Sunday, November 4, 2007

We ought to start thinking out of the box…

Looking up

"If our buildings are taller, our green spaces will be safer". Well-made blocks are staples in beautiful cities like Paris, Berlin, Rome and Madrid. The quality of high rise buildings can be that of 5-star hotels like in NYC. With much higher population densities these cities have very efficient services and infrastructure (at a fraction of the fare we pay in London). Why cannot this work here too? Why are our architects so behind times? Our planners? Our state capitalists? Our "strategic outsourcers" of public services to private sharks? The money squanderers of the PPPs and PPIs (see the Jarvis and Metronet great examples)?

Posted by confused76 @ 05:32 PM (1204 views)
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12 thoughts on “We ought to start thinking out of the box…

  • Anotherjoeblog says:

    One of the factors contributing to continued demand for housing is IMMIGRATION. If one looks at the towns and cities in U.K. with high concentration of immigrants you’ll notice that the migrants (mainly non-EU living here for between 5yrs – 30yrs) are settled in low-cost housings in these cities. Invariably these are terraced houses and are in city centres, demanding high price but very few buyers, which leads to the owners sub-renting these houses to multiple tenants to generate the income.
    If these terraced house owners could be persuaded to form a co-operative and in partnership with a builder develop these mass concrete civil degradation into beautifully landscaped multi-purpose hig rise apartments like in Hongkong or Singapore; it will not only add value to the home owners but also create meaningfull housing for all sections i.e. First-time buyers, middle-class families, OAP and rentals. I am sure the additional housing stock will create a downward pressure on prices making them more affordable. A part of the profits can be kept in a fixed deposit to pay for the maintenance of all leisure facities within the complex. This sort of regeneration is taking place in many high density cities around the world.

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  • Aside from the absurdity of assuming there will be any change, this makes sense. Why aren’t there high density housing blocks around tubes in London? You can walk ten seconds from a tube station and find a semi with a garden, but thousands walk past that semi to get to work.
    Nothing will change. This article is an idea and nothing more. Who could possibly wait the 15 years to put such an obvious plan into action?

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  • planning4acrash says:

    London has a similar density to NYC, Paris is covered by medium rise similar to Earl’s Court, New York suburbs are the epitomy of low density when you get beyond the city, London currently has a boom in tall buildings and the Mayor is supprting it, Places like Manchester, Leeds and Birmingham are booming with tall buildings, so, please, what exactly is the issue here? Clearly its not as simple as saying x high by a tube station, there is too much context to think about, e.g. Covent Garden is by a Tube Station, but hopefully developers got out of their heads the idea of replacing the market with a sprawling mall after the mid-20th century battles that occured there. But look, we put in DLR, Jubilee Line, and due to have crossrail at Canary Wharf, and where are we going? Up, same in the Paddington Basin, same at Kings Cross, £3bn ish in building upwards at Elephant and Castle, skyscrapers being built at Liverpool Street, the shard of glass at London Bridge. Considering that it costs about 1/2 a billion to build a skyscraper, how on earth will we build them everywhere, and given that some tube stops are inappropriate for high scale buildings, such as the ones mentioned above (and the tubes are already full, so obviously utilising them well)

    And forget the thing about cost. A 1yr travel card (zone 1&2) sets you back just £15/week. All myths and lies, and a bus journey is 90p. Where in Britain can you travel so cheaply?!?!?!?!?! The real cost of London is rent and mortgages, which hopefully will be sorted out by the crash soon enough. Remember tho, that paying £120/week on a room in central London is cheap when you consider that you would pay £80/week for a similar place out of London but pay up to £100/week for the rail commute.

    Planning is complex, if ever anybody comes along with a silver bullet give them a wide berth, 1960’s planners thought they could solve everything with a rigid ideology such as the above, but fortunately planning policy nowadays recognises that ideology and ideas must be combined with thorough understanding of context.

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  • 120 a week gets you literally a room in somebody’s house in zone 1&2, a la Rigsby. A lodger basically. Not a family strategy. Most people don’t live in zone 1&2,
    -perhaps- (I have no idea) thats why the zoning system for london goes up to !! 6 !!,
    and the price goes up as well !!! Wooh!.
    Because most people don’t live in zone 1 &2. Projection from self….
    There are extremely few high rise buildings in London near transport links. There just are not. I include the very small Zone 1&2 and also, the aptly named Greater London where most people live. If you think you buy your coffee from a 1/2 person you are wrong. They travel.

