Friday, December 21, 2018

The planning profession

There are two points that I believe need to be pointed out to the Institute.

1.     The RTPI has and seeks to continue to place people above (and often at the expense of) the environment. This applies to both biodiversity and to climate change.  Given the reference period of 2020 to 2030, which is the decade within which there must be a step change in the carbon emissions arising from the development and use of land and buildings, the credibility of the Institute and the profession will be damaged if this is not mentioned and regarded as a guiding principle of the land use planning process.

2.     Planning is the profession where there is most often a conflict of interest between the interest of the planner as an employee and as an adviser.  The RTPI should be vigilant in enforcing its code of professional practice to protect planners from the influence of their council or developer employers.  It is the tendency to put employer interest above professional integrity that has so damaged the reputation of the profession in the eyes of the public.

Please respond by 17 March and spread the URL around.

Thursday, November 29, 2018

A proper analysis of the housing shortage

I have no hesitation in recommending the report from Residential Analysts which explains why the ‘housing crisis’ should be seen as many different problems affecting all parts of the country in different ways.

The question does arise as to why local authorities have bought into the relatively crude analysis on which the Strategic Housing Market assessments have been prepared and why the DHCLG has not sought to emphasise the need for local responses to housing needs, based on the figures reproduced in the RA report?

One interesting figure is the 9million ‘spare’ bedrooms. This is the equivalent of about 4.5million two bedroomed dwellings.  Taking the Government estimate of demand at 300,000 new dwellings per year (and average household size of about 2.6), there is potential for about 15 years supply without any new building.  It would be seriously delusional to expect all this space to be magically available in the places (ie where there are jobs) and in the form that could be used ( eg as rented rooms or conversions into flats).  However, the carbon cost of new building (50% being embodied at substantial completion and before occupation), the prevalence of fuel poverty, and the need for the housing sector to be net carbon zero by about 2030 points to residential sub-divisions (including custom-splitting) as a serious if not the main contender.

Monday, November 12, 2018

Zero carbon homes are exceptional

For those unfamiliar with the way in which appeals against refusals (or onerous conditions) are handled a page from the Planning Inspectorate web site can be found here.
This appeal is interesting for a number of reasons.  A net zero carbon house is being allowed in a location proscribed by policies in both local and neighbourhood plans.  The justification for granting permission is firstly the 'tilted balance' and expression used by the supreme court when considering the effect of para 11 in the 2018 National Planning Policy Framework where the district council has failed to provide a 5 year housing land supply rendering the development plan as 'out of date' and carrying less weight. Secondly the inspector found the zero carbon design to be 'exceptional'. Although the inspector did not say so, this is the term used at para 79(e) of the NPPF that can justify the building of an 'isolated home in the countryside'. It may be that in this case the location was not 'isolated 'in the normal use of the word and the zero carbon design was just an 'other material consideration' to weigh against the policies in the development plan. 
It is important to remember that planning decisions do not create 'precedents' in a legal sense.  However, inspectors stand in the shoes of the Secretary of State (for Housing, Communities and Local Government) and decision letters can reasonably be cited in support of similar proposals. The Courts have ruled that consistency in decision-making is a material consideration and local planning authorities and inspectors should provide adequate reasons why apparently similar cases are being treated differently.
The lesson for those thinking of building or commissioning a new zero carbon home is that the absence of a 5 year land supply represents an opportunity to build in both isolated (citing NPPF para 79(e)) and in less isolated (see above) locations as a material consideration to further tilt the balance against a restrictive but  out-of-date development plan. Clearly a zero carbon home will only be 'exceptional' while the house building industry continues to supply sub-standard dwellings.

Friday, October 26, 2018

The IPCC calls a halt to housebuilding?

Readers of this blog will have seen repeated references to my own attempt to show how the land use planning system could make a significant contribution to reducing greenhouse gas emissions, the latest on 24 May 2018, when this,    was compared to the joint report from the TCPA and RTPI.

We should all be keeping climate change at the top of any agenda we are involved with.  I was pleased to see an RT discussion about nuclear weapons being used to describe climate change as a more imminent  threat of Mutual Assured Destruction (MADness).

