New PAS Paper highlights you can now Back Three Legged Donkeys

Excellent here

There has been some media attention on the perceived implications of making decisions without having an up-to-date Local Plan, particularly if the authority also can’t demonstrate a five year land supply of specific deliverable sites against objectively assessed housing needs (as required by paragraph 47 of the Framework). Some have suggested that any development, whatever the impacts, is acceptable in the absence of an up-to-date Local Plan because of para 49 of the Framework – sometimes referred to as ‘the presumption’. Some people effectively say ‘there’s no point in refusing this housing scheme as without a housing supply and plan, we don’t stand a chance on appeal’. However national policy and the objective of pursuing sustainable development is a material consideration in planning decisions irrespective of the status of an area’s development plan. And levels of planning appeals upheld against an authority’s original determination remain constant at only one per cent of all planning decisions in England. There are several recent cases where development has been refused permission in the absence of an up-to-date Local Plan or five-year land supply because it would conflict with national policy objectives. These cases are summarised below; the full reasoning is set out in the relevant hyperlinked decision letters.

Mike Kiely POS – We Need to Faff About the #GreenBelt

Mike Kiely Chair of POS at the National Planning Summit

POS was “not saying that there is a need to review the green belt”.

He said: “You have to make those decisions that exist in each particular area but I think the question will arise and will have to be addressed at some stage and we need to do that properly and what we’re advocating is approaches that release green belt land in the right way, brings forward developments that have high levels of sustainability and enables the infrastructure that’s necessary to support that development to be properly funded”.

POS has also produced a discussion document titled “We need to talk about the Green Belt“.

This otherwise excellent paper could easily be called ‘Faffing about the Green Belt’ for not giving a straight answer to the question – Do LPAs need to review Green Belts?  Its the kind of faffing about and ‘on the one hand and the other’ double talk that gives Planners, rightly, a bad name.

The paper only goes astray in a few paragraphs but they make all the difference to the final outcome.

[Reviewing the Green Belt] …is no easy decision. It should only arise after all reasonable and acceptable efforts have been taken to maximise the amount of development within the urban area. …Similarly, it should also only arise after other options, such as the growth being accommodated in other areas in ways that do not result in unsustainable patterns of growth, have been fully explored.

In other words you should only look at one reasonable alternative after you have dismissed another reasonable alternative without having compared them.  What has this got to do with planning, rather it is a process or evidenced exhaustion and plan making prevarication?  How is this legally and procedurally defensible given the requirements  of the SEA directive to compare all reasonable alternatives at an early stage of plan making?  The POS paper seems to be repeating the ‘last resort’ doctrine which the courts rejected last year in IM Properties v Lichfield [2014] EWHC 2440 (Admin)

Planning authorities seven key legal constraints in putting forward their local plans and deciding whether or not to review the GB, oddly the paper faffs around so much talking about the pedagogical issues that it mentions none of them.

1.  The legal constraints and caselaw on what constitutes ‘exceptional circumstances’

2. The Duty to Coooperate – both legal and soundness tests and the overspill OAN  arising from footnote 9 (environmentally) constrained areas and OAN overspill from metropolitan areas

3. The SEA directive – and it seeming conflict with the DTC in the 2004 regulations

4. Soundness requirement regarding evidence – and potential conflict with the Boles doctrine that conducting  GB review can only be initiated by an LPA

5. Hunstan -OAN must be determined in a ‘policy off’ unconstrained mode

6.  The blurring of the issue by the New NPPG – allowing GB to be treated as a NPPF para.14 ‘contraint’ but not distinguishing between policy (which local plans can amend and can be challenged by evidence) and environmental (which local plans cannot) footnote 9 constraints

7.  The increasing caselaw and precedent on ‘valued landscapes’ and its relation to Green Belt Purposes in a GB review

Brandon Lewis faffs about the Grenn Belt – repeating like a parrot ‘exceptional circumstances, exceptional circumstances’ without giving a guiding hand through this seven test minefield.  Similarly POS please stop faffing about the Green Belt, at some point talking has to stop and planning has to begin and please help planners in that regard by providing a guidance note that addresses these issues and guides poor beleaguered planners through.

Pickles to Introduce ‘Travellers Must Travel’ Policy

Telegraph – This seems to be preannouned now to prempt Lib Dem opposition.  Earlier Telgraph link (now removed) suggested this.

Travellers must prove they are actually “travelling”, under a new Government crackdown to stop gypsies trying to set up camps on the Green Belt.

Under new plans, to be published by the Government next month, travellers would have to prove they have a “nomadic” lifestyle to qualify for help in the planning system.

Experts said that this would in practice mean showing that they had been on the move for two months every year, possibly by moving camp to horse fairs.

The changes have emerged days after the High Court ruled that gypsies will no longer automatically be banned from setting up camp on Green Belt land because ministers had been unfairly discriminating against travellers.

Communities secretary Eric Pickles had been wrong to introduce a policy of ministers personally reviewing and rejecting all bids made by gypsies in 2013 in attempt to prevent a repeat of controversies like the Dale Farm fiasco in Essex.

New draft planning rules state that “for planning purposes the Government believes a traveller should be someone who travels”.

They add: “Travellers who have given up travelling permanently should be treated in the same way as the settled community, especially regarding sites in sensitive locations, such as in the Green Belt.”

Councils are obligated in planning rules to provide land to house traveller communities.

The Housing Act 2004 also requires housing authorities regularly too undertake regular assessments of the accommodation needs of gypsies and travellers.

However the new nomadic qualification could dramatically cut the number of people who are seen as travellers under planning rules.

