Narrow roads squeezing buses out of new estates

Unfortunately, Stagecoach have chosen the wrong target when trying to find somebody or something to blame for this problem.  It’s not the planning rules, it’s the lack of them.  The drive for deregulation across many areas of government, has seen minimum road widths disappear and developers allowed to get away with doing the absolute minimum.  The only rules that seems to apply these days are those about visibility splays, to ensure that views are sufficient for a driver to pull out into traffic safely.

once again the politicians have allowed the developers to hold sway over common sense and good planning, creating blighted estates for generations to come.

Copied from The Times online

Narrow roads squeezing buses out of new estates
Graeme Paton, Transport Correspondent
July 31 2017, 12:01am,
The Times
Stagecoach says high-density developments are being built with roads only 6m wide, when operators need 6.5m to allow two buses to pass without clipping wing mirrors
Stagecoach says high-density developments are being built with roads only 6m wide, when operators need 6.5m to allow two buses to pass without clipping wing mirrors
RICHARD MILLS FOR THE TIMES

Residents on newly built housing estates are being cut off from the bus network because developers are failing to construct wide enough roads, according to public transport bosses.

One of Britain’s biggest operators warned that buses were being forced to avoid many estates amid concerns over narrow roads, sharp bends, overzealous traffic calming and parked cars.

Stagecoach said that high-density developments were being built with roads only 6m wide, when operators needed 6.5m to allow two buses to pass without clipping wing mirrors.

It blamed planning rules that have cut road widths or pushed the layout of sharp bends to keep car speeds down.

The company also said that national guidelines introduced by Labour 17 years ago intended to clear roads of cars by providing less off-street parking had backfired, with many motorists leaving vehicles on the street.

 

Stagecoach has issued its own guidance to councils, urging them to build roads at least 6.5m wide, with sweeping bends and off-street parking provided.

It also said that “shared space” schemes that seek to declutter streets by stripping out kerbs, road markings and traffic signs should be redesigned to “avoid buses straying into areas intended mainly for pedestrians”.

Nick Small, Stagecoach’s head of strategic development for the south, said examples included the Shilton Park estate in Carterton, Oxfordshire, where the company could not operate a full-size bus, and the Kingsway development, Gloucester, which had areas “impenetrable by buses”.

Daniel Carey-Dawes, a senior infrastructure campaigner at the Campaign to Protect Rural England, said: “Bad design will lock our towns and countryside into toxic congestion and car dependency for decades.”

Martin Tett, housing and transport spokesman for the Local Government Association, said: “We will be looking closely at this blueprint and continuing to work hard to deliver places where our communities can thrive.”
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Developers Plan to Ditch Sherford Design Code Stymied

Well done to the committee for sticking with their policies and not allowing developers to pressure them in to watering them down. Hopefully the inspector, at the inevitable appeal, will agree.

Decisions, Decisions, Decisions

Plymouth Herald

Alas Devon CC still ruins everything by insiting on Asphalt pavements

The Princes Trust tweeted support for the decision.

Code here

Sherford developers have been blocked from scrapping a strict set of design rules – as councillors said the move would have created a “zombie town” with “years of planning thrown out of the window”.

Housing firms applied to ditch a town code drawn up 13 years ago and replace it with a set of “fundamental principles” allowing greater flexibility over materials and construction methods.

Consortium bosses denied the move would affect the quality of new homes, but members of the planning committee were not convinced.

Cllr Jonny Morris (Lab) said he did not want Sherford to end up like Poundbury in Dorchester, which he described as the sort of place you would see “in the aftermath of a zombie apocalypse”.

Cllr Vivien Pengelly (Con): “I am deeply…

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How to be a very clever fool

If you take a look a Sajid Javid’s Wikipedia entry, you’ll get some insight into why he was possibly the second worst choice as Secretary of State for Local Government, after Eric Pickles.  At least Pickles started his political life as a councillor, which is clearly where he gained his hatred for the sector.

in Sajid Javid’s case, Given that he’s never been a councillor, one can only assume that his dislike for councils is based on the size of his local council tax bill, the introduction of a fortnightly refuse collection, or an over complicated recycling system, where he resides.  Or is it that he really is a hardcore bean counter, with absolutely no people skills, who simply wowed everybody with his big brain and financial speak to become an MP and now finds himself like a fish out of water?

