Fields of homes for people, or fields of grass for those that already have homes?

October 30 2017, 12:01am, The Times
Either build on fields or cut immigration
Matt Ridley
It is absurd for people to insist that swathes of green land remain untouched when our population continues to rise

The Office for National Statistics says it expects Britain’s population to grow slightly more slowly than it thought three years ago, partly because of lower immigration after Brexit and partly because of slowing increases in life expectancy. But it still forecasts the figure to pass 70 million in a little more than ten years from now. That is not necessarily a bad thing, unless we remain as reluctant to build new houses, roads, schools and hospitals as we currently are. Britain can thrive as a dense city-state, a big Singapore, but not if it hates development. Openness to immigration and antipathy to building cannot both persist.
The ONS may be wrong, of course. In 1965 it expected that there would be 76 million Britons by 2000. Then the birth rate collapsed and immigration slowed, so by 1994 the statisticians were expecting a population of just over 60 million and falling by 2020. Ten years later they were back to projecting an acceleration upwards and by 2014 they predicted 74 million by 2039 and rising. The forecasts of demographers are little better than those of soothsayers gazing at the entrails of chickens.
Still, we are adding about half a million people a year, most of which is from net immigration and the higher birth rate of immigrants. Of the 1,447 people that Britain added every day in the 12 months to the end of June last year, roughly 529 were births minus deaths, 518 were net arrivals from the European Union, and 537 net arrivals from elsewhere, minus 137 departing British citizens. Given such a flow, our unemployment rate of 4.3 per cent and employment rate of 75.1 per cent are remarkable, if not miraculous. We are one of the world’s great workplaces, which, of course, is why people come.
A recent paper from the think tank Civitas, Britain’s Demographic Challenge: The implications of the UK’s rapidly increasing population, by Lord (Robin) Hodgson makes the point that we are not facing up to the implications of the rate of population expansion. He takes the previous ONS projections for four similar-sized towns — Dundee, Norwich, Stockton-on-Tees and Guildford — and calculates how much land must be built on to accommodate the expected increase in population to 2039. Taking into account not just housing, but roads, shops, offices, schools and such, he arrives at the conclusion that Guildford and Norwich will need to build on at least 65 acres every year, Stockton 55 and Dundee 40. That’s several fields a year.
Britain is already more densely populated than France, Italy and Germany but only in the southeast and the northwest of England do we begin to approach the population density of the Netherlands. Yet Schiphol airport has six runways, to Heathrow’s two, Dutch roads are far less congested, and the price of a flat outside a city centre is almost 30 per cent lower than in Britain. What are we doing wrong?

Though a densely populated country, Britain is not in any sense running out of land. Only about 7 per cent of the land area is classified as urban, rising to almost 11 per cent in England. But of that 11 per cent a great deal is still not concrete: gardens, parks, water and so forth. So the actual paved-over percentage, even just in England, is about 2.27 per cent according to the National Ecosystem Assessment in 2012, and more like 1 per cent for Britain as a whole. This is why a flight over southern England, let alone the Pennines, gives a very different impression from a car journey through the ribbon development along the roads: there is vastly more farmland and woodland (13 per cent of Britain and rising) than concrete.
Yet every time somebody wants to build a bypass, or housing development, let alone a runway, there is fury from NIMBYs and their lobby groups. Green belts, national parks, areas of outstanding natural beauty and other designations, together with planning delays and inquiries, constrain and increase the price of every attempt to provide the annual half a million extra Britons with houses, roads and schools.
What is more, I am guessing that the very people who rail against building development are more often than not the people who are most enthusiastic about immigration. The educated and wealthy tend to dominate nimbyism and also to dominate the argument for more immigration, whether out of admirable compassion for refugees or for good economic reasons. Whereas the people who most object to immigration, the urban working class, on the whole tend not to join the protest groups that oppose development. I am not taking sides here, just pointing out an irony.
There is no escape route in saying you are in favour of development but only on derelict or unused urban land. It is fanciful to think that the demands of the rising population can be met from “brownfield” sites alone. Fields and woods will have to go too. A recent paper by John Myers (founder of the group London Yes In My Back Yard) for the Adam Smith Institute, called Yimby: how to end the housing crisis, boost the economy and win more votes, recommends sensible reforms to get people behind sensitive development, mainly by giving streets and parishes control over their destinies. He estimates that a building boom to deliver more housing could raise GDP per capita by a gigantic 25-30 per cent.
Environmentalists were once more honest about this. It is often forgotten just how right-wing the roots of the environmental movement are, especially on population and immigration. Take the book that more than any other defined the birth of the environmental movement as a political force in Britain. It was called A Blueprint for Survival and it began life as a special issue of The Ecologist magazine in 1972. Signed by the great and the good of the green movement and written by Edward Goldsmith, it sold 750,000 copies. It called on the world’s governments to “declare their commitment to ending population growth; this commitment should also include an end to immigration”.
This is misanthropic, and unrealistic, but at least they had the courage of their convictions. They wanted to save the world, or the country, from (other) people, so they wanted fewer people. Those of us, and at least partly I include myself here, who like the preservation of all green spaces but also like welcoming immigrants should surely recognise that we are being hypocritical. We cannot have both.