We now have the latest IPCC Report which seeks to emphasise the urgency in reducing emissions to have any chance of keeping warming below 1.5 degrees. 

There are many things to say and repeat about this.  However, I feel that from the planners' point of view the most important message is that found at page 3 of the Whole Life Carbon Assessment for the Built Environment  RICS 2017  that shows how, calculated over a 60 year period, over 50% of carbon emissions attributable to housing are embodied in the building and associated infrastructure before substantial completion and occupation.  If the emissions attributable to  heating, lighting, appliances, consumer goods etc are reduced to zero, this will not mitigate any or all the emissions from the building of new dwellings. The report also makes a plea for its analysis to be reflected in planning policy and regulations!

There are a few conclusions to draw from this whole life analysis:
1. The construction of housing (and all other building) should use materials sequestering carbon such as timber, straw, lime mortar, wool, shingles, reed etc and not cement/bricks/blocks and steel.
2. The number of new builds must be reduced.  The 300,000 new dwellings a year as proposed by Government and supported by almost everybody else, including the RTPI and TCPA, is incompatible with the necessary reduction on carbon emissions.
3. Priority must be given to the alternative of subdividing our existing housing stock (including custom-splitting) so that we are actually occupying the space that is insulted and heated.

The Committee on Climate Change has been given until March 2019 to reply to the Department of Business Energy and Industry Strategy on the measures that would be necessary to comply with the Paris Climate Agreement (ie the 1.5 degree aspiration).  The above points must be made to BEIS and the CCC but also DHCLG.

Saturday, September 15, 2018

Building new roads and new housing

The first issue to discuss is what has been called the Oxford to Cambridge Expressway. It is very difficult to find anybody who thinks that this has any merit but Highways England has produced a preferred corridor not yet for public comment but which has stirred up all those who see the folly of new road building.  Although the Expressway was conceived by the National Infrastructure Commission, the NIC is also on record as saying,
It is not possible for the UK to build its way out of congestion. Especially in urban
areas, where most congestion occurs, new roads lead to new journeys, filling up
the additional space.  People take advantage of the new capacity to make different
choices of where to live and work, and when to travel, rather than reducing
It seems clear that the Government see the road as a means of building up to 1million car dependent houses along the corridor as a stimulus to the regional and national economy.
In correspondence with Highways England it seems that they don't know how the road will impact on the viability of the proposed railway line along the same route, how the automation and electrification of road transport will affect demand for new roads, or the impact on the already seriously congested A34, A420 and A40 that would feed into the Expressway at the western end. Any benefit to connectivity between Oxford and Cambridge would be cancelled out by gridlock on the A34. Sad.
The second issue came from the examination of a local plan where the council (and inspector) seemed to think that it was acceptable to have policies supporting new housing with energy efficiency levels about 30% below zero (ie Part L of existing building regulations) even if the regs are being tightened, the performance gap is not.  The UK Green Building Council has done its best to expose this fiasco at

The inspector was implacably of the view that planning was 'responsive' and could not be 'proactive'. He backed a council policy on the basis that it passively supported proposals for sub-divisions (ie a permissive policy) and rejected the idea that a local plan might actually promote, prioritise or privilege such development (eg custom-splitting or community led housing).  He did not seem to be impressed by the idea of proposing a Local Development Order allowing green custom-splitting or reserving sites from larger allocations or permissions for community led housing. It seems that the planning system has a role in allocating land for conventional housing and then letting the development industry do the rest. Nothing about quality or making better use of existing housing.

Together, road transport and housing are responsible for at least  40% of carbon emissions and the opportunity to use the land use planning system to reduce these to zero is being missed.

Sunday, August 12, 2018

The NPPF 2018 what was the point?

