Urban / town planning and development

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  • This ongoing row is really interesting. There does seem to be a move towards trying tojustify more house building in smaller places, which has probably come about because of lobbying by developers. Many Tory MPs are against that, for not necessarily bad NIMBYish reasons. I have no idea whether the 'population projections' cited in the article are credible, but they seem to be being accused of being made-up number.


    I don't know much about rural planning but will try to read a little more about it.

  • Here are proposals to create a green area smack bang in the centre of Nottingham, within sight of the castle.


    I like greenery as much as the next person, but I don't think this is a good idea. Obviously, the last thing you wanted there was the shopping centre, but there should be some return to a proper city centre street pattern. Not to bring back the past, but to create a better city centre. The building of the shopping centre obliterated what had grown historically, and something reminiscent of this, if not the same in every detail, should be built. City centres thrive on small footprints of buildings, which a large complex like a shopping centre destroyed, along with existing connections.

  • It doesn't look like a good idea, I doubt it's large enough/connected enough to provide much ecological benefit. And being in a city centre means it would be very heavily trafficked even on foot which again isn't much use as an ecological resource.

    Does pose the interesting question of what we want town centres to be in the age of Amazon and deliveries...

  • Gloucestershire county council fails to meet local transport note 1/20 and doesn't get much DfT funding for AFT tranche 2.


    This is somewhat newsworthy. We know Glos CC is next to useless for cycle infrastructure. They are one of many (almost all) authorities in that club.

    It might be interesting to start looking at who is succeeding, and failing, to deliver meaningful infrastructure as the ATF begin to be consulted on and/or built. It seems many more (county) authorities in the north of england are much more engaged with this than any I know of in the south (outside of London)

    (Not sure if there's a better conversation to put this in - maybe a new one anticipating active travel england?)

  • https://www.theguardian.com/artanddesign­/2021/feb/11/is-this-the-future-for-brit­ain-stockton-on-tees-park-high-street

    There's a lot going on here and this is clearly thought through better than the Nottingham stuff a couple of posts up, but I still can't help but feel it's the wrong strategy for that kind of place. The shopping centre is clearly an abomination (I'm afraid I generally find defenders of this kind of crap building comical at best) that ruined the potential for an attractive, permeable public realm there.

    It's very interesting what Cllr Cooke says about the river here:

    “You can see why they wanted to turn their back on the river in the 1960s,” says Cooke. “It was black. The industry had made it so polluted that there weren’t any fish in it for years, but now we have salmon swimming and rowers gliding through town. The river is a real asset. We’re not ashamed of it any more.”

    I know of a couple of other places where planning turned away from rivers rather than incorporating them, it was definitely a thing at the time, although I think sometimes it wasn't even conscious.

    Not knowing the place at all, but having a lot of experience with plans like that, it seems to me that despite all the ancillary uses they've clearly put a lot of thinking into, this would be better with a mixed-use town centre. That should by all means incorporate a park, but the existing plans seem much too big.

    There's potential here to go slightly beyond the traditional two-three storey shape of the town and to create a couple of new streets down to the river with a mix of housing, entertainment, and retail activity. I would also remove the riverside road altogether. I don't think that hiding roads away in tunnels is usually a good idea. Oddly enough, town centres thrive when people actually *stop* there rather than passing through, even just via a hidden road.

    These things are a luxury problem brought on by such large parcels of land becoming available and then coming to be subject to masterplanning. In former times, with exceptions such as Haussmann's grand plans for Paris, development was generally on very small plots and subject to all sorts of haphazard influences such a cities being constrained inside their defensive fortifications. Most significantly, this kind of development pattern was usually sustained over centuries and, apart from obvious things like the lack of hygiene and sanitation and the overpopulation often brought on by social injustice and the sort of constraint mentioned above, it generally resulted in better cities than you can achieve by masterplanning. This generally has high hopes attached to it, but in the vast majority of examples that I've seen, what was eventually built looked great in theory but wasn't in practice. I do hope this might be different here, but I'm not very hopeful.

  • This stuff is really the answer to the fact that most places like this already have about 30-50% too much retail and leisure. These were trends that were slowly going this way but have been turbocharged by covid. Providing a mix of retail and leisure like you say, even well positioned would probably end up with lots of vacant units or just not be viable due to low rents, however nice an environment you create around it for 'active spend' footfall.

    Building residential in that location probably doesn't stack due to low (relatively) prices and high build costs (due in part to a massively constrained site) so it makes alot of sense to turn it into a big park, make a feature out of the river and that should hopefully stimulate the remaining retail and commercial in the area which won't have to compete with the current stuff anymore.

    Alot of these shopping centres are basically completely unviable nowadays especially if they are in areas where residential is low value. It often makes the most financial sense for LAs to purchase at low prices and then demolish the thing and create this kind of public space which can 'placemake', removing a financial liability in the center of a town that will bleed the rest of the area and instead stimulate growth around it, as long as it's well managed of course.

