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The Journal of the

Town and Country


Planning
Association

December 2010
Vol. 79 l No. 12

● tony baden and tim marshall on the


national infrastructure plan
● greg clark on participation in planning
● nick gallent on rural housing
● stephen joseph and peter lipman on
sustainable transport
information and subscriptions

Town & Country Planning


The Journal of the
Town and Country Planning Association
ISSN 0040-9960 Published monthly
December 2010 ● Volume 79 Number 12

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Town & Country Planning December 2010


contents
December 2010 l Vol. 79 l No. 12

regulars features
510 Inside Stories 523 Participation in planning
Emma Vandore: Decentralisation Minister The Rt Hon. Greg Clark on
Reasons to be cheerful? how and why the Government aims to put local
communities in control of their own destiny through
513 Editorial the planning system
Continuing at the
forefront 527 National infrastructure – a plan for sustainable
development?
517 Planning World Tony Baden finds the National Infrastructure Plan
Peter Hall: unclear on how it will deliver sustainable
A railway network for development
the polycentric
metropolis 529 Dissecting the first stab at a National
Infrastructure Plan
520 Off the Fence Tim Marshall examines the positioning, tone and
David Lock: content of the National Infrastructure Plan
Planning crisis in
534 Still grappling with the rural housing question
Grotton (again)
Nick Gallent on the absence of convincing solutions
522 Writeback to the country’s rural housing crisis
538 Transport threats and opportunities
557 Going Local Stephen Joseph on the prospects for sustainable
David Boyle: travel under new funding regimes
Regulate the big, set
the small free 540 Derailing the transition?
Peter Lipman on how the shift from car-based to
560 Connections sustainable travel may fare under the policies of the
Paul Burall Coalition Government
542 Valuing and financing the public realm
Tony Baden and Tim Marshall on Pat Hayes on why the UK seems unable to emulate
the National Infrastructure Plan, on
our European neighbours’ achievements in the
pages 527-528 and 529-533.
Cover illustration by Clifford Harper. public realm
www.agraphia.com
546 Tracking the Mayor’s new London Plan
Martin Simmons on the progress of the Replacement
London Plan through Examination in Public
549 World cities and the challenge of change
Henry Abraham on lessons from China for the future
of London and its surrounding regions
553 Lessons from Lynch
Kevin Lynch’s The Image of the City offers lessons for
today’s place-marketers, says Gert-Jan Hospers

Town & Country Planning December 2010 509


inside stories
Town and Country Planning Association, 17 Carlton House Terrace, London SW1Y 5AS
+44 (0)20 7930 8903 ● tcpa@tcpa.org.uk ● www.tcpa.org.uk

we are: independent and open


to all who want better places inside stories
we have achieved: greener
cities, new towns, and better GRaBS project launches
homes international adaptation database

we create: ideas, knowledge, The first online database of international best practice
publications, campaigns, and case studies on climate change adaptation was
launched at the TCPA’s Annual Conference, ‘Plan and
independent policies Deliver?’, held in London at the end of November.
The database has been developed as part of the
we aim to: secure homes, TCPA-led EU Green and Blue Space Adaptation for
empower communities, and Urban Areas and Eco Towns (GRaBS) project by the
University of Manchester. It focuses on examples
deliver a sustainable future relating to green and blue infrastructure, considering
in detail the processes that have supported the
...through planning implementation of adaptation responses in a range
of urban areas across the world. The database can
be accessed free of charge.
TCPA membership Complementing the UK Government’s localism
agenda and radical devolution of planning powers to
The benefits of TCPA membership include: local authorities and communities, the database uses
● subscription to Town & Country Planning; worldwide examples at different scales to inspire
● discounted fees for TCPA events and conferences; and guide local action on tackling climate change.
● opportunities to become involved in policy- Rather than focusing on specific technologies, the
making; case studies identify and highlight key factors in the
● monthly e-bulletin; delivery of adaptation strategies that influence the
● access to the members area on the TCPA success of adaptation responses in different
website. locations – such as governance, stakeholder
relationships, political will, science and research.
Contact Brian Moffat, Membership Officer The GRaBS project has also recently launched a
t: (0)20 7930 8903 second expert paper, Participation in Climate
e: membership@tcpa.org.uk Change Adaptation, produced by the Amsterdam
w: www.tcpa.org.uk City District of Nieuw-West, one of the GRaBS
project partners. The paper explores the connection
TCPA policy statements, available between climate change impacts in urban areas and
how we can best involve communities in adaptation
as free downloads from the TCPA plans and their implementation.
website, at www.tcpa.org.uk
● Accessible and Sustainable Transport
● Accessible and Sustainable Retail
● Aviation
● Climate Change
● Green Belts
● Housing
● Housing Market Renewal
● New Towns and Town Extensions Further details about the GRaBS project are
● Planning and Sustainable Energy available from the GRaBS website at
● Strategic and Regional Planning www.grabs-eu.org, from where the online
● Residential Densities adaptation database and the project expert papers
● Urban Renaissance in England can also be accessed.

510 Town & Country Planning December 2010


inside stories
Town and Country Planning Association, 17 Carlton House Terrace, London SW1Y 5AS
+44 (0)20 7930 8903 ● tcpa@tcpa.org.uk ● www.tcpa.org.uk

New Briefing Papers published by should address in improving the design of the
the TCPA scheme:
● the need for a genuine incentives scheme;
● the need for a higher level of incentivisation to
The TCPA has recently produced three new Briefing meet housing need;
Papers on areas of current policy development. The ● spatial inequality in the Bonus calculations;
papers provide summaries and analysis of ● alignment of the incentives scheme with good
consultation papers issued by the Department for forward planning;
Communities and Local Government (DCLG) on the ● encouraging and incentivising higher-quality
New Homes Bonus and on planning for new homes and places, not just more housing units;
schools development, and of the Scottish and
Government’s consultation on a Land Use Strategy ● clarification of the purpose of the incentives
for Scotland. scheme in the context of other schemes such as
CIL and planning obligations.
New Homes Bonus
The Coalition Government believes that the TCPA Briefing Paper 13 is available from the TCPA
current system for housing delivery does not website at www.tcpa.org.uk/resources.php?action
provide the right approach to incentivise =resource&id=961
housebuilding. As part of the Coalition Agreement
drawn up in May 2010, it has moved swiftly to Draft Land Use Strategy for Scotland
announce its intention to abolish Regional Getting the Best from Our Land: A Draft Land Use
Strategies, together with their regional housing Strategy for Scotland is the draft of Scotland’s first
targets, and to introduce a new incentives approach national Strategy for Land Use. It was produced as a
‘to provide incentives for local authorities to deliver requirement of Section 57 of the Climate Change
sustainable development, including for new homes (Scotland) Act 2009, which obliges the Strategy
and businesses’. The New Homes Bonus scheme to set out:
seeks to reward local authorities for improving ● Scottish Ministers’ objectives in relation to
housing delivery, in an approach which is seen by sustainable land use;
the Government as fairer and more effective. ● their proposals and policies for meeting those
The DCLG consultation paper New Homes objectives; and
Bonus. Consultation sets out details of a new ● the timescales over which those proposals and
‘powerful, simple, transparent, predictable and policies are expected to take effect.
flexible’ incentives scheme to encourage and
reward local authorities to deliver more new and The Scottish Government’s overriding purpose is
sustainable housing. The New Homes Bonus will to guide, support and inform all those involved in
reward local authorities for every additional new deciding how land is to be used, by setting out a
housing unit built (net additions) for six years at a vision and long-term objectives for an integrated
rate equal to the national average for the Council Tax approach to sustainable land use in Scotland.
band. The TCPA has commended the Scottish
The TCPA has welcomed the New Homes Bonus Government’s commitment under the Climate
scheme and believes that, if designed properly and Change (Scotland) Act and believes that the
delivered fairly, it should make a significant Strategy will be an important part of a portfolio of
contribution to efforts to deliver more and better- strategic documents to guide sustainable
quality homes. However, the the Association has development in Scotland and improve the resilience
also argued that the Bonus must be applied of people, communities and places to climate
transparently and fairly within a plan-led system, and change.
has expressed some concerns. The Briefing Paper The TCPA Briefing Paper 14, A Draft Land Use
(Incentives for Improving Housing Delivery – New Strategy for Scotland, sets out some key factors
Homes Bonus. TCPA Briefing Paper 13) sets out that would help to consolidate the Land Use
issues which the TCPA believes the Government Strategy into a robust strategic document. These

Town & Country Planning December 2010 511


inside stories
Town and Country Planning Association, 17 Carlton House Terrace, London SW1Y 5AS
+44 (0)20 7930 8903 ● tcpa@tcpa.org.uk ● www.tcpa.org.uk

include the following matters that the Scottish


Government should address: TCPA Half-Day Conference
● aligning with a responsive planning system;
● connecting the UK – looking beyond Scotland;
● delivering clearly defined actions; rebalancing
● recognising the urban land use dimension;
● acknowledging the role of green and blue
infrastructure in supporting sustainable urban
england –
development; and
● engaging communities at the strategic level.
bridging the
TCPA Briefing Paper 14 is available from the TCPA
national divide
website at www.tcpa.org.uk/resources.php?action
=resource&id=964 Monday 24 January 2011
Lord Mayor’s Parlour,
Planning for Schools Development Manchester Town Hall
The DCLG Planning for Schools Development
consultation paper flows out of wider education The Coalition Government’s intention to
policy reform. The consultation aims to implement radically reform the planning system (including
changes to permitted development set out in the the abolition of regional planning, the
1995 GPDO in order to allow change of use from emphasis on localism, and the streamlining of
residential and commercial development to schools national planning guidance) has generated
without the need for planning permission. The uncertainty over the detail of the proposed
changes would apply only to changes of use, and changes and their potential impact on the
not to new build or to changes to the physical economy and strategic planning, particularly
exterior of buildings, and thus the impact of the outside of London. At the same time, there is a
proposals may be limited. However, while the total unique opportunity to influence the detail of
impact may be limited in scope, the consultation the reforms through the review of the National
raises the fundamental issue of why we have Policy Statements (NPSs), the emergence of
planning. Local Enterprise Partnerships (LEPs), the
The TCPA Briefing Paper 15, Planning for New development of a National Planning
Schools Development, assess the consultation Framework, and the Decentralisation and
paper in relation to the spatial implications of Localism Bill.
permitting development of any new school facilities This high-level, cross-sector conference will
as a land use issue, rather than with regard to the examine how to rebalance the national
appropriateness of the Coalition Government’s Free economy in the light of the Coalition
Schools policy. Highlighting key issues and Government’s first policy propositions,
concerns, the TCPA believes that there is no robust including the transition to localism and the
justification for changing the current system, and potential role of LEPs. Using an interactive
therefore prefers the consultation paper’s Option 1, discussion format, the half-day event will
for no change. address the gap between government support
TCPA Briefing Paper 15, Planning for New Schools for narrowing the divide between the Greater
Development is available from the TCPA website at South East and the rest of England, and the
www.tcpa.org.uk/resources.php?action policy and resources for its delivery.
=resource&id=965
Full details are available from Stuart Thomas at
the TCPA: 020 7930 8903
Stuart.Thomas@tcpa.org.uk
Save the date... www.tcpa.org.uk
The TCPA is currently planning a Neighbourhood Supported by:
Planning Conference for 23 March 2011, to be held Manchester
at One Whitehall Place, in London. The event will be City Council
followed by a series of eight seminars to be held in
various locations in England. Further details will be
announced shortly.

512 Town & Country Planning December 2010


Continuing at the forefront
2010 has been an incredible year for planning, for The Association has continued to work with
the TCPA and for so many of its members. The scale politicians of all parties, culminating in the Minister
and pace of change is unprecedented. for Decentralisation addressing the Annual
At the time of writing we await the publication of Conference, ‘Plan and Deliver’, held in November and
the historic Decentralisation and Localism Bill, and featuring a range of high-level cross-sector experts
there remain many questions about the details of discussing the planning reform agenda. But the hard
the New Homes Bonus, arrangements for cross- work doesn’t stop here. Next year the TCPA will be:
boundary working, and how neighbourhood plans and ● actively engaged in addressing the Decentralisation
the forthcoming national planning policy framework and Localism Bill, with briefings planned for mid-
will work in practice. However, we do not have time December and January and beyond;
to wait to provide the homes the nation needs and ● actively involved in developing policy propositions
take action on climate change. There is also a to feed in to the formation of the national planning
powerful opportunity to rebuild trust in the planning policy framework;
system and to influence the detail of the reforms. ● expanding the Eco-Development Group network
The TCPA is uniquely placed to provide practical to share learning and best practice and to help
guidance to local authorities and communities who local authorities to embed sustainability standards
are now in the driving seat of this agenda. As the in different scales of development;
Coalition Government devolves power down to the ● looking closely at policy reforms – the TCPA will
local authority and community levels, the TCPA is aim to provide some clarity and suggest workable
ready to help, as illustrated by examples of our work models for this period of change;
from this past year: ● helping communities and local authorities to
● Our illustration of the Big Society: Over 40 develop neighbourhood plans, through
organisations and individuals came together to independent information, guidance and access to
produce model policies on planning and climate user-friendly tools; and, most importantly,
change, set out in a guide, launched in the House ● continuing to make the case for sustainable
of Commons in November, which has now been development, rebuilding trust in the planning
sent to every Chief Planning Officer and Planning system, and building consensus about the
Committee Chair in England. positive benefits of well-planned development.
● Active learning and mentoring for the local
authorities involved in the Eco-Development In addition to policy and campaign work, the TCPA
Group: We have run European study tours, site tried something completely different in 2010 by holding
visits, thematic seminars and workshops, with two performances of ‘Love, Life and Liberty’ – a very
the next event planned for early February on the well received rediscovery of planning’s progressive
transferability of lessons from Europe. and radical roots through music, art and literature.
● The launch of the GRaBS online database of It has been a tremendously busy and successful
case studies on climate change adaptation: The year for the Association, and 2011 looks set to see
database, prepared by Dr Jeremy Carter of the the TCPA continue at the forefront of the planning
University of Manchester, provides a much agenda, working to make the planning system more
needed practical and user-friendly tool for local responsive to people’s needs and aspirations and
communities and decision-makers at the forefront better suited to promote sustainable development.
of delivering action on climate change. Through Building on the TCPA’s cross-sector membership
international best practice examples, the database base and its radical thinking and problem-solving, in
illustrates the processes that can be used to 2011 the pages of the journal will include analysis
deliver adaptation strategies at a variety of and thought-provoking debate about the detail of
different scales. the planning reforms as the Decentralisation and
Localism Bill makes its way through Parliament.
The Association has remained at the forefront of It remains for me to thank all those who have
the planning and housing debate during 2010, from worked with the TCPA over the past year, including
its cross-sector analysis of the Conservative Open our talented and dedicated staff team, the Board of
Source Planning Policy Green Paper carried out Trustees, the Policy Council, and our Vice-Presidents,
through five roundtable debates held in March, Corporate Fellows, members and supporting partners.
through to The Future of Planning report launched at We hope to continue to work with you all in 2011.
the TCPA’s summer conference and most recently the
Making Planning Work Briefing Papers presented at Kate Henderson
the political party conferences this autumn. Chief Executive, TCPA

Town & Country Planning December 2010 513


inside stories
Town and Country Planning Association, 17 Carlton House Terrace, London SW1Y 5AS
+44 (0)20 7930 8903 ● tcpa@tcpa.org.uk ● www.tcpa.org.uk

Reasons to be cheerful?

Emma Vandore reports on the TCPA’s Annual Conference, ‘Plan and


Deliver?’, held on 30 November at One Whitehall Place, London
He told the sceptics to stop looking so ‘glum’. system’, doubts remained, some of which were
Addressing the TCPA’s Annual Conference, aired.
Decentralisation Minister Greg Clark told the What happens if people aren’t interested in the
audience that the Government’s proposed planning onerous responsibility of planning for their
reforms aren’t about enabling the Home Counties to community? ‘The centralists [who] assume people
block development in their backyard. Community won’t be interested [are] a pretty glum lot,’ said the
planning, he said, is about transforming the planning Minister, insisting that it’s all about how you phrase
profession from one of ‘development control the question. ‘Ask ‘how can this community develop
officers’ into enablers of community dreams.
It was a sort of British version of ‘Yes, we can!’
The TCPA’s Annual Conference was held amid
heavy snow, which, apart from depriving us of the
presence of one the programmed speakers, Jenny
Poxon, Sheffield’s Head of Spatial Planning, may
have been a good thing. Protesting students in
Whitehall were either unaware of the National
Liberal Club, where the event was staged, or
possibly cooled by the harsh weather conditions.
Greg Clark had arrived early to gauge the tenor of
debate through TCPA Chief Planner Hugh Ellis’s
opening contribution and the open discussion that
followed. The Minister spoke beyond his official
speech, declared himself ‘pro-planning’, and
insisted that the planned changes are an
opportunity to rehabilitate planners, still tainted by
the mistakes of the 1960s. ‘Neighbourhood
planning can help to restore respect for the
profession so that it is properly valued, and never
reviled,’ he said. Rather than being ‘a lightning rod
for people’s sense of frustration with the current
system, often being seen as agents of imposition
for Whitehall’s instructions’, planners can help
communities to plan. Above
He twitched the curtain back to reveal some of
the detail of the Government’s intentions, set out in Decentralisation Minister Greg Clark addressing the ‘Plan
and Deliver?’ conference
the then unpublished Decentralisation and Localism
Bill: neighbourhoods would have the right to draw
up their own plan, which would be adopted after a in the future?’ Often you get a different and more
mini-referendum, held possibly at the level of parish progressive answer than is the case now when you
councils. But he stressed that neighbourhood plans ask ‘Do you want this block of 20 homes?’,’ he said.
would have to fit the general vision and strategy of People will want to participate, he insisted. He
the local plan. noted that in his former role as Shadow Charities
Despite TCPA Chief Executive Kate Henderson’s Minister, the biggest factor cited as a reason for
assertion that the imminent changes present ‘a volunteering was not social class or ethnic origin,
unique opportunity to rebuild trust in the planning but quite simply because people were asked.