There are an estimated 300,000 gypsies and travellers in the UK, of whom only about 40 per cent regularly travel for two months or more every year.

Eric Pickles, Communities and Local Government secretary, said the changes would introduce more fairness into the planning system so that more people are treated equally.

He said: “The public want to see fair play in the planning system, with planning applications being decided on the basis of their affect on the environment, not who the applicant is.

“It is for local and national elected representatives to determine planning policy. This Government will stand firm in allowing councils to safeguard the Green Belt which prevents urban sprawl and stops the open countryside being covered in concrete.”

Joseph Jones, a spokesman for the Gypsy Council, said that Mr Pickles should have to resign after the ruling.

He said: “This is a very, very divisive issue – they are saying if you live on a gypsy site and you don’t go travelling every year, you lose your gypsy status.

The idea that gypsies or travellers are nomadic is nonsense. Gypsies and travellers have always travelled for work – and that is not a nomadic way of life.”

Mr Jones said that life was made harder because councils are “closing not opening” transit sites across the country.

He said that some travellers could qualify by visiting the horse fairs that are held most weekends between April and October every year.

Sprawl Increases Infrastructure Costs by 10-40%

New Climate Economy

Urban sprawl costs the American economy more than US$1 trillion annually, according to a new study by the New Climate Economy. These costs include greater spending on infrastructure, public service delivery and transportation. The study finds that Americans living in sprawled communities directly bear an astounding $625 billion in extra costs. In addition, all residents and businesses, regardless of where they are located, bear an extra $400 billion in external costs. Correcting this problem provides an opportunity to increase economic productivity, improve public health and protect the environment. The report identifies specific smarter growth policies that can lead to healthier, safer and wealthier communities in both developed and developing countries.

The report, Analysis of Public Policies that Unintentionally Encourage and Subsidize Sprawl—written for the New Climate Economy by the Victoria Transport Policy Institute, in partnership with LSE Cities—details planning and market distortions that foster sprawl, and smart growth policies that can help correct these distortions.

Sprawl increases the distance between homes, businesses, services and jobs, which raises the cost of providing infrastructure and public services by at least 10% and up to 40%. The most sprawled American cities spend an average of $750 on infrastructure per person each year, while the least sprawled cities spend close to $500. In its Better Growth, Better Climate report, the New Climate Economy has found that acting to implement smarter urban growth policies on a global scale could reduce urban infrastructure capital requirements by more than US$3 trillion over the next 15 years.

The new report defines smart growth—the opposite of urban sprawl—as compact, connected and coordinated urban development. Smart growth cities and towns have well-defined boundaries, a range of housing options, a mix of residential and commercial buildings, and accessible sidewalks, bike lanes and public transportation. By reducing per capita land consumption and infrastructure and transportation costs, smart urban growth policies can deliver significant economic, social and environmental benefits.

Todd Litman of the Victoria Transport Policy Institute, lead author of the report said:  “Smart growth is not anti-suburb. Instead, it ensures that diverse housing options are available and incentivizes households to choose the most resource-efficient options that meet their needs. We are now seeing growth in demand by millennials and the elderly for affordable, compact housing in accessible and multimodal neighborhoods. However, current government policies tend to favor larger, less-accessible homes. For example, in most communities there are strict limits on development densities, restrictions on multifamily housing and excessive parking requirements, which drive up housing costs and encourage sprawl. Consumer preferences are changing; government regulations on housing should too.”

Sprawl is bad for your health. Americans who live in sprawled neighbourhoods are between two and five times more likely to be killed in car accidents and twice as likely to be overweight as those in more walkable neighbourhoods.

Residents of compact, connected communities in the United States save more money and have greater economic opportunity than they would in more sprawled, automobile-dependent neighbourhoods. Households in accessible areas spend on average $5,000 less per year on transportation expenses, and real estate located in smart growth communities tends to retain its value better than in sprawled communities, due to greater accessibility to services. These communities are also more inclusive for people who cannot drive: they offer easier access to schools, public services and jobs, and encourage mixed-income communities. Because of these factors, research shows that lower-income children tend to be much more economically successful if they grow up in smart growth communities.

Helen Mountford, Global Programme Director for the New Climate Economy, said: “Reducing urban sprawl is good for the economy and the climate. For a real-world example of sprawl versus smart growth, compare Atlanta and Barcelona. Both cities have approximately the same population and the same level of wealth per person, but Atlanta takes up over 11 times as much land and produces six times the transport-related carbon emissions per person as Barcelona. And congested, sprawling cities are costly to the economy; for example through all the hours that commuters or delivery trucks waste stuck in traffic jams. Cities that are compact, connected and coordinated can unleash productivity and growth opportunities, while minimizing harm to the climate.”

All cities can benefit from increased economic productivity, more affordable housing options, more liveable communities, infrastructure cost savings, reduced accident risk, improved public fitness and health, increased opportunity for physically and economically disadvantaged groups and improved mobility options for non-drivers. These benefits are particularly important in rapidly developing cities where resources are limited and a greater portion of households are impoverished and cannot afford automobiles.

Adoption of smart growth policies would also help fight global climate change. Urban sprawl is a significant contributor to greenhouse gas emissions, according to Better Growth, Better Climate, the New Climate Economy’s flagship report from September 2014. Cities are responsible for 70% of global greenhouse gas emissions.  The adoption of compact, transit-oriented cities could reduce annual greenhouse gas emissions by about 0.6 billion tonnes of CO2 equivalent in 2030, rising to 1.8 billion tonnes CO2equivalent by 2050, more than twice the annual emissions of Canada.