    On the rerouting of the road, yeah I agree, building a land bridge or whatever over it isnt the best option but again, the sheer cost, complexity and political difficulty of getting rid of what looks like a fairly main road in the town again would potentially massively detract from their ability to do the rest of the scheme well or even deliver it at all. Even with the unholy amount of extra funding and expertise required to do so which im willing to bet that Stockton council probably doesnt have much of in house. I speak as someone who is currently about to go to planning on a town centre regen scheme which involves rerouting a main arterial A road because we aren't doing the 'land bridge'/shit solution. Its an absolute nightmare

  • So, this is the crap many people have been expecting from this paltry excuse for a 'Government' for some time--kowtowing to the property speculation industry, which will lead to more people being excluded from decent housing because of land values going up as a result:


  • Try to sniff the whiff of Government corruption in this one:


    I can't say I care too much about people killing fish. A loss of habitat for the sea trout would certainly be a bad thing, but the main reason why this is mentioned so prominently in the article is probably because other planning safeguards have been or are being relaxed (I'm not up-to-date with how far this has gone) and campaigners may fear this may be one of the few material considerations that still apply.

    Anyway, as you might expect, the blurb says all the right things, e.g. claiming to create employment space:

    North Barnes Farm is aiming to provide between 2,750 and 3,500 jobs on site in approximately 30,000 sqm of employment space that will be suitable for start-ups and home workers, small makers and producers as well as larger industries.


    You read warm words like this attached to just about every planning application, but the reality is generally different once something is built and all the professed aspirations end up being powerless against the inevitable consequences of plonking a 'new town' from scratch onto a greenfield site, where we.should.not.build.any.bloody.thing any more. It's just so infuriating that this mantra-like rhetoric is so often completely forgotten once it gets down to the practicals.

    It's safe to say that it's unlikely in the extreme that these jobs will actually be taken up by new residents. It just doesn't work that way nowadays--people will commute in from much further afield, whereas residents in the new town will most likely commute to Burgess Hill, Lewes, Haywards Heath, and bigger towns further away, including, of course, Brighton and Hove. Plumpton Green station is on the Eastbourne line, so people working there would move to the new development. The fact that the railway line would see more use (in both directions) is one of the few positives. However, you can safely bet that the little country lanes would swiftly be upgraded to 'cope with all the traffic'.

    Also, the 'new town' would undoubtedly soon count Plumpton Green, East Chiltington, and Chailey as suburbs, as by virtue of its size it would outrank them. Somehow, I can't see it continuing to be called 'North Barnes Farm', so it'll probably end up being called 'North Barnes' when it's incorporated.

    Here's North Barnes Farm on Google Maps (not marked there):


    All power to the campaigners' elbows, but sadly it's unlikely in the extreme that they'll be able to prevent this.

  • So, remember those plucky campaigners wishing to protect local animals? Like turtle doves and purple emperor butterflies? Weeeeelllll ... funnily enough, the Government wants to cut back protections like that, too.

    More corruption in the planning system--all completely legal, I hasten to add, because this form of corruption has been legalised here:


  • Here's a good analysis of the shitshow that is the 'housing market':


    'Build more homes' is never going to work. It merely keeps driving prices up and up, because developers can speculate on land--obtain planning permission for a crap scheme easily, wait for a few years while doing nothing, then submit an even worse application, rinse, repeat.

    There are enough homes for everyone, but many of them are in poor condition, empty, second homes, and so forth.

    Building 'new towns' is probably the worst thing that can be done in terms of sustainability, transport accessibility, land waste, etc.

    It all stinks to high heaven.

  • Well, I never.

    between 2010 and 2020, the Conservatives received £60.8m in donations from individuals and companies related to substantial property interests. Of property-related donations to all parties, 80% went to the Tories.


  • I think this is a correct decision, sadly:


    Seeing as the city's former mayor stands accused of corruption connected to the planning system, I wonder if the rubbish new development has something to do with that. I haven't looked in detail at which sites were affected, though.

  • A very interesting article about the Gowanus area in Brooklyn, which I'd never heard about. An 82-block development in a dangerously-polluted area where corners are being cut in the clean-up process? But of course.


    It reminds me of criticism levelled at the clean-up in the Lower Lea Valley for the London Olympics:


    No idea what kind of contamination is worse, low-level radioactive or coal tar, but it's probably just nasty in different ways.

    As ever, consequences of work that proves to be inadequate will only be felt in a couple of decades.

  • The level of overt (legalised) corruption is just breathtaking. If you're happy Jenrick is gone, you'll probably have to think again (he'll be back, though). I can't imagine that it's not just going to get worse with Evog.

  • I've been following Cycling UK's legal efforts for a judicial review of West Sussex Council's decision to remove "pop up" cycle infrastructure on Upper Shoreham Road.

    After some initial bad news, its good to hear some progress on this from CUK:

    Fingers crossed for the eventual day in court..

  • Note that's not a planning issue. It would probably get more attention in the various threads relating to street design.

  • It's really incredible what Paris has done, and the mayor was elected on a promise to remove
    parking spaces. Where does all this rationality come from?


  • Oulu in Finland seem to have nailed it.


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Urban / town planning and development

Posted by Avatar for Oliver Schick @Oliver Schick