That said, even he must surely appreciate that, unless you carry your electorate with you, then all your highminded, doing the right thing policies count for nought, when it come to the ballot box.

Singling out councillors, as the sole reason why housing isn’t getting built in high demand areas, goes to demonstrate how out of touch so many of our MPs are.

The electorate are very happy to vent their anger with central government at local elections, especially when the council in control is from the same party as the government.  They feel that their vote is simply sending a message, as opposed to having any real impact on the future of the country, in the same way voting in a General Election does.

imagine then the fallout for those in control, if they have approved hundred, or even thousands of new houses, against fierce local opposition, even if it is desperately needed.  Ignoring the political pressure involved, especially in areas where the well heeled, well connected take up arms and their cheque books, shows a clear lack of political realism, let alone accume.

Also, I would remind Mr Javid, that his predecessor scrapped one of the key policy mechanisms for by-passing these so-called ‘selfish local councillors’ – Regional Spatial Strategies.  These set the housing numbers required for each area within the region covered and dictated individual Local Plans accordingly.  Eric Pickles came in like a bull in a china shop and threw these documents on the pyre in 2010, telling us all that such things should be decided locally, because locals know best.

Of course he didn’t really mean it, because waiting in the wings, was the National Planning Policy Framework.  This supposed simplification document of only 52 pages contained footnotes referring to documents containing at least 1800 other pages.  It was then followed up with the NPPF technical guide of nearly 200 pages and numerous ministerial directives, that have attempted to correct perceived shortcomings of the new improved system.

just to add insult to injury, the government has sought numerous ways to rig the system in the developer’s favour.  If you can’t prove you have a 5 year supply of readily available housing land, then it’s effectively anything goes.  If the developer claims the houses are too expensive to build, or more accurately, the profits aren’t big enough, they can play the viability card and avoid the provision of such things as affordable housing, provision of a school, or contributions to other local facilities.

Finally, and a perfectly example of his deep ignorance of all things planning, is his threat to shame council leaders into revealing their ‘real’ housing need.  Every council has to do this piece of evidence based work, as part of their Local Plan preparation.  Therefore, at some point, it becomes a matter of the public record, as part of the statutory consultation process.

I’m not sure what the difference is going to be between these figures and the ones he envisages, I’m not sure.  What’s worse, there’s very little point going through this duplicate process, if you then don’t have the delivery mechanism needed to make the need a reality.  You’re picking the wrong targets Mr Javid, on so many levels.

Like so many things in government and no more so than in planning, we are going around in circles. We’re going from local to top down, back to local and on to goodness knows what, given that the bloke now in charge, really doesn’t seem to have a clue where to start.

Copied from ConservativeHome

Published: July 16, 2017
Inflammatory language, noble aims. Javid prepares to battle for more home ownership and social justice.

By Paul Goodman

“From now on these council leaders, who include many Conservatives who should know better, are going to have to start telling the truth.

“We are not prepared for them to lie about the housing crisis to protect Nimbys [Not In My Backyard] who have had too much sway for too long.

“They are going to have to adjust to the idea that everyone has a right to a roof over their head in this green and pleasant land, not just a privileged few.

“Owning your own home is a fundamental part of being a Conservative. If a whole generation of young people cannot afford to do that, we can’t complain if they vote Labour.’

“Selfish Conservative councils need to smell the coffee or there won’t be a Conservative Party in the future. We have to end the tyranny of a well-heeled minority who complain a maisonette built within five miles will ruin the view from their “in-out driveways” and orangeries. They have the cash and clout to bully everyone else into submission. It cannot go on.”
Whichever “official” briefed today’s Mail on Sunday about Sajid Javid’s plans for housing – the source is described in that way – cannot be accused of seeking to ingratiate the Communities Secretary with Party members.

