This workshop explored the benefits of good landscape design, how to implement (or ensure the implementation) of schemes, and the current work on Pocket Parks and the Mayor’s Street Tree initiative. The workshop finished with a design exercise looking at Bricklayers Arms roundabout.
Disclaimer: Informal intern notes. Any errors and omissions are my own. Please email any corrections, to MarcLane@tfl.gov.uk
Philip Cave, Philip Cave Associates
John Parker, TfL Arboriculture & Landscape Manager
Tim Rettler and Peter Massini, GLA
Hanna Salomonsson, Andrew Dodkinsand Martin Jones, LB Enfield
Exercise led by Paul Dodd, OutDesign
Achieving Quality Landscape through the Planning Process
Philip began by explaining the requirements for a [Proposed] Submission Stage. A good basic scheme should show a sensible, workable approach to the site, with hard and softscape delineated, including defined parking and trees shown. The scheme should be shown in plan and section. The Landscape Strategy should form part of the overall Design Strategy. Materials should be generically described, and photos should specifically relate to the proposal, not be ‘atmospheric’. Philip is in favour of trees being specified at planning submission (both species and maturity), as this is one of the easiest elements to water down at Planning Application, due to value engineering.
At Planning Application, the detail should be as specific as “Sandstone Sett”. Root protection areas should be shown, as well as areas of porous paving. Plants should all be specified, incl maturity.
Trees should be selected for purpose, for example, trees that form ‘tabletop’ canopies can create a pedestrian-scale, and Hedges and topiary can be used to define space. Suggest keeping hedges below 850mm for CPTED. Mature trees are not necessarily expensive. A 6m tree may be around £500-£600. Special soil for planting in a tree well perhaps another £500.
There are many detailed issues to consider as well – size and density of planting heavily affects the outcomes, as does the maturity of species. Granite is seen by some as a less sustainable material, and while Yorkstone may be suitable for historic areas, it is absorbent and stains. Often, concrete setts and pavers provide both sustainable and easy-to-use alternatives. Also consider slip-resistance of design – for example, external sealed timber should have metal bar inserts. Ongoing maintenance should be dealt with in the Landscape Plan of Management – best practice was for the developer to contract the landscape suppliers for a (say) 5yr maintenance contract as well.
Example schemes were shown, where changes in paving colour delineated through and slow spaces within a larger hardscape ‘urban’ feel, and furniture was made from similar materials (rounded concrete benches) . This integrated the space, while affording various uses. Hard paving near railway arches also allowed for the possibility of future use of those arches for cafes. Thinning and removing closed canopies may sometimes be desirable, where the shade created cold/dark pockets.
Successful Planting and Management
John is responsible for the ‘Green Estate’ of TfL, near Red Routes and Town Centres. He deals with all of the ‘Green Infrastructure’ – shrubs etc, as well as trees.
Tips for Design: There should be a maintenance focus when selecting trees – consider the life of the tree – 15 or 100 years, not just the day of handover. All designs should show existing condition – trees (including canopies), light poles. Otherwise, conflict occurs. If a conflict arises, consider retaining, then pruning, then removing existing tree (as a last resort). Often, when removal is proposed, John draws the designers attention to public consultation / TPOs and Conservation Area, then CAVAT (monetary value placed on trees, which can run to £100,000s). One danger with CAVAT is that aggressive developments see this as a price tag (rather than looking for alternatives), and just hand over cheque. Can transplant trees, but this is not easy in London, and trees often die.
Hardscape – need to consider the size of the tree pit in terms of the mature tree trunk. Often undersized. Also consider surface of tree pit. Resin-bound gravel is/was popular, but roots break up the resin, and debris blocks the pores, turning it into expensive and poor tarmac. Mulch or breathing (unbound) gravel is better.
During construction, consider how the trees will be protected. Barriers are important. Ensure that limbs are not cut for hoarding.
Tree planting down central reservations is popular among councillors. However, TfL believes it should be considered a last resort, where no other greening method is possible. This is because the tree pits are very small, receive little water, and are impacted by road on both sides (eg: salinity of runoff during winter de-icing). It is also very hard to prune these trees, and so often they are poorly maintained. Raised planters may help, but these have their own issues (below).
In urban areas, consider the effect of litter (eg: rotting fruit on pavement can be a major problem, but leaf fall generally fine), water needs, salt resistance, final dimensions, sun penetration (evergreen vs deciduous) and the local character (existing trees, buildings, planting). Also be aware of diseases, especially in the local area. There is very little oak planted now, and less horse chestnut and ash.
Where planting in tree pits is not feasible, raised planters may be an option. Be aware that these require additional watering. Planted towers (‘triffids’) help absorb air pollution, but are considered unattractive (when they become dirty). Bedding plants, green walls, and even ivy over hoarding all green city, but consider maintenance, vandalism and ‘gorilla gardeners’ (competing with tree at centre of pit). If unsure, contact the LTOA for who is responsible for trees in the public realm.
GLA ‘Design For London’ – Pocket Parks
Pocket parks are being encouraged by the GLA. The movement references Pailey Park in Manhattan, NYC as the genesis. This made an empty plot (originally private land), into a green oasis, with greening (ivy on walls), a tree canopy, and lots of space for gathering (tables, chairs). St John the Baptist Church in Barnet is also an excellent example, with a paved edge and benches that allow people to face the park or the high street.