It is very difficult to avoid being hypercritical of those working in a planning system that is failing to realize its potential in dealing with some serious societal and environmental problems.  I would like to report that the new version of the National Policy Planning Framework issued in July 2018 promises to reset the planning of land and buildings enabling it to contribute to the transition to a low carbon economy and caring society.  However, having read the NPPF and many of the expert reactions, there is nothing to suggest that the planning system will assist in the reduction of carbon emissions, make housing more affordable, slow down the loss of biodiversity, ensure that the electrification of road transport will reduce hypermobility and increase accessibility, improve air quality, assist with social care or generate local/regional food systems. 
While commentators can’t seem to be able to bring themselves to say that the whole exercise was a complete waste of time and missed opportunity, there is not one change to be brought to reader’s attention that is likely to ameliorate any of the damaging and existential threats.
The only comfort is that there is legislation in place (Climate Change Act 2008, Planning and Compulsory Purchase Act 2004 and the Selfbuild and Customhousebuilding Act 2015 (as amended) that should have more power than even Government policy, as well as the Paris Climate Agreement, the Committee on Climate Change and the speech of November 2017 from the then housing minister Alok Sharma (on the web site) regarding community led housing.  Problems and opportunities for agroecology, social care, and the electrification and automation of the road transport system don’t even have this kind of support.

Thursday, July 19, 2018

The Road to Zero (or to runaway climate change?)

Apologies for another longer than normal post. This  arises from recent publications (not intended as 'consultations') from the Department for Transport to which the following comments have been sent.The main questions to the DfT is why there has been no Strategic Environmental Assessment on the alternative measures being proposed? and an explanation of the absence of any reference to or consideration of the impact on carbon emissions of reducing the national speed limit?  The Government does not seem to recognise a role for regulation in supporting desirable change and proscribing the least desirable changes that could be expected to arise from automation and electrification. Ideology is again getting in the way of systems analysis.

 Transport Energy Model
Moving Britain Ahead July 2018
(comments in italics)
1.8 For each vehicle, results are given for a specific representative duty cycle. For example, a mixed urban / extra-urban duty cycle (average speed 34 km/h) is used for cars and vans whereas a long haul duty cycle (average speed 79 km/h) is used for a 44 tonne HGV. The duty cycles used for each vehicle type are specified in the model outputs and were chosen to represent the typical use for that vehicle type. Emissions will be different when assessed at other speeds. In general, energy consumption and tailpipe emissions per kilometre are higher at lower speeds. This is limited to existing conditions and not the potential of conditions more conducive to efficient driving of both ICEs and EVs.

2.1 A medium car (similar to a Ford Focus or Vauxhall Astra) was selected for inclusion in the TEM because it is representative of a large proportion of the car fleet. In 2017 sales of cars in the ‘lower medium’ segment – which the ‘medium car’ is based upon - accounted for 29% of total car sales. The emissions from the vehicle will vary depending on the average driving speed. For the purposes of the modelling, the emissions data reflects a mixed urban and extra-urban duty cycle, which has an average speed of 34 km/h. The figures would be very different for vehicles designed for a lower maximum speed and not for nearly twice the legal limit.

The modelling included nothing for the emissions attributable to congestion that reduces the representative speeds.  The 34k/hr is a blend of over fast speeds between urban areas and too slow speeds in urban areas. Both would change for the better with lower speed limits.

The Road to Zero
Next steps towards cleaner road transport and delivering our Industrial Strategy (comments in italics)

..and to put the UK at the forefront of the design and manufacturing of zero emission vehicles. Using Japan as a yardstick would improve the Strategy

Long term ambition:… or all new cars and vans to be effectively zero emission by 2040. But cars last 20 years? and deliberately allowing hybrids is not a significant improvement over existing.

We will reduce emissions from vehicles already on our roads by: 4. Taking steps to accelerate the adoption of fuel-efficient motoring by company car drivers, businesses operating fleets, and private motorists.

All this is based on individual car ownership (eg charging points for all new dwellings). The Strategy seems to have avoided engagement with the possibilities raised under ‘Future of Mobility’  regarding the possible transition from individual ownership to mobility as a service.

Executive Summary

As set out in the NO2 plan, we will end the sale of new conventional petrol and diesel cars and vans by 2040. By then, we expect the majority of new cars and vans sold to be 100% zero emission and all new cars and vans to have significant zero emission capability. By 2050 we want almost every
car and van to be zero emission. This level of ambition puts the UK at the
forefront of the global transition to cleaner road transport. Really!?

As a result, transport is now the largest sector for UK greenhouse gas emissions (27%), of which road transport accounts for over 90%. That puts even more pressure on the Government to expedite the change to a zero carbon transport system.  All the carbon emitted during the transition will affect the chances of meeting internationally agreed targets.

