Meeting housing policy scrutiny demand

The point of Parliamentary select committee inquiries is to critically examine Government policy, cross-examine both its proponents and those that disagree with it and reach a measured conclusion which helps the Government out of whatever hole it’s dug for itself. But it isn’t always that way. So I suppose we should have known better than to submit evidence to the […]

Levelling-up or rule by megalomaniac?

When your job-title is the slightly surreal “levelling-up secretary”, it must make sense to be working on a levelling-up white paper, especially in a country like England whose regional inequalities are worse than Germany’s just after the Iron Curtain came down. Germany addressed its inequalities with vigour. Now it’s time for Michael Gove to do likewise. But leaks to newspapers […]

A winter chill for the Overheated Arc

A winter chill is blowing hard through the so-called “Oxford-Cambridge Arc” as ministers slowly come to realise it would fatally undermine their levelling-up agenda The recent unpublicised run-down of the Civil Service team at the Department for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities responsible for imposing the Arc on the five threatened counties only confirms the rapid cooling in recent weeks. […]

Et tu, Brutalist?

So, it’s farewell to Owen Luder, doyen of the Brutalist Movement – architects who designed buildings for brutes. Most will remember him for his legacy of awful, inhuman buildings like the “Get Carter” carpark in Gateshead, the Tricorn Centre in Portsmouth or even the “Dunston Rocket” tower flats also in Gateshead. Many have now been rightly consigned to history, despite […]

The New Enclosure of the Ox–Cam ‘Arc’?

Smart Growth UK has previously highlighted the artificial nature of the Oxford-Cambridge Arc, whose proponents promote it as a cohesive area. It is not a “region” like East Anglia, the Midlands or the South East/Home Counties. It doesn’t fit into sub-regions such as the South and East Midlands, or Greater London. It has no Anglo-Saxon equivalents such as Mercia, Wessex […]

Peace in our time? Don’t bank on it

Climate change means we stand at a key moment in history, one on which future generations will judge us – if there’s anyone around left to judge. Prime minister Boris Johnson likes to compare himself with another PM who stood on “the hinge of fate”, Winston Churchill. But the way things are going, the Government’s increasingly weak approach to climate […]

Housing affordability – it’s more than rent or prices

Housing affordability is about so much more than rents or house prices. If England’s National Planning Policy Framework were to be believed, housing affordability would mostly be about local house prices, rents and incomes. Planning Practice Guidance only expands this a bit, with vague stuff about households who are homeless or in temporary, overcrowded or unsuitable accommodation. And, of course, […]

A Revised Green Dictionary

There was an old man who said, “Green is the way to be favourably seen. Use all the right words for the nimbys and nerds but change what they actually mean.” Language has moved on since the American writer Ambrose Bierce published his Devil’s Dictionary over a hundred years ago. With his alternative definitions he shed new light on widely […]

Decongesting roads

What can be done about the ever-increasing amounts of traffic on our roads? In desperation, successive governments have built new roads and widened others. For example, the justification for the proposed A40 “improvements” in Oxfordshire has been (a) to put in bus lanes to encourage people to leave their cars at home (sensible) and (b) to increase the road’s capacity […]

Language, products and services

In his book The Cabaret of Plants, Richard Mabey describes how the natural creation of a saltmarsh in East Anglia has proved more effective at absorbing the sea’s “furious energy” than man-made sea walls. He concludes that, “inviting vegetation to suggest its own solution to environmental challenges is different from treating it as a submissive service provider . . . […]