Pocket parks should integrate green space (softscape and planting) into the urban space. Thus a square may be a non-traditional town square – mostly hardscape, but with grassed mounds for sitting/gathering, and interesting/ornamental species to define the space. Long benches allow many users, and local needs should be considered (eg: a footstool for nearby hospital outpatients). Kids play need not be traditional – exploring flowering plants or vegetable beds also creates interest.
Dalston Eastern Curve Garden is a example of a defined space – it looks like a building from the outside, but is open. Even the open barn in the centre provides the pocket park with activity and extends the range of uses, to include lunchtime dances/performances.
GLA Urban Greening – Pocket Parks II and Street Trees
The key drivers are the London Plan, and mitigating climate change. For the latter, we are facing hotter, drier summers, and warmer, wetter winters. An increase in surface flooding is predicted, and this is probably a larger issue for London. It may not be as catastrophic as the Thames Barrier failing, but it happens much more frequently, and is more likely to occur, and thus has a high social and economic impact. Also greening offsets the Heat Island effect, and is aesthetically pleasing.
Approaches taken by the GLA include community ownership of poor quality public realms, to increase legibility and safety of these ambiguous spaces (ie GLA in favour of Gorilla Gardeners), and they often try and foster community management of the space for the long term. Formal redesign of spaces is also occurring, where railings around estates are being shifted back to allow for more public landscape (a mixture of hard and softscape, well defined).
Street Trees: The GLA has a target of 10,000 street trees – there is an ongoing issue with small tree pits and less mature species being used to meet target, but they are getting better at this. They are particularly in favour of Stockholm Tree Pits – a long pit along a pavement, that has a rain garden, then gravl, then the pit. This allows the tree pit to take on more runoff (detension), and for that runoff to be filtered. A good example, just built, is on Bethnal Green Road, Tower Hamlets. With declining car ownership, there may also be the ability to claim back some roadway. RE:LEAF is the GLA’s programme for funding exemplar projects of this nature.
Painters Lane Pocket Park, Enfield
Hanna Salomonsson, Andrew Dodkins and Martin Jones
This was originally an uninviting, fenced and hoarded park along busy Hertford Road (corner Mollison Avenue). Although the land was derelict and had anti-social behaviour issues, there were a few objectors who were very influential. Therefore, they employed a consultant to conduct a public consultation. Using a shed on site, the Growing Room, they approached 1100 people, and conducted 166 interviews. The verdict was a 79% ‘Yes’ to creating a pocket park. The consultation also gave them new feedback – 79% also in favour of fencing the park, so that it is locked at night. Many wanted the park to be used for local fauna, and so most of the park is still wild.
The design features encouraged a variety of uses. For example, mounds were kept low for CPTED, but cuts in the mounds using Corten steel, and moulded benches within the cuts meant that they could be used for informal kids play (jumping down) as well as sitting. Some of the bespoke features were cheaper than expected – the lasercutCorten steel gatewas only £7000 – really just the cost of materials. Even the boulders for climbing were cheap – bought them in bulk and spread them around the borough. Generally sought low maintenance materials. Total budget was £200k.
Park has been a success – it is open and used, far less antisocial behaviour, no more drug use. They have managed to accommodate wildlife to the rear, into which school groups can go by appointment.
Forgotten Spaces Exercise
This exercise, in the last hour of the workshop, took a typical ‘forgotten space’ – in this case the Builders Arms roundabout, and explored landscape alternatives. This exercise ties into RIBA’s Forgotten Spaces project, which this year is looking at flyovers, although in the case of Builders Arms, the roundabout is already being improved by TfL at the moment. Background reading: By Design and Manual For Streets 2, all schemes should aim for a Green Flag award.
The participants were divided into four groups and each prepared a vision and objectives for their shceme, and them proposed a solution. No two solutions were the same, and varied from radical redesign, to tweaks (such as filling in the underpasses for tree beds, and putting in level crossings) that the TfL redesign has also incorporated.
This workshop (primarily for engineers) looked at common issues in cycleway design and explore working case-studies brought by attendees. Day Two considered Chapers 5 to 8 inclusive of the London Cycling Design Standards (LCDS), being 5. Junctions and Crossings, 6.Signs and Markings, 7.Construction and Surfacing and 8. Cycle Parking.
Disclaimer: Informal intern notes. Any errors and omissions are my own. Please email any corrections, to MarcLane@tfl.gov.uk
Phil Jones, Phil Jones Associates
John Parkin, Professor of Transport Engineering, South Bank University
The trainers explained that the three primary concerns in junction design is to 1) minimise delays, 2) minimise hazards and to 3) accommodate all users.
Where cycle and motor vehicle users share a road/intersection, the aim is to increase the motorists awareness of cyclists. This is consistent with Smeed’s curve, iemore activity = less risk [Smeed’s Law & Cycling is elaborated in this ECF Factsheet].
Otherwise, separation of movements is a common way of reducing potential conflict points -such as by reducing the number of lanes that approach a given junction or replacing four-way intersections with staggered T-junction (a design commonly seen in 1960s road layouts). Thus separated cycleways are desirable (to reduce cycle/motorist conflicts). However, there is a trade-off between safety and comfort, on the one hand, and speed and volume, on the other, in intersection design. Sacrifices must be made. Equally, road priority must be considered where the two are separated, as signaling and road rules generally favour motorists.
There are two schools of thought regarding separated cycleways. The Danish approach, which is to segregate the links but bring traffic together at intersections, and the Dutch approach, which separates both links and junctions. For example, Advance Stop Lines (ASLs) are a [modified] Danish approach- as the cycle traffic is brought across all lanes, and then passes through the intersection together with traffic, rather than going around intersection or in its own lane.
