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 . . . […]

Counterpart-calibre strategies

In the run-up to the 1989 privatisation of the water industry in England and Wales, the magazine where I then worked sent a colleague to cover an obscure industry conference on the subject. One of the speakers was the head honcho at one of the soon-to-be-privatised water authorities. And, mindful of his forthcoming status as head-honcho of a multi-billion pound […]

Slipping Further Behind the Curve

Confirmation can come from unexpected places. In February 2021, the UK National Commission for UNESCO and PRAXIS at the University of Leeds hosted a convention on “Biocultural Heritage and Landscapes: Linking Nature and Culture”. Participants came from over 30 countries. Don’t be put off by the title and the global context. The Brief Report that emerged from this convention has […]