2040 Mission
By setting long-term ambitions, we want to send a clear signal of the UK’s direction of travel to provide industry and consumers with certainty. There is significant uncertainty over some of the key drivers of the transition – including battery technology and new mobility services. So we will review progress towards our ambitions by 2025. The targets should be higher and earlier to make the transition easier rather than ‘over a cliff –edge’ in 2040.  The space created by delaying the necessary changes is also a space for changes in undesirable directions and cumulative emissions.

The Future of Mobility
The move to zero emission road transport will not be the only shift in the way we move goods, people and services around our towns, cities and countryside over the coming decades. Significant investments are being made in the automation of road vehicles, while new business models, such as ride-hailing services, ride sharing and new mobility services are challenging our assumptions about how we travel. The way we travel and who owns vehicles in the coming years will affect the trajectory of ultra low emission vehicle uptake, the infrastructure these vehicles will need and emissions from conventional vehicles. Relevant trends include: connectivity and automation, new business models and changing travel demand –these are all trends that are also opportunities to ensure the changes could be beneficial and mutually supportive if captured by regulation.

Action to support modal shift – no mention of stimulating the modal shift ie lower speed limits that would cancel the competitive advantage of the ICE over the EV
 Current UK road vehicle market – average age of car 8.1 years suggests about 2m that are 15/16 year old.  Many of the existing fleet will be driveable for 20 years.

Improving Air Quality
We know that there are no safe levels of the particulate matter that petrol, diesel and other internal combustion engine vehicles emit, and that the UK still has more to do to reduce emissions of all major air pollutants to meet longer-term legal limits. The measures set out in this strategy and the transition to zero emission road transport are therefore vital parts of any long-term solution to the poor air quality in our towns and cities. The delayed action on ICEs is placing the convenience of the motorist above the lives and health of its citizens including the poisoning of the brains and lungs of the very young.

Today, transport is the largest greenhouse gas-emitting sector in the UK, accounting for 27% of greenhouse gas emissions. Road transport accounts for 91% of this. Average laboratory-test based CO2emissions from new cars have fallen by over one third since 1997.However, in the real world, total greenhouse gas emissions from road transport have fallen only slightly (by around 2%) since 1990. Over the last three years greenhouse gas emissions from domestic transport have started to rise. We urgently need to reverse this trend and reduce road transport emissions.  Is there a graph showing how carbon emissions expected from implementation of the Strategy compare with the reductions implied by the Paris Agreement?

The Energy Saving Trust estimate that efficient driving alone could save drivers up to 5-10% of their annual fuel bill – on average around £95.  Does the Government regard this as sufficient in the road to zero? These measures are the very lowest hanging fruit and do not amount to a purposeful strategy.

Cleaner quieter cities
In England alone, the annual social cost of urban road noise is estimated to be £7–£10 billion. Although the noise of vehicles travelling above 12 mph is principally due to tyres and road surface noise, at the lower speeds typically found in town and city centres engine noise is the main contributor.
The potential reduction in noise should be transformative for those living close to busy roads and city centres. A reduction of urban noise levels by 3dB can reduce annoyance effects by 30%. At average central London speeds, the reduction in vehicle noise is approximately 8dB. Why is there no mention of the fact that on inter-urban roads the noise is caused by engines (about 50%) and tyres/wind (about 50%).  Both would be substantially reduced at an enforced lower speed limit.

Inclusive Travel
We will also launch a call for evidence on the Future of Mobility shortly. As part of this, we would welcome views and evidence on the right role for government in helping to ensure that future transport technologies and services are developed in an inclusive manner.  The ‘transport system’ is a system and the changes implied by AIs and EVs must be considered through systems analysis.

Fuel efficient motoring
Driving with good anticipation and smooth acceleration and braking saves fuel and cuts emissions. Correctly inflated tyres, avoiding carrying unnecessary weight and removing carriers and racks when not needed increases these benefits. The emphasis on greater anticipation brings safety benefits, and the resultant reduced tyre and brake wear delivers further cost savings and reduced pollution… gave an average 15% saving of fuel and CO2. For electric vehicles range increased by 20%.
But nothing on the measure with the greatest potential; lower national speed limits, or the obvious conclusion that speed limits would remove the competitive advantage of the ICE over the EV. And that the 20% increase in range would stimulate the take up of EVs and benefit both the roll out of the charging infrastructure and scale of power generation.