Crossings are really ‘just another type of junction’, where the cross-traffic is pedestrian and cycle only. A Toucan crossing is a form of signalized junction, for example. However, the system needs some tweaking for cyclists, especially zebra crossings. Currently, pedestrians have sole priority, which means that while cyclists may use the crossing technically they must dismount if they wish to use a zebra crossing with (rather than after) pedestrians. That said, TfL are running a trial to amend this, as discussed further in Signing the Way, which made make the next TSRGD, due 2014/5.
At this point, some attendees raised the point that common practice diverges from the legalities here. Cyclists don’t dismount at zebra crossings, and both pedestrians and motor vehicles tend to give them priority. The trainers observed that there was still a danger, however, and a better approach would be to design in signal-controlled cycle crossings. The best approach in their opinion was a Toucan crossing, that provided separate pedestrian and cycle lanes, marked by elephant footprints. Again, there is a balancing act to be considered, between clarity and reducing clutter. Compare for example the different approaches around Hyde Park – at Bayswater Road in the north (separated), and Hyde Park corner to the south (integrated).
There was a discussion of priority junctions, where a cycle lane crossed a T-intersection. Often the stop line for motor vehicles is drawn at the cycle lane. This creates a hazard, particularly with turning traffic at the junction mouth, which tends to encroach on the cycle lane. The stop lines should be brought back (although sight lines then need to be checked), although perhaps the better solution would be to interrupt the cycle way line marking (ieindicate a shared part of the road, and let cyclists use judgement as to how far they can move into the travel lane).
Large roundabouts are an issue for both pedestrians and cyclists. They ought to be getting less common, as designers have been encouraged to ‘continental’ style roundabouts since [Traffic Advisory Leaflet 97/9] in 1997. However, uptake has been slow. Even with continental roundabouts, controlling the speed of motor vehicles is important – if the design speed too fast (splays and diams too big), then it will still impact cyclists. There are still issues with highway interfaces (roundabouts on approach roads).
- Smaller – a single lane around the roundabout, to reduce the conflict points.
- Perpendicular approach and exit. Entry/exit mouth about 4-5m wide (single lane, MV + cycle)
- Small radii to slow traffic: entry curve path 20m dia. / inner circle 25-35m / island 16-25m / circle carriageway 5 – 7m wide. ‘Dinnerplate style’ with re-entrant curves.
- Tends to reduce the traffic capacity of the intersection by 10 – 30%
This can be contrasted with:
the Dutch-style segregated approach, which provides separate cycle and pedestrian crossings to roundabout on all sides, but requires ~55m central area, and wide tapers. One participant observed that a hybrid approach could be used, with cycle + peds separated from MVs, with extra-wide zebra crossings. Trainers concurred – Zebras can be 2.5 – 10m wide. Equally, the trainers observed that there may be methods used that are not technically compliant but are still effective, for example blockwork stripes across intersection approaches. This is being trialled.
The Danish-styleintegrated approach – cyclists are within the carriageway, usually with a cycle lane marked along the external curve. In the trainers view, this did not solve the issue of cyclists being hit by exiting traffic – and in any event, the UK was heading towards a Dutch model (egWaterloo Road / Blackpool), with informal crossings, designated shared use, tabletops.
One issue for signalisation is the detection of cyclists at advanced stop lines (ASLs).
Lorry conflicts need to be considered – especially if cyclists are at the rear end of a lorry because of queuing in the cycle lane due to the ASL being full/blocked. May need to widen cycle approach. Again this is a question of volume.
Where there is heavy MV left turning traffic, or heavy cycle right turning traffic, may need to consider a central cycle approach to the ASL. Ensure MV lanes are min. 2.5m wide, no less than 2m, and cycle lanes should be ~1.5m wide. If MV lanes are too narrow, they will encroach on cycle lane regardless.
Where there is a left turning lane, best practice is to carry the cycle lane across the left-turn lane, and to reduce the taper to 1 in 3 – this will signal to the MVs that they are crossing the cycle path, and reduce them ‘drifting’ across it when going into the turning lane.
Cycle lane markings through junction are preferred by TfL.
The lengthening of Intergreens (the delay between a red signal and the next green signal) allow cyclists to clear intersection. There is a formula for determining the intergreen length that adds an additional 5, 6 or 7 seconds to attenuated intersections – in these cases, an extra 1s for cyclists would also be prudent.
Otherwise, consider Early Starts / Green Waves – a green signal for cyclists in advance of the MV green, that gives the cyclist more time to clear intersection. This is being trialed at Bow Junction, where the signaling will also prevent cyclists from entering the ASL if the MVs have been given a green. Offsetting traffic in time rather than space could also have a beneficial traffic calming effect. This is not the only time-based method, however – Ireland uses cycle hook-turns.
The Mayor’s Vision is for [fewer] key routes, like a Tube map, to create mental links across London. This exercise is separate from the local links created by individual boroughs. [ietrunk routes]. TfLis tasked with integrating all this together. There is uncertainty about exactly what strategy should be followed – the idea that the routes literally follow the Tube lines (eg: Jubilee Quietway) is being rethought. Participants raised questions about whether people are even aware where their Tube line or bus route runs, or would recognize a route called “CS7” as having such a relationship. There is a difference between wayfinding within a local area, and route planning, concerning travel to a destination. There was an indication that TfL were reconsidering the Quietways, as a network.