Worcester Proposes Two Urban Extensions and Has no ‘5 Year Supply’ shows #NPPF definition is barmy

Worcester News

Worcester City Council had an official land supply of more than eight years in March last year, but that is no longer the case.

The official housing ‘need’ for Worcester, as deemed by an independent Government inspector is 9,830 properties by 2020, but the city is 630 short taking into account current building, future expected permissions and the other bits of land forecast to be developed.

One big reason for the change is because in the South Worcestershire Development Plan (SWDP), the blueprint earmarking land for homes in Worcester, Malvern and Wychavon by 2030, inspector Roger Clews upped the requirement from 23,200 to 28,370 last year.

The city council, which has taken legal advice, has also now been told two controversial ‘urban extensions’, one south of the city between Kempsey and St Peter’s and another next to Dines Green west of Worcester, are not allowed to form part of the latest five-year land supply calculations – despite both sites expecting to contribute more than 1,100 properties by 2020.

Woyuld be nice to see the report and legal advice, educated guess the ludicrous footnote 11 definition which means sites that deliver within 5 years dont form part of teh 5 years supply unless they are available ‘now’, which means that if you have to do anything however small to make the site available it isn’t considered ‘deliverable’ even it it is, for example,  knocking a wall down to form an access.  Barmy.

How Much is Town Planning Worth to Society? – A Radical Thought Experiment to Solve the funding crisis

The latest attempt to ‘simplify’ planning is to publish a new and more complex than ever 163 page GPDO, which will have two major effects, firstly to make a great deal of money to those with assets that can now be valorised, secondly to ensure that local planning authorities make a great deal less money from fees.  Surely something is going wrong somewhere?   That got me thinking, how much is the new GPDO worth, and could we capture it to fund the service of planning?

A radical thought experiment.  We abolished all PD rights and all local plans,  You could build  nothing.  If you wanted to build something you have to buy development rights.  If you wanted to stop  something being built then you pay a higher price to buy out those rights.  Seen in this way planning would have no shortage of funding, and the pockets of Nimbys would be nowhere near deep enough to buy put all rights for housing as consumers consider the extra price they would pay over their lifetime for not bidding higher than Nimbys.  I am not suggesting for a moment that this would be practical, or that it would be desirable with an unequal distribution of wealth where the wealthy would simply entrench their position where they block out housing and entrench their rentier status.  But it does frame the problem in the correct way. If wealth were equally distributed what would be the shadow price that people would pay to protect or allow for development and where?  What kind of regulation would emerge?  What kind of planning would the consumers of ‘planning services’ to use the economists application of the term  ‘services’  demand?

Thinking this way you cant help think that the GPDO and much planning regulation is just an entrenchment of power and privilege and an institutionalization of rentier income.

‘The Spill’ – London Needs Some Large #GardenCities to Meet its Booming Need – and Heres Where they Could Go

Last week at a conference Stuart Murray of the GLA said they were rather caught by surprise by the 2011 census.  Indeed they were, it showed growth 63% more than the GLA had predicted.  Such a surprise that the Further Alterations to the London Plan didn’t add a single new housing site or make a single change to its strategy, other than getting a rubber out and writing in a new housing target, which existing opportunity areas would somehow magically automatically absorb.  Naturally the inspector rejected this and said the strategy of the plan required an early review.  Boris not wanting to ‘rip up the Green Belt’ is resistant (at least until 2025).  Hence a stand off with the rest of the South East (ROSE) on what happens to the overspill.

Forecasters say London’s population is heading towards 9 million by 2020, 10 million by 2030 and even 11 million by 2050.  Decades of thinning out have reversed.  Just how much ‘overspill’ from  London or ‘hyperdensity’ in London is needed?  Based on FALP figures NLP say we need around 400,000 over 20 years.  Interestingly the NHF say the shortfall from ROSE authorities will be around the same number, so 800,000 over 20 years. No there is a hidden assumption here which is the trend within London will stay as it is, and that trend is for more and more Londoner to cram themselves into the same living space forced to share and bunk up, this has been the main driver of population growth in Outer London, especially outer East London.  If the Mayor of London were to say, as I think they should, that Londoners should not be forced into smaller and smaller living areas then over 20 years we will need another 1/2 million or so dwellings.  Already the forced sharing and overcrowding is becoming as bad as it was in the post WWII years, especially in East London.

So i’ll go with a rough working assumption that a review of strategy for London and the South East needs another 1.5 million dwellings over 20 years, so where they should go?  A seemingly endless stream of reports in recent months has suggested reviewing London’s Green Belt, Mayoral candidate David Lammey has called for one,  If we need 1 1/2 million, and areas without environmental designations can provide around half that number what is the problem?

Two fold.  As I have long argued here there isn’t the transport capacity in many of the locations these studies promote.

Secondly the principal argument for the Green Belt in the first place as ably put by Paul Milner of CPRE

“A common theme of organisations making this argument is that they significantly undervalue the green belt, both as protected land and as a policy to prevent urban sprawl.”

Yes though I dont think it is absolute.  Green Belt is a policy and the usefulness of  tract of land to meeting the policy purposes will vary radically.  The usefulness of a review is it enables you to assess the value of this land area by area.

The outcome of this will depend on the next Mayor of London elections.  However pragmatically and practically the large majority of the ‘spill’ will go on a few large sites where transport capacity can be increased.  The case for a few large cities is strong, it reduced sprawl like dispersal, it maximises potential at nodes which do have or can be provided with spare rail based capacity and the economic growth and sustainability benefits of concentration are well known.