514 Town & Country Planning December 2010


inside stories
Town and Country Planning Association, 17 Carlton House Terrace, London SW1Y 5AS
+44 (0)20 7930 8903 ● tcpa@tcpa.org.uk ● www.tcpa.org.uk

And what happens if NIMBYs hijack the system conferences were in the offing. Speaking of the
to block supermarkets or housing development urgency of getting any new system up and working
schemes? Greg Clark again chided this viewpoint as properly, she noted that we ‘don’t have time to wait
being overly glum, saying that the New Homes to provide the homes the nation needs and take
Bonus would overcome NIMBY resistance by action on climate change’.
offering councils incentive payments for each new Before the conference broke for lunch, Liberal
home built. Democrat peer Lord Matthew Taylor, Chair of the
However, the Minister offered no detail about the National Housing Federation and of the Rural
funding of the neighbourhood planning stage. TCPA Coalition, gave the keynote presentation on localism
Chief Planner Hugh Ellis had earlier questioned and housing provision. ‘Community planning can
whether the Government would make enough work,’ he said – but he questioned whether moving
resources available for community planning to be from ‘enforcement’ to the New Homes Bonus
successful, warning that it would be a mistake to let ‘bribe’ would win NIMBYs around. ‘It’s the wrong
communities be ‘led up the hill only to find that they answer to the wrong question,’ he said. ‘What
don’t have influence or resources’ to do what they NIMBYs are complaining about is often a real
had been promised. complaint,’ he said. ‘Frankly what’s at the end of the
Hugh Ellis had also questioned whether the New garden is [usually] not very nice; and it’s at the end
Homes Bonus would be new money or simply a of the garden.’
re-allocation of existing funding arrangements. If so, As the former MP for Truro and St Austell in
as others noted, regeneration areas in parts of the Cornwall, he said the answer is to plan to create
North which might struggle to secure housing neighbourhoods that ‘function as places’ – like a
growth could consequently lose cash. Cornish village.
As a parting gesture, the Minister dangled the Following the lunch interval, in a debate on
possibility that bodies like the TCPA might like to housing delivery under the new Government, Hyde
help neighbourhoods put together their plans. Housing Association Chief Executive David Eastgate
Most of the speakers from the panel and the floor worried that plans to incentivise more home
in the ‘Will the new planning system work’ session building by allowing housing associations to raise
which followed the Minister’s speech agreed that rents would not address housing need unless new
the planning system has room for improvement, ways of doing things were found. In London and the
although many agreed with the assessment of South East, where the biggest cost is the price of
Peter Studdert, Director of Joint Planning for the land, one answer would be to give housing
Cambridgeshire growth areas (standing in for the associations access to surplus public land, he said.
snow-bound Jenny Poxon), that the proposed Debbie Aplin, Managing Director of Crest
changes will entail at least ‘two years of chaos’. Nicholson Regeneration, argued that local
‘The devil is in the detail,’ said Geoffrey Piper, authorities should take more responsibility for
Chief Executive of the North West Business gaining support for development by engaging with
Leadership Team, reserving judgement. But Anna their community and promoting growth in their
Watson, a Senior Campaigner at Friends of the region. Councillor Barry Wood, Leader of Cherwell
Earth was ‘not very optimistic that we will see District Council, agreed that houses should be more
many more communities being heard’. than just ‘somewhere to kip’, and said that what he
TCPA Chief Executive Kate Henderson had earlier really wants is ‘to build a new and better England’.
opened proceedings by reminding participants how Two debates on climate change shaped the rest
seriously the Association took the first indications of of the afternoon session: one on whether localism
change, the Open Source Planning policy green can help us to adapt, and the other on the
paper, published by the Conservative Party before experience of working to adapt Manchester to a
the general election. The TCPA had organised a new climate. Noting that ‘money is tight’, Rob
series of five roundtable debates and had compiled Shaw, Director of Sustainability and Climate Change
a number of briefing papers on the future of at LDA Design, suggested that ‘we have to find
planning, which, in the words of several speakers, alternatives to central government funding’ when
have put the organisation at the intellectual forefront looking at sustainable design. As a light-hearted
of the debate on change. ‘We hit the ground aside, Trevor Cherrett, rural policy advisor to the
running, but we have to keep running,’ she said. TCPA, advised the really committed to take early
With the Decentralisation and Localism Bill then retirement, buy a mill, generate electricity, make
imminent, and a new national planning policy money from that, and grow their own vegetables.
framework in the works, more TCPA debates and Seema Manchanda, Service Director, Strategic

Town & Country Planning December 2010 515


inside stories
Town and Country Planning Association, 17 Carlton House Terrace, London SW1Y 5AS
+44 (0)20 7930 8903 ● tcpa@tcpa.org.uk ● www.tcpa.org.uk

Planning and Regeneration at the London Borough


of Islington, ran through some of her authority’s
initiatives to cut emissions on her patch, such as
is this your copy of
community gardens, electric cars, and encouraging
cycling.
Michael Oglesby, Chairman of the Bruntwood
Group, said that as a ‘hard-nosed businessman’, he
town &
believes in the business case for environmentally-
friendlier building. Mike Reardon, Director of the
Greater Manchester Environment Commission at
country
planning?
the Association of Greater Manchester Authorities,
spoke of the need for local authorities to work
together, and Dr Jeremy Carter of Manchester
University ran through research work on adapting to
climate change in Manchester, and work on the

subscribe
TCPA-led EU Green and Blue Space Adaptation for
Urban Areas and Eco-Towns (GRaBS) project.
TCPA Chair Lee Shostak closed the conference by
vowing that the TCPA would continue with its core
business of ‘finding a way of making sure that the
planning system does its job properly, even as it’s
changing’.
To show that planners don’t need to be entirely
glum, the TCPA sought to raise spirits with port,
poetry and music at the end of the afternoon,
staging, with the help of Hugh Ellis, members of his
family and other volunteers, ‘Love, Life and Liberty’,
an event that aimed to reconnect us with past
struggles over land and the right to shelter. Starting
with the Diggers of the 17th century, the
performance celebrated the ideas, imagination and
radicalism of key figures in progressive reform, such
If not, then why not become a member
as John Ruskin, Ebenezer Howard, JB Priestley and
even Bruce Springsteen. of the TCPA or take out a personal
Inspired, the gathering trekked through the snow subscription?
to the centre of power, where the TCPA’s Annual
Reception was held on the Pavilion Terrace of the Each issue of Town & Country Planning
House of Commons. is packed with informed opinion; the
latest on policy thinking and guidance;
● Emma Vandore is a freelance journalist and budding
planner. With 15 years of reporting under her belt, latterly as and updates on recent news, projects,
head of the economic service for the Associated Press in and publications.
Paris, she is currently studying for an MSc in Spatial Planning
at the Bartlett School of Planning, University College London. For full details on TCPA membership
She can be contacted at emmavandore@gmail.com
and subscriptions, please contact: Brian
Moffat, Membership/Subscriptions
Officer, TCPA, 17 Carlton House Terrace,
London SW1Y 5AS
020 7930 8903
tcpa@tcpa.org.uk

Or see the tcpa website at


www.tcpa.org.uk
516 Town & Country Planning December 2010
planning world
We could yet create a worthy, working successor to the vision of a London transport system
pioneered by Lord Ashfield, Frank Pick and Herbert Walker, says Peter Hall

a railway network for the


polycentric metropolis
legacy now joined up in a new way, will newly
expose a key long-term deficiency in that legacy:
the failure of the bits to join up in a coherent whole.
Berlin has long had a similar ring line in an
analogous location, but it interchanges with the
radials at major planned hubs with logical names
like Ostkreuz and Westkreuz. With our home-grown
In transport planning, mistakes get set in steel and version, no such luck: it passes major radials – the
stone, taking an eternity to rectify. As mentioned at District and Piccadilly at Earls Court, the Great
the end of last month’s column, even the legendary Western at Old Oak, the Northern at Camden Town,
heroes of the first railway age left behind their the Southeastern at Bermondsey, the Southern at
stigmata: in Brunel’s case, not merely the broad Brixton – with magnificent indifference.
gauge but a London terminus far out in the West This failure to plan proper interchange hubs, a
London fields. And – a less-known but equally legacy of cut-throat competition by Victorian railway
momentous tale – when Sir Herbert Walker took entrepreneurs, will vitiate much of the value of the
command of the new Southern Railway in 1923 he line. A key aim of an integrated London planning
resolved to electrify it on the cheap-and-cheerful process should be to resolve it through investment
principle, with direct current from a third rail: fine in at these points, not only improving the lot of the
the flattish suburbs of South London, particularly in travelling public, but also triggering new
the mild winters of the 1920s and 1930s, but a regeneration opportunities around them. Boris
nightmare whenever blizzards strike the exposed Johnson’s new London Plan began tentatively to
high chalk downs that ring the capital, as they did address this. But it does not go nearly far enough to
this last month. fill the gaps.
If we want to avoid leaving similar legacies to Beyond that, there is a need to build on the
future generations, there should be two basic revolution that Orbirail represents, and develop a new
principles. First, try to clean up some of their errors. range of orbital services that will begin to rectify
And second, try to ensure that we don’t commit one of the most glaring gaps in the capital’s radially-
new ones of our own. biased rail net. Operators are already talking of a
Despite mistakes like Walker’s, those heroic parallel outer Orbirail service, close to the first, from
figures of the past left London with one of the Clapham Junction to New Cross Gate via Balham.
world’s finest public transport systems. It now But more radically, the Croydon Tramlink already
promises to get even better, with the remarkable provides the nucleus of an outer southern Orbirail,
decision of the Coalition Government to complete in which could be extended eastward to Bromley and
full two of the biggest urban transport investments linked westward to an extension of the overground
in any city anywhere: Thameslink and Crossrail, from Wimbledon via Kingston to Richmond.
which together will superimpose on the familiar Far fewer such opportunities present themselves on
map of underground and commuter lines a new the north side of the river, which – product of a
long-distance regional metro system, stretching out different history of railway development – offers a far
up to 50 miles from London and connecting at thinner network. There, the key is surely to develop
Farringdon in the heart of the city. And, long before express BRT, bus rapid transit – a technology that in
these are completed shortly before the end of this the last decade has swept major cities in Australia and
coming decade – in fact within the next 18 months, Latin America – as a highly effective substitute along
just in time for the Olympics – we will have another the North Circular Road, interchanging with radial rail
key element: Orbirail, a continuous outer circle line lines at key locations like Hanger Lane, Stonebridge
through London’s middle suburbs, shown in the Park, Neasden, Brent Cross, and Wood Green.
diagram overleaf. Could anything be better? Improving London’s orbital transport offer, and
Well, yes. The first issue is that Orbirail, totally above all linking it to the radials via new
forged from pieces of London’s Victorian railway interchanges – think hub, think superhub – should

Town & Country Planning December 2010 517


planning world

be one major priority in a medium-term transport approved electrification as far out as Oxford and
strategy for the capital. The other, oddly, must be to Newbury, there is no reason why these too should
handle an astonishing failure in Crossrail as at not become outer Crossrail termini. But even that
present conceived. And the good news is that this will not be enough.
can be remedied – thanks to the wise decisions of The key is the second western branch, to
the last government, after a battle, to reserve the Heathrow. As now conceived, absurdly, it will simply
right of way for the line to be extended, eventually, replace the present stopping Heathrow Connect
east from Abbey Wood to Gravesend and west from service to Heathrow Central, not even serving BA’s
Maidenhead to Reading. Thus Crossrail can Terminal 5. And, equally absurd, there is Airtrack, a
eventually become the east-west equivalent of quite-separate proposal for an outer link from
Thameslink: a true regional railway, penetrating out Heathrow out towards Woking and to Reading via
into the Home Counties. Bracknell. Currently this proposal is running into
But even more is needed: not in the east, where massive local opposition around Staines, because it
the extended line will at last constitute the long- will inject extra trains on to a series of congested
planned Thames Gateway Metro (although here it level crossings. And, seen as a separate proposal on
badly needs a 400 metre link between Northfleet its own, it does not make sense. But it could be
and Ebbsfleet to create a major interchange with transformed in a way that would solve everyone’s
High Speed One), but in the west. problem at once.
This is because Crossrail suffers from a basic The key was outlined in last month’s column on
problem of geography: it links lines east of the High Speed Two: it is consultant Jim Steer’s
capital – out towards Essex and Kent, where proposal for a short new connecting line from the
historically a dense service of 12-car trains brought new high-speed line, north of Heathrow, via a new
huge commuter flows into the City of London – airport station (preferably located next to Terminal 5),
with the Great Western, which, lacking such traffic, on to join the main Portsmouth and Bournemouth
is symbolised by absurdly puny three-car units. The lines at Woking.1 Viewed from the high-speed angle
result will be that when Crossrail opens, half the alone, this short link would instantly generate what
trains will turn back at Paddington. Extension to I called High Speed 2.5: a new range of services
Reading will help – and, now the Coalition has from England’s South Coast to Heathrow, and then

Brent Romford
Cross North Circular
North Circular Wood busway
Harrow busway Green
Ilford

Orbirail NLL Stratford

Ealing
CENTRAL DLR
LONDON Stratford-
Hounslow Woolwich

NLL
Richmond

Orbirail
Grove Park
Croydon Tramlink - Woolwich
NLL extension: busway
Richmond - extension:
Wimbledon Wimbledon Beckenham Junction
- Grove Park
Bromley
Kingston Croydon Tramlink
Left
Sutton
Croydon London Orbirail
NLL: North London
Line

518 Town & Country Planning December 2010


planning world

Left

Jim Steer’s
proposed
Heathrow
interconnection
network
Source: The
Heathrow
Opportunity. High
Speed Rail in
Britain 1

on to the Midlands and North, and also – via a Swedes have done something similar with their
connection on to High Speed One – to Paris, Mälarbana north and west of Stockholm. Together
Brussels and beyond. with Thameslink running from Bedford and
That alone should justify its construction. But the Cambridge out to Brighton and Eastbourne, it
miraculous fact is that High Speed 2.5 would also would truly become the railway network for the
provide for a new range of Crossrail services from polycentric metropolis of 19 million people, which
Heathrow out to the west and south west, thus London and the South East have now become. It
helping to generate the massive west-of-London would be the lineal successor, a century later, to the
revenues that would balance Crossrail services and vision of Lord Ashfield and Frank Pick and Herbert
increase its long-term viability. Walker (yes, he) as they forged London’s transport
The further key to this is a new level of service, network – and a worthy successor too. And this
which we could call Crossrail Express. Heathrow time we could even get it all right – except that,
Express would become part of Crossrail, running beyond Woking, Crossrail Express too would fall
non-stop as now from Paddington to Heathrow, and prey to Walker’s ancient third-rail curse.
on to Woking, Guildford and Basingstoke. Fast
Crossrail services would also operate to Reading ● Sir Peter Hall is Professor of Planning and Regeneration at
and thence to Oxford and Newbury. In the longer the Bartlett School of Planning, University College London, and
run they might even run, via a new link at Old Oak, President of the TCPA. The views expressed here are personal.
up the West Coast Main Line to Milton Keynes and
Northampton. Note
This would be a regional metro on a scale never 1 The Heathrow Opportunity. High Speed Rail in Britain.
before seen anywhere, although the far-seeing Greengauge 21, Feb. 2010

Town & Country Planning December 2010 519


off the fence
David Lock (with apologies) finds a book that makes you laugh out loud – and is based on
the justified belief that planners still have vocational commitment and enthusiasm within them

planning in crisis in grotton


(again)
their ashes in a filing cabinet (or something along
those lines), the Iron Maiden was shocked to see
deprived people setting fire to their own
neighbourhoods as they experimented with the new
localism. No doubt impressed by the Grotton
report’s ‘keep calm and carry on’ could-do (if asked
properly) attitude, the Tories re-invented planning
This report is to confirm there was value for money with bells on. A tsunami of Urban Development
in attendance at the tenth Planning in Crisis Corporations, a wash of promises to protect the
conference held at Grotton in September.1 The first Green Belt, swags of public money for management
was held at Grotton in 1350, after the Black Death consultants, and tax breaks in Enterprise Zones for
had destroyed the evidence base for the Household fat cats were unleashed on a knackered nation. For
Forecasts and the Deposit Draft Corre Strattegie had several years very poor people were moved around
to be withdrawn before examination on the rack. from tower block to condominium, some even to
The 1539 conference had been picketed by monks nice family houses with gardens, before being
made homeless by the Dissolution of the moved back to new tower blocks that had been built
Monasteries. The 1667 event featured a display of because Richard Rogers and the CPRE said it was
fire safety in the home sponsored by a London the best way to live unless you were them.
bakery but, of more direct relevance to planners, Those attending the 2010 conference enjoyed the
also saw Frank Lloyd Wren unveil his plan for the coincidence of circumstance. Maybe the Coalition
rebuilding of London around a Gherkin (a plan which Government would similarly become an enthusiast
took 400 years to complete and duly won the RTPI for management consultants, fat cats, and planning?
Award for implementation). The need for change was evident because RTPI
Other conferences were convened at landmark Planning Awards increasingly had to be given for
moments for the nation, culminating in 1979, when things in which planners had a marginal role at most
the motivation was crisis in Grotton itself. (a feature obscured by very loud music at the
Information was given2 that the Metropolitan awards ceremony). There had also been speeches
County of Grotton’s planners ‘had no idea what they to local people about sticking their bottoms up, to
were doing. Yes they were making plans, deciding developers urging the bribing of objectors to stay
applications, reclaiming derelict land, mapping out a silent, and to elected politicians to embrace new
brighter future for the county and so forth – but power and responsibility with Jam for Six Years
why? Who were the stakeholders? Where was the Starting Tomorrow to pay for it.
front-loading? Where, in short, was the empirical Delegates learned of the County of Grotton and
architecture…?’ the five districts of which it is comprised of, where
The main conclusions from that international not much had happened since their heyday (which
conference of 1979 were illuminating: was in 1898, the day before the first copies of
● Temporary permission should on no account be Ebenezer Howard’s To-morrow arrived at the
given for demolitions. Dunromin branch of WH Smiths and workers
● If intending to travel to a conference by train, walked out of the factories to start building a garden
always check that the destination is connected to city somewhere – anywhere really).
the rail network. The conference heard that customer-oriented
● Bletherly is twinned with the Dordogne town of front-line services must be monitored to avoid the
L’Oreal – and they’re not worth it. problem in Golden Delicious District, where callers
hear a recorded message saying ‘all our operatives
The effects of the 1979 conference report3 upon are engaged on other calls’. After workshop
the Thatcher Government, elected that very year, discussions, it was agreed that a friendlier blocking
were to be profound. Having asked Michael message would be needed, as insisting that
Heseltine to make a bonfire of planners and lock everyone must use e-mail and only answer the

520 Town & Country Planning December 2010


off the fence

questions put to them had not yet deterred bureaucracy and hostility that is sometimes
telephone callers. deployed against us. Something drives us to pay
It was demonstrated that the Government Office exorbitant membership fees to the RTPI when TCPA
did not know much about the development plan fees are only £48 and equally tax-allowable.
system, having had to send its planners to help But the humanity exhibited in this book is a
Mr Pickles in London because people there had humanity that we should hold tightly – we seek to
stopped talking to him. improve the conditions of mankind and the planet
It is disappointing to report that HRH Prince of we occupy. We are engaged in a wholesome
Wales felt unable to attend and speak on the endeavour, and in Grotton we have a mirror at which
subject of criticising things by Lord Rogers behind we can laugh loudly. An excellent present for a
the scenes. This was perhaps because his worried planner! Steve Ankers, David Kaiserman
Foundation had commercial consultancy and Chris Shepley should be Listed, or Scheduled,
assignments to complete, and a bid to consider for or both.
CABE’s £6 million budget (‘anything they can do we
could do, err, cheaper’). ● David Lock CBE came out as planner in 1970 and has been
The conference, and its fully illustrated and practising ever since. He hopes to be allowed to do it for real
in time to catch the next re-organisation of planning. He has
tiresomely documented report ,4 leaves us all better the 1979 Grotton Roadshow song ‘Stand by Your Plan’ on his
prepared for the onslaught of change we are now iPod. Really he does. ‘Sometimes its hard to be a planner,
experiencing. We are not surprised – the outcome dumty dumty dum...’
of the election had swung on Open Source
Planning, which had shown us the abyss that Notes
awaited – but the rudeness of the criticism from 1 It will be recalled that the typical local planning
Secretary of State Eric Pickles has been a bit of a authority budget for conferences this year is £437 plus
the tops off six family packs of Shreddies. The sum is
shock. We are also beginning to appreciate that his small because staff attending conferences now have to
illegal manoeuvres in trying to abolish regional take out a loan to be repaid once their salaries exceed
planning without an impact assessment prepared by £20,000 per annum, as well as through a ‘CPD tax’ that
a consultant were because he has few planners will appear as ‘Payroll Giving’ on salary slips
around him to tell him where the levers and buttons 2 D. Sulkie: Spatial Dispersion of Interconnection Clusters
of planning are really to be found. If there are any. within a Fuzzy Environment: A Case Study from
Grimethwaite. 1981, 1988 and 1992. ‘Unpublished and
unreadable to be honest’
3 S. Ankers, D. Kaiserman and C. Shepley: The Grotton
‘The humanity exhibited in Papers. RTPI, 1979, out of print and slightly foxed
4 Steve Ankers, David Kaiserman
this book is a humanity that and Chris Shepley: Grotton
we should hold tightly – we Revisited... Planning in Crisis?
Routledge, for the RTPI, 2010.
seek to improve the ISBN 978-0-415-54647-8, £19.99

conditions of mankind and


the planet we occupy. We are
engaged in a wholesome
endeavour, and in Grotton
we have a mirror at which
we can laugh loudly’