There is a strong push to declutter signs (as part of general decluttering of streets). This means using smaller fonts, less signs and integrated signs (eg: shared posts, using existing posts). General good practice is often common sense – arrow pointing in the right direction, signposting common destinations and travel time/distance, creating one signboard rather than a forest of individual signs. Generally, however, the observation has been that markings on the carriageway are most useful to cyclists.
As an aside, the trainers observed that the worst sign was “Cyclists Dismount”. This was tantamount to declaring you had given up on cyclists. No-one says “Motorists, get out an push”.
The use of Stone Mastic Asphalt (SMA) was strongly recommended over Hot Rolled Asphalt (HRA), as it created a smoother surface for riders. There are small issues with SMA being slippery whemn first laid, and creating a two-stage maintenance process for resurfacing. Nevertheless the trainers recommended it.
Conversely, clay bricks were the worst surface for cyclists due to skidding. Continuous pavers generally should be avoided. [NB there is no issue using paver strips, say to define a cycle zone].
Tactile paving is a known issue, which TfL is reviewing. They are considering scrapping these requirements as they create a poor cycle environment. For example, the ‘corduroy’ delineation of cycle vs pedestrian realm at the edge of a shared space is difficult for cyclists to navigate. One participant drew attention to Waterloo Station [Station Approach, cnr York Road], where navigating the tactile paving when turning right on York Road (towards Waterloo Roundabout) was a hazard. This issue is exacerbated on bikes without suspension, eg: Brompton bikes.
Lighting should be increased for cycle paths off carriageways. Be aware that this may be a challenge for local residents – there is a perception that any increase in light is intrusive. There has been some success with LEDs embedded in cycleways, and using solar-powered lights (PV cells) on bollards.
The issue here is fitness for purpose – any type of frame may be acceptable. A Sheffield Stand with cross-bar, 850mm wide, allows both front and back wheels to be locked on most bikes.
In terms of location, look for an area with good surveillance, lighting and ease of use (eg: not within 300mm of a building). Ensure that the stands are not placed in the pedestrian path (across desire lines). Aim to place stands close to the destination, not tucked away distantly. The trainers have found that on shopping streets, for example, pairs and groups spaces at 50m intervals along street works well, rather than the current approach of providing a cycle rack at one end.
When removing guard rails (say, during a decluttering exercise), recognize that these may have been de-facto cycle parking, and replace with racks.
The final part of the workshop was a case-study exercise, where the participants broke into four groups and looked at real-life challenges. Generally, these involved junctions. Large roundabouts were the greatest concern, both because they were still being designed and approved (despite earlier expectations to the contrary), and because existing large roundabouts (such as Marble Arch) posed such a challenge to redesign.
A bullet-point summary of the one-day session on changes to housing benefits, the impact on the delivery of new housing, new housing vernacular and the ‘relaxation of rules’ regarding change of use from B1(a) commercial to C3 residential.
Disclaimer: Informal intern notes. Any errors and omissions are my own. Please email any corrections, to MarcLane@tfl.gov.uk
Kate Webb, Shelter
- Housing benefit changes are summarised here.
- This is another step in 3 years of cuts, including:
- Moving benchmark from ‘average’ accom. (50%ile) to ‘bottom end’ (30%ile);
- Severing link to local rents (April 2013), and replacing this with CPI
- Future (2014/5) cap on increases to 1% (potentially below CPI)
- This equates to an average £12 loss, out of average £71 benefit for single/wk [ie 15% down] – but effect can be much higher – in some London boroughs, a loss of £81 or more. Full housing benefit only for over 35s, under 35s now = share room equivalent.
- All this designed to create pressure on landlords to lower rents. University of Cambridge 2012 modelling showed this would not happen in 27% of cases, where tenants would not have market power, and would thus have to relocate. 25% of these (6-7% of total) would probably wind up homeless, enlivening councils’ statutory duty to rehouse them. This one-off TA cost is £120m.
- Expecting to see an increase in temporary accommodation demand due to shorthold tenancy pressure, rather than the traditional demand (due to relationship breakdown or family circumstances). Expect that there will be a doughnut effect, as central London councils need to rehouse their residents (TA) on the fringe.
- Those that can stay in their accommodation do, as people prefer not to move. This will create ancillary problems – increase in payday lending, less spending on food, overcrowding.
- ‘Bedroom tax’ (as popularly known) will affect 420k disabled – of which only severely disabled (high care) have been carved out (as of yesterday).Affects working tenants only, including council-owned TA. Carve-out for children in defence forces / foster carers between children.
- Lack of smaller stock means downsizing (the intention) is difficult to achieve. Workarounds are likely, eg: lodgers – but even this is going to be unlikely for those (220k) with children. Therefore ~£14 loss in assistance in real terms. £30m DHP, wholly at council discretion, may mitigate this, but in all likelihood only 40k of 220k affected families can be assisted.
- New Overall Cap (all benefits, incl housing) of £500/wk parent/couple / £350/wk for single, has staggered introduction between April > Sep, with a 9mo grace period for newly unemployed. This will only affect a smaller pool of people (54k), but half are in London, with an average loss of £83/wk. Thus this change is hard hitting for those affected.Generally those it are large families, but ¼ have under three kids.
- Will impact TA, DHP fund, and contribute to doughnut effect.
- Supposed to be a ‘work incentive’ but only 30% affected are job seekers.