My back of the envelope plan for the ‘Spill’ has two main components

1) New Hyperdensity Cities within London, focused around redeveloped Sewage Farms, served by new rail and tube connections – meeting around 300,000 of the Need

2)  Around 10 New Garden Cities and Strategic Garden Suburbs of around 100,000 population each (over the next 25 years, 150,000 each design size), in some cases larger or smaller on rail corridors with spare capacity.  Altogether meetings about 1-1.4 million of the need.

You can argue about the details but any ‘new Abercrombie plan’ for the South East will likely have some element of both.  Of course towns like Guildford in ROSE will expand, but this will be to meet local need rather than the ‘spill’ and few of these are good candidates for very large scale growth as this would be – in the main’ road focussed rather than at areas with spare rail or tube capacity.

My plan is essentially a simple one to complete the plan of the greatest late Victorian rail pioneer such as Verney and Watkin who wished to connect the midlands of England to London and indeed Paris by an ambitious series of part built railways, which new projects such as HS2 and East West Rail now offer the tentalising prospect of completing.

 1) Hyperdensity Cities Within London – the challenge is to find extra areas not already planned for very high density, and deliver these and existing opportunity areas at an accelerated rate.  We are not going to practically assemble sites of 000s of semis and knock them down, a relaxation of the rigid ‘garden land’ policy night help but at the margin and we need to think big.

Looking at large underused sites within London one category really sticks out.  Large ‘5 stage’ STPs (Sewage Treatment Plants) of a land hungry early 20C design. You can find massive examples at Mogden, Beckton, Crossness, Deepham,  Hogsmill, Riverside Rainham and Beddington.  Some are Green Belt and MOL but most not, crucially they are brownfield large developed sites even if Green Belt or MOL.

What is worst most of these are totally clapped out and will need replacement.  For some the water quality is so bad that strictly speaking you should be banning all new development in their catchments to hit EU water quality directive targets and in some cases avoiding harm to downstream protected SPA sites.

If you were to plan London from scratch you would not be dedicating several square miles to smelly, single story land hungry and inefficient 5 step STPS.  Bazalgates vision for London Sewers was probably London’s greatest infrastructure achievement and transformed London’s quality of life,  a similar leap forward is needed today.  You would use other technologies. The Chinese and Australians, even Saudis would bury them as they do in Beijing and Sydney and Jeddah. The Malaysians and Thais put them in 5 story gravity fed buildings (one per step) oddly in both cases using British experts as we are the world leader in innovative sewage treatment.  You can feed  in you waste and treat it using anaerobic digestion and get out fertiliser (biochar) which when added to agriculture is net carbon negative, these new plants could suck up carbon (town planning saves the world – again yawn).

These sites could all be connected to underground or rail, at Deephams in Tottenham for example you simply extend the Victoria line north by 1 mile., and also serve the massive Upper Lea Valley redevelopments.

Crossness could be served by a branch of Crossrail along an existing disused rail line, it would create a spectacular site for a riverside community and the industrial sites along the Erith riverside could be relocated to the Swanscombe Peninsula (a far less good site for housing).

Mogden could be served by a short tunnel connecting to Crossrail 2 at Twickenham.

Hogsmill already has a station – Berrylands on the fast route between Surbiton and Waterloo.

Beddington is already on the Croydon Tramlink, partial proposals here failed I think because of a big enough and compelling enough vision or a ‘Bedzed 2′ however the restoration of the undeveloped parts for a country park will always be short of funds and miserly without a big development driver on the developed brownfield parts.

Beckton would become effectively a southern extension of Barking riverside and could be served by the same DLR extension.

Rainham riverside is right next to Rainham station.

There are  technical difficulties with London’s geology and keeping treatment ‘on line’ but they are solvable.  Already over a billion is proposed to be spend upgrading the capacity of these STWs, and the technical difficulties and costs are nothing compared to say the London Tideway tunnel.   This is the crucial fact,  London’s population increasing by more than 2 million will blow the capacity of these facilities anyway, they will all need replacing with facilities that are in effect brand new facilities, so when we do it why not put them underground.    You could unlock up to 7 sites which with 20-40 story building clusters could  take up between 300,000+ dwellings.

The New Underground Jeddah Sewage Treatment Works

This isnt the only potential net new. You could for example as Lord Adonis argues redevelop more of London’s 3,500 council estates at twice the density – with the potential for around 700,000 homes.  The trouble is these tenents vote, and they voted out the conservatives in Hammersmith and Fulham.  Without major central government funding to ensure no net loss of social housing and without a government minister effectively forcing boroughs and the London Mayor to do so it politically will be slow pedelled by Labour boroughs who will do as little as they can get away with unless decrepit stock forces their hands.

2) Strategic Garden Cities on Growth Corridors Outside London

The GLA is already thinking hard about this issue.  The consultation issued late last year London 2050 Bigger and Better  on the London Infrastructure Plan 2050 contained the flowing diagram on an option for meeting the shortage outside London.  The problems with the other options – higher density in town centres – for example is that there is nothing in the London plan to prevent them, indeed they are encouraged,  and they still deliver way too little.  There is some evidence that massive public sector intervention, as with the Olympic sites, gets the otherwise painfully slow moving opportunity sites going more quickly.  However over a period of 20-30 years getting them going in a period of 10-15 years rather than 20-25 is not going to make any difference to the long term global numbers, it depletes a stock more quickly.  Of course new brownfield sites always come forward, but then we have the same problem, they even if they came forward more quickly they still arn’t enough (the fact that brownfield sites were replaced by new ones as much as they were developed is a recessionary impact due to high closures and slow development, in normal times they arn’t fully replaced).  So in practicality we will need London Spill sites.

