09 Aug 2018

Making the Green Belt more productive An interview for RT news channel 

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08 Aug 2018

Should Britain build on its green belt to solve the housing crisis? (First published in February 2017) 

Back in the 1930s, English planners came up with a novel idea to prevent urban sprawl: a ring of countryside surrounding the city, protected from development by law. This “green belt” would preserve the unique characters of historic towns, safeguard the countryside from development and encourage the regeneration and reuse of urban land. It was adopted nationally in 1955, and around 13% of England is now zoned as green belt land.

But today, the UK is experiencing a housing crisis. The nation requires nearly 300,000 new homes each year to keep up with demand – not to mention making up for the undersupply from previous years. In the year to September 2016, only 141,000 were built. This deficit has sparked renew…

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27 Jul 2018

 

Mainstreaming nature in planning policy: Finding the hooks and crooks in the new NPPF

There has been much comment and hype over the long awaited NPPF released on the last day before summer recess (24th July 2018). This blog uses a green infrastructure lens set within the wider umbrella of spatial planning to pass comment on the NPPF’s environmental credentials. In a previous output from a research project on mainstreaming green infrastructure, a collective response from the Green Infrastructure Partnership was made under my editorship highlighting our concerns over the draft NPPF[1]. This may provide useful reading to put this blog in context.

I have framed this piece looking at the NPPF in its entirety and then drilling into specific sections. It forms a starting point for further discussions and comment.

Overall purpose and vision.

The NPPF is currently being framed as a set of planning rules by both government and press in its external communications. This is not what the NPPF is or should be. In many ways this reflects the lack of vision within the NPPF itself. Good planning is much more than applying a set of rules. At its heart is the concept of designing and building better places and environments within a placemaking agenda. Here planners have a set of skills and tools to do this and have undergone years of professional trainin…

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23 Jul 2018

Hopes for the new National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF) 2018

Following an extensive consultation with members of the Green Infrastructure Partnership[1], a response to the draft NPPF 2018 was published and sent to the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government (MHCLG)[2].  This forms a key output of my Natural Environment Research Council Knowledge Exchange fellowship[3], which seeks to improve the way that nature is mainstreamed in planning policy and decision making. As the new NPPF 2018 is expected to be published tomorrow here are the key aspirations from that document.   

 First and foremost, nature is not a bolt-on or secondary issue to economic development and housing. It is the bedrock upon which a successful economic development strategy and delivery can be built and thus should be built in from the outset. However, the silos and institutional myopia within national and local government are hindering more effective planning policy and delivery.   Current normal[4] weather in the UK (based on extreme wet/dry/windy/hot/cold conditions) highlights this interdependence quite graphically.

That the NPPF formally adopts the United Nations sustainable development goals as the primary purpose…

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04 Mar 2018

What Kind of National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF) do we Need

On Monday 5th March 2018 the revised and much changed NPPF will be released for consultation. Its predecessor started off life in 2012 amidst much ministerial acclaim that it was reducing 1000s of pages of planning guidance to 55. Yet, since 2012 there have been reviews of the NPPF and its impact on the built environment which have identified significant failings with the way it was been operating. First the CLG Select Committee report into the operation of the NPPF in 2014 exposed a number of shortcomings related to the sustainable development credentials it was championing. In particular, the impact of viability on housing schemes; the impact on town centres and the impact on communities. A year later the House of Lords Built Environment Committee released Building Better Places which echoed these concerns. In the summary it stated : More fundamentally, however, we are concerned that the overall emphasis on speed and quantity of housing supply appears to threaten place-making itself, along with sustainable planning for the long-term and the delivery of high quality and design standards”. However, both these …

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17 Jan 2018

The publication of the 25 year environment plan is very much welcome albeit long overdue. It does represent a significant positive step forward with a myriad of opportunity spaces for those wanting better environmental outcomes to exploit. However, as many commentators have already highlighted it is strong on rhetoric and good intentions but rather lacks the regulatory teeth and delivery mechanisms to achieve many of the proposed actions. Whilst this lack of regulation may please some it does mean that the plan relies on other strategies and frameworks across government to operationalise them. This brings with it a risk that other economic and housing priorities which currently have a statutory footing may continue to trump such good intentions. Under austerity and limited staff resources such as those facing our local authorities and planning departments this does become a significant factor when prioritising actions.  