Driving uptake of the cleanest cars and vans
Regulation : regulation is one of the most important levers to ensure manufacturers deliver cleaner and more fuel-efficient vehicles to the market and help provide a stable environment for industry investment. As we leave the EU, we will pursue a future approach to vehicle emissions regulation that is at least as ambitious as current arrangements. But lacks the ‘ambition’ that would be reflected in reducing the national speed limit that would incidentally reduce congestion in and between urban areas.

Cleaner diesel cars and vans can play an important part in reducing CO2
emissions from road transport during the transition to zero emission vehicles whilst meeting ever more stringent air quality standards. There is no evidence for that statement.  The Strategy is discredited by pretending that the political expediency of protecting diesels (and other ICEs) will maintain and not reduce carbon emissions.  Diesels bought today will be emitting and accumulating carbon during a twenty year period that should see emissions very quickly reach zero.

Reducing C02 emissions
Relying on incremental improvements in internal combustion engine efficiency, reducing the gap between real world emissions and lab tests, and extending standards to heavier vehicles is not enough to meet our long-term ambitions.  As that is clearly correct it follows that there should be some transformative changes being proposed in the Strategy.

Government leading the way
We want central government to lead the way on ultra low emission vehicles. But this actually means A requirement within these standards is to electrify 25% of the central government car fleet, meaning that one in every four cars will be ultra low emission by 2022. ‘Leading the way’ would be more effective through regulation (ie the real purpose of government) rather than by example.  The speed of transition is crucial (ie limiting injury and death from ICEs) and securing the efficient use of resources (eg lithium, cobalt, nickel).
Part 3a: Developing one of the best electric vehicle infrastructure networks in the world  is a pointless and very irritating boast as all the charging takes place locally and not globally.  Inviting international comparisons might not be a good idea when Norway, Japan and the Netherlands are ahead in most respects.

Home charging
- ensure the houses we are building over the coming years are EV ready. It is our intention that all new homes should have a chargepoint available. We plan to consult as soon as possible on introducing a requirement for chargepoint infrastructure for new dwellings in England where appropriate and will look at how to achieve this in the most cost effective way, mindful of the Government’s Housing supply objectives. Hopefully this includes shared chargepoints (for shared vehicles). Requiring Individual chargepoints  would be counter to the Future of Mobility debate about the potential of personal ownership  and use morphing into a shared service. These are development/transition paths in which the Government should be fully engaged. And no equivalent planning powers are being suggested for workplaces but only a possibility under Building Regulations?

If range is extended by 30% by reducing the speed limit from an un-enforced 70mph to an enforced 50mph, so would be the need for and use of recharging points and electricity generation. And the level of EV ownership and use would not be constrained by the apparent lack of charging points.

CAZs aim to address all sources of air pollution, including NOX and PM, and reduce public exposure to them using a range of specially tailored local measures. These measures can include charges for vehicles which do not meet defined minimum emission standards. Should the Government be supporting a system that allows drivers to pay for the privilege of killing and maiming  its citizens – including its very young.

There does not appear to be any reference to the VIBAT study, UKERC Quick Hits or Why slower is better by CE Delft? Or recommendations of the Committee on Climate Change, or to Environment Audit Committee  ‘Reducing Carbon Emissions from Transport 2005/6’ which has become more rather than less relevant over the last twelve years. (or, for US readers, Sustainable Transportation by William R Black 2010.)

Tuesday, June 26, 2018

Could planning put nature before people?