This book of fictional places, fictional planners,


and a fictional series of conferences will make you
laugh out loud. It rests upon the justified belief that
all planners still have, deep within them, a
vocational commitment to, and burning enthusiasm
for, planning. Something drove us to study planning.
Something drives us to cope with the bigotry,

Town & Country Planning December 2010 521


writeback
Readers’ letters are welcome. Send to: The Editor, Town & Country Planning, TCPA,
17 Carlton House Terrace, London SW1Y 5AS. By e-mail to Nick.Matthews@tcpa.org.uk

writeback
High-speed rail reduce the need for flying. This is only valid for air
travel using current models of aircraft. I foresee that
air travel in the medium term will be by quiet, fuel-
Sir Peter Hall has caused me to jump once again efficient STOL aircraft that will not need huge
into the saddle of my favourite hobby horse (‘Thinkairports. Airships would be ideal, but they are
hub; think superhub’, Town & Country Planning, usually ruled out, for historical reasons.
November 2010). However, having said all this, I am delighted that
Planning should be principally concerned with Watkin’s Great Central could be revived. Its closure
movement – of people and goods – and not the by Beeching only serves to show the limitations of
ways by which that movement can be facilitated, his terms of reference. At least new railways should
i.e. transport. In a small, crowded island like ours,
not need the building of any more monumental
movement puts pressure on the environment and earthworks like Tring Cutting. Modern trains can
uses up precious space. Planning should aim to tackle steeper slopes than the Victorian steam
reduce the need for movement. locomotives.
Roads are probably the most profligate in the use
of space, especially if they are designed to take Dr Anthony J Cooper
high-speed traffic. Railways, in the broadest sense Thriplow, Cambs
of that term, come a close second, given that they
cannot provide a door-to-door service and have to
be served by generous car parking and feeder
services.
Improvements to transport links only encourage
more movement. Even road-builders now reluctantly
admit that new roads ‘generate’ traffic. This also
applies to the railways, once thought of as relics of
a Victorian past and now working beyond capacity.
High-speed railways linked to the existing system
will soon be working to capacity and will serve to
increase urban sprawl, leading, of course, to
demands for yet more ‘improvements’. The British
motorway system was provided with too many
interchanges, and there is a case for limiting access
to a high-speed rail network so that it is only used by
those passengers who would otherwise go by air.
I fundamentally disagree with Sir Peter. John
Ruskin was absolutely spot on when he waxed
furious at the building of a railway between
Bakewell and Buxton through his beloved Monsal
Dale which in his view only served to enable ‘every
fool in Buxton [to] be in Bakewell in half an hour,
and every fool in Bakewell at Buxton; which you
think a lucrative process of exchange…’. The
question needs to be put, again and again, ‘Is your
journey really necessary?’
And should we spend billions of pounds so that
passengers between Birmingham and Euston can
arrive 35 minutes earlier, when they will probably
spend those minutes in traffic jams getting to and
from the stations at each end?
It is argued that high-speed rail links across
Europe, connected to similar links in the UK, will

522 Town & Country Planning December 2010


participation in
planning
Addressing the TCPA’s Annual Conference at the end of
November, Decentralisation Minister The Rt Hon. Greg Clark
explained how and why the Government aims to put local
communities in control of their own destiny through the
planning system
Planning isn’t a job – it’s a vocation. All of us hope commitment in principle, but real opportunities for
we leave a legacy in our professional life. Planners people to have a say. And away from a system that
certainly do leave a legacy. They shape the workplaces seeks to resolve the different needs of different
where we spend thousands of hours each year; the groups at a local level by imposing choices from
homes we go to each evening, and the schools above, towards one which enables a mature debate
where our children learn. At its best, their work is at local level.
much more than functional. It inspires and elates.
So my starting point as planning Minister is that
planners have an awesomely important job to do. ‘The TCPA’s great strength is
I take very seriously my responsibility of enabling
them to do that job to the very highest standards. that it brings together all the
But I agree with the TCPA that at present the different interests in planning –
planning system is not doing its job ‘as well as it
should’. community groups, developers,
The current framework is bureaucratic. Last year, businesses and more. It
local authorities spent 13% more in real terms on
planning than they did five years ago – despite a
represents, at a national scale,
32% drop in the number of applications received. the kind of coming together that
It is too centralised: regional spatial strategies we want to help happen in local
imposed housing targets which made people feel
put upon. discussions about planning’

‘Planners have an awesomely I’m delighted to have the chance to talk about
these issues at the TCPA – for two reasons. One, its
important job to do’ manifesto recognises in its very first clause the
need for a planning system ‘based on widespread
And it is ineffective. The levels of housebuilding community engagement’. The TCPA has been a
last year were the lowest in peacetime since 1924. consistent champion of that principle, and a
Evidence suggests that commercial development is powerhouse of expertise on how it’s done in
suffering, and businesses say that the planning practice. Two, the TCPA’s great strength is that it
system is a barrier to growth. brings together all the different interests in planning
This Government has ambitious proposals to – community groups, developers, businesses and
make the system fit to meet the challenges of the more. It represents, at a national scale, the kind of
21st century. Above all, we want to change the coming together that we want to help happen in
philosophy behind local planning. We want to move local discussions about planning.
away from a system with significant elements of The Big Society means putting real power in the
imposition from above, to one with participation and hands of local people. It is based on the idea that in
involvement at its heart – not just warm words, or a very many areas of life people can make the best

Town & Country Planning December 2010 523


decisions about what’s best for themselves, for supportive, because they could see what was in for
their family, for the place where they live. I think them. The shop is still going strong.
that people should be able to make real choices Or take what’s happening with Burgess Hill Town
about planning – much as they should be able to Council in Sussex – who have begun a conversation
make choices in relation to healthcare or education with local people about the possibility of new
– as a matter of principle. housing – making the case that the extra
But evidence also suggests that restoring power investment that it would make possible could help
to a very local level may have the practical effect ofpay for road improvements, a sports centre, new
helping people feel positive about development. civic amenities, upgrades to the local station, or a
Imposition alienates. As any parent can tell you, new business park.
telling someone to do something – even when Our proposals are designed to enable this kind of
you’re absolutely convinced that it’s in their best mature debate about local planning everywhere.
interests – doesn’t always work. Because the problem is, although participation has
IPSOS Mori research from this summer says too been recognised as an essential element of good
many people feel locked out and ‘done to’ by the planning since the Skeffington Report in 1969, and
planning system. A typical comment from the although there are some examples of developers
research said: ‘I feel powerless – what can we do?’ and planners getting it very right indeed, there are
It’s simpler to say ‘no’ than to engage with a too many instances of participation being an
system that doesn’t seem to listen to you. The unimaginative add-on to the planning process.
reaction to the old regional spatial strategies We want to embed participation in the way the
seemed to bear this out. The South West regional system works. Instead of having decision-makers
strategy alone attracted 35,000 written objections. consult local communities, we want to enable local
Conversely, proper discussion with local people people to make more decisions themselves. We
encourages a sense of ownership about want to hand over power and responsibility so that
development. Experience suggests that developers local communities have real choices, and experience
of major projects have a better chance of securing the real consequences of those choices.
consent if they carry out consultation with local The Localism Bill contains several measures to
communities before they make a planning achieve this. The Government has begun consulting
application. And the TCPA’s own guide to on proposals for a New Homes Bonus. We would
community planning obligations gives a wealth of match the additional Council Tax raised over the
evidence about how involvement lets people see following six years for new homes and properties
the benefits of development, and helps them be brought back into use. It is proposed that there will
prepared to say ‘yes’. be an additional amount for affordable homes.
I recently made clear that we intend to introduce
changes to the Community Infrastructure Levy –
‘Instead of having decision- making sure that the benefits of growth are felt at a
makers consult local very local level indeed. We plan to require in law
that local authorities set aside a meaningful
communities, we want to proportion of revenue raised to be spent on
enable local people to make infrastructure as neighbourhoods see fit.
And we will introduce neighbourhood planning
more decisions themselves. alongside existing plans – placing an unprecedented
We want to hand over power level of influence and power at a very local level.
The principle is simple. Local people come
and responsibility so that together and agree, ‘this is what we want our area
local communities have real to look like. Here is where we want the new homes
choices, and experience the to go and how we want them designed; here is
where we want new shops and offices; here are
real consequences of those the green spaces we want to protect.’
choices’ Where people are most keen to take control and
have certainty over development, they will be able
to confer full planning permission, so that where the
Take the story of Ascott-under-Wychwood in local community is crying out for new homes,
Oxfordshire. The local shop closed in 1998. When, in developers can get on with building them. In other
2002, local people found out about plans to convert areas, people will be able to grant outline planning
a farm, they saw their chance to get a village shop permission – with conditions on, say, the design
back again. In exchange for the developer gifting a details.
shop to the community, they said they would put up When the neighbourhood plan has been prepared,
no objection to the developer’s plans. They were people will vote on them in a local referendum. With

524 Town & Country Planning December 2010


a simple majority, the plan will come into force. This little genuine planning, thinking about the long-term
is a rethinking of how planning operates – creating needs of an area, talking to local people, and
new pressures and powers that operate from the drawing up positive proposals for the future.
bottom up, rather than the top down. It offers a Planners have become a lightning rod for people’s
scope for self-determination unheard of until now. sense of frustration. Instead of being the agents of
Localism in planning will create the freedom and the imposition, they should have much more scope to
incentives for those places that want to grow to do help local people articulate their vision for their town
so, and to reap the benefits. It’s a reason to say or village or neighbourhood. As Ann Skippers, the
‘yes’. RTPI President for 2010, said earlier this year: ‘We
I look forward to discussing these proposals in should be proud to say [...] when we are asked, that
more detail with many of you when the Localism we are planners. Say it well and say it loudly and
Bill is published and begins to make its way through say it again if you need to.’
Parliament.
Opening up planning will require non-legislative
changes too. I’d be first to argue that planning
demands special skills, but I don’t think the best
‘People care deeply about
way to enable planners to do their job is to set the look and feel of the
endless prescription and guidance. The current sum
of circulars, policy statements and so forth is bigger
places where they live.
than the Complete Works of Shakespeare, and not Planning can in fact be the
nearly as entertaining. Guidance on this scale flirts gateway that gets people
with the absurd: there’s no way a practitioner can
keep it all in mind. Let alone the poor non-expert. involved in civic life’
This is a harmful side-effect: opacity is a barrier to
community involvement.
It’s time for a radical review to simplify and Neighbourhood planning – which will see planners
streamline policy and guidance, to make it easier for working with and for the community – should help
community groups to understand and engage with achieve what Anne and I both want to see –
it, and to give proper scope for planners to use their planners being properly valued and respected for
professional discretion. what they do.
There are three common arguments made
against greater community involvement in planning.
‘In one sense, planners have The first argument is about willingness. It says:
been the first victims of the do people really want to get involved in local
planning issues? Aren’t they busy enough with their
flaws of the current planning jobs and family lives?
system. Often, their job has In fact, people care deeply about the look and feel
of the places where they live. Planning can in fact
involved much too much be the gateway that gets people involved in civic
development control – saying life. They might start by signing a petition to protect
yes and no to individual a local tree – they might end up volunteering on a
regular basis, standing as a school governor, or
projects on a case-by-case becoming a councillor.
basis – and too little genuine The second argument is about capacity. It says:
even if they are interested, have people got the
planning, thinking about the capacity to articulate what they want – and make a
long-term needs of an area, meaningful contribution to debate?
There are two points to make in response to that.
talking to local people, and There’s an inherent difference in expectations
drawing up positive proposals between centralists and localists. Centralists are a
for the future’ glum lot. Their outlook is predicated on the idea
that, left to themselves, people can’t make
decisions in their own best interests. Localists, by
Our proposals imply changes to the role of town contrast, are optimistic about people’s good sense,
planners. In one sense, planners have been the first generosity, and ability to make sound decisions. In
victims of the flaws of the current planning system. planning – as in other areas of life – we start from
Often, their job has involved much too much the basis that people are inherently capable.
development control – saying yes and no to But planning also of course requires the
individual projects on a case-by-case basis – and too application of specialist skills. We recognise that in

Town & Country Planning December 2010 525


some circumstances people will need some encouragement to do what they do best: to create
support to make the most of the opportunity to get amazing, inspirational places.
involved. That’s why, if a very local area wants to Above all they will give communities a far greater
draw up its neighbourhood plan, we will require the sense of ownership over decisions that make a big
local authority to provide support. We will also fund difference to their quality of life. They will allow for
independent advice, so that local communities and the exercise of genuine power at a local level; and
neighbourhood groups who are new to the topic put the ideals of the Big Society at the very heart of
can learn from what has worked well in other areas. planning.
The third argument against local planning is about I look forward to working with you all to make
equality. It says: are you, in effect, empowering sure these reforms deliver the change we all want
those who are already powerful – giving the well- to see.
organised an opportunity to channel unwanted
development towards the places where the less ● The Rt Hon. Greg Clark MP is Minister for Decentralisation
well-organised live? at the Department for Communities and Local Government.
This article is based on the text of his speech to the TCPA’s
There are several points to make in response Annual Conference, ‘Plan and Deliver?’, held at One Whitehall
here. One is that the provision of advice and Place, London, on 30 November 2010.
support should enable those who want to, to draw
up their neighbourhood plan, no matter where they
live. Another is that there will be some safeguards
in the system. Neighbourhood plans will need to be
consistent with wider local plans. If the wider area
needs lots of new houses, the neighbourhood plan
will not be a means to refuse development
altogether. An independent assessment will make
sure that neighbourhood and local plans are
consistent.

‘There will be some safeguards


in the system. Neighbourhood
plans will need to be
consistent with wider local
plans. If the wider area needs
lots of new houses, the
neighbourhood plan will not
be a means to refuse
development altogether. An
independent assessment will
make sure that neighbourhood
and local plans are consistent’

But there’s a much bigger point. This concern is


based on the assumption that people come to the
table thinking ‘development is bad’. In fact, if local
people have a chance to voice an opinion, and to
see and feel the benefits of development, they have
reasons to say ‘yes’.
There is significant change ahead for planning.
Taken as a whole, our reforms will help to get
England out of the housebuilding trough, make
businesses see planning as a reason to invest, not a
disadvantage, and give planners opportunity and

526 Town & Country Planning December 2010


national
infrastructure -- a
plan for sustainable
development?
While the publication of a National Infrastructure Plan is
welcome, in its current form it suffers from a silo mentality,
lacks spatial detail, and is unclear on how it will deliver
sustainable development, says Tony Baden
The National Infrastructure Plan 2010,1 launched in Each type of infrastructure is the subject of a
October, is a first step towards the holistic planning separate section and not linked by any common
of national infrastructure requirements in energy, objectives, except at a very general level, or by a
transport, digital communications, flood protection, shared strategy. Despite its claim to be a new co-
water and waste management, and intellectual ordinating national plan for infrastructure, each type
capital. As such it is long overdue and is to be of infrastructure remains largely stuck in its own silo.
welcomed. Also to be welcomed is the new
machinery, the Economic Affairs Committee of the
Cabinet, supported by Infrastructure UK,2 to co- ‘There is no attempt at a
ordinate infrastructure planning and prioritisation common narrative showing
across central government. However, the plan is
unclear on how it will deliver sustainable how each stream of
development, suffers from a silo mentality, and infrastructure investment will
lacks spatial detail. Nor does it explain its
relationship to the National Policy Statements for
contribute to a cross-sectoral
infrastructure and other levels of infrastructure programme for responding to
planning. climate change’
The new plan claims that capital allocations were
made ‘against the background of a coherent, long-
term plan for overall (private and public) investment A critical example of this silo approach is how the
in the UK’s infrastructure’ (para. 2.5). However, it is plan handles climate change. There is welcome
not an integrated plan showing the benefits of recognition that if we are to meet our greenhouse
optimising synergies between different types of gas emission targets fundamental changes are
infrastructure investment. The plan does not needed in the way in which infrastructure is
demonstrate how sustainable development will be planned, co-ordinated and delivered. However, the
delivered by the particular pattern of new plan does not elaborate on this. The different
investment proposed, as opposed to any of the infrastructure sections read as if based on drafts by
available options. There is no sustainability parent departments prepared in isolation from one
assessment of the plan or of any alternatives another, with varying degrees of appreciation of the
considered. challenges presented by climate change. There is no