Is Europe destined to repeat past mistakes because of EU’s hunger for power?


Copied from editorial comments Sunday Telegraph 29 October 2017

Not so much, ‘We told you so’, but rather a suggestion that, by seeking to impose heavy handed control from the centre, on any group of people with their own clear and separate identities, it will inevitability lead to some form of rebellion.

How such a rebellion, whatever it’s form, is responded to, is not only key to regaining the loyalty of the rebels, if that’s a possibility, it’s also key to the longterm credibility of those seeking to impose their will, in the eyes of those watching from the sidelines.

Spanish crisis shows 
UK is on right path
Ever since the EU referendum, opponents of Brexit have called it reckless, even suicidal. But the events in Catalonia prove how rational Brexit actually is. We are leaving behind a chaotic EU that is blind to its problems and incapable of fixing them, and while Brexit is undoubtedly a monumental decision that has to be handled extremely carefully, the crises on the continent are far greater by comparison.
The Remainer narrative is that everything on the other side of the Channel is okay. The economic picture has improved in the short-term thanks to the European Central Bank’s easy money policy. But structurally the continent remains in crisis and its politics veers to extremes. The Czech Republic has elected an anti-corruption businessman who is under investigation for financial irregularities. Hungary and Poland are in revolt. Two Italian regions have voted for enlarged autonomy. Austria may well be governed by a coalition that includes nationalists. And Germany’s far-Right won 94 seats in the Bundestag.
Spain is at the epicentre of Europe’s crisis of identity. Catalonia’s declaration of independence caps a violent history of regional nationalism that British politicians of Left and Right have tried and failed to explain in terms relevant to our own country. In fact, the stark contrast between how the UK is handling the Scottish nationalists and how Madrid has mishandled the Catalonians illustrates the wide gulf between Britain’s tradition of small government versus the authoritarianism found across much of the continent. London prefers diplomacy and democracy. Madrid’s force backfired horribly, and if it thinks that will resolve this disaster then it is likely to be mistaken.
The EU looks on, impotent – knowing that Catalonia won’t be the last region to make this leap into the unknown. The nationalist genie is out of the bottle and no amount of coercion, condescension or feigned ignorance will make it go away. Brexit is not Europe’s biggest problem. Under the present circumstances, given that all we are asking for is to depart on good terms and trade to mutual benefit, the EU would be wise to keep Britain onside and conclude a deal as swiftly as possible.

Inside story on Falklands landings and it’s tragic losses

Copied from Daily Telegraph letters page 28 October 2017

Falklands landings
SIR – As the two commanders responsible for planning and carrying out the amphibious landings on the Falklands in 1982, the only point on which we agree with Dr Mark Campbell-Roddis (Letters, October 27) concerns retaining HMS Ocean.
He suggests that the right way to land troops in 1982 would have been by helicopter inland and on a smaller scale under air cover. We considered this approach, but rejected it on the grounds that we did not have air superiority, or enough helicopters to land enough troops and their supporting artillery in sufficient strength, in the time required, to fight off counter-attacks by the Argentine army. The only way to achieve a quick enough build-up was by landing craft.
The landings were opposed on the ground by very few enemy troops. The main opposition came from the Argentine air force. Had we attempted major helicopter moves in daylight, the Argentine fighters would have had a turkey shoot among our helicopters. Our landing was in a relatively narrow creek with very little loss on the first day, despite our escorts being armed for the open ocean and not for action close inshore.
The tragedy of the Welsh Guards at Fitzroy (not Bluff Cove) was caused by the chaotic deployment to the South Atlantic of 5th Infantry Brigade, with insufficient logistic support or staff. Their move could only be supported by sea. The Argentine air force was fortunate in that the low cloud lifted in the west just in time. The landing was not opposed by ground troops. The sinking of the container ship Atlantic Conveyor with three Chinooks and eight Wessex helicopters did not help.
The major factor that “armchair warriors” usually forget is logistics. You cannot hope to defeat an army equipped with artillery by landing a few troops with sandwiches in their pockets and what ammunition they can carry, unsupported by artillery. It takes 50 medium helicopter sorties to move a battery of six light guns and sufficient ammunition for one battle.
Michael Clapp
Commander, Amphibious Task Group, Falklands 1982
Julian Thompson
Commander, 3 Commando Brigade, Falklands 1982

Why May and Khan are in a ‘War of Words’ over Housing

Nothing to add to this picture of doom.

