be a claim that there is ‘more local decision making’ – only on the absolute number of appeals, and of course increasingly developers are not going to appeals because they dont have to.

Councillors no longer make decisions.  In Greg Clarke’s memorable phrase they take them, and they take them from the instructions Pickles gives you. And the NPPF tells them to approve – although of course when the decision is Pickles, through the increased call ins taking decisions out of local hands, he will likely refuse it (unless the appellant lives in a caravan).

Localism was supposed to be a power shift but local decision taking is no sign of local power.  Planning theorist recognised this decades ago.  Peter Bachrach and Morton Baratz (1970) contested the dominant explanation of the use of power in decision-making by asking how issues are suppressed and the scope of decision-making restricted. This was a challenge to Robert Dahl’s model  of power, which tended to focus on how decisions are made and who makes them. Bachrach and Baratz suggested that to fully understand power, researchers should also consider decisions that are not made—non decisions. Nondecision-making involves suppressing challenges to the status quo and suppressing the addition of new issues to an agenda.

The theory needs some modification to fit with how the exercise of central state power occurs.  The decision the LPA faces is ‘shall me fight an appeal?’ – which in many cases is betting on a three legged donkey – unless they have pulled the Neighbourhood Plan Bait and Switch.  Knowing they cannot win they don’t want to make that decision, so they either let the developer fight on non determination, or blame officers for the recommendation they have to make and pulling the bait and switch get Eric to issue a holding direction.  Local cllrs make sure they make speeches which ensure there recommendations breach the predetermination rule so they can ensure they are non decision makers.  Those cllrs left blame Eric and by the time any called in appeal takes place they claim they have  5 year supply now and disavow the original decision.  In all cases this is not an exercise of local decision making but local non decision making.  As ever the exercise of centralism in the clothing of a psudo-localism discentivises tough local choices and reverts control – the true exercise of power – to the SoS who exercises that power ever more arbitrarily based on his personal prejudices and electoral considerations rather than the disspassionate application of policy.

Eric is unwilling and unable to make any tough ministerial choose as to where the missing million new houses must go, hence his own non-decision making leads to systemic paralysis and planning failure, we dont build enough homes and those we build are poorly design, perform poorly aand are often in the wrong place, matters for which the minister disavows all responsibility.  Hence dumb tanks such the Policy Exchange can claim more and more that the planning system is failing and needs another round of half baked and counterproductive ‘reforms’ which make matters ever worse and lead to ever more non-decision making.

As the weaknesses in the psudo-locallist planning regime  becomes ever more apparent its antagonist learn more and more Peruvian submarine tactics so the system becomes holed below the waterline and as at present local plan adoption almost grinds to a complete half as the ship is so damaged it is captain calamity they unsteeerable and has no power left, and with a captain calamity of a SOS that wants nothing more than to avoid steering it and jump into a lifeboat where he can blame rocks which were on the map all the time.

Further Reading

Bachrach, Peter, and Morton S. Baratz. 1970. Power and Poverty. New York: Oxford University Press.

Dahl, Robert A. 1961. Who Governs? New Haven, CT: Yale University Press.

Frey, Frederick. 1971. Comment: On Issues and Nonissues in the Study of Power. American Political Science Review 65 (4): 1081–1101.

 Governmentality: Notes on the Thought of Michel Foucault by Bal Sokhi-Bulley • 2 December 2014


Simon Jenkins- ‘Green Belt is Near Meaningless’ – It is for Journalists who dont know where it is


Writing in this week’s Spectator, he said “volume estates” were going “to suburbanise towns and villages such as Tewkesbury, Tetbury, Malmesbury, Thaxted, Newmarket, Great Coxwell, Uffington, Kemble, Penshurst, Hook Norton, Stow-on-the-Wold, Mevagissey, Formby”.

 “The Green Belt is near meaningless. The Campaign to Protect Rural England estimates some 80,000 units are now proposed for Green Belt land.”

Now lets run that one again underlining all of the towns and villages outside the Green Belt.

Writing in this week’s Spectator, he said “volume estates” were going “to suburbanise towns and villages such as Tewkesbury, Tetbury, Malmesbury, Thaxted, Newmarket, Great Coxwell, Uffington, Kemble, Penshurst, Hook Norton, Stow-on-the-Wold, Mevagissey, Formby”.