Town & Country Planning December 2010 527


attempt at a common narrative showing how each projects, including on whether plan updates are to
stream of infrastructure investment will contribute feed through to reviews of those statements. Nor is
to a cross-sectoral programme for responding to there any discussion of the relationship with other
climate change. Hopefully, this may change in the levels of infrastructure planning, despite some of
light of findings from the Adapting to Climate the plan’s proposals having implications for those
Change Programme's Infrastructure and Adaptation levels. For example, the plan's proposal to establish
project, due to be published in spring 2011. a network of Technology and Innovation Centres
The planning system is seen solely as a could have major implications for the local planning
regulatory process, and spatial planning is not of economic development and regeneration and
mentioned as something which could help inform associated local infrastructure. If these centres are
future infrastructure planning. No reference is made in areas covered by Local Enterprise Partnerships
to the Department for Communities and Local then no doubt they will feature in any strategic
Government’s forthcoming new national planning planning frameworks produced by these bodies in
framework; and this suggests that it may be no more partnership with constituent local authorities. The
than a cull of existing policy and guidance, rather Local Growth White Paper refers to these
than also providing a spatial framework that could frameworks as addressing economic development
inform national infrastructure planning. A common and infrastructure issues.
set of assumptions for economic and population Where there are no so such frameworks,
growth and on the impacts of climate change is to presumably the Government will encourage
be developed in support of an updated version of strategic infrastructure planning by the counties and
the infrastructure plan to be published by the end of unitary authorities, as proposed in the Conservative
2011. It will be interesting to see whether these also manifesto. However, it is unclear whether the
underpin the new national planning framework. resulting infrastructure plans will have statutory
force and whether local development plans and
neighbourhood plans will be required to be
‘The lack of a national spatial consistent with them. The Local Growth White
planning strategy to inform Paper refers to local development plans as providing
the key strategic framework for infrastructure. More
infrastructure planning is clarity on the relationship between these various
very evident in the plan. This levels of infrastructure planning may be provided by
is in marked contrast to the the new Decentralisation and Localism Bill, which is
likely to be published before this article appears in
Scottish Government’s ability print.
to demonstrate in NPF2 how To end on a positive note, the plan refers to some
important cross-sectoral developments in the
infrastructure investment is relationship of the regulatory systems (through
supportive of a spatial Ofwat etc.) to investment. These include the
Department for Business, Innovation and Skills
strategy’ working with Infrastructure UK to publish a common
set of principles for economic regulation. The
The lack of a national spatial planning strategy to Government is to report, by the summer of 2011, on
inform infrastructure planning is very evident in the whether further cross-sectoral action is required.
plan. This is in marked contrast to the Scottish The challenge will be whether a cross-sectoral
Government’s ability to demonstrate in the National approach is reflected in future national infrastructure
Planning Framework for Scotland 2 (NPF2) how planning, linked to the delivery of sustainable
infrastructure investment is supportive of a spatial development, and with the necessary spatial detail.
strategy. NPF2 shows how investment in new or
● Tony Baden was formerly at the Department for
improved infrastructure reflects economic
Communities and Local Government. He was responsible for
development priorities and the need to support the drafting of both PPG11 and PPS11, and was closely
sustainable growth. By contrast, Fig. 4.A of the involved in the associated legislation in the 2004 Act. The
National Infrastructure Plan merely shows regional views expressed here are personal.
examples of capital projects.
There are no monitoring targets to check on Notes
whether the plan delivers the intended objectives. 1 National Infrastructure Plan 2010. HM Treasury, Oct.
2010. www.hm-treasury.gov.uk/ppp_national_
Instead, the delivery section of the plan focuses on
infrastructure_plan.htm
process targets such as the timetable for plan
2 Infrastructure UK (IUK) is a division of HM Treasury. An
updates. Advisory Council, chaired by Paul Skinner (former Chair
The plan is silent on its relationship with the of Rio Tinto), has been established to provide guidance
National Policy Statements for major infrastructure on the strategic direction and work priorities of IUK

528 Town & Country Planning December 2010


dissecting the first
stab at a national
infrastructure plan
Tim Marshall looks at the positioning, tone and content of the
National Infrastructure Plan, and at possible next steps in a
work in progress
The pieces of the jigsaw have been falling into place what it tells us about the current drive of the UK
over the autumn. Some are definitive, like the state in comparison with the work of other states in
Spending Review and the Decentralisation and this field.
Localism Bill; others have a more preparatory or
first-stab character, like the Local Growth White Positioning
Paper and the National Infrastructure Plan. This Infrastructure UK is a body set up under New
article focuses on this last plan; but with this Labour, announced in the December 2009 Pre-
Government it is crucial to see the way that each Budget Report. It is very much a continuation of the
part relates to the other, and also to spot the gaps work of the public-private partnerships element of
which are developing. Treasury policy development. Partnerships UK was
The National Infrastructure Plan1 was published by set up in 2000, as a public-private partnership (PPP)
the Treasury on 25 October. This was five days after in itself, designed to improve the way that
the Spending Review, also emerging from the government and the private sector worked together
Treasury, and three days before the publication of on large projects. This was joined by an emerging
the Local Growth White Paper, which was the prime consensus in the Brown Government that a more
responsibility of the Department for Business, strategic view of national infrastructure matters was
Innovation and Skills. It stems in large measure needed, related to the drive of the Barker and
from the work of Infrastructure UK, a Treasury Eddington Reports.
division. This is signalled by the last paragraph of the This had been lobbied for by several influential
introduction to the National Infrastructure Plan bodies – the Confederation of British Industry since
document by Lord Sassoon, Commercial Secretary the 1990s, the Institution of Civil Engineers with its
to the Treasury: State of the Nation reports each year throughout
‘This is an ambitious plan. To make it happen, the the 2000s,2 and the Council for Science and
Economic Affairs Committee of the Cabinet, Technology, a government advisory body, in its 2009
chaired by the Chancellor of the Exchequer and report A National Infrastructure for the 21st
supported by Infrastructure UK, will take a new Century.3 The latter was particularly concerned
role coordinating infrastructure planning, about resilience and interrelations between
prioritisation and policy development across infrastructure industries, following the 2007 floods,
Government. This work will only be driven through when major power collapses due to flooding were
with sustained commitment right across only just avoided.
Government – which it has and will continue to There was thus a forceful blend of pressures
have.’ (p. 4) acting on government, and this must be one factor
explaining the confirmation of the role of
What are planners to make of this plan? There are Infrastructure UK by the new Chancellor of the
several levels on which to answer this – I look here Exchequer in the June 2010 Budget. But the core
at its positioning, tone, content, and carrying philosophy is that ‘economic infrastructure’ (as
forward, before finishing with some reflections on against ‘social infrastructure’ – the welfare state’s

Town & Country Planning December 2010 529


schools and hospitals) is the key to economic So there are strong continuities, with a powerful
growth – this is the basis of present-day Chancellor no doubt ready to use the leverage of
‘infrastructuralism’. Infrastructure UK to assert his sway over the key
Infrastructure UK’s Chief Executive was previously investing departments for this field – George
head of Partnerships UK. It has an Advisory Council Osborne takes up Gordon Brown’s decade-long role
led by the Chairman of Rio Tinto and made up of as domestic economy leader?
seven private sector representatives (including
representatives from Carillion, E3G, 3i Investments, Tone
Arup Group and National Grid – thus a mix of PPP The National Infrastructure Plan is – perhaps
companies and infrastructure businesses, with the surprisingly – a plan. It is full of planning-type
balance to the first) and the Permanent Secretaries words. In the first paragraph is the following:
of six government Departments (the Treasury, the ‘Government’s key role is to specify what
Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs infrastructure is needed, to identify the key
(Defra), the Department for Transport (DfT), the barriers to achieving that investment and to
Department of Energy and Climate Change (DECC), mobilise the resources, both public and private, to
Department for Communities and Local make it happen.’ (p. 5)
Government (DCLG), and the Department for A significant four-page accompanying note
Business, Innovation and Skills). The Council meets published on 3 November is headed ‘Infrastructure
quarterly. Its role is described as follows: planning and prioritisation’4 – more familiar words
‘Infrastructure UK is focused on enabling of (Box 1 shows a part of this document). So has
greater private sector investment in infrastructure, planning left the DCLG and migrated to the Treasury
and the improvement of the Government’s long- and its cluster of infrastructure departments? Is this
term planning, prioritisation and delivery of linked in some degree to the 2008 Planning Act,
infrastructure.’ (National Infrastructure Plan 2010, which created the National Policy Statements (NPSs)
p. 47) system, forcing DECC, Defra and the DfT to think

Box 1
Four-stage approach to planning and prioritisation
‘1 The Government will agree a common set of long-term planning assumptions,
building on existing analysis, on the drivers of infrastructure demand in the future, including
expectations of future economic growth; the number of people using UK infrastructure; and
standard and legal obligations such as targets to reduce carbon emissions or for the quality
and reliability of services.
‘2 Infrastructure UK will work with Departments to translate these planning
assumptions into sectoral investment needs, taking account of cross-sectoral
interdependencies (such as the need for low carbon energy to support low carbon vehicles)
and the capacity of existing infrastructure to cope with additional demand or higher
standards. This will focus mainly on programmes, rather than specific projects and will cover
the action and investment needed across both the public and private sectors.
‘3 Infrastructure UK will aggregate investment needs across sectors, and analyse
them against a series of constraints including value for money for the UK as a whole
(including affordability to consumers and business), the availability and certainty of funding
from users or taxpayers, the level and type of financing that is required and its availability in
the market, the capacity of supply chains to design, build, maintain and operate the
infrastructure, environmental impacts such as the level of carbon emissions expected relative
to targets to reduce emissions, and the level of resilience that is required from infrastructure.
Infrastructure UK will also assist Departments in analysing similar constraints within sectors.
‘4 Infrastructure UK will work with Departments to advise relevant Ministers on the
action that is required where constraints are likely to be faced, such as more effective
management of demand to reduce the need for new infrastructure (for example through new
technology and innovations), deferring investment decisions to allow funding, financing and
supply chain conditions to improve before reassessing the decision to defer, and seeking
alternative funding sources (for example moving from public to private funding).’
Source: ‘Infrastructure planning and prioritisation’,4 note on the Treasury website, dated 3 Nov. 2010

530 Town & Country Planning December 2010


Table 1
Reviews and strategies announced in National Infrastructure Plan 2010

Title of policy document Lead department Date

National Broadband Strategy BIS December 2010


Consultation on the National Flood and Coastal Defra End 2010
Erosion Risk Management Strategy for
England
Electricity Market Reform DECC and HM End 2010
Treasury
Rail Value for Money Study DfT Spring 2011
Review of Ofwat Defra Spring 2011
Review of the Role of Ofgem DECC Summer 2011
Fourth Carbon Budget (2022-2027) DECC Summer 2011
Review of Waste Policy Defra Summer 2011
Water White Paper Defra Summer 2011
Waste Water National Policy Statement Defra Autumn 2011
Annual Energy Statement DECC Autumn 2011
Communications Market Report Ofcom 2011
National Climate Change Adaptation Defra 2012
Programme
Climate Change Risk Assessment Defra 2012
Source: Table 5.B, ‘Planned infrastructure policy documents’. National Infrastructure Plan 2010 1

about making long-term policy for each sector, within all growth tendencies and putting drastic demand
some sort of town and country planning framework? management at the core. There is no engagement
The answers must be a moderate yes – the New here with these key debates.
Labour approach to policy-making, which began to The plan is then modest in the description of work
take on a more analytical edge with the Barker and in progress on ‘enabling infrastructure development’,
Eddington Reports, seems to have carried through although this contains perhaps the most interesting
to this work, and brought with it a new
respectability for planning sorts of language.
However, this impression must be quickly modified. ‘It is as if this first document
The other root of the drive is in the public-private has had to be put together
partnership work, alongside the technologies beloved
of the Treasury – cost-benefit analysis, business from varying strands, very
plans, and prioritising by highest rates of return. This quickly... this is only an
drive also permeates the National Infrastructure Plan
document. It is as if this first document has had to
interim first try at a plan’
be put together from varying strands, very quickly.
The sort of approach which might have been sections. Here the plan considers a change in the
favoured by the engineers worried about resilience forms of economic regulation of the infrastructure
and long-term investment has been crossed with industries, discussing the merits of the regulatory
normal Treasury concerns about making these fields asset base model. This model, pressed by academics
safe for private sector investment. That means, as such as Helm, would shift the ground rules for big
the document and the 3 November addition make energy and water etc. companies, and change the
clear, that this is only an interim first try at a plan. way that Ofgem and other regulators work.
This, in my view, is the real core of needed state
Content reform, which will influence how far the state has
Equally, the content is a real mix. There is a grand the leverage to get the infrastructure companies to
confidence about the recital of the UK’s infrastructure invest in the right areas of low-carbon technology
needs and challenges. Some would say the challenge and maintenance/modification over the coming
is understated. The economist Dieter Helm decades – far more important than planning, used
suggested in 2009 a ballpark figure of £434 billion of as the whipping boy over the last decade.
investment needed just by 2020.5 Others would say Work is to continue in this area over the next year
that a completely new model is needed, challenging (see some of the reviews listed in Table 1), and we

Town & Country Planning December 2010 531


may just hope that the Government will be prepared agenda of the Local Growth White Paper published
to move to a more durable model, after the rickety three days later.
and often counterproductive one used in the two Of course, the main justification for infrastructure
decades since privatisation through mechanisms in general is as a necessary component of
like Ofgem and Ofwat. But it is far from clear that economic growth, but this is a blanket link,
the Government has grasped the seriousness of the supposed to be equally relevant over the whole UK.
multiple market failures identified by Helm and not There is no reference in the document to the
addressed by present arrangements. proposed National Planning Framework, which the
This is followed, interestingly, by a brief paragraph DCLG is due to consult on during 2011. So the work
on planning (p. 17), which (mysteriously) refrains is consistent with all government policy of the last
from attacking the planning system. It simply refers 30 years, insisting on not making explicit links to the
to the new arrangements for the Infrastructure real geography of the country when considering
Planning Commission and NPSs, and the ‘radical major investments. Real geographies and territories
reboot of the planning system’ being pursued by are taboo for England.
the DCLG. The tone here is refreshingly different This is confirmed by the sectoral plans, which are
from that of the highly planning-critical Local Growth not really plans, but statements of general principles
White Paper and most DCLG rhetoric. followed by varying sorts of project spending lists,
copied from the Spending Review decisions. Each
The plan itself section is worth reading for those interested in each
And what about the meat, the plan itself? This sector. But at this stage they are simply bundles of
takes up chapter 4, 20 pages, with general policy principles, projects and work in progress. There is
and then five sectoral parts, for energy, transport, no way of telling if these particular bundles would
digital communications, flood management, water meet the challenges announced earlier in the plan.
and waste, and intellectual capital. This is where the The evidence base is in that sense minimal. Such an
planner in us will feel let down. It starts to some approach would not get past day one in a Local
extent well, inventing a hierarchy. This prioritises Development Framework or Regional Spatial
maintenance and the smart use of assets over Strategy public examination. Perhaps evidence is
dealing with stress points and network passé.
development, which in turn is above So finally the core hardly matches the grand title
‘transformational large scale capital projects’. The of a ‘National Infrastructure Plan’. It is clear by now
latter are only to be considered if the other two what the rhetorical import of that title is – it is
steps fail. In the plan, perhaps only High Speed 2 intended to assert the Government’s commitment
and Crossrail come into this category (the Severn to a long-term approach to growth, at the moment
Barrage was effectively scrapped, again, in October that it has made its critical Spending Review
2010, although it could be reviewed, again, in 2015). decisions. Those decisions were attacked as
extremely risky by a wide spectrum of economists
and commentators. This plan was to demonstrate
that the Government was looking to the future. It
‘The sector sections... are simply finds it useful therefore to carry on this dimension
bundles of principles, projects of New-Labour-style policy-making, with the relevant
tweaks to a slightly more private-sector-friendly
and work in progress.There is approach (the shift is not at present large, New
no way of telling if these Labour’s PPP policy being already hyper-business-
particular bundles would meet supportive).

the challenges announced Next steps


earlier in the plan.The evidence The final section valuably brings together all the
work ongoing in different Departments within
base is in that sense minimal. infrastructure work streams, as part shown in
Perhaps evidence is passé’ Table 1 (here, it is odd than only one NPS figures on
the list). It is important that the plan says it needs
input from a wide range of stakeholders. There is no
But then a map follows, giving ‘regional examples reason why this should not include planning and
of capital projects’ but mainly showing lots of road related interests. The stress on prioritisation should
and rail projects, scattered across the UK. It give some basis for a common language between
becomes clear that the spatial element is utterly Infrastructure UK and planners, although there are
missing, as it has largely been so far in the NPSs. of course differences with the PPP orientation and
There is no hint of looking at possible links to the continuing Treasury support for cost-benefit-type
regional impacts, or of connecting to the growth approaches to project evaluation.

532 Town & Country Planning December 2010


A new version of the National Infrastructure Plan Partnerships. Others continue to address these issues
is promised for the end of 2011. Surely the of infrastructure integration at sub-regional level.7
Government might listen to voices calling for much
more integration between sectors, and that this Work in progress
should be given spatial dimensions. Logically, this For the moment, we must see the National
should be firmly linked to the National Planning Infrastructure Plan reviewed here as work in progress.
Framework activity in the DCLG, as well as to the The potential value is surely that it looks across all
National Policy Statements, above all the National factors affecting infrastructure development
Networks NPS. But no doubt we should not hold our (financing, regulating, spatial planning). This rightly,
breath in anticipation of such wide-ranging joined-up and we may hope finally, takes the spotlight off
working. More than ever before, there is a need for planning, which is normally a lesser factor in
some Treasury learning on territorial matters. determining what investment occurs in each sector.
If the economic regulatory regimes can be made
more fit for contemporary needs, there may be
‘More than ever before, there is scope alongside this to start to develop a long-term
territorial approach to infrastructure. This will be
a need for some Treasury more about retrofitting and rejigging existing
learning on territorial matters’ systems8 than about large new investment, as this
plan rightly suggests. This is especially the case
given the massive cutbacks in public funds seen in
International comparisons the Spending Review – even in these relatively
This sort of work is increasingly generalised protected zones like energy and transport. Far more
around the developed world, partly under the research and analysis of real needs in real places
impulse of OECD work. Neoliberalising capitalism’s will be required to get a clear picture of what should
turn to infrastructuralism is widely visible.6 The UK is go in a proper plan. We may hope that the 2011
thus copying the efforts of Infrastructure Canada version of the National Infrastructure Plan can
(set up 2002) and Infrastructure Australia (2008), represent a large step forwards in this thinking.
although so far without anything like the research ● Tim Marshall is with the Department of Planning at Oxford
and evidence base that those bodies have. Brookes University. The views expressed here are personal.
Scotland put together a light-touch Infrastructure
Notes
Investment Plan in 2008, although that was as much
1 National Infrastructure Plan 2010. HM Treasury,
to give the infrastructure industries an idea of work Oct. 2010. www.hm-treasury.gov.uk/ppp_national_
coming up as being a real strategy. Perhaps this plan infrastructure_plan.htm
has some of the same sort of logic as the Scottish 2 State of the Nation. Low Carbon Infrastructure.
approach, underneath – it does refer to the Institution of Civil Engineers, 2009.
increasing competition for global infrastructure www.ice.org.uk/Information-resources/Document-Library/
funds, implying that the UK must present itself well State-of-the-Nation-Low-Carbon-Infrastructure—(2)
to the global industries: infrastructure is ‘an attractive 3 A National Infrastructure for the 21st Century. Council
for Science and Technology, 2009.
asset class’ (National Infrastructure Plan 2010, p.14).
www.bis.gov.uk/assets/bispartners/cst/docs/files/whats-
Catalonia prepared a National Infrastructure Plan new/09-1631-national-infrastructure.pdf
in 2009, with the goal of making clear priorities 4 ‘Infrastructure planning and prioritisation’. HM Treasury,
relative to the Spanish government, but also linking 3 Nov. 2010. www.hm-treasury.gov.uk/ppp_
very firmly to the near-total regional planning infrastructureuk_planning_note.htm
coverage of Catalonia, showing how a plan-led 5 This breaks down as £264 billion on energy (including
spatial and strategic approach can be applied. £136 billion on renewables and £65 billion on networks),
Perhaps most interestingly, the Netherlands, £120 billion on transport (£69 billion on rail, £32 billion
on London transport, £10 billion on air, and £9 billion on
famous for its national spatial planning, has recently
roads), and £37 billion on water and sewerage; all of
developed an annual overall infrastructure planning course are completely contestable – see D. Helm et al.:
process, which includes all investment by all levels Delivering a 21st Century Infrastructure for Britain.
of government. This MIRT process (the Multi-year Policy Exchange, 2009
Programme for Infrastructure, Spatial Planning and 6 See much more from the ESRC-funded Infrastructure
Transport) is revised twice a year with input from all and Spatial Planning project at www.brookes.ac.uk/
provincial and local authorities, alongside the key schools/be/about/planning/projects/tmarshall.html
ministry (Infrastructure and Environment, previously 7 J. Morphet: A Steps Approach to Infrastructure
Planning and Delivery. For Local Strategic Partnerships
Transport and Water, and VROM). It might be valuable
and Local Authorities. Planning Advisory Service, 2009.
to develop something similar in England, although this www.pas.gov.uk/pas/aio/109121
would immediately raise the question of what sort of 8 M. Hodson and S. Marvin: ‘‘Urban retrofit’ – from
units might organise this, given the demise of regions project by project to systemic change’. Town & Country
and the uncertain emergence of the Local Enterprise Planning, 2010, Vol. 79, Oct., 429-33