Dealing briefly with two main options – urban extensions and development around stations in the Green Belt.  David Rudlin rightly stressed the benefits of expanding existing towns in his winning Wolfson Prize winning entry.  For meeting the needs of existing towns yes.  Almopst all Garden Cities and New Towns have been expansion of existing towns.  However some like Stevenage and Hemel were so small originally that you don’t have to walk far from stations to get to new developments.  If you are talking about London spill you need sites which are accessible by regional metros, rather than at the edge of towns which have gotten a lot lot bigger in the South East in the preceding 50 years.  New Towns were always built far enough away from London to avoid commuting, not far enough away in the case of the first generation new towns.  Whilst building them about Ashford or NK travel time from  London, and outside the Green Belt of course, allows them to generate their own employment and critical mass to compete with London fulfilling a spill need means they also have to be accessible to London to meet commuters needs.  We need a fine balancing act.  The later Peter Hall made the right call when he often said too much emphasis was placed on self sufficiency of New Towns.  This takes a generation or more during which time they will inevitably serve as commuter settlements, and as they will you might as well link them up with fast rail.

The option put forward by Qoud, ASI London Society etc. for developing around stations in the Green Belt is super fiscally attractive, but in many cases there is and will be no spare rail capacity leading to clogging up of roads around the already crowded M25.  Only a few routes, Thameslink, South West, WAGN have capacity for major upgrades – and when you look at stations along these routes you find very little realistic capacity – at Tattenham Corner (Thameslink) for example you hit the Epsom Downs (North Downs AONB).  The WAGN line is already an urban finger running north of London from over 10km through Cheshunt and it seems in many ways this is an example of sprawl you dont want to repeat.  Out of Waterloo you have to go a long way before you hit stations not next to AONB, forest and Common land.   When you do get out to the likes of Fleet the idea of expanding sprawl around the Blackwater valley and in a location constrained by the Thames Heaths SPA doesn’t seem like a compelling strategic option  (Fleet was of course an abandoned New Town, but the growth happened anyway ion a rather naff 1970s unplanned way).  I think therefore practrically you have to go a bit further out to locations, mainly beyond the Green Belt which will have or can have with investment spare rail capacity to serve Garden Cities with fast regional metro services to Central London.

The GLA map, which I doubt few authorities in the ROSE are aware of is striking.  Its geographical analysis is sound.  There are routes where there are planned capacity increases, you could extend an existing Crossrail 1 or 2 or even go for a Crossrail three or four.  It rightly highlights three key geographical factors, firstly the huge increase in rail capacity north of London from HS1, in the area which use to be known as MKSM, secondly how the new East West Rail could connect these, thirdly the unrealized potential of coastal communities in Kent and Sussex which correctly lack good rail connections.


I will go through each of these corridors to look at which of them has potential for strategic scaled development capable of taking the London Spill, that is potential for fast regional metro services to London.

A fewer larger higher density Garden City sites of a minimum 100,000 population (with a 30+ year design size of 150,000) is preferable for several reasons.  Firstly it enables a city scaled development with 4-6 districts of around 25,000 population each with a secondary school and its own district centre.  Secondly it is large enough to have its own critical mass of cultural and regional facilities, ideally general hospital, university etc.  Towns such as Stevenage and Harlow seem to forever be complaining that they are stuck just below this level and dont achieve critical mass, however towns such as Cambridge and Milton Keynes clearly exceed it and benefit accordingly.  If you cant expand to this size (for example like Durham) just forget it and make a virtue of being small.  At this size cities become large enough to run BRT/Guided bus type rapid transit systems, and because of this and regional metro rail links you can quite strictly control car ownership through mechanisms such as City Car Clubs.  In other-words you can develop the same ind of continental model smart growth as we see in places like Vauban as rightly celebrated in Peter Hall’s final and best book Good Cities, Better Lives.

Some Garden Cities/Ecotowns are going ahead anyway – Whitehill/Borden, Bicester, Ebbsfleet, though you may argue in particular cases whether or not they can be called ‘Garden Cities’ due to lack of value uplift etc.  As the New Garden Cities foundation argues the danger is of the narket or government coopting the idea unless there is some form of accreditation.  They wont be enough as they primarily tackle local need.

The lesson of programmes such as Ecotowns is that many sites will practically have less capacity than you think and possibly half your sites will fall away (less if longlists are chosen by a plan rather than speculatively put forward).  So I think you will need a longlist of 10-15 sites if you have a design size of 150,000.  Half the design size and you double the number of required locations etc.

I would also suggest a limited number of strategic connections within London which would enable high speed and regional connections through and beyon London also connecting Heathrow, Gatwick and Stansted.  Four short connections only are needed.

1.  Euston Cross – connecting HS1 and HS2 with a new connecting station.

2. Thameslink 2, connecting Gatwick and the Brighton Main Line via Canary Wharf, Stratford and the lea vlley to Stansted and Cambridge.

3.  Old Oak Common, where a new chord could connect Heathrow to Gatwick and Brighton via Earls Court,   the Chelsea Harbour Bridge, and which would also link to HS1, Chiltern Line and WCML trains to the East West ‘Arc’ of growth North West of London.

Looking first in the corridor to Cambridge.  Here we have a problem in that the Elsenham proposal in Uttlesford- which would primarily serve urbanisation issues relating to Stansted- is hitting trouble, it might come back if large enough to pay for new rods but will always solve a local problem.  Around Cambridge the Waterbeach Barracks release will provide a small town scale new site but this will barely again meet local needs.   Two additional sites meeting both Cambridge and London’s needs show promise.

