NIMBY’s – Why do people fight more homes being built?

With the Party Political Conference season there has been a yet more talk during the last few weeks about the need for more homes, and as part of this there is talk of Nimbyism and making changes to the Planning System in order to speed up the development process.

I am working with a local community who accept that there has to be more homes, and that there is a need for new homes to be built in their neighbourhood. However, to go with the homes the community is insisting that they get the ‘high quality’ public realm and urban design which the Planners promised them during the strategic planning stage of the planning process.

But in practice the development sites are being brought forward one-at-a-time and no one seems to be responsible for (or bothered with) delivering the high quality public realm, or other infrastructure, which is required to make high density work.

Therefore the community is fighting to reject development which they would otherwise accept. At the moment they feel that they are getting the raspberry without the ripple, and this is why many communities end up being NIMBYs.

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Cambridge and its Growth

Last week I paid a short visit to Cambridge where there is a lot of new development going on.

I thought I would briefly set out here a few examples of what I saw. On the whole I wasn’t very impressed.

Just off the edge of the town itself was this:

 Cambridge Oct 2015 (4)

I am not impressed – perhaps it is just me, but this reminds me of the block of kennels at Battersea Dogs Home which you can see from the train as you go into London’s Victoria Train Station, or the site offices of some of the bigger construction projects.

This is in close proximity to Cambridge Train Station:

Cambridge Oct 2015 (5)

And this is a little further up the road:

Cambridge Oct 2015 (6)

I haven’t got the time to go into a discourse on Urban Design here in order to explain what is wrong with it in detail, but what I have shown above leaves me cold – it just looks characterless, and is placeless. It creates a dark canyon. It could be anywhere and has a lack of soul. I can’t imgaine it being a pleasent place to live or visit.

At a quite different scale I saw this new development which I did quite like:

Cambridge Oct 2015 (16)

Even with this, having no front garden, with the building line going nearly up to the road, it means that the residents feel the need to have their blinds down all of the time, but this can be forgiven as these homes have been slotted into a tight spot and the road is very quiet. But this building right up to the pavement is done too often in my view.

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Business Rates system is holding back UK Investment and Competitiveness

I thought I would like a small piece about Business Rates and why I am against this tax which is not directly related to the ability to pay.

In the last few days the owners of the SSI iron and steel plant in Redcar announced a ‘pause’ in production. Since then the British steel industry has complained that they are finding it difficult to make iron and steel competitively in the UK due to high energy costs here compared with their competitors (even in other parts of Europe) and have called for Government help. As well as high energy costs, they also cited the UK’s Business Rates system as a reason for them not being competitive.

A spokesman for the British steel industry said that they can and would invest in more modern and efficient plant in the UK but the Business Rates system stops them. If they invest, what is a lot of money, in new plant and equipment, this increases their Business Rates bill before a single penny of new and additional income or profit has been made from which to make the payments.

I have heard this in many places and from many businesses over the years. Too many UK businesses continue to work with old and outdated equipment, not investing in new machinery and plant because of the fear of immediately getting an increased Business Rates bill – it is too risky for them. I don’t know enough about the detail of Research and Development Tax Credits and Capital Allowances to know if these outweigh the increased costs of additional Business Rates, but neither do too many of the businesses involved.

I have also heard the same thinking with regard to buildings. Over the years I have met many businesses owners who are in old poor quality and dilapidated buildings, who would like to refurbish them in order to give their staff better working conditions, and/or to be a good neighbour and improve the street scene, but this expenditure doesn’t actually give them any additional profit. They have the same concerns with building extensions to their premises in order to have space in which to increase capacity. They are reluctant to invest because they can’t afford the increased Business Rates Bill this will bring in. Removing this concern would help with efforts to regenerate places which are not in prime areas which will be regenerated anyway (or more likely redeveloped) via the property development industry; and with economic growth.

So, for these reasons, I believe that the Business Rates system needs not reform but abolition, to be replaced by something which is directly related to the ability to pay: perhaps a higher rate of corporation tax which doesn’t require complicated and time-consuming revaluations of property and rental values. Taxes based on income or profits are also something which can easily be adjusted (up or down) in order to reflect the needs of economic cycles and to address booms and busts.

As an aside, but I think an important one, the spokesman from the British steel industry also called on the Government to support it by ensuring that major UK infrastructure projects such as High Speed 2 and the new Nuclear Power Stations used steel which was made in the UK in order to ensure that the UK retains the manufacturing knowledge, skills and capacity. Supply chain and skills security should be just as important as energy security.