Town & Country Planning December 2010 533


still grappling
with the rural
housing question
Nick Gallent looks at the continuing failure of government to
offer convincing solutions to the country’s rural housing crisis
During the summer, among the many housing and large numbers of commuters and retired
planning issues capturing the attention of the households moving to and living in rural areas
media, two caught my eye. The first was the represent. As has happened so often before, these
implications of the revocation (now temporarily were painted, in the media, as the wreckers of
reversed) of Regional Spatial Strategies (RSSs) for community life and rural economies. Recent
target housebuilding rates. It was calculated by accounts of pub closures suggest that commuting
consultants Tetlow King that, in the South West households don’t drink, and even the recovery of
alone, 59,750 homes would be wiped off the the rural population to an historic level, after years of
aggregate target previously set in the South West depopulation, is not seen as positive:
RSS.1 ‘Country life stands to wither beyond recovery...
The second was the apparent recovery and Local people are being priced out of the market
growth of the second-home market. Research by by the influx of wealthy commuters, holiday lets,
property agents Frank Knight had revealed that the retired couples and second home buyers, which
number of second homes across Britain had risen has increased the rural population by 800,000
to a new peak of 245,384 in 2009, or 2.6% on the over the last 10 years.’ (Farmers Guardian)
previous year’s total. This was attributed to lower
returns from more traditional investments and a It is surely no coincidence that opponents of new
growing tendency to holiday in the UK – to enjoy housebuilding in and around villages regularly cast
‘staycations’ – as domestic budgets are squeezed. their acerbic gaze on what they view as the
About 95,500 of these second homes were located extraneous threats to rural community life. Those
in rural areas of England.2 who oppose development and change need to fight
But which presents the greater threat to rural on two fronts: first, they must battle against the
housing affordability: the probable reduction in proponents of a supply solution to the rural housing
future housing supply, or the small increase in crisis; and second, they must take on significant
second-home numbers? Back in the South West, it ranks of the rural population who own second
was reported in The Cornishman that 13,676 homes, commute back to city jobs, or have retired
properties in Cornwall were now registered by their to the country. It is a fight that they cannot win,
owners as second homes: a figure that was clearly although they are quite capable of achieving a
an affront to the 12,000 people in the county stalemate.
waiting for permanent accommodation. It is also a battle predicated on weak evidence
The new MP for St Austell and Newquay, Steve and spurious associations.
Gilbert, was circumspect about the causes of the First, major housebuilding has rarely been
local housing crisis, calling for innovation, new build, countenanced in rural areas, but rather concentrated
and effective management of the county’s existing where it has always been concentrated: in the
housing resources. But other commentators over market towns.
the summer, while celebrating the end of regionally- Secondly, second-home impacts are insignificant
set targets, were less guarded in their criticism of when set against the potentially dire consequences
not only second homes, but also the inequity that of not building enough new homes to meet local

534 Town & Country Planning December 2010


Photos: Nick Gallent

Above

‘The demand pressures on rural housing cannot be shrugged off as intrusive and somehow artificial... We are therefore left
with a single battle to fight: against the view that constant griping against rural change can substitute for a sensible
response to the rural housing question’

need plus the inevitable influx of new households therefore left with a single battle to fight: against
that rural areas will face over the coming decades. the view that constant griping against rural change
Thirdly, this influx – mainly of commuting can substitute for a sensible response to the rural
households – is an important lifeline to rural areas. housing question.
Commuters bring investment and enthusiasm; they
also bring their families and have a clear contribution
to make to the future of the countryside. It is very ‘The Coalition Government’s
rare, especially in Southern England, to find parish
councils or other voluntary community groups that
answer is to empower local
do not have a big contingent of commuting or ex- communities, giving them a
commuting (and now retired) members.3 It is these Right to Build and a right to
types of residents who will be instrumental in
carrying local responsibility in the Coalition bypass normal planning rules.
Government’s vision of a Big Society. But there are (at least) three
And fourthly, there are the retired households,
regularly accused of buying into villages and major shortcomings in this
contributing to falling school rolls or heaping approach’
pressure on health care services. The idea that
such households simply up-sticks on their first day
of freedom from work and head out of town is There is an urgent need for additional
false. Most retired people in the countryside are housebuilding in and around many villages. The
in situ agers, who previously commuted back to Coalition Government’s answer is to empower local
work in the city and who sometimes raised children communities, giving them a Right to Build and a
locally. Alongside commuters, it is these older right to bypass normal planning rules. The required
households who will often play key community level of support for community schemes has been
leadership roles. reduced from 90% to 75%, and this is a surely a
So the demand pressures on rural housing cannot step in the right direction. But there are (at least)
be shrugged off as intrusive and somehow artificial. three major shortcomings in this approach.
They are all part of modern rural life and market First, the cards are stacked in favour of dissenting
processes, which confound attempts to pigeon-hole voices, who will seek to undermine support for
people as local or non-local or to decide which community build projects by harking back to
claims to ‘localness’ are most legitimate. We are demand pressures (‘if only these could be

Town & Country Planning December 2010 535


Box 1 Rural housing – the broader debate
● Despite government policies championing a ‘living and working countryside’, attitudes to rural
change and development remain conservative. The defence of the ‘rural idyll’ remains strong, and
Abercrombie’s assertion that the countryside is the ‘greatest historical monument’ we possess
continues to shape rural policy.i
● The importance of housing supply to economic development remains understated, with many areas
starved of the homes and the labour they need to successfully chart a path away from traditional
rural industries. And even in areas with resurgent farming economies, a lack of affordable housing
is often a key impediment to future growth.
● Counter-urbanisation remains a key driver of population change, especially in the affluent South,
with a mix of commuting households and lifestyle downshifters cascading out of the big urban
centres, especially London. Such demographic realities need to be catered for in planning policies
and development responses.
● Retirement and second-home buying continue to contribute to rural population change. Before it
was abolished, the National Housing and Planning Advice Unit was able to show that, nationally,
second-home purchasing adds 15,000 units to housing demand annually.ii This demand will cause
local market distortions if it is not acknowledged in development land allocations.
● Since the A8 accession to the EU in 2004, low-income international migration has become a feature
of some rural housing markets, with migrants competing for low-skilled jobs and cheaper housing
against existing residents. There is a challenge in some areas to meet the needs of migrants in ways
that are regulated for safety and quality.
● Private housebuilding faces particular challenges away from larger settlements, with basic
economies of scale threatening development viability. The speculative development model works
less well in the countryside, opening the door to self-build and community-led projects. But in many
areas, a shortage of developable land creates stiff competition for sites. A Community Right to Build
will not address all needs or future demands, and so the question of how to plan seriously for
future housing provision – linked to a clear vision for rural economies – will remain.
● The planning system has a role to play in tactically circumventing development constraint,
piggybacking affordable housing schemes onto general housing permissions. But neither developer
contributions nor rural exception schemes have fully answered the rural housing question. If the
Community Right to Build does work to spec, it may supplant exceptions as a key vehicle for
meeting local need, but it will not address wider, longer-term needs.
● A mix of tenures – owner-occupation, private and social renting, and intermediate options – within
rural areas will be crucial for securing future economic and social resilience. The dominance of
owner-occupation has been a key driver of social change in the countryside, as alternative forms of
housing have been squeezed out and sold off. Future policy needs to look carefully at the role and
function of private and social renting, and at the viability of different intermediate housing solutions
in different types of area.
● Rural homelessness remains the most visible signifier of a crisis in rural housing supply. Although
not only a ‘housing problem’, the displacement of people from rural communities and their
consequent exclusion from social networks and economic opportunities is, like the broader failure
to tackle rural housing supply questions, a deep stain on the records of successive governments.
● Only a combination of good planning, at all levels, and community initiative (and interventions that
are responsive to the ambitions of local people) will be able to tackle these issues. Delivering rural
vitality should be the goal of future policy and action. This will mean challenging traditional views –
of the rural ‘idyll’ – and accepting the dynamic and complex nature of rural communities.
All of the above issues, and many more, are explored in depth in the recently published work The
Rural Housing Question.iii
Notes
i P. Abercrombie: The Preservation of Rural England. Hodder & Stoughton, 1926
ii M. Oxley, T. Brown, R. Lishman and R. Turkington: Rapid Evidence Assessment of the Research Literature on the
Purchase and Use of Second Homes. National Housing and Planning Advice Unit, 2008
iii M. Satsangi, N. Gallent and M. Bevan: The Rural Housing Question. Policy Press, Sept. 2010

536 Town & Country Planning December 2010


Above

The rural housing problem has rumbled on for decades

‘managed’ then there would be no need to ‘despoil’ substantial advance towards its satisfactory
the countryside’ ). solution’.4 Nothing much seems to have changed.
Secondly, communities have a very partial view of Great scepticism surrounds the Government’s
the market and its future trajectory: a focus on local proposed Community Right to Build. This is its
needs will be blind to broader demand pressures; answer to the big supply question, and it appears
and who is to say that these should not be wholly inadequate.
addressed in local projects, for the long-term benefit
of the present and future community? ● Nick Gallent is Professor of Housing and Planning at
And thirdly, there is a danger that some University College London. His new book, The Rural Housing
Question (written with Madhu Satsangi and Mark Bevan), was
communities will set very tight, some might say published by the Policy Press in September 2010. The views
parochial, priorities. Recent work for Defra (the expressed here are personal.
Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs)
on rural housing priority and affordability3 has Notes
suggested that communities may seek to reward 1 The National Housing Federation reported that this
those local people who are deemed to have made high figure in the South West (compared with just 1,860
important contributions to community life, preferring in the South East) was due to the fact that ‘regional
to block schemes that might assist households house building targets had not been fully adopted and
whom community leaders judge to be less therefore local authorities had not had a chance to
challenge the figures’
deserving. Where will responsibility lie in this new
2 Affordable Housing: Keeping Villages Alive. National
sub-localism, and what checks will be in place to Housing Federation, 2010. This assumes that the
ensure that projects are well-reasoned and Federation’s figure of 93,000 for 2008 also increased by
equitable? 2.6% over the following 12 months
Clearly, there needs to be greater scrutiny of local 3 Research into Rural Housing Affordability. Colin
power and decision-making. There also needs to be Buchanan and Partners with Nick Gallent and Steve
a broader and longer view of the needs of rural Robinson, for Defra, 2010
communities (see Box 1). 4 W.G. Savage: Rural Housing: With a Chapter on the
The rural housing question, now most acutely After-war Problem. T.F. Unwin (published in 1919, but
penned in 1914)
expressed as the supply crisis that is felt in many
parts of the country, has rumbled on for decades. It
was observed back in 1914 that ‘the rural housing
problem is both an acute and an urgent one [but] it
is important to realise that we are really making no

Town & Country Planning December 2010 537


transport threats
and opportunities
Stephen Joseph looks at the prospects for sustainable travel
under the new political and funding regimes
Photograph courtesy of Kent County Council

Left

‘The biggest loser in the Spending


Review is likely to be local bus
services... but there are also
opportunities provided by the Local
Transport Act 2008 to manage buses
better and integrate them with the
planning system’

Much of the content of recent issues of Town & major road schemes are likely to go ahead. Road
Country Planning has been a lament over the new spending is concentrated on maintaining the current
Government’s sweeping away of the old world of network and on ‘active traffic management’ projects
regional planning, targets, performance to make better use of existing motorways.
assessments and so on, without any clear I should say that all this is in reference to England
replacement. But as the smoke clears from the – the devolved administrations are making different
Spending Review battlefield, the new order is a bit choices, and the Scottish Government has
clearer, at least in transport. announced a reduction in rail spending and an
First, you have to separate the Government’s increase in road spending, largely to pay for a new
rhetoric from the reality. The Transport Secretary Forth crossing. The Welsh Assembly Government, by
Philip Hammond has talked about ‘ending the war contrast, is cutting major road-building and retaining
on the motorist’, leading many to think that the support for smaller projects and rail re-openings.
Coalition Government’s priority would be road- Having said all that, the Spending Review, and the
building rather than public transport. In practice, decisions associated with it, bring various threats
however, the Spending Review has kept almost and opportunities for sustainable travel.
intact the previous Government’s rail spending
plans, including a restart of main line electrification Threats
from London to Oxford and Newbury and between The biggest loser in the Spending Review is likely
Manchester, Liverpool, Preston and Blackpool. to be local bus services. Bus Service Operators
Crossrail and Thameslink have also survived, if Grant is to be cut by 20% from 2012, but more
delayed slightly, with new trains to go with them. immediate cuts are already coming through as local
Tram extensions in Nottingham, Manchester and authorities look to deal with reductions in their
Birmingham are going ahead too, as, in the longer funding this year. Several councils are planning to
term, is high-speed rail. remove or reduce their funding for buses, leading to
By contrast, Highways Agency capital spending is withdrawal of evening and weekend services. This
down by over 50%, and very few local authority can only worsen next financial year, as transport

538 Town & Country Planning December 2010


revenue funding to councils is reduced by 28%. On bus operators, two train operators and the
top of this, changes in the concessionary fares University of Hertfordshire into a ‘Quality Network
scheme for free travel by pensioners and the disabled Partnership’ that is planning public transport across
will reduce the reimbursement that operators get the whole city, and developing a range of initiatives
and will also affect the way that big-city transport to improve it. This partnership takes advantage of
authorities are funded for the scheme. Work and changes in the interpretation of the competition
Pensions Secretary Iain Duncan-Smith’s suggestion rules on buses, whereby co-operation between
that the unemployed should get on buses to jobs in operators is allowed provided the local authorities
neighbouring towns will be a hollow one if buses can say it is in the public interest.
are withdrawn or become more expensive. There are also opportunities from new forms of
Another major threat is that the costs of public financing for transport: Tax Incremental Financing
transport will rise. The Spending Review (TIF), the Community Infrastructure Levy (CIL),
commitment to rail comes at a price – rail fares will business rate supplements, and workplace parking
increase by 3% above the Retail Prices Index from levies. The Government has signalled support for TIF,
2012-2015. This will price people off trains and again is using both CIL and business rates to finance
make access to jobs too expensive for some. Crossrail, and is allowing Nottingham City Council to
A third problem is disparities between regions, or use workplace parking levies to part-fund its tram
rather between London and the rest of England. extensions; so these opportunities are clearly real.
London has had a good settlement – Mayor Boris
Johnson has got most of what he wanted, including
Crossrail, the upgrades to the Underground, and ‘The picture after the Spending
funding for the London bus network.
By contrast, the rest of the country is getting very Review is complex – there will
little investment in public transport networks. be investment in sustainable
Beyond the tram extensions already mentioned, the
only sizeable new system under consideration is for
transport and few new roads
trolleybuses in Leeds. As already noted, bus or runways, but current
services are under threat. And with local rail, there transport networks and
are few developments apart from the North West
electrification. The ‘Northern Hub’ scheme, which services could face erosion and
would improve capacity across the North, is on decline. Local authorities can
hold, and there is no move on upgrades,
reconnections and re-openings that would make influence this though, through
better use of the many local rail services. Even creative thinking and by taking
longer and newer trains for local services outside
London seem a long way away, although the extra
account of opportunities for
trains for London will mean a cascade of older trains new funding’
to other areas.

Opportunities Big issues


Having said all this, there are various Despite these opportunities, transport still faces
opportunities. The chief opportunity is provided by a big issues, key among which is the lack of suitable
new ‘Local Sustainable Transport Fund’, which was governance arrangements for transport outside
another feature of the Spending Review. This fund, London (who sponsors local rail improvements?),
which councils will have to bid for, amounts to biases in transport appraisal, and perhaps above all
£560 million over the next four years, and two-thirds the increasing divorce between transport and land
of this is revenue funding. In other words, there will use planning as a result of localism.
be ring-fenced funding for initiatives such as travel So the picture after the Spending Review is
planning, cycling and improving public transport. complex – there will be investment in sustainable
This builds on evidence from the Sustainable Travel transport and few new roads or runways, but
Demonstration Towns and the Cycling Demonstration current transport networks and services could face
Towns which has shown that people’s travel erosion and decline. Local authorities can influence
behaviour can be changed and car use reduced. this though, through creative thinking and by taking
There are also opportunities provided by the Local account of opportunities for new funding rather than
Transport Act 2008 to manage buses better and clinging to legacy road projects which now are
integrate them with the planning system. The unlikely to be funded.
Campaign for Better Transport has been running an
initiative in St Albans in Hertfordshire which has ● Stephen Joseph OBE is Executive Director of the Campaign
brought together the City and County Councils, four for Better Transport. The views expressed here are personal.