The Town and Country Planning Association are leading a review of the planning system and an interim report is available  for comment at by  16 July.
I have complimented those involved in this valuable exercise in a providing carefully considered and comprehensive review of the planning system but then suggested that the Review adopts an
undesirable focus on ‘people’.  This is entirely understandable, and has not been to the exclusion of references to the environment and biodiversity, but I believe that the interim report is unduly anthropocentric. I am also coming round to the view that planning at bioregional level and putting nature first (not to the exclusion of people) could be made an attractive governing principle to which the warring factions might be persuaded to subscribe. To do so would require a significant amount of further research to make the case that biodiversity should be prioritised.
Climate change also receives passing mention but carbon emissions could also form a powerful governing principle as they attach directly and indirectly to all forms of development and land management (eg UNCTAD  estimate that food systems are responsible for 50% of carbon emissions). The threat to remove the current duties imposed under the  2008 Planning and Compulsory Purchase Act  and 2008 Planning Acts could be acknowledged and proposed to be retained.

My concern started by looking at the 9 Propositions, none of which mentions the issues of biodiversity loss, soil degradation and local/regional food systems and agroecology.  This would be regrettable, but understandable if the Review adopted the approach that the law should remain unchanged (where there is limited control over agricultural practices – mentioned as a consequence of the 1947 Act) and concentrated solely on planning policy.  But the Proposition 6 actually suggests a change in planning law without any awareness that changes to the law (ie changes in agricultural practices could be development requiring permission) could prevent further erosion of the natural environment.

Analysis (extracts from Review followed by comment in italics)

1.         Given that a very large proportion of the country is in use for agriculture (including horticulture and horsiculture) and forestry, it is an anomaly that these uses are largely outside the scope of planning controls.  A description of how the existing system could and should be promoting sustainable forms of agriculture and forestry can be found at:
The case for changes to the system (ie the legislation is made at:

2.         Many national agencies have overlapping and ill-defined responsibilities. For example, the growth area of the Cambridge–Milton Keynes–Oxford corridor
is defined by the work of the National Infrastructure Commission, supported by the work of the Infrastructure. ..and Projects Authority and Homes England, but their remit and accountability are separate from those of the local authorities that ultimately have to drive implementation on the ground. The decisions of multiple central government departments and their agencies and other sub-regional bodies such as Local Enterprise Partnerships, each with their own remits, will also be vital to the success of the growth area.
Given the sensitivity in the area affected by the proposed Expressway (a road being promoted by the Treasury and Highways England) to enable car dependent housebuilding between Oxford and Cambridge) I might be over-reacting to sense some support in the Review for this evidence free central Government support for a major new road.  The NIC has both supported the Expressway and condemned building of this type of road  (in Congestion, Capacity and Carbon). The scepticism about the Expressway is reflected in the suspicion of the LEP and associated Growth Board where ‘growth’ appears to limited to outdated and destructive models.

3.         PROPOSITION 2: Planning with a purpose: The basic purpose of planning is to improve the wellbeing of people by creating places of beauty, convenience
and opportunity….The suggested statutory purpose of planning  would be to, to positively promote the spatial organisation of land in order to achieve long-term sustainable development. In the Planning Acts, ‘sustainable development’ means managing the use, development and protection of land, the built environment and natural resources in a way, or at a rate, which enables people and communities to provide for their social, economic and cultural wellbeing while sustaining the potential of future generations to meet their own needs. I would suggest that the ‘purpose’  of protecting and manage natural resources goes much further than meeting human needs and should be nurtured by the land use planning system for its own sake.

4.         Permissions alone are now running well in advance of demographic need,
(A Holmans: New Estimates of Housing Demand and Need in England, 2011 to 2031.Town & Country Planning Tomorrow Series Paper 16, Sept. 2013. Available at might not be the best reference as the important trend is what happened after 2013.

While the majority of the evidence submitted to the Review focused on the recent reduction in the power of the existing system, there was a small but significant strand concerned with the broader questions of the scope of the
spatial planning system, and the case for the expansion of powers over land uses to deal with climate change and biodiversity and to create a ‘people-centred’ system which reflects human needs and behaviour. One example this was how planning could be positively used for upland catchment planning to integrate the regulation of land uses to reduce flood risk and build resilience. This would require an expansion of control over agricultural land use and forestry and is particularly relevant to places such as Cumbria or the vulnerable coastal strip from the Humber to the Thames(p39)[emphasis added] The Review did not make it clear how biodiversity could be given sufficient protection without a change to the ‘powers of the Act’ probably to include agricultural use(s).