In one sense, this way of communicating Javid’s view, if it was authorised, is odd, since he reportedly has leadership ambitions. In another, it is par for the course. As we have written many times, the Communities Secretary is seized with the need for more homes to be built. And as politicians go, he is a very straightforward character – more inclined than most of them to sail straight towards the shore, rather than tack and trim to the tides.

At the end of last month, we reported that he sees the key to achieving this as “a needs assessment for each area based on robust data which local authorities are not able to water down to the point where nothing much gets built at all”.

Before the last election, he was unable to shift Theresa May on this point, and she was all-powerful in government. The transformation in the balance of power between her and her Ministers since June 9 is thus working to Javid’s advantage. The Mail claims that “he will this week warn that if wealthy areas like Maidenhead in Berkshire refuse to build extra homes to solve the UK’s housing crisis, they will drive more young voters who can’t afford to buy into the arms of Labour’s Jeremy Corbyn”.

For the Communities Secretary to name the Prime Minister’s constituency would be quite extraordinarily, er, direct – and we must assume that the paper is gilding the lily.

But it sounds pretty much on the money when it adds that the Communities Secretary “is ready to ‘shame’ some council leaders into owning up to housing needs” and that “they will be ordered to perform a ‘full and frank’ audit of their area and explain how they will meet demand”. Javid will apparently “promise to increase the number of homes built a year in Britain from 190,000 to 300,000, a rise of 58 per cent” and “has the Prime Minister’s full backing”. Hmm.

We agree with the Communities Secretary. The importance of building more homes isn’t a post-election fad for us, suddenly unearthed since June 9th.

In the ConservativeHome manifesto, published three years ago, we called for a fairer deal for young people in Britain’s housing settlement – complete with new garden cities and new paths to home ownership “Central government support should be switched to enable councils, housing associations and other registered social landlords to build new homes,” we wrote. “This new support would be conditional on making these new homes available through schemes that help tenants to become owners.”

But make no mistake: Javid is set for the mother and father of all dust-ups with Conservative-controlled councils, whose fear of the Party’s collective leadership, in the wake of the election result, has plunged through the floor and is still heading downwards.

So he will need to deploy a bit more honey and a little less vinegar than today’s report suggests if he is to seek to keep local councillors onside. It is just as well that the changes he wants don’t require primary legislation, which wouldn’t stand a cat in hell’s chance of getting through the Commons, as presently constituted. But he must ready himself for outraged Tory MPs to come knocking at his door in droves, backed up by Conservative council leaders.

Recycling – are we it doing because it seems like a good idea, even though it’s rubbish?

A government sponsored charity called WRAP is a very valuable asset to councils, helping them wade through all the confusing legislation surrounding recycling.  It also adds a degree of weight to the argument that it is the commercial sector and industry that needs to stop generating the amount of materials it does, that aren’t recyable and limit the use of those that are to the minimum.

However, WRAP is advisory, has a limited budget and has no powers that would allow it to make any real changes.  It therefore doesn’t really help when they release a report stating the blindingly obvious – people are confused by recycling, by what can and can’t be recycled.  It tells us that the rules are too complicated and ‘suggests’ that it’s councils that need to do more.

Hardly surprising that they would turn the spotlight away from their paymasters, but nonethelsss disappointing.  It ignores the increasing funding deficit local government is experiencing and fails to offer any real solutions.

Suffice to say, councils are used to being dictated to by central government and told to fix problems created by them in the first place.

If householders want the convenience of throwing everything in the same recycling bin, they had better be prepared to pay dearly for the privilege of doing so.

Even then, paper, card and in particular newspapers and magazines, needs to kept completely clean and uncontamined throughout the process. We should at least be able to expect householders to cooperate on this. If not, we really are fighting a losing battle.

The only way we’ll get any improvement in recycling is to spend money. Believing you can do it by bullying councils by attempting to shift the blame on to them, is not only counter-productive, it’s pointless.

We’ve convinced a large element of the public that they have a duty to recycle, in order to save the planet, but the only way government has demonstrated their commitment, is by short term incentives, that then get withdrawn, or swallowed up in the inpeneratrable morass of the annual local government financial settlement.