Town & Country Planning December 2010 539


derailing the
transition?
Peter Lipman looks at how the shift from car-based to
sustainable travel may fare under the spending cuts and
the Coalition Government’s ‘Big Society’, localism and
deregulation agendas

J Bewley / Sustrans
On launching the Tory manifesto before the general
election, David Cameron contrasted the ‘Big
Society’ with ‘big government’, and described a Big
Society as one in which ‘people ask not ‘who’s
going to make things better?’ but ‘how can I – and
how can we, together – make things better?’’
Although what this will mean in practice is still
emerging, some of the ideological principles that
underpin it appear to be that:
● state intervention and regulation which is meant
to promote social cohesion or capital can actually
corrode it;
● the voluntary/community sector is better placed
to improve society than is the state, and the Above
private sector can help to ensure that this is done Residents of Ellacombe Road in Torquay discuss design
efficiently; and options for their Sustrans DIY street
● there are no rights without a responsibility to
consider the rights of others. a right to decide on planning issues. None of these
core rights maps neatly into greater support for or
From this position flows the Coalition ownership over decisions relating to sustainable
Government’s desire to reform the public sector, transport. And further, the scale being mooted for
empower communities and bolster philanthropic ‘neighbourhood’ or community planning will not allow
action. In broad terms, all areas of public life are for coherent oversight of walking, cycling or public
being examined and grouped by considering three transport networks and services. The agenda seems
factors – ‘what the state can (or should) do for you’; to have much to say about buildings and services,
‘what we can do for ourselves’; and ‘what we can and very little to say about transport and streets.
do for others’. In practice so far, this has translated All of this is, of course, linked to the promotion of
into a rolling back of the state (including abolishing localism and the cutting of budgets. For those of us
many state agencies) and looking for solutions to seeking to promote and implement sustainable
social breakdown involving third sector and social transport, this brings with it both significant threats
enterprises in partnership with local public bodies, and some potential opportunities. The former
and particularly the private sector. To date, there include a strong likelihood that more locally-driven
appears to be a strong assumption that the private agendas could ignore wider societal goals, such as
sector will be led by the market to act in a socially acting on climate change and energy security.
involved and responsible way. Further, there appears to be an assumption at the
Communities will gain three core rights under the heart of the Big Society – for which there is very
Big Society – to buy (save), to bid, and to build. little supporting evidence – that if you make powers
Apparently the right to buy will enable communities available to people they will have the time and the
to save local facilities and services threatened with capacity to use them.
closure, the right to bid will be a right to take over Crucially, this whole agenda is likely to be
local state-run services, and the right to build will be associated with the removal of state intervention

540 Town & Country Planning December 2010


and funding without real provision for needed from clear. There seems to be potential for the third
projects, and at the moment it is hard to see how sector and local government to clarify and shape the
the planned cuts in government spending will not details of national policy-making, and for motivated,
undermine some of the objectives that we are told engaged communities to radically re-shape their
are integral to the Big Society. The Big Society local infrastructure and services. For example, the
purportedly is aimed at people in more deprived fact that there is going to be a whole new
areas – areas where parenting programmes, crisis generation of community organisers supporting the
centres, projects that tackle crime, support groups, creation of neighbourhood groups could be very
after-school clubs and so on can make an enormous beneficial.
difference. Following the Spending Review, many of
these projects are likely to struggle, and it is not
clear what will fill the gap beyond an expectation of ‘What about the legally-binding
communities doing these things for themselves
with support from civil society organisations.
obligation to meet our climate
What about climate change and the legally-binding targets? We’re seeing many of
obligation to meet our climate targets? The planning the planning levers that would
system could be used to massively support that
obligation by (for example) very stringently pursuing help to deliver this being
high-density, mixed development with good public ripped up’
transport provision accompanied by low car-parking
levels. However, we’re seeing many of the planning
levers that would help to deliver this being ripped On the other hand, what financial support will
up, with decisions left to the far more local level. In there be for these programmes? And will these
the face of a widespread inclination to short-termism organisers and their supporting partners be focused
and in the face of other concerns which are perceived on providing essential social care services that the
as being more immediate, that is deeply worrying. public sector is unable to fund, leaving ‘lofty’
When a coalition of bodies led by the Royal Town ambitions to improve green spaces and streets and
Planning Institute wrote to Secretary of State Eric to slow traffic to lie forgotten while basic needs are
Pickles making this point, he responded that met? Or perhaps more affluent areas not suffering
‘‘Larger than local’ or strategic planning should not so much from the budget cuts will be able to turn to
be a top down prescriptive process which imposes these issues, furthering deepening the divide
central targets – it should enable authorities to between the most- and least-well off in the UK.
come together in a way that they chose to address So if a benefit could be public involvement, is the
the issues which are important to them’.1 How this public interested? The initial series of public
will enable the Government to meet its binding meetings on the Big Society were cancelled after
climate change commitments is unclear. hostile receptions, but interestingly Ipsos MORI
A practical example of how the Big Society/ found that large proportions of the public think that
localism agenda could conflict with sustainable it should be more involved in local and national
transport is in the consultation on the changes decisions. Having said that, fewer say that they
proposed with the aim of freeing-up planning in personally want more involvement, and in practice
relation to schools development. Eric Pickles made even fewer actually will get involved – but even so,
a statement to the House of Commons on 26 July the polling seemed to show a large, untapped
outlining his intention to consult on changes to resource. While only 5% say they want to start
reduce unnecessary regulation and make it easier getting actively involved in local issues, that is still
for buildings currently in other uses to be converted 1.7 million people.
to schools. The consultation states: So will the Big Society derail a transition to
‘Currently, as part of obtaining change of use sustainable transport? It’s probably too early to say,
consent, schools developers can be required to but if we include localism, deregulation and the cuts
produce a travel plan, considering matters such as in the picture, there are signs that it might.
sustainable travel initiatives like pedestrian and
cycle routes, road safety, improvements to the ● Peter Lipman is Policy Director with Sustrans. The views
highways network, segregated access, traffic- expressed here are personal.
calming measures, restrictions to on-site parking
Notes
and wet weather facilities. Removing the need to
1 Letter to the President of the RTPI from the Secretary of
apply for planning permission would remove the Sate for Communities and Local Government
obligation to prepare such a plan.’ 2 2 Planning for Schools Development. Consultation.
Department for Communities and Local Government,
At the same time there may well be opportunities Oct. 2010. www.communities.gov.uk/documents/
– although precisely where these will emerge is far planningandbuilding/pdf/1734022.pdf

Town & Country Planning December 2010 541


valuing and
financing the
public realm
Pat Hayes attempts to disentangle the reasons why the UK
seems unable to renew the public realm as well as its
European neighbours do
Photos courtesy of Anne Wyatt / URBED

Above

Copenhagen – has ‘a unique ‘offer’ as a place both to live in and visit, based on its human feel’

Over the last few years a small group of London- about the prospects of replicating these
based counterparts and I have taken annual trips to achievements in an English context.
look at urban regeneration initiatives outside the UK Why is it that we seem unable to renew the
– this year, taking in Copenhagen to see how a city urban realm as well as our European neighbours
is weaning itself off of car use, and Malmö to see do? And what, if anything, we can learn from them
really good-quality redevelopment of former and put into practice?
docklands. I have invariably been impressed with Part of the problem lies in the way that smaller
what I have seen, but have returned depressed commercial and retail operators have been squeezed

542 Town & Country Planning December 2010


out of the English urban landscape, leaving ‘clone has often not been as efficient is it might be) has
town’ high streets with identical chain operators and been left to do the best it can with what little it has
a lack of independent traders and the visual variety – which usually means working on the cheap.
that they provide. As the first country to experience On the other side of the equation the growth of
large-scale migration to cities and become truly the economy up to 2008 also saw land prices and
urbanised, the UK was also the first to industrialise development costs rising to levels which – with UK
food production and distribution. This has also had a investors in overheated bull markets wanting higher
profound effect on our high streets and shopping rates of return than their European counterparts –
patterns. acted as a constraint on the quality delivered by the
As Anglophones we have also been particularly private sector, at least in the residential sector, where
susceptible to US cultural influences, reflected in building at high density and to lowish quality has been
our obsessive car use, even for short journeys, and necessary to generate the required rate of return.
in our widespread love of retail malls and out-of-
town food supermarkets.
We also appear to have a very limited sense of
urban aesthetic and pay little attention to detail and
‘In comparison with many
quality in the urban realm – perhaps because of the other European countries,
pervasive emotional attachment to the village, rather
than the town or city, as the English ‘ideal’ living
where local government has
environment, despite fact most of us live in towns greater tax-raising powers as
and have had no link to the land for many generations. well as fewer commitments
Another characteristic which has arisen relatively
recently is the cult of health and safety and its on education and welfare,
physical manifestation in forests of signs, guard rails there is just not the same
and other street clutter, which spoil visual amenity
and consume limited funds that could be better
amount of public money to
spent elsewhere. This further reinforces the be spent on the urban realm’
hegemony of the engineer over the architect/
urbanist in the design of public space. We are also
obsessive users of asphalt and concrete paving, as By contrast, the success of European
opposed to brick and stone, presumably because, municipalities in creating good buildings and public
despite being ugly and short-lived, it is cheap and spaces is directly linked to an acceptance of the
provides a smoother surface for cars. desirability of a generally higher quality of
We are also haunted by the legacy of the 1980s, environment than is sought in the UK. This is
when the idea of communal ownership and manifested in an acceptance of lower rates of
relationships was largely treated with contempt: commercial return and a greater emphasis on the
very little value is placed on public property and the detailing and finish of developments.
public realm, in part due to a predilection for private The UK does have some great new commercial
ownership and shutting oneself away from human developments, marvellous individual architecture,
interaction, be it in a car or behind gates. and some very good-quality quasi-public realm in
However, cultural barriers such as these are not in commercial districts and town centres, all driven by
themselves sufficient to explain our relative inability very high development yields and ongoing rental
to create a consistently good-quality urban realm. values. However, in general, nowhere near this
The financial weakness of our local and regional standard is achieved in residential and suburban
tiers of government is clearly a significant factor. In development and in the creation of a genuinely
comparison with many other European countries, public (i.e. publicly-owned) realm. And our urban
where local government has greater tax-raising design thinking remains in hock to the car, with all
powers as well as fewer commitments on education this means for the human experience of places and
and welfare, there is just not the same amount of their look and feel.
public money to be spent on the urban realm. Nor The reasons for this lie in the relative political
are local and regional politicians vested with weakness of local government in the UK, and
sufficient status and influence to take initially particularly in its inability to marshal the investment
unpopular decisions in the face of a uniquely necessary to create great public spaces and
negative and backward-looking press. residential areas where the market does not make
England remains a very centralised country in this an essential for the private sector developer.
which successive governments have seemed more (People will not rent prestige offices if the outside
likely to spend money on, for example, waging wars areas are poor, but they will buy flats and houses.)
in far-off places than to invest directly in the fabric of What colleagues and I saw during the visit to
our towns and cities. Local government (which itself Copenhagen and in Malmö was vision backed by

Town & Country Planning December 2010 543


finance and the political will to achieve something town centre hotel – a unique experience and an
for the greater good – and an understanding that indication of a city that has genuinely planned its
there is more to human happiness than marginal development and can mix old and new while
gains in personal wealth. keeping the car in its proper place as a means of
In Copenhagen the municipality had decided that conveyance for longer journeys. Also noteworthy
it could not continue to create more and more road was the quality and subtlety of the detailing used to
capacity for cars, and so was working to actively delineate cycleways from roads, with low curbs and
encourage modal shift to cycling and walking. a restrained use of garish coloured asphalt standing
Having understood that cycling will only become a in contrast to the over-engineered, over-signed
principal mode of transport if it can be done with a equivalents in the UK.
degree of segregation from vehicular traffic, the city The Copenhagen trip also involved a visit to the
then arranged the necessary investment and new Ørestad development, where – although the
created the necessary infrastructure while dealing layout of the area may be rather too rectilinear – the
with the anxieties of motorists. It is continues to quality of the individual buildings, be they
follow this path, even though it is operating under commercial, residential or public, was uniformly
increasing pressure from a now less supportive excellent. This new area of the city is based on a
national government. metro line which was put in place alongside roads
This has resulted in Copenhagen – a city with a and cycle paths before development began.
fine if not stunning architectural heritage and in a Ørestad follows a model of new town
pleasant if not spectacular setting – developing a development based on a single masterplan, and
unique ‘offer’ as a place both to live in and visit, signs are that it will be a genuine success. The key
based on its human feel and pedestrian ambiance. here was a design-led approach from the start and
The bike, as opposed to the car, provides a an understanding that putting the infrastructure in
humanising influence which subtly reduces the pace
of life, improves air quality, and drastically reduces
noise levels, while still retaining a feel of movement ‘What we saw in both
and dynamism.
Copenhagen and Malmö was
development that was well
designed and built to a high
standard, because it was clear
that the municipality valued
these things and had the
wherewithal to do something
about it’

first is a prerequisite to creating new attractive


places in which to live – and recognition that the
public transport infrastructure should not simply be
bus based, as is the favoured UK approach, despite
its limitations in both practice and perception.
Above In contrast to the approach taken in London
Docklands, where commercial office development
‘The success of European municipalities in creating good was left to lead the way, in Malmö the municipality
buildings and public spaces is directly linked to an took the lead in managing the redevelopment of
acceptance of the desirability of a generally higher quality redundant dock land, focusing on development
of environment than is sought in the UK’
quality and building a genuinely sustainable new
community. It also allowed radical architecture and
The new commercial offer that this created has in was not afraid to make bold design statements – a
turn facilitated the development of some very high- stance which is less likely in the more conservative
quality modern building, the skilful re-use of older and less design-conscious UK.
buildings, and the creation of a generally multi- Interestingly, the creation of great public amenity
modal transport system. space came before rather than after the commercial
During the visit I was able to cycle on a signed development, the municipality being able to use its
route all the way from the airport terminal to the land assets and its own finances to facilitate this. As

544 Town & Country Planning December 2010


a result, the Western Harbour district, although still The conclusion from our visit was that until such
under construction, already has a mix of well- time as there is a fundamental realignment of the
designed domestic architecture and a stunning relationship between central and local government –
public realm, and already provides an amenity and possibly an acceptance of higher levels of
facility for all sections of what is a very diverse and taxation in return for a better quality of life – the UK
ethnically-mixed city. The district has also made a will have to continue along its current path of
unique niche for itself as a destination for those essentially private sector led regeneration.

Left

New development
at Malmö’s
Western Harbour

interested in environmental sustainability – again a We will also struggle until such time as we
pleasant contrast to London Docklands confront our self-destructive addiction to the car and
developments which celebrate ostentatious learn to enjoy the presence of our fellow human
consumption and attract few visitors. beings on the train or in the bike lane, and to really
What we saw in both Copenhagen and Malmö value public open space and good design.
was development that was well designed and built A national government with vision could, of
to a high standard, because it was clear that the course, transform our cities and boost the economy
municipality valued these things and had the by creating a nationwide programme of cycle path
wherewithal to do something about it. We also saw construction and co-ordinated public realm
developments which created genuine public space improvements that would forever change the way
that people were encouraged to use. our towns and cities work – but one fears that
In three days in Scandinavia I don’t think I saw a vested interest and lack of radicalism will see us
single private security guard and only a couple of continue to spend our money on motorways and
police officers (and I was looking as the husband of nuclear submarines while our fellow Northern
a big Wallender fan) – perhaps a reflection of a Europeans create great places in which to live.
society at that is at ease with itself and whose
pattern of life and management of the public realm ● Pat Hayes is Executive Director, Regeneration & Housing, at
isn’t distorted by irrational fear of terrorism and Ealing Council. The views expressed here are personal.
crime.
The municipalities also had genuine powers to
raise finance and acquire land. This seemed critical
for, as in personal relationships, monetary
independence is key in being able to influence one’s
own destiny. They were not, as in the UK,
dependent on central government finance or
‘planning gain’ to create the public parts of new
developments.

Town & Country Planning December 2010 545


tracking the
mayor’s new
london plan
Martin Simmons reports on the progress of the Replacement
London Plan through Examination in Public in changing
circumstances
The Spatial Development Strategy for Greater the Mayor’s implicit view that Greater London is in
London – the London Plan – survives as what will effect largely cocooned from the situation that the
be the only regional-scale plan in England once the rest of the country faces, not least in the
Coalition Government succeeds in abolishing confirmation that the Government has accorded the
Regional Spatial Strategies elsewhere. This is Crossrail project.
because the matter is statutorily devolved to the In this situation central government participation
elected London Mayor and is not controlled by was virtually non-existent. Critical Government
central government. Mayor Boris Johnson issued Office for London responses to the draft Plan made
the draft of a replacement for his predecessor’s before the general election were withdrawn. The
version in autumn 2009. Along with many others, representative from the Department for
the TCPA responded to the consultation, raising a Communities and Local Government (DCLG) could
number of concerns. An Examination in Public (EiP) only mention the Coalition’s intentions as they
was duly arranged, opening on 28 June 2010 and occurred, without being able to comment on how
running (with a summer recess) until 22 October. they impacted on the Plan. This hands-off stance
The new London Plan was drafted within the suggests an even deeper commitment to Mayoral
legislative and national policy assumptions set by devolution.
the Labour Government. Its EiP and process to As result of its response to the consultation last
adoption takes place following the May 2010 winter, the TCPA was invited to participate in a
election, with the new Coalition Government setting number of matters, and its London members group
a significantly different agenda. This includes met on two occasions in the spring to discuss the
undertaking a comprehensive change in the way thrust of the Association’s involvement in the EiP
that development is delivered, within an intent to discussions. The TCPA submitted statements and took
eliminate the fiscal deficit through major curtailment part in the Panel’s debates on the following issues:
of public expenditure and, in rhetoric at least, an ● the new Plan’s vision, objectives and general
intent to rebalance the national economy, which if it approach;
occurred could well impact on London’s growth. ● London and the wider South East;
The EiP sat while much of the new Government’s ● Outer London;
agenda was unfolding. This included its intent to ● economic strategy;
abolish regional bodies and strategies outside ● climate change mitigation;
London (and the London Development Agency ● transport strategy; and
within) in favour of new Local Enterprise ● implementation, monitoring and review.
Partnerships, and the highly significant Spending
Review, which came at the end of the sittings. How The TCPA also played a part in the housing
the Examination Panel responds to this whirlwind of sessions, a report on which has already appeared in
external contextual change in forming conclusions this journal.1
on the Replacement Plan’s growth policies and A preliminary seminar on the projections and
proposals is awaited: in particular whether it accepts assumptions used in the new Plan led into the first

546 Town & Country Planning December 2010


EiP session on the vision and general approach. The growth as proposed was compatible with the
TCPA was among the few who challenged the trend- Government’s apparent aim of ‘rebalancing’ the
based population and employment projections, national economy. The Association urged that
arguing that the impact of the recession and public recognition be given to the intent to produce a
expenditure cuts to come would be much more National Planning Framework in this respect. Other
significant for London than the Mayor anticipates, participants sided with the Mayor in claiming that
with serious potential consequences for Londoners’ London’s continuing growth was in the interest of
quality of life. The Association was critical of the the rest of the country and should not be checked.
failure to consider alternative scenarios to the
assumption that this recession was cyclical and not
structural, and of the assumption that London’s ‘The TCPA deplored the
economic future will be largely as it has evolved
over recent cycles, with steady long-term growth.
inadequacy and ineffectiveness
However, this critique was not widely shared and of arrangements to collaborate
was rebutted by the Mayor’s side. on the key housing, economic
The significance of the public sector and resource
situation arose later in the EiP, when implementation development, labour market,
was considered. At that point the Spending Review transport and environmental
was still awaited: while the Mayor now concedes its
significance for the Plan, then he saw it as a matter issues which relate London to
for monitoring policy delivery and for the forthcoming the wider South East’
Implementation Plan. It is noteworthy that the
London planning legislation does not require such a
plan, but the Mayor has now wisely decided to The TCPA deplored the inadequacy and
produce one and consult on a draft in summer 2011. ineffectiveness of arrangements to collaborate on
It should demonstrate how the very considerable the key housing, economic development, labour
growth set out in the new plan’s policies, including market, transport and environmental issues which
required infrastructure, can be delivered over the relate London to the wider South East. The
London Plan period to 2031. The initial phase of this argument was thrown into stark relief by the

Above

Is adequate attention being given to London’s role in the national economy and whether its continuing
substantial growth is compatible with the aim of ‘rebalancing’ the national economy?

period at least will see an unprecedented curtailment intended revocation of the adjoining Regional Spatial
of public expenditure, highlighting how and to what Strategies and abolition of regional planning bodies,
extent innovative forms of funding can be put in play. meaning that the Mayor will have no regional
The next matter of concern to the TCPA organisations beyond London with which to engage
concerned London’s national and wider regional on these issues. In this situation the Association
relationships. As a national organisation the TCPA argued that only the Government’s intended
was virtually alone in querying whether adequate National Planning Framework can address the
attention was given to London’s role in the national macro-issues between London and the wider
economy and whether its continuing substantial metropolitan region.