• Living within environmental limits:
Respecting the limits of the planet’s environment, resources and biodiversity – to improve our environment and ensure that the natural resources needed for life are unimpaired and remain so for future generations. This is less anthropocentric but would not be achieved without more fundamental changes that are being considered un the Review.

7.         Support for the SDGs is welcome as is the cross –reference to the 25YEP.  However, there is no specific mention of Goal 15: Protect, restore and promote sustainable use of terrestrial ecosystems, sustainably manage forests, combat desertification, and halt and reverse land degradation and halt biodiversity loss that does not say that this would be for human benefit.

Its remit goes beyond land use planning to encompass a broad concern
with how the management of land and buildings impacts, for example, upon people’s health and wellbeing. The ‘powers’ should include the protection of biodiversity and soils not just because this is essential to human health and wellbeing.

9.         Proposition 5: A new commitment to meeting people’s basic needs
While measures to increase public participation would improve the process of planning, they need to be accompanied by rights to basic outcomes which
reflect the minimum standards that people can expect from planning. These outcome rights are an important balancing measure to ensure that the needs of those who may not have a voice in the planning process, including future generations, are reflected in the outcomes of decisions. These rights might include:
• a right to a home;
• a right to basic living conditions to support people’s health and wellbeing, secured through minimum design standards which meet people’s needs
throughout their lifetime; and
• a legal obligation to plan for the needs of future generations, through, for example, consideration of resource use.
These rights should be embedded in the law and policy but so should an obligation to protect nature.

10.       Proposition 6: Simplified planning law
            This displays an understanding that the current legislation (since the exclusion of agricultural and forestry uses in 1947) is not fit for purpose. If the Review can make out a case for change based on other Propositions then this would be an opportunity to bring agriculture and forestry under control.

Friday, June 15, 2018

Defra consultation on its 'Less dirty air strategy'

Apologies for the length of this post which is intended to encourage readers to respond to the Government/Defra consultation on air quality by 14 August.

My responses to the consultation questions are in italics.
Consultation questions
1. Understanding the problem

Q1. What do you think about the actions put forward in the understanding the problem chapter? Please provide evidence in support of your answer if possible. The consultation should have described the reasons why previous strategies had been found to be illegal and the changes that have been made.

Q2. How can we improve the accessibility of evidence on air quality, so that it meets the wide-ranging needs of the public, the science community, and other interested parties? The technical aspects to air quality are clearly very complex and beyond the understanding of any but the specialists in this field.  It is these complex areas that Government should be trusted without its citizens having to check the evidence and scrutinise the actions.  However, this has become an area where the trust that is required of the public has been destroyed by a Government trying and failing to adopt strategies that even the courts could see were inadequate. 

2. Protecting the nation’s health
Q3. What do you think of the package of actions put forward in the health chapter? The most important question, not answered by this chapter, is why the Government is planning a delay in taking more effective action in a shorter time frame? It is difficult to think of a more urgent issue than preventing irrevocable damage to children’s brains and lungs.

Q4. How can we improve the way we communicate with the public about poor air quality and what people can do? All communications should be in the context of a Government being consistent in its own actions (ie not encouraging increases in air travel and road building). The public will not listen to a Government acting in ways that contradict the intentions of the Strategy.

3. Protecting the environment

Q5. What do you think of the actions put forward in the environment chapter? The issue of road traffic should not have been deferred to one more report.  The Government could rely on previous advice (including the Environmental Audit Committee, the Committee on Climate Change and DfT officers) to reduce the national speed limit.  This could be done immediately, at no public expense and with no unfairness.  Such a move would trigger a virtuous circle affecting the road transport system that would include substantial improvements to air quality. Waiting for a further report is a cause of unnecessary delay and dissimulation.  

Q6. What further action do you think can be taken to reduce the impact of air pollution on the natural environment? Tree planting/forest gardening in urban areas could have significant impact on filtering air but probably only after more stringent action should be taken while such planting matures.

4. Securing clean growth and innovation

Q.7. What do you think of the package of actions put forward in the clean growth and innovation chapter? ‘Clean growth’ could turn out to be a tautology. A strategy that exports its industrial pollution to other countries and continues to pollute after 2030 is not ‘clean’.  ‘Growth’ is currently calculated by GDP that does not measure ‘wellbeing’. The Strategy should concentrate on the health and wellbeing and not relate this to some outdated economic ambition.    