- Biggest impacts are London (£50+ per week shortfall), and South-East (£20-50 per week), except Kent. Will this mean a flood of TA in Kent?
- Universal Credit will come into effect in October 2013. This is a single monthly payment for all benefits, made directly to beneficiary. It will have a ‘soft launch’, so increased impact in 2015. Not a monetary change, but direct payment may have indirect impacts, particularly an increase in arrears, and a knock-on effect to housing providers, who rely on guaranteed income stream.
David Baptiste, London Borough of Ealing
- Impact of Housing Delivery:
- Council has a target 950 homes/year, of which 1/3rd are to be affordable. They are still seeing overall target delivered, but the share of affordable housing is declining.
- Only 2 weeks away from seeing real impacts – predicting an increase in rent arrears, especially if no behavioural change by recipients. Thus it is ‘getting personal’.
- Housing providers are nervous, as 70% of their income stream is from benefits payments. Benefits cap affects fewer tenants, but 1/3rd of those affected are in TA. They are going to need to be housed out of London.
- Bedroom Tax shortfall bites – £14-£28 per week, but the number affected in Ealing are low.
- Impacts on Council:
- more rent collection issues (already a difficult task). Ealing is speaking with credit providers about possibly providing free bank accounts, to allow benefit to be deposited / standing order.
- more social issues particularly debt, homelessness, demand for advice and support (already seeing this), discrete financial support, overcrowding (already ¼ of borough, 1/3 of housing applicants)
- Inner London boroughs will become unaffordable
- Subsidies for building affordable housing are down by 2/3rds, so expect drop in supply in the short term (at least), as developers adjust their financial models.
- Affordable Rent Model has the effect of skewing housing stock. Because 1 – 2br flats are priced ‘reasonably’ at ~£200/wk, but 3-4br are deflating, there is little viability for new build 3-4br.
- Workarounds that Ealing is exploring:
- TA on decanted estates no longer slated for (imminent) redevelopment
- Using council assets with private developers (where council would underwrite loan, assume rent collecting task), to assist developers secure loans
- Design tweaks, such as more ‘tenure neutral’ product that can switch in future, more energy efficiency / adaptability (lower maintenance/ongoing costs, higher density development (to increase viability), development near transport, using development for a local employment (an income to offset shortfall from benefits changes), and providing furnished flats to reduce need for (say) payday loans for new tenants.
Alan Benson, GLA (Affordable Homes Programme)
- Where We Are Now?
- 2011/2012 (to Sep) – 16k homes target, all delivered
- 2012/13 – 7.5k target, currently 4.2k delivered (to date). Forecast [completions ?] are on target, however (in fact, over 8k). Probably will be same in 2013/14. This is because of ‘hockey stick’ effect – massive increase in delivery #s in last month, in last week.
- All new starts must be ‘on site’ by September 2013.
- Believe we’re on target because GLA will not grant new builds if current programs lag. However, because of backloaded targets in NAHP, most new builds won’t commence until 2015. For 2014/15, currently nothing on books – a ‘cliff edge’ (beyond NAHP sunset)
- Where We Are Going?
- “Boris Boost” of £100m for 10k key worker home:£78m for flexible products (rent / shared / own) plus ~£20m for ‘innovative products’. This is designed to increase home ownership. Forecast completions out to March 2016 – ie beyond the current pipeline.
- What we are Seeing?
- DoH ‘Care and Support’ (ie Aged and Disabled) underspend
- Build Your Own Home not really working yet. Lacks “London Vernacular” typology.
- Community Right to Build – no-one has yet come forward to try
So, GLA initiatives:
- £100m Housing Covenant – currently looking at Affordable Homes, Supported Homes (=DoH Care and Support), Empty Homes, Hidden Homes. [Not otherwise discussed]
- Build to Rent Fund – considering increasing the £200m allocation
- Debt Guarantee – not sure how this will work, yet
- Setting up a Development Panel. 4 year plan. PPP. Intention to be a ‘one stop procurement shop’, similar to previous programs. Developers will be pre-qualified, and Development Panel will hold a mini-competition among pre-quals to get best outcomes. Available to the Development Panel is 650ha of land (and some water), inherited from various former authorities. Not all is suitable for residential development. Most is in East London, consistent with former authority holdings. GLA is also setting up a single property unit within GLA to manage these assets as well as TfL, fire and police land. Will use integrated online Land and Property Database.
- Boris’ Vision for London is planned for release in April 2013, to be simultaneous with London Finance Commission report. Looking at a target 1m new homes by mid-late 2030s. This means a massive increase in delivery. Looking at Business Institute recommendations about how to raise private equity. Proposal to keep London stamp duty for GLA. Proposal to lift cap on borough loans. If not greenbelt housing, then must be industrial redesignation, densification and public land. Target will be to provide homes for those driving London’s economy.
Laskis Pavlou, GVA Grimley
- State of the London Housing Market:
- Most supply (net builds) has traditionally come from Tower Hamlets (18k homes), and Islington / Greenwich / Hackney / Southwark (each 10k homes). BUT Tower Hamlets was mostly to feed Canary Wharf – ie high value homes as much as low. Least supply came from City/Kensington/Chelsea. Both due tolocal opposition, and as boroughs are small.
- Completions peaks in 2004-5, although they continued to be above average until 2010. Trough from 2010 – 2012, from which we are just emerging.
- Demand – sudden drop after 2007, but steadily rising since. Islington and Hackney almost back at pre-crisis  levels.