Nevertheless, this plan is not a Defra publication. Crucially, it is a HM Government publication which means that all government departments have signed up to the provisions within it and thus hopefully we will see other Secretaries of State also endorsing that value of our natural environment rather than it being seen as a Defra or Michael Gove strategy.   Whilst the document explicitly names the clean growth strategy and the industrial strategy, it is quite light on other key strategies such as the National Planning Policy Frame…

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29 Nov 2017

I recently attended a workshop hosted by Main Street Consulting[1] as part of a contract they were undertaking for Scottish Natural Heritage to look at the opportunities for green infrastructure mainstreaming in social housing https://scotlandsnature.wordpress.com/2017/09/07/social-housing-green-infrastructure/

This in itself was a bold move by a government agency charged with championing the natural environment set within wider social and environmental justice agendas and certainly an area where limited NERC science exists to draw upon.   

The workshop was transformational for me in several ways and I think offers valuable lessons for those people trying to mainstream any concept into practice or to maximise  social learning  and knowledge exchange. It also challenges the way many workshops or conferences focus on particular sectoral audiences with their supporting congregations where in effect they are often preaching to the converted.   

The Edinburgh workshop[2] I found myself in  had some 20 participants  including social housing providers (4), tenants (2), tenant association (1), Scottish Government (1), SNH (2),  academics (1), green partnership managers (2) , &nbs…

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17 Nov 2017

Do too many green infrastructure tools spoil delivery?

It has been 2 months now since I started my NERC knowledge exchange fellowship journey and in that time, I have spoken with several researchers leading NERC science projects involving green infrastructure. I have met with several agencies charged with developing policy and those engaged in delivery. I have given keynotes sessions at 3 conferences/workshops associated with green infrastructure and natural capital (Green Infrastructure Partnership 11th October; Valuing Nature Network 19th October and Ecosystem Knowledge Network Housing infrastructure and natural capital 30th October).

At these meetings and events there is a common theme emerging from those involved in delivering green infrastructure concerning the bewildering choice of tools to use in this area and a lack of information on which tools are best suited for particular tasks and which bundle can work effectively together. Consequently, there is an appetite for some kind of tool benchmark that might indicate to a potential user that the tool is fit for the purpose it is intended for and can therefore be used with confidence.

The problem of tool proliferation is exacerbated when talking to academics involved in research as it seems in today’s competitive research environment the push for innovation and impact involves the development of a new tool or toolkit to help those in policy and practice deliver better …

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07 Oct 2017

Work package 1

This blog is to help researchers navigate some of the complexities associated with the planning system and to think about ways of developing/using/adapting pathways to impact to help influence and inform the future design, delivery and operationalisation of planning. This ties in with my goal within WP1 of my fellowship project to add value to the existing research and through that to identify key gaps. This applies to the individual project pathways to impact but also exploiting pathways from the cumulative impact of the research projects that are investigated.   

I would value any feedback and whether colleagues in Wales and Scotland wouldl ike to get involved in coproducing one for their planning system

WP1 Revised goals

  • To identify the contribution and focus of research work in NERC and other relevant research on green infrastructure.
  • To assess the current directions and foci of individual and cumulative pathways to impact
  • To identify additional pathways to impact that reflect key aspects of planning policy, delivery and decision making and add value both to individual projects and to the wider cumulative impact of the research
  • To communicate the cumulative impacts of research science in a user friendly interface based on the key questions and policy/practice needs as hooks for initial traction.

Who is a planner any…

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