The first is the release of the USAF army base at RAF Mildenhall, just over the border in Suffolk.  The obvious thing to do is to reopen the 7 miles Mildenhall to Cambridge railway as guided bus, like the nearby Northstowe. but this would primarily serve local needs.  You could extend a fast regional metro route through Cambridge to Mildenhall utilising existing track.  The site is huge already with facilities for 16,000 personel. You could also shift Mashalls (Herculers Servicing) from Cambridge Airport to Lakenheath enabling the major Cambridge East Urban extension.

South of Cambridge on the line to Hitchin we have a station Ashwell and Morden which is surrounded by open countryside, not very exciting countryside once you get past the low hills near the Saxon town of Ashwell.  If you spread a town eastwards towards Royden there is certainly space for a large Garden CIty which would be a logical next step in the ‘social city’ around Stevenage, and only 10 mins by train from Letchworth, 20 from Welwyn.  I woukd christen this ‘Howard Garden City’ in honor of the great man.

North of Shenfield you could extend Crossrail.  The GLA map shows growth at Cheltenham (happening anyway) north of Ipswich and at RAF Woodbridge (often known as RAF Rendlesham).  Ipswich has long been touted as ‘New Town’ potential in several post war regional plans.  It always got dropped off because of the road and rail infrastructure issues.  Rendelsham is a huge brownfield site surrounded by forests, but to get to it you have to pass through the narrow rail tunnel through the middle of Ispwich and then expand the slow local lines and ad a new spur.  It would also add 1000s of population next to a heathland SPA and putting pressure on Woodbridge, one of the prettiest small towns in England.  It has been looked at in the Sussex Coast LDF and riles out for good practical reasons.  So I think you have to look slightly further in for a site on a cross rail extension which more practically would be to Colchester.  The site which stands out is around the Village of Kelvedon, one half of which alongside the station is undeveloped.  Developing north to Coggeshall.  This would give good road access to the A12 and A120 both of which already bypass the villages.  The idea would be to develop a series of Essex Design Guide type village much like the very attractive Coggeshall on the higher ground above the River Blackwater.  The countryside around here, away from the delightful river, is frankly dull big Essex fields where the settlements are the highlights and where a Garden City could enhance the landscape.

Looking at Kent though there will be some limited capacity improvements from train lengthening and new stock the big opportunity exists along the HS1 line which is operating well below its theoretical maximum capacity (only 10% by some estimates).  There already is a proposal to ‘extend’ HS1 (in reality local services to Ashford via Canterbury 10 mph faster) to Thanet and create a new Thanet parkway station just south of RAF Manston, which the owners appear to have given up on making a going aviation concern.  The accusation was that the announcement was ‘pork barrel; to keep out Farage but it has long been desired and HS1 actually led to a slowing of London services to Thanet.  A bit more of a push and you could get from Thanet to Waterloo in less than an hour, but you would need a much bigger site than Manston to justify this in cost benefit, in effect most of the remaining undeveloped parts of the ‘Island’. The attraction of this location is that the rail stations aground thanet already form a near loop which could easily form a circle with a chord from Minster to Birchington on sea – so the new City would already have a metro system infrastructure.

On the section of the HS1 track around Westernhanger there is a large area of countryside outside the AONB where the A20 has lots of spare cpacity after the construction of the M20. The countryside is below the usual exceptional quality for Kent and development here could serve as overspill for the otherwise highly constrained Kent Coast towns and AONB/Greensand Ridge (considered rightly by locals as just as important – I declare an interest I grew up along it) towns and villages.

Going South from London to Gatwick and Brighton you hit real problems.  Along the Sussex coast all f the authorities have OAN much greater than their capacities, even if you developed most slithers of land between their urban edges and the South Downs National Park.  You also have the problem of overspill from areas affected by the Weald AONB,  the Pevensey Bay RAMSAR site and Ashdown Forest SPA.  Crawley, Reigate and Horsley are already expanding and even if they do this will only meet local need.  So the pressure is falling om the lower Weald area from Horsham to Hayweards Heath and Burgess Hill and Hustpierpoint/Hassocks, these towns all already proposed for expansion and even with the Brighton mainline improvements rail models suggest it will be immediately full.  Hence the Lord Taylor led proposal for the Mayfield Country town on the A23.  The inspector at the recent Horsham examination ruled this out as being undeliverable as in the face of opposition of two authorities and because the expand Horsham first strategy was right.  However this doesn’t deal with the issue of overspill from North and South.  The last thing you would want to do is develop a road based only new town.

There are things that can be done to boost rail capacity to Brighton and the line to Bognor Regis via Horsham has some spare capacity.  Therefore I would suggest two things.  Firstly a new extension Westwards of Horsham around Christs Hospital Station.

The imaginative BML2 proposals would massively increase capacity Croydon to Brighton via an alternative path via Uckfield. This corridor has limited capacity for growth however because of the Ashford Forest SPA.  But it does allow more growth on the lower weald in Sussex.  Here as I have written before and think you have to bite the bullet and allow some filling ion between the towns here to form an integrated urban area with better shared services and public transport connections. After all nobody today bemoans the convergence of Wolverton and Bletchley do they. Clever masterplanning of river and tree belts could still maintain visual separation.  The centrepeice of this would be a new station between Burgess Hill and Haywards Heath, which you might call the new city Vale of Suffolk.  This would be controversial but the quid pro quo would be the permanent protection of the AONB and national  park areas to the North and South.

The arrows in the GLA map shows major expansion north of Eastbourne in the Polegate area.  This is possible, with massive STP investment to avoid RAMSAR runoff to Pevensey Bay, but the problem is widening the A27 on the edge of the National Park (though it might be possible to realign the A27 away from the National Park), and the fact that this area is just too far from London for an easy commute.  Not the easiest of solutions, especially as its where David Dimbleby walks his dog.