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Why are we using the most expensive way of funding energy and other infrastructure?

Last night I attended an event at the Royal Society about the de-carbonisation of energy generation and how this can be done.

This reminded me that, according to the figures which are being put about, we have very little time in which to become a zero-carbon society and delays in doing so will only mean that a faster rate of reduction will be required in the not so distant future. I just doubt whether it really is going to happen.

With the removal by the UK Government of subsidies for the cheapest way of generating zero-carbon energy and the increased subsidies for the most expensive way of doing so, plus introducing  a carbontax on some zero-carbon means of generation, a number of speakers said that they just cannot fathom the UK Government’s polices and actions in trying to achieve zero-carbon.

Another speaker reminded us that we need to limit world temperature increase to 2 Degrees C, but we are on target to actually have a 4 Degree C increase.

So, taking all of this together, it seems to me that as well as investing a huge amount in zero-carbon energy generation in order to reduce temperature rises we also need to be spending large sums of money on protecting ourselves from the effects of climate change which it looks like will be happening anyway. However, are we actually spending the money on protection; are we even thinking about it, and can we even afford to do both?

A big criticism from the speakers was the way in which the UK Government is funding the low-carbon infrastructure. Professor David Newbery said that to make the long-term expensive infrastructure investment required means the need for low discount rates and this in turn means that it has to be funded by the Public Sector using the low-interest rates which Governments (in UK anyway) can get, with the costs paid off via taxes. He said that it is madness to use expensive private sector investment as they require higher returns and interest rates.

In a paper David did for the University of  Cambridge (‘Reforming UK Energy Policy to live within its means – Energy Policy Research Group Working Paper 1516’) he said ‘ Good economic policy requires not just that the Government controls its own expenditure wisely, but that it designs policies that deliver its objectives at least cost for the public as well)’.  This is a position which I have long been advocating for all sorts of infrastructure and social investment but it is not what we are getting from our Government – they are funding infrastructure and indeed services via the most expensive way not the cheapest. This is so important that I am going to repeat:

‘Good economic policy requires not just that the Government controls its own expenditure wisely, but that it designs policies that deliver its objectives at least cost for the public as well’.

And what has this got to do with Urban Regeneration or the creation of Sustainable Growth? A lot – we have to plan for and provide a massive amount of supporting and enabling infrastructure, and using the most expensive ways of paying for it means it can’t be done or there will not be enough of it. We need to face up to the fact that we are trying to do things with at least one hand tied behind our backs because of dogma which restricts us to only one stream of economic theory (and one which is not backed by the facts at that).

If the Government’s approach was copied by a board of a Corporation they could be sued for breach of fiduciary duty – perhaps it is time we treated Government Ministers the same way.

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The Public Sector’s Role in Solving the Housing Crisis

I have attached this from NOVUS which gives their views on the vitally important role of Local Authorities and the Public Sector in solving the UK’s housing crisis:

They echo some of the points I made in my post on this site back in June 2014

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Report out on UK Housing, Land, Rent


Reprt from Michael Edwards well worth a read.

Originally posted on Society could do housing and cities better:

The report Prospects for housing, land and rent in UK cities in the coming 4 decades by Michael Edwards is now out. It was commissioned by the Government Office for Science Foresight programme on the future of UK cities. Michael Edwards [gave] a lecture about it at UCL on Wednesday 1 July, a video of which will shortly be available here.  To download the report itself, read on… 

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Deptford tower plan sees increase in flats


Are South East London’s railways up to coping with the new developments planned and already built, and is anyone taking a strategic view.

Other good points in this blog which is worth a read.

Originally posted on fromthemurkydepths:

Greenwich Creekside East

Thanks to Daryl at 853 for alerting me to a planning application before the Greenwich planning board tonight for 249 flats by the Creek in Deptford – an increase of 45 from earlier plans. I havn’t had time to read all the documents, so this post covers some select elements, and the Deptford Dame site has written a fantastic overview here.

The 22-storey tower appears rather bulky and lacking much in the way of elegance. From some angles it appears pretty overwhelming. The developers are certainly trying to maximise massing of the tower with this one. The colour scheme will be interesting – I think this is one that will look better close-up, as the green sections appear to be glazed tiling.

Lewisham council side plan in background - more on that below Lewisham council side plan in background – more on that below

Here’s a quick round up of some details I noticed when browsing the plans. Firstly, the developer is Essential Living

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