Laudable, but I don’t believe there’s the political will to deliver such schemes now – whatever the Party in power

Copied from Comment inews.co.uk – Weds 31 July

George Clarke: We don’t just need more council houses – we need the very best in space and ecological standards

We are building noddy box estates with hardly any green space and no public amenities. It isn’t good enough

The housing system can't be just a numbers game., says George Clarke. Surely it is about ‘what’ we build rather than ‘how many’ we build (Channel 4)

I was brought up on a council estate, but it wasn’t just any old council estate. It was part of one of the most ambitious and innovative housing developments in the country. My estate was in Washington, a place between Sunderland and Newcastle that was given new town status in 1964. Some of the best architects, urban designers, planners, landscape architects and highway and infrastructure engineers came together to build an entire town that would completely transform my life. It was and still is a fantastic place to live.

My Mam’s council house, which she still lives in today, was designed to excellent space standards with a decent sized front and back garden. It sat around a pedestrianised square that was safe for us all to play in. I could walk to school without having to cross a road. The landscaping was amazing. Large green spaces became our fields of dreams where we played football for hours until the sun went down.

‘We had brand new shops, pubs, community centres, health centres, schools, sports facilities, a thriving shopping centre, youth clubs, industrial estates, factories, workshops, art centres, the lot’

There was an incredible mix of house types. Two-storey four-bedroom houses like ours for young families, three-storey six-bedroom houses for extended families, maisonettes and thousands of single-storey bungalows for those who wanted or needed to live on one level. My estate was a fantastic community that didn’t just happen by chance – it was designed from the outset to be a community.

It wasn’t just about great housing and wonderful green spaces. We had every public amenity a community needed. We had brand new shops, pubs, community centres, health centres, schools, sports facilities, a thriving shopping centre, youth clubs, industrial estates, factories, workshops, art centres, the lot. We hardly left our new town because we didn’t have to. We had absolutely everything we needed, designed in the most humane and caring way. Most importantly, our homes were truly affordable. Families worked and paid their affordable rent to the council. If you paid your rent you had a safe, secure and stable home for life and housing waiting lists were short.

Look where we are now.  After two-thirds of all council housing had been sold off under Right to Buy or handed over to housing associations, only two million are now left under council control from a high of more than six million in 1980. More than one million people are on social housing waiting lists. More than 100,000 children are living in temporary accommodation. The huge demand and massive lack of supply means property prices are the highest they have ever been. Long gone are the days when most of the population could buy a home for 3.5 times an average income. We are in the biggest affordability and housing crisis the country has ever seen and every year it is getting worse.

What we are building often isn’t good enough; noddy box estates with hardly any green space and certainly no public amenities. The Government has completely failed in its responsibility to provide good quality, affordable housing for its people.

In 2017, Theresa May admitted the housing market is “broken”. This broken system is destroying the lives of so many people. Homelessness is rife. As an ambassador for the housing charity Shelter and being close to the housing industry since becoming an architectural apprentice at 16, I’ve seen far too many families being affected by stress, severe depression, anxiety, poor health and even suicide because they don’t have a stable home.

This has to change. Not everyone wants to ‘own’ their home. Millions will never afford to buy their own home anyway. The state needs to build homes for affordable rent for its people again. Homes should be for people and not profit.

Read more

9m² flats, microhomes sold under Help to Buy: how office-to-flat conversions created the rise of ‘rabbit-hutch’ homes

The housing system can’t be just a numbers game. Surely it is about ‘what’ we build rather than ‘how many’ we build. That cultural change needs to happen from 31 July 2019, the 100th Anniversary of the Addison Act, when I launch my campaign to build 100,000 high-quality, low carbon council houses every year for the next 30 years to replace all of the state housing that has been lost.

Twenty first century homes require the very best in space and ecological standards. Why? Because without a stable roof over your head, everything else in life becomes so much harder, and everyone deserves a home.

George Clarke’s Council House Scandal starts on 31 July at 9pm on Channel 4 

This month’s big idea, from this month’s Housing Secretary

Taking the Easy Way Out: Developers Warned on Poor Quality Homes

Housing Secretary Robert Jenrick has warned developers building poor-quality homes that they will have to “change their practices” as he called for a “systematic change” in Britain’s approach to planning and design – as reported in on 24/10/19 in the Times: https://www.thetimes.co.uk/article/housing-secretary-robert-jenrick-warns-developers-over-poor-homes-p2326f92x

The Government is tackling poorly designed homes – not poorly constructed homes with the launch of a National Design Guide.  This reminds planning authority that planning permission should be refused for developments that failed to take the opportunities available for improving the character and quality of an area and the way it functions.

The guide specifically discourages features that create barriers or segregation within a development.  So poor doors and exclusive playgrounds are out (see “Poor doors: the Segregation of London” & “Too Poor to Play”.

It encourages well-designed building which are functional and sustainable.  Things such as simple electrics, lighting and water systems which are discreet, well-maintained and easy to access to maintain.  It is a sign of the bad design and bad quality housing that the Guide needs to state these obvious facts.

Good design also means that places are robust, durable and easy to look after.  Regrettably, again, this is a feature which is all too often missing from new housing.