Town & Country Planning December 2010 547


Otherwise, the TCPA sided with those (including While the new London Plan is for the Mayor to
adjoining County Councils) who proposed that the finalise, the Government does have the power to
best way forward is at the sub-regional scale, where direct modification if it considers that there is any
the partnerships in the Plan’s London sub-regions conflict with national policy. It will be interesting to
can collaborate with Counties or (as has been see whether the Mayor’s strong growth intentions,
evolving since this hearing in July) Local Enterprise with their additional infrastructure requirements and
Partnerships in the adjoining geographical funding demands over the longer term, are found to
quadrants. Such an approach could give needed be compatible with those of the Government to
meaning to the Plan’s growth areas and co- rebalance the national spatial economy by focusing
ordination corridors, which its key diagram shows as investment elsewhere. There could be a tension
extending outwards from the London boundary into within Government between this and the warmth
functionally-related areas.2 accorded to the devolution of London’s governance.
The EiP debate which followed was on Outer
London, for which Boris Johnson’s Plan has much
more positive intentions than his predecessor’s. The
TCPA was among those pressing for more precise ‘The shifting context within
policy action on issues regarding the comparative which this Replacement Plan
competitiveness of the suburban centres, including
improvements to accessibility. The new Plan goes
is being examined suggests
only part of the way in reconciling policy between a need for a change to the
the metro-core of Central and Inner London and the way that future versions are
surrounding suburban communities of Outer
London. The TCPA also argued that the economies prepared, within which
of the quadrants of Outer London are closely related another approach to this
to those in surrounding areas, which have generally
performed better, notably so to the west and south kind of city-regional planning
of London. can be explored’
Looking ahead
The Examination Panel’s Report is due in early The growing uncertainties lead to a final
spring 2011. We await its conclusions on how these reflection, bearing on the Plan’s review process: a
wider relationships can be addressed in the very further review can be anticipated following the 2012
different circumstances now obtaining, as well as Mayoral election. While the London Spatial
its findings on how other changing external factors Development Strategy survives as what will be the
impact on a Plan drafted over a year ago. It seems only English regional plan, its form, content and
likely at this juncture that population and process was set out in 1999 legislation and
employment growth, and the pace of housing Government Office Circular 1/2000, within the
development, will be significantly less over the next comparative certainties assumed at that time. The
decade than the new Plan envisages. It remains to shifting context within which this Replacement Plan
be seen whether the Mayor’s confident assertion is being examined suggests a need for a change to
that short-term shortfalls will be made good in the the way that future versions are prepared, within
longer term to 2031. The draft Plan’s objective that which another approach to this kind of city-regional
planned growth can be accommodated within planning can be explored. This would set alternative
London’s administrative boundaries seems contextual scenarios affecting housing, labour and
increasingly unlikely to be achieved, even though development markets and the strategic policy
that growth looks like it may be less than projected. choices they postulate against the Mayor’s
We will see next spring what the Panel makes of assumption that historic growth trends will
these contextual changes, including the impact of continue. These alternatives would then be debated
the severe public sector cuts on housing delivery ahead of producing a draft revised Plan.
and other aspects of the Plan’s growth agenda. It
leaves the Panel with an extraordinarily difficult task ● Martin Simmons is convenor of the TCPA’s London
in making recommendations which the Mayor will members group and is a member of the TCPA Policy Council.
The views expressed here are personal.
find acceptable. The now-prevailing situation puts
increasing onus on the Plan’s monitoring process;
Notes
its annual reports (the next due in March 2011) must
1 D. Bowie: ‘Capital housing questions for the Mayor’.
assume greater importance and visibility. It will then Town & Country Planning, 2010, Vol. 79, Nov., 494-6
be for the Implementation Plan to specify what can 2 See M. Simmons: ‘Inter-regional planning for the wider
be delivered over time, within the resources London region’ Town & Country Planning, 2009, Vol. 78,
available. May, 236-9

548 Town & Country Planning December 2010


world cities and
the challenge of
change
Henry Abraham returns from a trip to Shanghai struck by
some possible lessons for the future of London and its
surrounding regions

Left

The British pavilion


at the Shanghai
World Expo 2010,
designed by
Thomas
Heatherwick

During a visit to Shanghai this summer to advise the Heatherwick designed structure looked almost
Shanghai City Comprehensive Transport Planning edibly organic, with its long acrylic fronds, and
Institute (SCCTPI), I was struck by the city’s provided a showcase for 60,000 seeds from Kew’s
distinctive approach to rapid change, and by some biodiversity stores. However, the pavilion’s reported
lessons it may offer for the development of the £25 million cost would be most unlikely to have
London metropolitan region. been judged acceptable in the current climate, so
I took the chance to go to the Shanghai World perhaps it is as well that it is located at a safe
Expo (‘Expo 2010 Shanghai China’), situated on the distance from the UK.
banks of the Huang Po river in a previously little- The Expo’s daily visitor count of around 400,000
developed part of the city, which provided a clear (more than a year’s worth of the Millennium Dome
contrast between the Expo’s optimism, vivid colour, visitors every fortnight) was pretty much in line with
and scale of ambition, and the rather downbeat age local forecasts, but only a very small proportion of
of austerity I had left in the UK. Nevertheless, these visitors came from outside China, which was
patriotic feelings were encouraged by the great clearly a disappointment given the Chinese
popularity of the British pavilion – its Thomas authorities’ ambition for a global event to further

Town & Country Planning December 2010 549


cement Shanghai’s place as a leading world city. As bridge across the Huang Po river, and new
one of these rare foreign visitors, I appreciated developments already lined up to replace the Expo
thoughtful touches such as the staffed Expo pavilions, which will mostly be dismantled. The aim
information desk at my hotel (and at all the others), is to create an additional and sustainable business
and the ‘magic phone number’ posted up in centre for Shanghai, and substantial development
Shanghai taxis through which visitors could access uplift gains will help to fund the investments that
translation services to bridge any communication have been made. The omens seem good that the
gap with their taxi driver. No doubt these and other Expo will achieve many of its planned legacy
Expo ideas are being pored over for their relevance benefits, reflecting strong government
to the London Olympics in 2012. commitment, generous upfront resourcing, and
World city ambitions aside, the Chinese clear powers to capture development benefit and
authorities want to promote China’s history and co-ordinate all the necessary actors.
culture as a unifying narrative to its people, and the Discussions with SCCTPI highlighted some other
China pavilion at Expo provided a great opportunity interesting planning issues for Shanghai, which
for this. The approach seemed to be working, with expects a further 50% population growth from its
queuing times for the China pavilion exceeding current 21 million over the next 20 years, on top of
10 hours and many travellers coming to the Expo the 50% growth already seen over the last 15.
from distant parts of China to see it. There was Shanghai’s population densities are high compared
genuine enthusiasm among those Chinese people I with its Western counterparts, and there is a natural
spoke to who had made it into the pavilion. and strong aspiration for increased personal space
In planning terms, the key outcomes from the Expo as living standards rise, putting further pressure on
will be the legacy of transport improvements to the housing supply. Urban sprawl has grown rapidly, and
Expo site (covering more than 5 square kilometres), the question of how best to accommodate this
with several new metro lines and a glittering new housing pressure is urgent.
Shanghai City Comprehensive Transport Planning Institute

Above

Shanghai’s growth, 1979-2009

550 Town & Country Planning December 2010


A key response is a ‘One City, Nine Towns’ plan the recognition that, with the pull of Shanghai close
for a ring of new towns up to 30 miles or so outside by, only substantial towns would be able to
Shanghai, and separated from Shanghai and each compete in providing attractive employment
other by green belt, which began to be opportunities, and so limit the scale of commuting
implemented in 2001.1 Some of these towns now to Shanghai.
benefit from metro links into Shanghai, with 12 lines However, there are significant implementation
completed since the system was initiated just challenges, since the early development has tended
15 years ago in 1995. Another ten lines are planned to focus on limited numbers of high-cost
by 2020. The plan sought to ensure that the new apartments, which generate the best returns for
towns were places of character and individuality by developers. It appears difficult to encourage the
giving each a distinctive central core themed to development on a large scale of more affordable
represent different countries – Thames Town being housing, to provide a realistic alternative for middle-
the British themed city, complete with cobbled income people who will otherwise live in Shanghai.
streets and mock-Georgian frontages, with design These difficulties have similarities to challenges
work led by Arup. As well as individuality in terms of faced in the UK over how best to ensure that
the style of buildings, the plan sought to focus developer and local incentives align to meet regional
particular industries in each town, to create a critical as well as commercial and local requirements.
mass of local economic activity. While the extraordinarily rapid pace of change in
Shanghai rachets up the challenge of ensuring that
local delivery also meets regional needs, the
London Mayor’s latest draft London Plan2 forecasts
a 17% increase in population in the capital over the
next 20 years, which also represents a very
significant challenge.
The London housing needs assessment
supporting this London Plan3 suggests that there is
sufficient overall capacity for housing available to
accommodate London’s housing needs over the
next ten years. However, with reduced public
resources for housing and recent low levels of
housing completions, it seems unlikely that this
level of additional housing will actually be built.
In addition, the housing needs assessment
assumes that previous trend rates of migration
between London and its surrounding regions
continue. But it is clear that changes in the levels of
housing availability outside London will affect the
rates of migration between London and its nearby
regions. If there are reductions in additional housing
outside London, this will tend to reduce out-
migration from London to its surrounding areas. For
example, the Coalition Government’s laudable desire
to increase local participation in planning decisions4
Above could mean that insufficient attention is given to the
fact that many new homes are needed for, and will
‘Thames Town’, one of the ring of new towns around be occupied by, ‘incomers’ rather than existing local
Shanghai
residents. Depending excessively on developers to
represent the needs of these ‘incomers’ within the
The new towns have yet to achieve the level of planning system would seem unwise, given
activity or scale foreseen, and are often described previous experience such as the developer-led over-
as ‘ghost towns’. But the intention remains that supply of small flats in the London area.
some of these new towns will grow large, And if somehow, despite the apparent lack of
potentially to half a million people or more. Without necessary resources, substantial numbers of
this sort of scale, little impression will be made on additional homes are completed in London over the
addressing the housing and employment needs of next few years, this will tend to reduce migration
the 10 million additional Shanghai area residents from London to surrounding regions.
expected over the next 20 years. So our housing assessments need to take
In our discussions, another reason identified for account of the fact that additional housing will
seeking to ensure that the new towns are large was generally make an area more attractive to migrants,

Town & Country Planning December 2010 551


as well as releasing demand from those already value of economic diversity. However, economic
resident in an area who would like accommodation analysis also makes clear that there are real and
of their own but were previously unable to find it. significant benefits from very large clusters. There is
This feedback loop increases the challenge of thus a balance to be struck between encouraging
meeting housing need in high-demand locations appropriate economic specialisation and focus
such as London. The situation is further complicated locally (which may help to give distinctiveness and
by the Coalition Government’s proposed Housing competitive advantage in a given sector, and provide
Benefit cap, which will make parts of Inner and accessible employment opportunities), and
Central London unaffordable for those on this encouraging concentration of a range of both high-
benefit, and so will also change migration flows. level and support functions in the metropolitan
In short, there will be interactions between the centre (in order to maximise the productivity
housing markets of London and its surrounding benefits that can be gained from a very large
regions over the next few years that have not been cluster). This challenge is heightened when facing
fully captured by the London housing needs highly productive and innovative global competitors,
assessment, and more importantly are not as London and Shanghai do.
sufficiently reflected in the planning system, either Those concerned for the future of London and its
as it currently stands or as it will be after the surrounding regions will hope that Crossrail and
changes proposed by the Coalition Government.4 other planned transport improvements, and future
We need to better integrate demographic dynamics housing delivery across the whole metropolitan
into our planning strategies, and to ensure that the region, will prove sufficient to help keep London’s
cumulative impacts of local decisions on regional globally competitive centre in contention, and so
needs are properly allowed for. This is especially increase prosperity for the wider metropolitan
true in the London metropolitan area, with its strong region. Shanghai expects to build another ten or so
intra- and inter-regional economic and demographic metro lines over the next decade and to pursue
links. It is to be hoped that the promised national plans for millions of new homes within its wider
planning framework will go some way to addressing metropolitan area – so we can expect the
these issues. competition bar to be set high.

● Henry Abraham is an independent policy adviser


(e: hjabraham@hjaassociates.co.uk). The views expressed
‘We need to better integrate here are personal.
demographic dynamics into Notes
our planning strategies, and 1 H. den Hartog: ‘Shanghai new towns – searching for
to ensure that the cumulative community and identity in a sprawling metropolis’.
Proceedings of the ‘The New Urban Question:
impacts of local decisions Urbanism Beyond Neo-Liberalism’, Fourth International
Conference of the International Forum on Urbanism,
on regional needs are properly Amsterdam/Delft. International Forum on Urbanism,
allowed for’ 2009. http://upcommons.upc.edu/e-
prints/bitstream/2117/6731/1/the%20new%20urban
% 20question%20extracto%20MUX%C3%8D.pdf
2 The London Plan: Spatial Development Strategy for
The final point of comparison that struck me was Greater London. Consultation Draft Replacement Plan.
the question of what level of economic clustering Mayor of London. Greater London Authority, Oct. 2009.
should be encouraged, and in what locations. In www.london.gov.uk/shaping-london/london-plan/
Shanghai, the aim is to focus particular economic 3 Draft Replacement London Plan Examination in Public:
Housing Technical Note. Mayor of London, Aug. 2010.
sectors within each of the new towns – for www.london.gov.uk/shaping-london/london-
example, one town is intended to be ‘automobile plan/docs/housing-technical-paper.pdf
city’. This may perhaps also reflect a desire to 4 Control Shift – Returning Power to Local Communities.
release capacity in Shanghai itself for financial and Policy Green Paper 9. Conservative Party, Feb. 2009.
high-value services. However, it was not clear that www.conservatives.com/~/media/Files/Green
much attention had been given to the interaction %20 Papers/Localism-Policy-Paper.ashx?dl=true; and
between the nature and scale of the local economic Open Source Planning. Policy Green Paper 14.
Conservative Party, Feb. 2010.
opportunity provided, and the make-up of the local www.conservatives.com/news/news_ stories/2010/02/~/
community. For example, will a city of automobile media/Files/Green%20Papers/ planning-green-
industry focused jobs prove attractive to a paper.ashx
sufficiently wide range of residents to create a
balanced community?
In the UK, particularly since the beginning of the
financial crisis, there is general recognition of the

552 Town & Country Planning December 2010


lessons from
lynch
Kevin Lynch’s The Image of the City, published 50 years
ago, has been influential among urban planners, but today
place-marketers can also learn a lot from Lynch’s study,
says Gert-Jan Hospers

Above

Dublin’s Temple Bar – an example of a Lynch ‘district’ with distinctive character that sticks well in people’s minds

For many urban planners The Image of the City,1 today’s city authorities relevant insights on place-
written in 1960 by the American planning theorist marketing.
Kevin Lynch, evokes feelings of nostalgia. It is a This article briefly reviews key features of the
book that most will know from introductory book and demonstrates its contemporary value,
planning courses, and, indeed, Lynch’s empirical illustrated by case studies from two European cities:
study on how people perceive the urban landscape Helsinki (Finland) and Enschede (the Netherlands).
has become a classic in the field of urban planning.
However, the fate of classic books is that they are The city’s ‘imageability’
often referred to, but seldom read. The question Lynch dealt with in The Image of the
But half a century after its publication, The Image City was simple: what comes to people’s minds
of the City is still worth revisiting. In recent times when they are asked about their home cities? For
cities have heavily invested in place-marketing in an this purpose he interviewed 30 people in Boston,
attempt to attract and keep visitors, inhabitants, and 15 people each in Los Angeles and Jersey City,
students and employers. In this respect, although asking them to describe the distinctive elements of
not written with that intention, Lynch’s book offers their city, comment on some pictures, and

Town & Country Planning December 2010 553


accompany him on a walking tour in the inner city. In practice, these five elements in the built
In addition he asked the interviewees to sketch a environment overlap, while their recognisability
map of their city. Lynch found that the three US varies from person to person. Elderly people, for
cities strongly differed in their ‘imageability’ – the example, usually have a clearer image of their home
ease with which parts of a city make a strong city than children have. But together the five carriers
mental impression on people, or, as Lynch put it (on of the urban image are said to influence the ease
p. 9), ‘that quality in a physical object which gives it with which people know and remember a city in
a high probability of evoking a strong image in any general – that is true not only for residents, but also
given observer ’. for visitors.
From his explorations Lynch concluded that Lynch and his followers found that because of
individuals perceive a city predominantly as a built their differing ‘imageability’ some cities stick in
image. The mental maps of the people he people’s minds more than others. Lynch hoped that
interviewed were made up of five distinct elements city authorities would pay more attention to image
in the built environment: paths, edges, districts, quality and urban design. In reality, public officials
nodes, and landmarks: used his work as a way to map the layout of their
● Paths – the streets, rail tracks, trails and other city, while researchers copied Lynch’s empirical
channels along which people move. Examples design to study the image of other cities.
include Berlin’s Kurfürstendamm, the Ramblas in Over the years, The Image of the City has been
Barcelona, and the tram track in Bordeaux. criticised. To start with, the focus on inhabitants’
● Edges – clear transition zones and linear mental maps can itself be questioned. In general,
boundaries, for example between water and the residents will have a clearer image of their city than
city. Here, one may think of Hamburg’s HafenCity, non-residents.
the boulevard in Nice, and the Quayside in The book also tends to overemphasise the visual
Newcastle. and material structure of the city. For example,
● Districts – quarters, neighbourhoods and other studies have shown that cities are not only
subsections of the city with a distinctive ‘landscapes’, but also ‘sensescapes’: people’s
character, such as London’s Soho, Temple Bar in mental maps turn out also to be formed by the
Dublin, and Quartier Latin in Paris. smells and sounds of a place.3 Moreover, in his
● Nodes – strategic meeting points, such as city Good City Form (1984), Lynch himself suggested
squares, junctions or train stations. Examples that the mental maps of people are not formed
include the Dam in Amsterdam, Rome’s Stazione simply by their ‘sense of place’. He recognised the
Termini, and the Plaza Mayor in Madrid. importance of a ‘sense of occasion’, related to the
● Landmarks – physical objects that serve as contribution of periodical festivals, events and other
general public reference points. Copenhagen’s temporary activities to a city’s image. Examples
Øresund Bridge, Zeche Zollverein in Essen, and include the Oktoberfest in Munich, the Biennale of
the Acropolis in Athens are good examples. Venice, and Copenhagen’s Fashion Week.
Finally, Lynch did not take into account the major
Interestingly, these findings are not limited to the role of the media (television and film – and, since
three cities explored; they have been confirmed by his death in 1984, the internet) in reproducing
researchers who replicated Lynch’s study in other images of a city in people’s minds.
American and European cities.2
Lessons for place-marketing
Today, cities are more than ever concerned with
their identity, image and brand value. City
authorities have come to realise that in the
competition for inhabitants, companies, students
and visitors it is not enough to invest in
infrastructure, cultural facilities and other amenities.
A poor image of a place can devalue its
attractiveness and thus its local economic
performance in the long run.
Consequently many authorities have started
rethinking what their city has to offer (its identity),
how their city is perceived (its image), and how
differences between the two can be overcome.
What is the image of the city? And what is so
Above valuable about the city that residents want to stay
and outsiders want to come? This gives the city its
The Hundertwasserhaus – one of Vienna’s major landmarks ‘brand value’. Place-marketing is about showing that

554 Town & Country Planning December 2010


value by means of investments in the city, attraction Cases studies – Helsinki and Enschede
programmes, and communicative instruments. As examples, the Lynchian framework can be
However, place-marketing itself often has a poor used to explore the place-marketing opportunities of
image: it should involve much more than the two cities: the Finnish capital of Helsinki, and the
campaigns and slogans highlighted in colloquial old industrial city of Enschede in the Netherlands.
usage (such as ‘Glasgow: Scotland with Style’, Traditionally, Helsinki has marketed itself as the
‘Creative Sheffield’, ‘and ‘Be Berlin’). visiting card of Finland. Over the years, city-
If it is true, as Lynch argued, that five visual marketers have emphasised beautiful nature,
elements in the built environment affect our welfare state values, and advanced high-technology
perception of cities, then municipalities should – and through this the story of Finland rather than
take more advantage of that in the development of just of Helsinki. The images used in brochures and
their place-marketing strategies. They should be
more concerned about the possible ‘imageability’
of their city, and so might ask different questions.
For instance, to what extent does the city already
stick in people’s minds? What distinctive carriers in
the built environment does the city have – if any?
What edges or landmarks do tourists photograph
or can be put on a postcard or a website? Vienna
has its Hundertwasserhaus, London has Big Ben,
and Antwerp its harbour. But for outsiders it is less
clear what the dominant image carriers of, say,
Oslo, Southampton and Toulouse are.