Q8. In what areas of the air quality industry is there potential for UK leadership? In acknowledging that the UK is responsible for air pollution caused in the production of imported goods and agricultural produce and that it will intervene so that clean up costs will be added to these imports.

Q9. In your view, what are the barriers to the take-up of existing technologies which can help tackle air pollution? The Government should shorten the timescale during which air pollution will be tolerated. Industry will find that barriers can be overcome.  The Government’s 2040 deadline for the sale of diesel cars is already in 2018 looking to be redundant.

5. Action to reduce emissions from transport

Q11. What do you think of the package of actions put forward in the transport chapter? A systemic change is necessary and a reduction in the national speed limit to 50mph (in accordance with expert advice) would trigger a virtuous circle that would include a substantial improvement to air quality in urban areas where 20mph is the appropriate speed. Currently this speed is responsible for increased pollution from conventional engines even if road, brake and tyre dust is reduced.  The decarbonising the rail sector is described as stretching and challenging that reads as an excuse for the failure to achieve this in the next few years.

6. Action to reduce emissions at home

Q13. What do you think of the package of actions put forward to reduce the impact of domestic combustion? The Government should not be advocating changes to consumer behaviour in the context of decisions that would undermine efforts being asked of the public (ie encouraging air travel and car driving).
Q16. What do you think of the package of actions put forward in the farming chapter? There is unwavering concentration on an agricultural industry that is systematically destroying soils (some of which goes into the air) and no awareness of the advantages of agroecology, agroforestry and permaculture that would have negligible impacts on air quality.  The transition could come from limiting the inputs to the industry but that should not prevent incentives being given to more benign forms of agriculture.  The land use planning system can assist with some of these changes.

Q17. See above

8. Action to reduce emissions from industry

Q19. What do you think of the package of actions put forward in the industry chapter? This should include emissions in countries growing and manufacturing imported goods and produce.

9. Leadership at all levels (local to international)

Q25. What do you think of the package of actions put forward in the leadership chapter? The Government should stop making claims about international leadership but put its own house in order (see the recent example of the Welsh Government accepting that the previous strategy was illegal and the Westminster Government trying and failing to persuade the courts).  Internationally the Government should be ensuring that we are not importing produce and goods ‘on the cheap’ due to the export of emissions. Nationally, a Government fit to lead would be open and honest about its attempts to adopt a strategy that would have failed/killed/maimed its citizens. Leadership is not possible without trust that is currently lacking and not helped by the Government positions on air transport, road building and speed limits.

Q26. What are your views on the England-wide legislative package set out in section 9.2.2? The Government should look at the potential of the land use planning system that has been obscured by the obsession with house building.

Q27. Are there gaps in the powers available to local government for tackling local air problems? If so, what are they? The fundamental gap is the failure of the national Government to prevent to purchase and use of ICEs and heavily polluting speeds.

Q28. What are the benefits of making changes to the balance of responsibility for clean local air between lower and upper tier authorities? What are the risks? Air quality is part of a number of systems and securing safe levels requires systemic action – implying central Government’s primary  responsibility. It is very unlikely that local actions would be (cost) effective and could be a diversionary tactic by central Government to devolve responsibility and delay effective national measures. Local charging for ‘licences to kill’ would obscure the real responsibility that lies with central Government.

10. Progress against targets

Q30. What do you think of the package of actions in the strategy as a whole? The lack of reasons for allowing the killing and maiming to continue make it difficult to judge whether the time lines should be shortened. It would have been useful to have been referred to the changes that have been made to address the recent court judgement(s). The suggestion that cleaning up the railway is a difficult challenge raises suspicions that the Government is raising a cover for its recent failure in that respect and that complexity is a camouflage for other delays.  The question should be does the strategy  encourage the public to trust the Government that it is proposing to adopt a strategy that prioritises and protects the health of its people (including its children)? Given the past failures and recent encouragement to air travel and road building the answer is probably “no”.

Trust is also damaged by doubts that the Government is acting in ways that are consistent with the 25 Year Environment Plan, the Clean Growth Strategy or the SDGs.