Addressing bad design is positive but it seems like the easy way out for the government.  It doesn’t touch on the bigger and more difficult issues of poor construction and appalling workmanship that we see on a day to day basis.  None of these issues will be addressed by the new design guidelines.

It is time for the government to focus on the problems buyers of new build homes are facing which stem from workmanship not design.  Missing insulation, defective floors, leaks, crumbling mortar, badly constructed brick walls and other serious structural problems.It’s time the government took action to make sure builders get these basics right.

New Zealand Tackles Nimby Defence of Property Interests Head in in New National Policy Statement

Lessons in spatial planning policy from the other side of the world – is ANYBODY on this side listening? In fact, will anybody stay in the job long enough to even understand it enough to try?

Decisions, Decisions, Decisions

A very interesting read

Of course the New Zealand System is based on resource management which the draft statement says has not been focussed enough around spatial planning, or social and economic considerations.

Current processes for public participation tend to favour wealthier property owners over others (in particular younger, non-English speakers, ethnic minorities, the less educated and renters)….

Some planning decisions on urban development appear to consider only the effects on the natural environment or specific amenity considerations, and not how the urban environment meets the social, economic and cultural needs of people and communities. Many decisions
focus on the adverse effects of development, and do not adequately address its benefits (including for future generations). This can have a local and national impact…

The Government intends to introduce objectives and
policies in the NPS-UD that would:
• emphasise that amenity values can change over time, with changes in communities and…

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The Strategic Tradeoff in New Style Strategic Plans

Decisions, Decisions, Decisions

The story of strategic planning since the 2004 Act has been in large part an innovation of new styles of plan facing the harsh reality of  contact with the Planning Inspectorate.

Now the results of the NEGC and West of England examinations into new style joint strategic plans offers an opportunity reflection similar to that following the unsoundness fining of the first core strategy for Stafford.

Although strategic planning has seen an inevitable revival the reason why it has not been welcomed with open arms is that in England we have never got the structure or geographical level of strategic planning right.  Numerous messing around with local government structures always short of a comprehensive form has led to a messy combination of strategic plan structures covering districts, unitaries, counties and combined authorities.  Though we have moved beyond the weak duty to cooperate to an effective duty to plan strategically there…

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How can we allow this to be happening in this day and age?

Windowless permitted development flats approved at appeal

A plan to convert a light industrial building into 15 flats under permitted development rights has won permission at appeal, despite seven of the units lacking windows and the inspector commenting that they “would not be a positive living environment”.

So why would a supposedly intelligent and well trained planning inspector, having made such a statement, still permit such a sub-standard form of development to go ahead?

Unfortunately, this summary is from a subscription site, so I am unable to get any further details.

Electric Vehicle Charging points to be Made Compulsory – but at £16k a time it will kill Affordable Apartments

Ludicrous piece of knee jerk policy making. Pandering to to some idealised image of a zero carbon car owning society within 25 or 50 years? Meanwhile we continue to build junk housing that fails in nearly every other category of providing decent accommodation that can cater for any sort of change to family circumstance. Need a bit more storage, you’ll need to move. Need room for a baby, you’ll need to move. Need to park a car, you’ll need to move. Want any sort of outside space – good luck with that one. Wondering where to put the 2, 3, 4 + wheelie bins your refuse and recycling now has to go in? Don’t bother looking for the well designed outdoor storage provided as part of the building regs, because central government were too busy wasting money on the electric charging point for the car you’ll never be able to afford, or even park outside your shoebox of a dwelling.

Decisions, Decisions, Decisions

DoT

We are proposals to alter existing:

  • residential
  • non-residential

buildings regulations to include a requirement for electric vehicle chargepoint infrastructure.

The government proposes every new residential building with an associated car parking space to have a chargepoint. We propose this requirement applies to buildings undergoing a material change of use to create a dwelling.

Installing chargepoints in residential buildings will add an additional cost ofapproximately £976 per car parking space for an average home.

This is not correct.  If you are installing a chargpoint in af ront wall next to a parking space the cost for the socket is £45.   If you have flats where anyone can plug in (to avoid electricity rsutling) the cost of a digital charging pole is 14-16 thousand.  This will likely kill off affordable apartments and build to rent.  As of yet there is no technical solution to this at an affordable price.  The sensible…

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The Emergence of ‘Soft’ Strategic Planning

The legacy of Eric Pickles and his Conservative supporters across the country, have left this country with both the current housing shortage and a belief that Nimbies can win the day with the right MPs on their team.

Decisions, Decisions, Decisions

Soft planning is a new style of planning, nothing to do with its statutory status or otherwise.  We have non statutory strategic plans in places like Leicestershire and Surrey and emerging statutory plans with a ‘soft’ stage in places like Oxfordshire., Northamptonshire (next month) and Greater Exteter.  What all of these have in common is absolutely no sharp edges of housing numbers assigned to locations which might hurt a Nimby or upset a local politician.  They are easy to agree as there is no need to set up a structure to make hard choices that cannot be agreed through unanimity.  If you get housing numbers at all it is in an appendix stating need as a fact with a comment that this does not imply distribution. You might get a diagram showing growth locations, but only in the non statutory forms to get around SEA requirements.

Are they useful.  Certainly…

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