The government also continues to behave in what can only be described as a cowardly and evasive way when it comes to showing any form of leadership on the major issues. Too much of the public believe that it is councils that somehow control and determine what does and doesn’t not go into their recycling bins.
Councils have a statutory duty, in law, to collect and dispose of household waste. These days, that household waste get collected in different streams, residual – the non- recyclable stuff and recycling.
In some areas, mainly rural areas, one council collects and another disposes. Large urban areas and cities tend to have unitary councils, that do both. However, the result is the same, once collected and ready for disposal, only the private sector has the infrastructure to process what needs to be disposed of.
Most non-recyclable waste goes into incinerating in the form of energy from waste plants, with less and less going into landfill sites.
Recycling is disposed of, by handing it over to the recycling industry, who have agreed a contract with the council based on what they can and cannot sell on. The volitilty of the recycled materials market, means that most of the contracts are short in length and, if the local authority insists on including materials the recyclers can’t sell, very expensive to the council and therefore their taxpayers.
Why include stuff the companies can’t sell? For exactly the reasons mentioned in the article. The public are already confused and annoyed by the recycling messages received from their councils. Imagine what the response would be if the list of recyclates changed every three or four years?
The Tetrapak issue is a perfect example of this issue. The only company in the country that was recycling these was based in Scotland and stopped operating over 5 years ago.  However, because my own council told our residents that they could recycle them when it was all the fashion, we put in place a contract that requires these to be accepted as part of the mix.
If a company takes on a contract and accepts an item as recyclable that then becomes unsellable, that’s their financial loss.
If a council puts in an unsellable item, its the taxpayer that pays for this to be taken out. If the householder puts it in, despite being asked not to, its contamination and can see a complete freighter load written off and sent for burning, or to landfill.

The government’s threat to pass on the EU £500,000 a day fine for missing the 50% recycling target, to councils, will probably be retained in some form even post Brexit.  The recycling target will be transposed into UK legislation and no doubt so will the threat of the fine.

if this does happen, I suspect we are going to see councils become far more bullish about recycling post Brexit and start pushing back on some of the highminded ideology that has been driving the whole agenda for far too long.

Defending the indefensible

My group leader and leader of South Holland District Council, is doing a sterling job in his role as chairman of the Local Government Association, of defending the indefensible.

His recent appeal for local government to stop trading blows with ‘our’ Secretary of State for Local Government, seems to continue to fall on deaf ears when it comes to the man himself, Sajid Javid.

instead of being supportive and constructive, he has chosen to take on the enforcers role, of battering down the doors of democracy and ‘sending in the boys’.  Is this what passes for proactive leadership in his world?

A relatively small council, albeit a relatively wealthy inner London one, confronted by such an extraordinary event as the Grenfell Tower fire, doesn’t need taking over, by a bunch of self important bureaucrats and highminded senior councillors.  Asking for help is one thing, what he’s suggesting is a different beast altogether and is normally reserved for councils where political warfare, corruption, or financial mismanagement has become endemic.

Having placed a very large boot on every council’s throat at the recent Local Govenment Conference, by telling them that they had lost the public’s confidence, he’s now decided to prove his point by threatening to jump the gun at K&C.

Look in the mirror Mr Javid and you’ll see whose lost confidence in who.

What a shame the PM didn’t get her majority, as this could well have seen a new SoS, such as Gavin Barwell, who sadly also lost his seat.  As it is, we have one who is far more comfortable dealing with the spreadsheets and financial projections of his previous Treasury job, than he is with the real people and grass roots democracy of local government.

Copied from MJ online

Government open to Kensington & Chelsea takeover
13 July 2017
The Government will ‘take over’ Kensington & Chelsea RLBC if necessary, the communities secretary Sajid Javid has said.

In an interview with broadcast journalist Robert Peston yesterday, Mr Javid said that while the Department for Communities and Local Government (DCLG) has appointed an independent taskforce to advise the council for now, a complete takeover via commissioners is also a possibility.