Turning to West of London the GLA sketch shows massive expansion of Alton.  Major expansion towards the South Downs and Jane Autsin’s house would seem a red rag to campaigners.  Alton has always seemed to me a small town at or near the limits of its expansion before its loses all character.  There is much more scope I think around Hook between Basingstoke and Fleet which has long been considered as New Town location.  The GLC planned in 1961 a New Town of 100,000, though with a town centre that would have made Cumbernauld look pretty.  Now we have a chance to do it properly.

Hook New Town 1961 GLC Masterplan

Hook New Town 1961 GLC Masterplan

in Oxfordshire the GLA map shows major growth at Princes Risborough, it can take more but is not a good strategic candidate for growth, and Oxford, which needs new startegic rail connections to serve London commuters, I will suggest one in a moment, and oddly at RAF Brise Norton showing it on the East West Rail Line, which it is nowhere near.  Lack of a rail connection always has ruled this one out.  The old rail right of way around Witney (the Whitney and Fairford Railway) has been completely obliterated by the growth of Whitney.  Besides its expanding not contracting several units having relocated to here and being the sole “Air Point of Embarkation”.   In Oxfordshire Bicester looks like the only strategic location capable of servicing London,

Now we come to the arc north of London where capacity is being freed by HS2 and where much of it will be linked by East West Rail, as well as being in the high tech arc linking Oxford, MK and Cambridge.  There are locations here that can and will grown anyway, but primarily to serve local need with edge of town locations poorly located to serve London.  Similarly with the future growth of MK, Luton, Bedford/Marston Vale, Northampton and to a lesser extent Stevenage where the growth would be (controversially of course) next to the Station.

The Biggleswade. St Neots, Sandy corridor is low lying and sodden and a poor candidate for strategics scale growth.  These towns are peculiar non places having grown in unplanned ways well beyond the scale of small villages and towns hey once were.  Similarly with Flitwick.

Morth of MK are  two villages of Casteltorpe, and Roade, all of which had large stations till they were closed in the 1960s.  You pass through them frequently if you area a WCML user.  With HS2 the additional capacity on this railline begs the question why not reopen one or two of them,.  Castelthorpe could become a new quarter of MK and Roade  a new City.   Roade is also the point where the Northampton loop branches off and could be a strategic interchange where you change for much more frequent trains to Northampton.

Road Station Before Closure and the now derelict former Pianoforte Factory

South of MK you find by surprise a station in open countryside at Cheddington.  The site is close to the Chilterns, but not uncomfortably so. he station has four platforms, each with 12 carriage capacity, but only platforms 3 and 4 are used regularly and platforms 1 and 2 are used only during engineering works and disruption.  The ticket office closed on 28 March 2013 and the station is now unstaffed. Lack of development here to use the spare West Coast Main Line capacity is a big waste of potential.  There is also the potential to reopen the branch that use to run from here to Aylesbury High Street creating a new path from Aylesbury to London and allow for a station to the East of Aylesbury which could naturally act as the focal point for the arc of major urban extensions to the East of the town and which now would be much more accessible to London.

Finally we come to the site which I think has the greatest potential in England.  You might not have heard of Calvert but it is the location of what will become probably the most strategic rail junction –   in England.  Calvert was on the Great Central Main line- that great Victorian private sector endeavor to create high speed trains all the way to Paris.  There was no historic village called Calvert. It was the name of the local landowner.  This section now serves a landfill site south of the village and the line of the former Great Central Main line route here would be taken by HS2.  Directly to the north of the village is a large former Brickworks and the former varsity line – which will become east West Rail, with a chord to the Great Central Line there would be an additional path by rail from Milton Keynes to London.  The main problem would be the rigidity of the HS2 designers to any intermediate stations between London and Brum, because of the optimistic assumption of near 100% capacity and any intermediate stations would reduce headships rates and therefore the farebox.  My Japanese High Speed Engineer friends who I worked with on High Speed Rail in India are greatly amused by this argument.   Saying it relies on the bad calculus taught to english engineers and assumptions on outdated European rail technology, as it does.  With lightweight trains which can stop from 300 kmh in 1 1/2 minutes you can have HSR trains with stations every 20-40km as you do in Japan,  Technology recently adopted over the outdated French and Spanish technology by the Indian Government (their HS1 line from Munbai to Ahmedabad  will have 11 stations( only a few used each trip)  each a hub for major growth).

7km to the South of Calvert along the Great Central Main line route is Quainton the former terminus of the Aylesbury and Buckingham Railway and the Metropolitan Line, and now home to the Buckingham Railway society.  This is another potential strategic junction with a never completed link to Oxford via Brill which would have been by far the shortest route between Aylesbury and Oxford and if completed would enormously widen the est west route options and options between Oxford and London, and allowing for the strategic extension of Oxford to the East of Headington with a direct fast route to London. Between Verney Junction (the old terminus of the Metropolitan Line) and Quainton there is a disused chord which could allow an additional train path from Milton Keynes to London Via the new Old Oak Common Strategic Interchange.

Calvert, Verney Junction and Quainton Junction should be seen as three poles of a new city of MK scale 250-300,000 strategically located at the hub of the nations north-south and East west rail routes and providing new strategic connections between Oxford, Aylesbury and Milton Keynes.  I would call this New City Watkin – after  Edward Watkin – the pioneer of the Great Central Main Line.  Verney and Watkin’s vision would be realised 150 years late, but better late than never.