- New Build Sales – most sold by completion, shows high demand. For example the Battersea Power Station redevelopment sold £600m in 4d. Query % exchanged, probably most.
- High OS demand – Flight to Quality (Location, Transport access, Communication, state of repair, value for money). London a good place to buy – 35% sterling depreciation (on average) against many currencies in the last 5yrs, and a higher ROI in London rental market than elsewhere.This means London housing prices are back to 2007 levels – average ~£300k London (1% below peak) vs £163 in the rest of the UK (still 10-12% below peak).Boroughs with highest prices have most price growth – generally Central and West, Crossrail stops: Paddington, West End, Canary Wharf – all seeing 50% increase in value. Those with money are getting good deals. But this is seeing widening gap between high/low value.
- The impact of Office to Residential Conversions depends on whether allowed in borough [many have applied for exemptions]. If allowed, predict that this will explode.Currently we are seeing a maximum 18k houses/year being built.If target 1m by 2030s (as projected in Mayor’s Vision), then average will need to be 40k new homes per year for 25 yrs.
Steve Beard, Appraisall (Housing Consultant for London and Wales)
RSL Delivery Models:
- Analysed a series of changes to the delivery model, all explained in his slide presentation.
- Generally, these changes have the effect that the RSLs are now competing on land cost, alone, driving up the cost beyond market value. This is a tension -RSLs are designed for low cost rent, yet they are reliant on rent increase for viability of model. They are fighting themselves.
- If rent stabilises, their viability plummets. This means:
- Rent Convergence
- Greater Social housing on existing estates and providing mixed housing on estates
- Reliance on freehold donations from boroughs, to stay viable.
- The outlook is grim – When DPF and cross-subsidised grants dry up – what then?
Jo Wilson, Future of London (Director)
- Future of London report issued last week, embarking on some further research, this is a précis:
- mortgage stress to increase
- Comparing 2000 – 2009: There has been an increase of 50% in overcrowding
- Since this time last year: an increase of 20% in homelessness
- London by 2030 is to be a 10 million pax ‘megacity’. How do we achieve this and avoid more of the above? Some boroughs are looking at solutions – may be able to build on / but not for all:
- Southwark – Affordable Housing Fund – pooling money
- Hackney – HRA reform, cross-subsidised housing, borrowing against rentals – 2000 homes
- Barking & Dagenham – have delivered 14k homes [how?]
- These schemes require free land to be given by councils, or significant regeneration schemes. Affordable Rent Model ‘might save us’ – this is what their research is focusing on.
Julian Hart (UDL) – New London Vernacular
- Background: David Burbeck (Design for Homes) coined the term ‘New London Vernacular’, as opp. to ‘blobby’ architecture of the 1980s – 1990s. Just need to look back to Coin Street SE1, when low density was still being built on Thames, and the tower was controversial. All changed with Rogers’ Urban Design Taskforce Report, that said that high density does not mean tall towers. Led to GLA and the London Plan, lifting London’s density. Unfortunately, this led to experimentation until about 2000, as there was no local experience in high density. Thus blobby buildings, acontextual. Popular for foreign investors, but do not endure well.
- Now, 2010 – 11 Housing Design Awards – suddenly all about low rise ‘historic’. Restrained. Similar look & feel – eg Bridport Place. Similar materials – eg brick etc. Background architecture, not statement architecture.
- Aside from façades, drivers are London Housing Design Guide (statutory instrument – Housing Supplementary Design Guide), commercial conservatism (easier to get planning permission), less new housing grants, so managers looking for less communal, lower management costs (esp lifts).
What is the Vernacular?
- Aesthetic Features are elevation driven, eg: Brick/stone facades, Parapets – usually used as balustrades for recessed upper storey, taller ground floor, windows portrait, geometric regularity and deep reveals.
- Structural Features are less shared access, communal gardens now quadrangles (eg: St Andrews Scheme, Tower Hamlets), reduced corridor lengths, perimeter blocks, varied forms – each a single tenure type. Eg: terraces one side, flats stepping up. This allows development to be better staged for viability.
- Quads are similar to University Quads in form and function, with public access – ‘front doors’ from quad, limited kids play / terraformed gardens, and multi use eg: bicycle racks
- External Access Desks are still used, but now recessed behind brick facades.
- Balconies now recessed behind façade (though this tends to only be in higher value tenures)
Benefits of the Vernacular are a reduced sales risk, lower D&C risk – less contingency needed for ‘innovative’ design, reduced component parts, ability to standardise components for bulk cost savings, more accurate land valuations, durable design, and more market appeal: a “boring façade” is rarely a turn-off for average buyer (conservative), can be wow’ed with the interior. Also allows cross-subsidisation within the one building, by vertically dividing tenancies with separate entries.
Office to Residential Conversions
Nick Belsten, CBRE
- Every borough except 3no (Barking & Dagenham, Berkley, Redbridge) have applied for exemptions. However not all boroughs looking for total exeption. (City is).
- Criteria very strict for exemption: Nationally significant economic activity; Substantial Local Economic Effect (without a positive benefit offset). All exemptions to be assessed by April. No guidance given by govt as to exemption mechanism, so hard to gauge impact.
- Prior Approval – unclear other than carve-outs: transport/highway impacts, flooding etc.
- It may be that conversion permitted (except above carve outs), subject to standard conditions such as “floorspace to be no greater than 1000sqm” which would have a limiting effect on impact. Say 1000sqm because this is trigger for other residential contributions.