He said: ‘I have made this clear and I said this in Parliament last week, if the taskforce comes back to me and they say, actually, the council is still not coping and it’s not up to this job, then I won’t hesitate to take further action, including taking over the council if that’s what is necessary.’

The appointment of a taskforce to assist Kensington & Chelsea RLBC with long-term recovery work following Grenfell was announced by Mr Javid last week.

But the secretary of state explained that for the Government to take away the powers of a democratically elected council is ‘a big thing to do’, but added that ‘it doesn’t mean it shouldn’t be done.’

When pressed on whether the Government will provide financial support to councils that are carrying out fire safety work on buildings, Mr Javid pledged to provide them with the money that they require.

He said: ‘Come and talk to us and we will make sure that you get the financial support you need so that the work definitely happens.’

However, he did not answer Mr Peston’s question about where the funds will come from and whether the DCLG’s pledge for funding has the backing of the treasury and chancellor.

Addressing Parliament yesterday, the first secretary of state Damian Green clarified that the Government’s offer of financial support is only for those councils that can prove that they cannot afford to fund the necessary safety work on their own.

He said: ‘If the fire service recommends that something needs to be done for safety reasons, the local authority will be the first port of call to pay for it.

‘If a local authority can show that it cannot afford it, central Government will obviously then step in. That is a matter for local authorities and the fire service in the first instance.’

Mr Green also reiterated that the taskforce appointed to Kensington & Chelsea is purely advisory and does not have any executive powers. It will report to the communities secretary and not the council.

City Planning Chief wants Less Glitzy Architecture

Good luck with trying to prevent architects from convincing their clients that their project needs to outdo the ones built before it.

 

Just like the recent comments by others, that the heart of London is being overwhelmed by sky scrapers, with the most notorious being the one that has blighted the wider view of St Paul’s Cathedral.

I believe somebody in the London planning system actually offered a sort of apology, for not considering the impact on a world heritage asset from the wider perspective. Too little, too late.

Super shiny vanity projects seem to be the order of the day for those wishing to squeeze the maximum floor space into their high priced piece of inner London.

So whilst the well-heeled residents of London are busy digging down to get more space from their investment – being a home seems to be secondary, most have several across the world – the commercial sector are feverishly wrecking the historic London skyline, all in the name of maximum profit.

Although we should be justifiably worried about destroying the environment and the planet with it, for future generations, we also need to protect our own heritage for future generations.

Personally, I’m not particularly optimistic, given our appetite for eventually adopting every bad habit the USA has. The market always wins.

Decisions, Decisions, Decisions

Building

Carolyn Dwyer says the corporation will tend towards more ‘harmonious architecture’ in future

The head of planning at the City of London Corporation has said she wants to see less glitzy buildings go up in the Square Mile in future.

Carolyn Dwyer (pictured) was appointed two years ago as director of the built environment at the Corporation of London, the City’s local authority. She took the job after Peter Rees stepped down as the City’s chief planning officer three years ago. He had backed Rafael Viñoly’s controversial Walkie Talkie skyscraper built by Canary Wharf Contractors.

Dwyer said the corporation wants to see “slightly calmer and more harmonious architecture” in future.

She added: “We have to have architecture of the best possible quality that delivers for 21st-century needs, but every piece doesn’t need to be a stand-out landmark building. We are not developing individual tower blocks that stand alone on…

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Did we dodge the bullet in Lincolnshire? This NAO report is no help to us really

National Audit Office questions combined authorities’ economic benefits
By Hiba Mahamadi | 10 July 2017
There is inadequate evidence to suggest that combined authorities deliver improved economic outcomes, a report published by the National Audit Office has said.

Auditors assessed draft monitoring and evaluation plans for combined authorities in the West Midlands, the North East, Greater Manchester, West Yorkshire and the Tees Valley.

They found that while authorities were working to link spending with outcomes and impact, the results varied in quality.
Accountability and scrutiny may also be compromised in combined authorities, the report added.

The report found the Greater Manchester Combined Authority had experienced difficulties retaining representatives on its scrutiny and audit committees.

It also found that many authorities have had to take staff from transport and other local authorities.