Quainton Junction

So here’s my list

1) Mildenhall

2) Morden

3) Manston

4) Westerhanger  (cumulatively 200,000 with Manston)

5) Christs Hospital and Vale of Suffolk (cumulatively 200,000)

6) Hook

7) Roade (200,00 with expansion of MK at Casteltorpe)

8) Cheddington

9) Calvert (including Verney Junction)

10) Quainton

Note Calvert, Verney Junction and Quainton would be the first districts in the New City of Watkin, of around 300.000, the rail links for which which would also enable Garden Suburb extensions of 50,o000 each at MK, Aylesbury and Oxford.

I dont expect any of these to be non controversial.  But they might be less controversial then people expect with many utilising brownfield sites and enabling long yearned for railway connections.  Also they provide sinks for development away from the most highly sensitive areas such as the South Downs and would enable the protection of the Metropolitan Green Belt in much like its current form for another two generations.  That would be the deal.  The locations would also be far better locations than doubling the size of 1000s of villages, the NPPF solution, which the new planning minister doesn’t like anyway so he is refusing every appeal he can, so the NPPF is effectively dead in the water as a strategic solution to the Nations housing needs, as soon as it was applied with vigour ministers lost their bottle as they always would with any solution based on scattering development to double the size of villages whatever their infrastructure or accessibility.  If anyone can think of a better strategy based on actual locations (not fantasies about space above shops etc.) then please publish it.

So this is a little over the shortfall in London and the south East, and without any loss of Green Belt.  There may be reasons for localised review of the Green Belt to meet localised problems – local growth needs in St Albans or Guildford for example.  Perhaps Boris is right, in that you can meet the strategic needs of London and the South East without ripping it up.  Pragmatically though Boris would be wise to agree to one as part of a wider deal with ROSE authorities to investigate all reasonable options.

Finally imagine the potential from making a few localised enhancements of already planned rail infrastructure and what this would enable,  Getting oin a train in Brighton and connecting straight through London to Stansted, Cambridge and the neww City of Mildenhall.  Getting on a train in MK, Oxford or Aylebury, or the New City of Watkin,  and going via Old Oak Common to Heathrow Hub or Gatwick or through Crossrail to Ashford, The New City of  Manston or even Paris.  You could get on a train at Canery Wharf and go to any of these places.

Note:  Tomorrow is a bank holiday where I live so ill try to do a strategic diagram to illustrate the potential strategy.





Lord Adonis – Knock Down London Council Estates to Build More Housing

FT – The problem of course is that for every Woodbury Down there is a Heygate where there is a net loss of council housing, the finances of redevelopment made much tougher with zero funding for social housing.  Hence you have the likes of Creesingham Gardens and Northumberland Park, a gift to the likes of Defend Council Housing.

London council estates should be demolished in order to build swaths of new houses for sale, according to Lord Adonis, one of the Labour party’s most senior figures.

Knocking down existing council housing would give the opportunity to build “mixed communities” that would function as “city villages”, the Labour peer said in a report.

 The controversial recommendations come amid growing concern about the lack of affordable and social housing in the UK after years of above-inflation price growth.

The Tories are expected to revive Margaret Thatcher’s Right To Buy policy in their election manifesto by offering to expand the policy from council houses to housing associations.

Since the Thatcher years more than 2m council houses have been bought by their tenants — but this is harder for the 2.5m people currently living in “social housing”, owned by housing associations.

The policy has been championed by Iain Duncan Smith, the welfare secretary, and is backed by the Tory leadership as a way to woo “C2” skilled working-class voters.

Right to Buy is popular with many voters but has been blamed for worsening the shortage of social housing in Britain, with many of the sold properties not replaced.

Lord Adonis will argue that demolishing existing neighbourhoods and rebuilding at higher densities — including homes for sale at open market prices — can create a net increase in housing without needing any funding from the state.

The former cabinet minister believes that existing tenants could be housed in new properties on the site.

“The scale of council-owned land is vast and greatly under-appreciated,” Lord Adonis said. “There are particularly large concentrations of council-owned land in inner London, and this is some of the highest-priced land in the world.”

London councils own on average 25 to 30 per cent of the land in their boroughs, the report said. Southwark Council, for example, owns 43 per cent of the land it governs, while Islington owns about a third.

Low housing densities on many estates mean that the population of inner London is still 1.7m below its pre-second world war high — despite the fact that the city as a whole has this year topped that level due to population growth in outer areas.

Just 18,000 new homes were built in London last year, less than half of the 50,000 that housing analysts estimate the city needs each year.

Of the 3,500 council estates that Lord Adonis estimated lie within London’s boundaries, only about 50 have so far been redeveloped to add homes of other tenures. These saw the number of homes on the sites double on average, according to an analysis by estate agents Savills.

The report, to be published on Tuesday by think-tank the Institute for Public Policy Research, cited the example of Woodberry Down in Hackney, where 1,981 council flats in tenement blocks are being replaced by 5,550 homes for rent and sale.

Estate redevelopment can be politically controversial: the Conservatives lost control of Hammersmith & Fulham Council last year after signing a deal with listed developer Capital & Counties that would see the demolition of two council estates. The new Labour administration is negotiating with the developer over its plans.

Southwark Council has also been attacked by housing campaigners for its approval of developer Lend Lease’s demolition of the Heygate estate. Of the 2,500 new homes being built on the site, a quarter are for rent or subsidised ownership.

Lord Adonis said: “The local authority planning regime has got to adapt properly to the potential for [market-priced rent] developments” rather than taking “a binary view” of housing as being for sale or for subsidised rent.