‘Although written for another


audience and in another Above
period, The Image of the City
offers some useful insights for The Senate Square in Helsinki – a widely used image, but
not one that reflects the city’s narrative of being a ‘hot-spot’
place-marketers’ of modern design

websites also stress the position of Helsinki as a


Lynch suggests how important it is to think in capital city: more than half of the pictures depict the
terms of readily identifiable objects in the urban Senate Square, which is seen as a strong symbol
landscape. The job of marketing a city will be harder for both Helsinki and the nation.5 Senate Square
if it does not have such scenic features. Brussels is certainly hosts Finland’s most important public
an example of a city that lacks clear highlights that institutions – the national government, the
can be marketed to tell the city’s story as ‘the university, the cathedral, and the municipal offices –
European village’. For example, when asked for but it is also photogenic, as, in Lynch’s terms, it is a
spontaneous associations with the Belgian capital, ‘node’ that hosts some distinct ‘landmarks’.
respondents mention the little statue Manneken Pis However, the imageability of Helsinki is not
20 times more than the headquarters of the limited to the Senate Square. The Eteläsatama
European Commission or the Expo 1958 harbour, around which the city centre is built, is a
monument, the Atomium.4 scenic ‘edge’ where land and water meet. More
At the same time, the image of some large cities importantly, Helsinki is an architectural ‘hot-spot’,
(for example Copenhagen and Barcelona) has been boasting many architectural ‘landmarks’, although
blurred following over-investment in iconic buildings. they are spread throughout the city. Examples
Cities are smart when they explore whether the include the Finlandia Hall and Academic bookstore,
narrative they want to communicate can be visually designed by Aalto, the Stockman department store,
symbolised in one or a limited number of places. by Frosterus, and the main railway station, by
From this perspective, investments in public art, Saarinen.
shorelines, squares and other eye-catching locations Last but not least, Helsinki has accomplished
have both intrinsic and communicative value. In much in modern design. The city has a strong
turn, the stronger imageability that results from ‘Design District’, hosts well-known design
these investments improves the image of the city companies like Nokia, Kone and Marimekko and
for outsiders – and thus contributes to increasing its events such as the Helsinki Design week, and has
economic prospects. links with famous designers, such as Saarinen and

Town & Country Planning December 2010 555


Left

The neighbourhood of Roombeek in


Enschede attracts a lot of attention
thanks to its distinctive architecture

Aalto. In 2009 the city was even designated World New ideas from an old book
Design Capital 2012. The Image of the City was intended as a book for
Thus the city’s marketers could easily select new urban planners. However, half a century later it is
pictures for Helsinki’s brochures – the city has far also a good read for today’s place-marketers. Lynch’s
more icons than just the Senate Square. empirical study on how people perceive a city in
The old industrial city of Enschede in the east of terms of paths, edges, districts, nodes, and
the Netherlands (population of around 155,000 landmarks offers useful starting points for modern
inhabitants) has had a rather poor image. place-marketing. Cities could make more use of
Traditionally, the Dutch associated this former these ‘image carriers’ in visualising their brand
textiles city with adjectives such as ‘boring’ and value. They can simply do the ‘picture postcard test’
‘industrial’. City-marketing had largely failed to and ask themselves: what built objects in the city
improve this perception, but in recent years are distinctive, and how can they be used to tell the
Enschede has been developing a more modern urban narrative? Thus a city can not only ‘prove’ its
image. brand, but also improve its image and its
Ironically, this change is rooted in a fireworks attractiveness to the outside world.
disaster that killed 21 people in May 2000. The
neighbourhood of Roombeek that was devastated in ● Gert-Jan Hospers is Professor of City and Regional
the catastrophe has been rebuilt in a revolutionary Marketing at the Radboud University Nijmegen and teaches
economic geography at the University of Twente, in the
way. Planning and participation methods in the vein Netherlands. The views expressed here are personal.
of urban thinker Jane Jacobs have been used, and
have helped to make Roombeek one of the carriers Notes
of Enschede’s new image. 1 K. Lynch: The Image of the City. MIT Press, 1960
The ‘district’ – in Lynch’s terms – has attracted 2 T. Banerjee and M. Southworth (Eds.): City Sense and
many visitors and much media attention. In 2007 City Design: Writing and Projects of Kevin Lynch. MIT
the municipality even won an award for its Press, 1990
innovative restructuring approach. 3 C. Landry: The Art of City Making. Earthscan, 2006
But Enschede has more ‘imageability’ than the 4 See S. Anholt: ‘Editorial: place branding: is it marketing,
Roombeek district. The new Van Heek Plein, a or isn’t it?’. Place Branding & Public Diplomacy, 2008,
Vol. 4 (1), 1-6, in which Anholt reports on the brand
redeveloped market square that functions as a value of Brussels
‘node’, has also helped to improve Enschede’s 5 A. Vanolo: ‘Internationalization in the Helsinki
image. The city government hopes that the Metropolitan Area: images, discourses and metaphors’.
Nationaal Muziekkwartier, a recently opened music European Planning Studies, 2008, Vol. 16 (2), 229-52
theatre, will grow into a famous ‘landmark’. 6 See several editions of the Atlas voor Gemeenten (for
Interestingly, however, the most distinctive image example 2006 and 2008), an annual comparative study
carrier of Enschede is overlooked in the debate on mapping the most important facts and figures of 31
how the city’s story can be communicated to the Dutch municipalities
outside world – namely Enschede’s ‘edge’, the clear
transition zone between the city and the green
nature that surrounds it. Recent studies show that
in no Dutch city of similar size can people reach the
countryside as quickly as in Enschede.6 This
suggests that it might be useful to map a city in
terms of Lynch’s framework and ensure that the
elements making up the place image are fully
exploited for the purposes of place-marketing.

556 Town & Country Planning December 2010


going local
Those responsible for making neighbourhood planning work will need to move on from the
failed regeneration ideas of the 1970s and 1980s, says David Boyle

regulate the big, set the


small free
I say that, realising that is this may be an
anathema in a magazine with a name like this one.
But we seem, generation by generation, to have got
regulation very wrong in this country. By this I don’t
mean that we have too much regulation, or that we
have too little. Those kind of generalities are
precisely the problem. But we have allowed the big
As I write, a report in the excellent Columbia and powerful to proceed with huge advantages,
Journalism Review is taking the business media to minimal regulation and often tax breaks as well, at
task in the USA for being so uncritical about the the same time as we overwhelm the small and
policy of what they used to call ‘smokestack powerless with bureaucracy and process.
hunting’ – which meant, then and now, providing tax We can all point to the most hideous planning
breaks and public subsidies to attract corporate and blunders, nodded through after a series of generous
factories. lunches with officials, while the dormer window
The particular complaint is about an article in the gets bogged down in difficulty.
Wall Street Journal praising Utah for its ‘business- The truth is we regulate ordinary people and their
friendly’ policies. These amount to a payment – one homes far too much and we don’t regulate the big
might almost call it a legal bribe – to Adobe, creator corporates, or of course the big banks, nearly
of the ubiquitous PDF format, of $40 million to set enough. Let’s try imagining it the other way around.
up in the state. As the Review points out, this is
about $40,000 of public money per job, and Adobe
is not short of a dime or two. The company seems
likely to have profits of about $750 million this year. ‘We regulate ordinary people
With this kind of scheme around, on both sides of and their homes far too much
the Atlantic, you begin to see why you get budget
deficits.
and we don’t regulate the big
The Utah scheme is on a scale beyond any similar corporates, or of course the
phenomenon in the UK, but we see the same kind big banks, nearly enough.
of idea happening here, whether it is simple
planning permission or huge European payments for Let’s try imagining it the other
companies developing biotech, nanotech or nuclear way around’
energy.
So when the Sunday Telegraph tells me that the
long-awaited Localism Bill is going to include a There are bound to be a thousand practical
provision for neighbourhoods to deregulate difficulties about letting people add a storey to their
household planning decisions entirely – if the local homes without planning permission – although not
neighbourhood decides to – it is through this lens nearly as frightening as letting them do it without
that I see it. building permission – and minor planning issues
Now, the Localism Bill has been delayed so many have the potential to overwhelm these new
times that it begins to remind me of Waiting for ‘neighbourhoods’ with warring neighbours.
Godot. When we finally read it – which we may What Greg Clark calls ‘mature debate at local
yet have done by the time this issue is published – level’ will undoubtedly disintegrate in some places.
there will be endless scope for arguing about the That is localism; it isn’t a reason in itself to reject
details of this proposal. the idea. There are also dangers that the Tescos of
But I am attracted by the idea – despite its huge this world will find their way through this kind of
possible pitfalls – that we might find ways of system as easily as they find their way through all
allowing loft conversions or wind turbines without the others, to the great detriment of our local
needing planning permission. economies.

Town & Country Planning December 2010 557


going local
GRaBS project update
The TCPA is Lead Partner in the INTERREG IVC
funded GRaBS project, ‘Green and Blue Space
But the ‘neighbourhoods’ idea, where people can Adaptation for Urban Areas and Eco Towns’.
draw down the powers from the local authority to With 14 partners from eight different EU
achieve what they see fit, takes off where the member states, the project is now entering its
Sustainable Communities Act – so revolutionary and final year, and some of the outputs and
yet so little used – blazed a trail. That is reason findings are now in the public domain:
enough to be open-minded.
GRaBS Case Study Database
The online database was researched and
developed by the University of Manchester,
‘Localism has to discover an one of the GRaBS partners, to showcase
approach to local regeneration climate change adaptation approaches, with a
particular emphasis on those relating to green
that goes beyond the and blue infrastructure.
smokestack hunting that has
GRaBS Expert Paper 1
bedevilled it for the past The Case for Climate Change Adaptation
generation or so – or any other The paper sets out the case for climate
change adaptation and, in particular, argues
magic bullet that is supposed that people or places facing poverty and
to miraculously drag places disadvantage must not be disproportionately
out of collapse, but without affected by climate change, or by policy or
practice responses to it.
other effort’
GRaBS Expert Paper 2
Participation in Climate Change Adaptation
The paper explores in detail ways in which
But perhaps what worries me the most is that, if
communities can participate in the
it is going to work, localism has to discover an
development and implementation of
approach to local regeneration that goes beyond the
adaptation plans and strategies.
smokestack hunting that has bedevilled it for the
past generation or so – or any other magic bullet GRaBS Policy Briefing Paper 1
that is supposed to miraculously drag places out of Understanding the Environmental and Social
collapse, but without other effort. Impact of Garden Development
There are no magic regeneration bullets. A recent
wander through the town centre of Croydon, which GRaBS Policy Briefing Paper 2
is planning another pointless and dehumanising Delivering the Benefits of Green Infrastructure
office tower, is a horrible revelation of what a failure to Communities and Places through Planning
the whole office-led property development boom
has been. In the area around East Croydon it is hard GRaBS Policy Briefing Paper 3
to find any purpose-built offices with tenants, or any Delivering Adaptation in the UK: Key Themes
of the multiple office building sites showing much and Messages
sign of progress. Another effortless magic bullet.
Thanks a bundle. GRaBS Study Visit Report
So yes, let’s have neighbourhood planning. Let’s GRaBs partners visited Basel and Freiburg in
rebalance the burden of regulation. But it does June 2010 to look at climate adaptation
require that the people responsible for making this measures. The report details the lessons
work move on a little from the failed regeneration learnt.
ideas of the 1970s and 1980s.
All these documents are freely available on
● David Boyle is a fellow of the New Economics Foundation the GRaBS website www.grabs-eu.org – click
and the co-author of Eminent Corporations (October, £8.99). on the case study link for the database and
The views expressed here are personal.
the news section for all other reports.
For further information on the GRaBS project
and TCPA Study Visits, please contact
stephanie.dickins@tcpa.org.uk

558 Town & Country Planning December 2010


central london
meeting rooms
for hire
The TCPA has two meeting rooms for hire in
the centre of London for conferences,
meetings and training events.

The Boardroom, which overlooks the Mall,


was refurbished in January 2010. It can
accommodate up to 40 people in a theatre-
style layout and up to 28 in boardroom/
roundtable style. A small meeting room,
which can accommodate up to 10 people, is
also available for hire. A laptop and
projector can be hired, subject to
availability. Refreshments and lunch (not
included in the room hire) can also be
ordered at the time of booking.

The TCPA’s premises are situated in the


Grade I listed 17 Carlton House Terrace,
close to Trafalgar Square, and a few
minutes’ walk from Charing Cross and
Piccadilly Circus Underground stations.The
TCPA has no parking facilities, but a
National Car Park at the end of the Terrace
in Spring Garden can be accessed via
Trafalgar Square.

The rooms are available for hire all year


round during office hours. Evening or
weekend hire may be available by
arrangement.

Booking priority and preferential rates are


given to TCPA members.

For further information and hire rates and to


check availability, ring 020 7930 8903 or
e-mail roomhire@tcpa.org.uk

TCPA
17 Carlton House Terrace
London SW1Y 5AS
www.tcpa.org.uk

Town & Country Planning December 2010 559


connections
Paul Burall on entrepreneurship and economically depressed regions; the importance of
housing design standards; and visualising how to correct past mistakes

see what influence his previous experience has on


the way that the £1.4 billion fund is spent.
But perhaps the biggest conundrum is how the
critical mass of entrepreneurship that makes places
like Cambridge and Reading such centres for growth
can be created in cities at the bottom of the
business creation league.

Can the North catch up?


The standards bonfire
Re-balancing the economy between the depressed
North and the successful South has been an Few people will dispute the need to rationalise the
objective of successive governments for decades. standards that apply to housing. But the
Policies ranging from huge bail-outs for dying announcement by Housing Minister Grant Shapps
industries, the transfer of public sector jobs, and, that he is seeking suggestions as to how ‘we can
more recently, the provision of venture capital and strip away the red tape from the home building
easy credit to promote business enterprise have all industry’ does raise concerns, as the prime criterion
made little difference. Reports from the Centre for appears to be improving development viability. This
Cities have shown that the number of business seems to mean that the objective is to boost our
start-ups in Northern cities has been stubbornly lamentable rate of housebuilding rather than
static for at least the last 20 years, and now suggest improve the lowest-common-denominator quality of
that only three of the 56 cities with prospects for our new homes.
private-sector-led growth are in the North. As RIBA President Ruth Reed commented: ‘UK
The Centre for Cities characterises the low- house builders have delivered the smallest homes
enterprise areas as having been dependent on in Europe, and have built homes which have been
heavy industry and still being dominated by large consistently judged to be of a poor quality by the
companies, citing Sunderland as an example. It Government’s own design watchdog.’
contrasts this with Milton Keynes, which, of course, A workshop held by that watchdog, CABE, earlier
has no such baggage and has consistently been this year concluded that: ‘The planning system and
among the UK leaders in terms of new business public funding regimes have to mandate design
registrations. quality and make sure it is delivered... The most
The Coalition Government has also set out to equitable and efficient way to do this is to use
bring the Northern economy more into line with that minimum design standards which are simple, clear,
of the South. But it is still relying on such financial universal in coverage, locally distinctive where
tools as differentiated National Insurance Contribution appropriate and enforced consistently and
rates and concentrating the few remaining public rigorously.’
subsidies for investment in the North. Unfortunately, many housebuilders see good
There is plenty of evidence from around the world design as a cost rather than a benefit and as it is
that levels of entrepreneurship have less to do with they, with local authorities, who are to lead on
economic incentives than with cultural and societal setting the new Local Standards Framework the
issues. Entrepreneurs thrive when the local omens are not good.
paradigm is entrepreneurial; a town with a lively Some local authorities in areas where housing
cultural scene – even a sense of non-conformity – is demand is strong, such as Cambridge, have been
one of the key ingredients in attracting able to set groundbreaking standards in terms of
entrepreneurial spirits. Merely offering cheap both design and environmental performance. But in
premises or low wages achieves little. areas of weak current demand some local
Michael Heseltine understood this when he tried authorities have consistently reduced standards in
to change the perception of Liverpool in the 1980s – order to try to generate building, almost irrespective
and at least partly succeeded – with such initiatives of the long-term consequences.
as the International Garden Festival and the There is clearly a risk that the combination of
transformation of the Albert Dock into a cultural minimising national regulation and maximising local
quarter. decision-making will exacerbate the gap between
Now, of course, Lord Heseltine is chair of the towns that are creating a good quality of life for
Advisory Panel overseeing the Government’s their future citizens and those that are building the
Regional Growth Fund, and it will be interesting to slums of the future.

560 Town & Country Planning December 2010


connections

Above

A ‘before and after’ example from the Urban Advantage website

Civilising past mistakes And if you want to see how the site can be used,
you can do no better than look at the website
Of course, it is never too late to correct past www.liveability.info/index.html, which has been put
mistakes. This is nowhere better illustrated than on together by Peter and Lesley Brenner, who are
the Urban Advantage website, which uses photo- clearly very angry about the failures of planning in
editing software to show how bleak urban Tasmania.
landscapes can be transformed into ‘great urban Perhaps we need some of the Brenners’ passion
places’. This American site, which aims to create when considering the future of our towns?
‘photo-realistic visualizations that make
development visions palpably real and ● Paul Burall is Member of King’s Lynn & West Norfolk
understandable’, can be found at www.urban- Borough Council and a Board Member of the East of England
advantage.com/ Development Agency. The views expressed here are personal.

Town & Country Planning December 2010


Cities That Don’t
Cost The Earth
As we all grapple with the challenge of
sustainability, this book sets the debate in context,
using examples taken from around the world. And
in a novel twist, Dennis Hardy asks how the social
pioneer, Ebenezer Howard, inventor of the Garden
City, might have faced today’s problems. The
answer, he suggests, is through the introduction of
CITIES THAT DON’T a hierarchy of ‘Eco-Places’. As part of this hierarchy,
COST THE EARTH existing settlements can be sensibly modified and
new places built. This book addresses crucial issues
Dennis Hardy in a way that is accessible to general readers,
professionals and policy-makers alike.

Cities That Don’t Cost The Earth is available from the TCPA, price £11.99 plus £2.00
postage and packing (£11.99 plus £6 postage and packing for overseas orders).
t: +44 (0)20 7930 8903 f: +44 (0)20 7930 3280 e: tcpa@tcpa.org.uk

Or buy online at www.tcpa.org.uk