Archive for March, 2017

The challenge of meeting housing targets

Last Friday I made a fascinating visit to King’s Lynn, hosted by the local MP, Sir Henry Bellingham. We visited some sites and I was able to discuss the challenge of getting more houses in the right place with council officers and the council’s cabinet member for development.

The visit was encouraging in many ways. It was good to see a bit of King’s Lynn, a very attractive, historic town. It was good to see a highly engaged local MP in action (it was an added bonus that Sir Henry had clearly digested several of CPRE’s publications on housing and planning). And it was good to get a better understanding of the issues faced by a local authority. All planning is local. There has to be national policy, but every place faces different challenges.

King’s Lynn and West Norfolk Borough Council clearly accepts that it must plan for more housing and work to ensure its delivery. But it will struggle to oversee as much house building as the Government wants. What follows are six points I picked up from the visit. They represent my own views and they are not necessarily shared by Henry Bellingham or the local authority. Continue reading ‘The challenge of meeting housing targets’

The end of the road: challenging the consensus on road-building

I hope CPRE’s new report on roads, The End of the road? Challenging the road-building consensus will have a big impact. It shows conclusively that new roads neither relieve congestion nor aid economic growth, but that they do harm landscapes.

The full report is available here. A short film summarising it is here. With some 60 major schemes due to start in 2019-20, by far the biggest road building programme for decades, the report is timely. Roads are popular in the abstract, but many of the proposed schemes will seriously damage the places we care about, and to no good end.

My foreword to the report is below.

In 2006, in his article “Induced traffic again. And again. And again”, Professor Phil Goodwin pointed out that for 80 years, empirical studies and official reports have agreed that more road capacity leads to more traffic. The article was prompted by CPRE’s report, Beyond Transport Infrastructure, which concluded that new roads fill up quickly and that you cannot build your way out of congestion.

But this is not what a driver fuming in a traffic jam wants to hear (I speak personally). In 2014, the Government junked the evidence and announced the biggest road-building programme since the 1970s. Saloon bar policy-making won the day. Continue reading ‘The end of the road: challenging the consensus on road-building’

Landlines: why we need a strategic approach to land

CPRE’s new pamphlet, Landlines: why we need a strategic approach to land is one of our best.

Neil Sinden’s ‘long read’ introductory essay gives a great overview of the issue and why it matters. All the short pieces that follow are worth reading, but I would particularly highlight the contributions by Lord Deben, aka John Gummer (“we need a Department of Land Use”); Corinne Swan (“there is undoubtedly something missing within England to shape and guide development”); Barbara Young (“the one silver lining following the EU referendum is the opportunity to design an integrated land use strategy from scratch… in the context of climate change”); Georgina Mace and Ian Bateman (“decisions driven solely by market values have much lower aggregate values for the UK population than decisions that take account of the wider range of benefits from the land”); and Sir Terry Farrell’s rousing concluding essay:

“British cities and towns have hugely benefited from 1000 years of relative peace and stability…. But population growth and global warming effects like sea rises and fluvial flooding, as well as temperature rises and rainfall changes, are making us think again. The scale, complexity and seriousness of these issues mean we cannot any longer proceed as before, treating land as a disposable asset. We have now got to plan – and proactively plan for rapid and radical change.”

I hope Landlines will stimulate a debate on how England could benefit from a land use strategy, to sit alongside the forthcoming 25 Year Environment Plan. Here is my Foreword to Landlines.

Why are we not more interested in the land? Newspapers carry stories about where to put new houses, roads and runways; about flooding or hosepipe bans (sometimes at the same time); about the cost of food, water and energy. Climate change is acknowledged, but usually as distant threat, rather than as something already threatening homes and our most productive farmland.

But all these issues come back to the question of how we use land, and we seldom discuss that. Even in ‘land use planning’, we muddle through. Continue reading ‘Landlines: why we need a strategic approach to land’