- That said, Gov probably don’t realise implications, and will firefight later. For example, there is a technical legal issue with s106 > it will probably be sought when detailed plans of retrofit are submitted to council after change of use. However, technically not attachable because no “new” floorspace is created – all created at change of use stage. Also implications for para 51 NPPF, housing supply & mix, sustainability of developments that hinge on office component.
- Too many outstanding issues – in NB opinion, will lead to a 2nd round consultation.
John Lett, GLA
- Mayor not against conversions per se, issue is ‘in a planned manner’:
- Do not want to lose all the affordable business space in the city (under £20/sqft, sometimes as low as £10/sqft) – this is the space that incubates business, thus jobs.
- Want to build on existing successes – already have been releasing excess office space by approval, and this has worked well > managed supply.
- Mayor playing for tight boundaries, to increase the chance of the exemption being approved. Thus Category A “Nationally Important” Econ Activity. For the GLA, this is:
- Central Activity Zone
- Isle of Dogs (Canary Wharf)
- Tech City (Old St area)
- Enterprise Zones
the rest is up to the boroughs to flesh out in their areas of London.
- Cat B: Plan is generally around Town Centres and where mix is critical for industrial viability.
- JLL putting together a typical vals report for GLA on conversion of comm> residential, to allow GLA to assess those at most risk, and pipeline.
- Quantities: Of 28m sqm office space in Greater London, 18m is in the Central London, of which 17m (ie most of London) is in the CAZ and Tech City. Thus exemption critical.
- Of this: ~4m leases expire within 5 years, so potential to lose 270 – 340k jobs BUT would supply in region of 48 – 50k homes. This may seem a good thing, but we are currently building 30k of 35k needed, so why flood market?
- ~2.5m in pipeline (0.7m under construction, rest planned). Not likely to be at risk.
- However 50 – 70% of existing stock might be considered for rebuild [intensify/update] – this churn would be quashed due to econ. uncertainty, est. 0.4 – 0.5k pot. jobs lost.
- People use metrics: £110/sqm Westminster > £65/sqm City > £40/sqm Canary Wharf However, there is sig. variation within each area. Each area has high churn and intensification within small footprints. If uncertainty, lose churn, and undermines agglomeration economics, perhaps even macro economics eg: CrossRail.
Luke Tozer (Architect)
- Challenges to conversion may be a limitation, ie:
- Requirement for external alterations to be with borough approval may provide council with control over conversions – especially window retrofit.
- Major challenge is Fire: shorter escape distances for residential. Probably need to add 2 to 4 new staircases on a standard office.
- Part L Thermal Performancealso a challenge. Offices mostly cooling, Residential – Heating.
- Mix of Types might be more difficult to achieve due to penetrations – fixed riser positions.
- Amenity Space might have to change – Wintergarden or roof space – not a major constraint, EG: Manchester office conversion (with consent) – all 2br units, with units offset behind glass-brick façade to allow common wintergarden on each floor (shared by 3x flats).
- Narrow floorplate buildings will be easier to convert – eg: CentrePoint is very good for conv.
- Deep floorplate are difficult / unlikely to convert without punching lightwells, and having inner facing beds/kits, or single aspect dwellings with atriums. That said, possible.
Future adaptation issues:
- Easier to convert comm> res than res > comm. What happens if res oversupply?
- Big issue will be out of London, eg: Croydon Business Park already has residential, whose only amenity is a McDonalds drive thru’ (and this was with approval). Balancing falls over.
- Issue with future non-resid use, once a resid use introduced into an area eg: noise.
- May not lead to 2nd round consult, just because there are issues, it could be the same as the S/L regulations,with multiple additional regulations in the future when problems manifest.
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Newly appointed Mayor’s Cycling Commissioner Andrew Gilligan will speak about how best to provide for cycling. He will be joined by other expert speakers Lilli Matson, Phil Jones, John Parkin and John Dales. Please read our Challenges for Cycling Inf Design discussion paper as this informs the discussion.
Next, designer Ben Hamilton-Baillie will be speaking about Poynton, the first shared space town centre scheme in the UK where a signal free junction is successfully accommodating large flows of vehicle and pedestrian traffic.
In the afternoon, we will look at a number of best practice examples and forward thinking ideas from play streets to roundabouts.
We look forward to seeing you on the day.
5th March 2013: 9.30am – 3.30pm
Conference Rooms 1 & 2, Palestra, 197 Blackfriars Road, London SE1 8NJ
9.45 -11.15 Designing for Cycling
Andrew Gilligan, Cycling Commissioner; Lilli Matson, TfL to start debate, then all welcome to contribute.
11.30-1.00 Poynton and other signal free junctions
Ben Hamilton Baillie, Hamilton – Baillie Associates; Phil Jones, Phil Jones Associates; Ashis Choudhury and Andrew Bashford, LB Bexley
1.45-2.15 Turnpike Lane DIY Streets project - Ben Addy and German Dector-Vega, Sustrans
2.15-2.45 Play Streets – Gavin Best, LB Hackney
2.45 – 3.00 Refreshments
3.00 -3.30 TfL Better Junctions Review and TRL research into roundabout layouts – John Newham, TfL
We have introduced new courses following requests from our members including a series on development economics. Our ever popular network meetings, leaders briefings, site visits and tricky issue debates will continue throughout the year alongside a range of practical workshops focused on topics like hard working streets and housing design. We also run 2 design review and surgery days a month where members can bring along schemes, for free, for advice and comment from our panel of design experts.