Decisions, Decisions, Decisions

Evening Standard – 13/10/2017 Oddly not on website.  Briefing from No 10 not city Hall.  Thanks to Daniel Bentley for the Pic.

The fatal weakness of PM May is her inability to partner with anyone.  She behaves with everyone like the worst form of hectoring boss.  Contrast her behavior on Friday with that of Lord Adonis and City Mayors in launching the National Infrastructure Assessment   on the same day.

Clearly Gavin Barwell is having an influence, but in giving May more things to panic and strut about not necessarily a good one.

The mistakes on housing, particularly planning for housing land, and the taxation of land, are so longstanding and systemic.  You can’t turn that around in a couple of years.  It would be much better to take bold long term decisions, like on Garden Cities and New Settlements, that will leave a legacy.

But lets look at another…

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Introducing MOAN – Model for Objective Assessment of Needs – A Fudge Factor Free Approach

What a brilliantly ironic acronym for such a controversial process.

Decisions, Decisions, Decisions

We only have till 9th of November to respond to Planning for the right homes in the right places.

I have a week next week between finishing one contract and starting another so what better time to write up a model i’ve been developing for many months for estimating need for every LPA in England, and crucially without the ‘Global Fudge Factor’ that fatally undermines the DCLG -LPEG derived approach.  This model was a free by product of a research project which has to remain confidential for a few weeks.

There will be many technical post explaining the different modules and assumptions of the approach but first – here – a non technical introduction.

In summary the DCLG model wont work and will make our national systematic housing shortfall far worse.

The housing crisis in Britain has two main supply side reasons (there are demand side reasons but they are…

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May (in panic) to Housebuilders – You Naughty Naughty Boys

The culprit is named at the start of this piece, one Eric Pickles, now Sir Eric Pickles, his reward as is often the case, for such people when leaving chaos in their wake, when in a ministerial position. Given the damage he managed to do in such a relatively short space of time, I’m amazed he wasn’t elevated to sainthood, although I did anticipate a lordship at least for the Bradford wrecking ball.
As a reminder, just a couple of things of Pickles did to make the planning system the mess it is now and blight the housing estates built in the last ten years are. He trashed regional planning, because it was a top down system dictating housing numbers, this being replaced by the farcical duty to cooperate and objectively assessed housing need figures that tie every local Plan examination in knots.
He changed the density requirements, so that even the most rural locations had to build at 30 to the hectare, almost double in many cases. If developers and house builders had a track record of working to such densities and knew how to design sympathetically to such densities it might not have been such a problem. However, they didn’t and the y still don’t.
All they did, was build small houses on smaller plots, with smaller garden, more cramped parking arrangements and then serve many of these estate with private and therefore unadoptable roadways.

Decisions, Decisions, Decisions


Given the lead in times between outline on big sites and development – even with a drop in ‘landabnking’ only a realtively number of extra homes could be buolt by yhe next election.  Upping numbers is a long term game.  The Tories are paying the consequences years later of Eric Pickles breaking the Planning System for Growth areas/

Theresa May has called Britain’s biggest developers to a Downing Street summit this week after pledging to “dedicate” her premiership to fixing the “broken” housing market.

Government sources said the Prime Minister will “lay down a challenge” to the industry to construct more homes, in a “significant intervention” following her promise to get more people onto the housing ladder.

Leading developers and building firms are expected to attend the summit on Tuesday, together with representatives from local authorities and housing associations.

The meeting comes after Mrs May used her conference…

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South Staffs – A totally predictable ‘clusterf###k’ Local Plan Examination

Lots of good points in here, worthy of note for anybody working on their Local Plan now. Too late for us to make any changes (not that we need any, actually that’s up to the inspector to decide for us) as our examination in public starts on 10 Oct in Boston. It’s a public meeting so anybody can attend and listen to the proceedings.

Decisions, Decisions, Decisions

Amongst the names of local authorities that are heading for disaster and have plunged over the cliff despite all warning there are a few sad cases, one that always come up are the likes of St Albans, South Oxfordshire, Erewash and yes South Staffs – all of which think they have a duty to obstruct and stick two fingers up to all of their neighbors.

They have taken advantage of the fact they have a core strategy (without allocations) adopted in 2012 before any overspill form any adjoining area, Black Country, Brum, Stafford, Cannock Chase or Wrekin was set; taking advantage of recent case law (including Cooper Estates v Tunbridge Wells BC [2017; EWHC 224 (Admin)]; Oxted Residential Ltd v Tandridge DC [2016; EWCA Civ 4140]; Gladman Development Ltd v Wokingham BC [2014; EWHC 2320 (Admin)];) that an allocations plan following a recent core strategy does not have to examine…

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