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  • The planning laws support the wealth of current occupiers. That is all. There is no planning by planning officers, they say yes or they say no, they do not plan themselves.
    And they say No. I would like to imply that the people who work at the councils of London are corrupt and obsessed with filling their own pockets, but I have no evidence so I won’t.

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  • planning4acrash says:

    Stillthinking, the new planning system requires Area Action Plans, which define area specific policies and spatial strategies, and masterplanning is often undertaken by planning authorities, who are now also allowed to charge for pre-application enquiries, which means that they have a duty to provide skills and advice to negotiate acceptable schemes. New Local Development Frameworks are no longer allowed if they just repeat national policies, they are only given legal status now by the government if they are evidence based and focused on specific local issues.

    Any lack of negotiation is the result of a derth of skills and due to inappropriate or unsophisticated targets. Skills shortages are partly down to poor pay in local authorities for specific skills like urban design and conservation relative to private practice). The target driven planning applications process gives authorities incentives to make decisions, be it approval or refusal, be it the right or wrong decision. No recognition is given for negotiation. The system doesn’t give applicants the ability to stop the clock and negotiate outside statutory periods for decision making. If an applicant withdraws to negotiate, the local authority looses government funding and gains no recognition for positive planning.

    We need more investment in training, wages for skills shortages and a funding system that incentivises positive planning and negotiation.

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  • C76, I didn’t think the article was critical of the transport system, but many articles in the press are the work of vested interests – just like house prices really!

    The reason that London Underground & TfL contracts were put out to Metronet and others is that they are notoriously difficult to manage in house. Delivery of a station upgrade (the programme which put Metronet into administration) while keeping the station open and the line working is an extremely difficult planning exercise. When you dig into the foundations of a station well over 100 years old, what it says on the drawing is not always what is found! As part of the upgrades, we now have lots more CCTV to identify terrorists & muggers. Designing “step free” access while retaining the original design features isn’t easy either. Oh, and don’t make too much noise while your’re doing it say the local councillors.

    To this is added the problems of trade unions with their own agenda, a Mayor keen to prove a point against Gordon Brown and a London newspaper which exaggerates every error made (as articles on transport sell papers).

    Last week, the Standard wrote up a blatantly critical article on Tubelines. The journalist was told before the article was published that the allegations were incorrect, but this was ignored. Tubelines can attempt to redress the issue, but hey, the damage is done and the papers sold. Tube operations are an easy target, alas! and they can’t vote.

    Its easy to criticise, actually doing the job is much, much more difficult.

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  • planning4acrash says:

    Add to that, there should be a way of measuring decision quality, something like an audit of plans approved in relation to national, regional and local planning policies. The rating from the audit impacting on how much funding the planning authority gets from central government. At the moment authorities pretty much just get funding for making decisions within 8 or 13 weeks, its simply not sophisticated enough.

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  • Maybe somebody can explain point failures to me. I do not understand point failures.

    They keep getting mentioned.

    Aircraft fly, rockets go into space and yet enough redundancy cannot be built into a point?

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  • planning4acrash says:

    A “single point of failure” is, to oversimplify a little, any single thing that, if it fails, can bring an entire system to a halt.

    I couldnt see any mention of that in the article tho, what were you referring to specifically?

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  • I agree it would look great with these iconic buildings in our cities etc. But you have missed on simple point. If you have had dealings with planners you will know how boring they are when it comes to designing properties they want it to look as bland as possible and to fit in with the local area so all building look the same(god knows why). Unless the planners get an imagination we will be stuck with boring flats and buildings.

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  • planning4acrash says:

    In my experience its developers who lack creativity and produce bland buildings, borrowing from surrounding styles and not coming up anything original and taking the wrong inspiration. It takes a lot of skill to negotiate beyond such established approaches and big builders tend to have a couple of standard “designs” that they plonk wherever they get consent. Planners then have a hard job ensuring that new buildings respond to context, attempting to avoid mistakes from the 1960’s. There is a general lack of skills for negotiation but it is nonetheless important for new buildings to be sympathetic to context and at the moment you often get a bland compromise, but things are moving on, developers must now produce design statements, which helps, but of course you need skills to interpret them.

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