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Note: This blog is no longer active - please visit my new site at HAT Projects where you will find our new blog!

Friday, December 08, 2006
Arup: Bad Science
OK. I generally love Arup and admire their history and philosophy. I have friends there, I have indeed collaborated with them in the past. But this is just quackery...I really hope it isn't as dumb as it sounds.

Today's BD:
Arup’s Peter Head, project director of Dongtan — the proposed low-carbon city near Shanghai three-quarters of the size of Manhattan — told BD the firm had devised a more scientific system to create a “sense of place”, incorporating historical and cultural elements into designs.

Head predicted that Arup’s new approach, which has led to the development of 24 cultural places or “scenes” within Dongtan, would be a valuable tool in helping create an identity for the troubled Thames Gateway.

Head said the system will help create identity and context for new public space through disciplines including psychology, anthropology, music and art.

In Dongtan, this focuses on the historical relationship between people and the natural world at the mouth of the Yangtse and has resulted in scenes named “Cloud Sea and Dreamy Pool” and “Narcissus Fairy Island”.

“This is a genuine attempt to change the paradigm of urban development,” he added.

“We want people to go [to these 24 locations] and feel ownership of the place — that it is for them. We are very concerned that this cultural aspect needs to be deeply rooted and sophisticated.

He's right - places do need identity and to engender a sense of ownership. But some kind of cod historiography combined with a 'scientific system' ain't the answer. Identity depends precisely on being anti-formulaic: open-ended, surprising, open to multiple readings and levels of engagement. I'm surprised to think that someone within such an intelligent and sophisticated organisation like Arup can find himself drawn into this kind of utter twaddle.
Wednesday, December 06, 2006
Pre-Budget: Green homes for all?
The headline that grabbed the press today about Gordon's pre-budget speech was his pledge that all homes should be carbon-neutral in ten years time.

While you all sit back and think about how to deliver that one (he didn't help by giving no details), he also said that in the short term he would give a limited-term stamp duty relief to zero-carbon homes. Building Schools for the Future projects would have to meet BREEAM Very Good or Excellent ratings. These 'green' measures were by far the most extreme out of a speech that I thought was surprisingly tame on the subject of green taxes. A mere £5 extra tax on flights, a few pence on petrol...

And for those of you who care about these things, the introduction of any Planning Gain Supplement will be delayed till 2009 to have time for a fresh consultation.

Well, I think it is a pretty weak attempt to gain green points off the Tories but it is noticeable that Cameron has not come out saying that he would have been any more stringent, for fear of losing his voters. the green stuff grabbed the headlines, but it amounts to precious little.
Barker review round-up
Wow, it's been so over-previewed that I had a strange sense of deja-vue when it actually came out. But if you have avoided, so far, the welter of breathless journalism, this is basically what it said: Less Planning.

Extend permitted development rights for minor house extensions/alterations, microgeneration and other small things.

A more 'risk-based' approach and less paperwork required to support applications.

Relaxation of use classes to enable more mixed-use designation and easier change of use

Less time taken preparing LDFs - aiming for 18-24 months, not the current 36-42.

Faster processing of planning appeals, a new mediation service and a major reduction in the number of schemes called-in by ministers.

And most ambiguously, encouragement for authorities to 'review' green belt designations to ensure a sufficient supply of land, although the report also strongly supports the principle of town centre-first development.

A national planning commission to examine 'strategic' proposals such as major infrastructure, transport and power generation projects.

Some comment: Guardian leader, BBC, Simon Jenkins rant (surprise), Centre for Cities, inevitable CPRE response...oh, just do a
But then, the report came before today's pre-Budget speech which also tried to out-Cameron Cameron on the green front...which will be the subject of the next post here.
Monday, December 04, 2006
Post lapse
Oh dear - sorry. A week of unexpected amounts of things to do, followed by a week in Bucharest running a workshop on culturally led regeneration for the British Council, means it is a shockingly long time since I last posted. And indeed there may be more changes afoot in my blogging life as a few changes take place to what I'm up to, but more of that soon.

The big stories while I've been AWOL have involved Battersea Power Station being bought for £400m by an Irish consortium - possibly the least unexpected deal of the year as we've known about the negotations for some time.

Also more Olympics news, with Ricky Burdett being offically unveiled as a design adviser to the ODA, and the ex-Archigram and creator of a blob in Graz, Peter Cook, being brought on board to HOK's team for the stadium to spice it up some. Zaha's aquatic centre came out with nil points on the environmental front, and got massively scaled down in size. That's beside yet more boring speculation on costs etc.

And finally, I managed to avoid the Thames Gateway Forum, the consultants worst nightmare, where the government unveiled some interim reports and strategies and stuff, CABE launched its hasty 'vision for the Gateway' stuff (entitled 'New Things Happen', would you believe) and press releases came flying out of the wires like so much confetti.

And meanwhile I'm back on track for the release of the Barker Review of Planning tomorrow, and boy I bet you all can't wait, after all that excitement over that