Just to remind you that we offer a yearly subscription from April 1st, and almost all places at our events are reserved for subscribing members. Individual places, when available, will cost £175 plus VAT, higher than the subscription price.
There is no maximum number of places any subscribing organisation can use over the year, but we may have to restrict bookings per event depending on demand.
Bookings will be made upon confirmation of subscription.
Our next 3 month unpaid internship opportunity begins in April 2013.
Please send your CV’s with a covering letter describing your interests and experience to firstname.lastname@example.org before February 28th 2013. We will notify candidates invited for interview the week commencing 4th March. We provide a free travel pass for our interns.
We look forward to hearing from you!
Below are some initial thoughts. Please have a look and let us know what you think by email to email@example.com or comment below.
Premise for National Guidance
The Taylor Review tells us that national guidance should be:
- It should be succinct, relevant and practical
- It should expand on national policy, not introduce new ideas
- It should provide definitions, clarification or information which help to explain how the policy should be applied in practice.
These principles have been used within the recommendations below.
General Design Policy
The NPPF includes the following key design policies:
- Planning should ensure good design so that change helps make places better for people
- The roles and character of different areas should be recognised and responded to
- The usefulness of land should be optimised with multiple functions for a space considered.
In summary, the NPPF sees design as a practical issue which influences the way land is used and how this relates to the experiences and actions of people, whilst respecting and supporting local character. This leads to the key policy that development should improve the way places look and work: Permission should be refused for development of poor design that fails to take the opportunities available for improving the character and quality of an area and the way it functions. This policy was introduced in PPS1, after By Design was written, and has never been expanded upon in guidance.
By Design makes reference to the relationship between scheme feasibility and viability with designs. Although the relationship between the different strands of sustainable development are present in the NPPF there is no explicit mention of how viability relates to design requirements – but this could be a useful element of national design related guidance.
Guidance should relate to this key policy, explaining the practical relationships between built form, people, character and usefulness, and explaining how viability and design should be considered together. Guidance should explain how both local policies and decisions should apply the key ‘improve’ test. Although there is some similar content in By Design, new wording reflecting the NPPF would be more appropriate
What is ‘good design’
The NPPF includes some information about what constitutes ‘good’ or ‘poor’ design. This is useful for practitioners and supports certainty for all involved. The following, which can be considered as the required characteristics of well designed proposals, are mentioned:
- function well over time;
- establish a strong sense of place,
- respond to local character and identity
- create attractive and comfortable places
- optimise the potential of land and buildings
- create and sustain an appropriate mix of uses
- discourage crime and disorder
- create accessible places
- support community cohesion
- be visually attractive as a result of good architecture and appropriate landscaping.
The list is very similar to the list of urban design objectives on page 15 of By Design and explained more fully than in the NPPF – it is suggested that this list and descriptions in By Design is updated so it reflects the wording in the NPPF more closely, and included in the new web based national design guidance.
In practice, planning applications deal with 3 dimensional building proposals in the main. The challenge for practitioners is relating plans and drawings to the objectives listed above. The NPPF says that design quality relates to different scales and types of space including parts of buildings, whole buildings, public and private spaces and wider scale schemes. It also states that design policies should guide the overall:
- access of new development.
Although the NPPF says that policies should not be over prescriptive, many applications are decided around arguments on the specifics of these physical characteristics – this is the nitty gritty side of design.
The elements above are very similar to the list of aspects of development form on page 16 of By Design – it is suggested that this list and brief explanatory material is updated so it reflects the wording in the NPPF more closely, and included in the new web based national design guidance.
By Design includes additional ‘prompts to thinking’ in section 2. This includes some useful, practical information, but much does not fully reflect current best practice. Ideally the section should be refreshed and included within an urban design reference or text book which supports the NPPF but is not national guidance.
In terms of directing planning activities, the NPPF covers both policy creation and scheme consideration including the following:
Proactive work by the Planning Authority
- act positively for the achievement of good design
- set out the quality of development that will be expected for the area in policies
- make decisions based on stated objectives for the future of an area
- make use of an understanding and evaluation of an areas defining characteristics
This type of activity adds certainty to the planning process and helps to ensure decisions and policies are based on good evidence. There is no reference to working with communities and neighbourhood planning in terms of design and its policy development, but many would argue that this should be an important element of acting positively.
By Design includes practical advice on issues such as how to understand and evaluate the defining characteristics of an area (section 3, p36/37). Considering that the NPPF is requiring such work to be done, it would seem sensible to retain, and bring up to date, good practice guidance. This does not mean all of section 3 should be included in new national guidance, but elements that relate to the bullet points above, along with more up to date guidance where relevant could be useful. For example the urban design framework diagrams on p51 could be useful for those considering neighbourhood planning.
Scheme based planning work
- Have early engagement on design including applicants taking account of views of local people in design development.
- consider using design codes
- have local design review arrangements in place to provide assessment and support to ensure high standards of design.
There is more up to date guidance on such issues than that included in By Design. Documents produced by CABE and others such as the Princes Foundation can help to support these national requirements. When DCLG has decided how best to signpost useful documents, these should be included within the lexicon.
The NPPF does not refer to what information is required with a planning application to be able to apply the key design tests. This relates to outline, detailed and reserved matter applications and current changes to design and access statement requirements. Similarly the NPPF and the Taylor review does it refer to building standards or other requirements which have a relationship with design policies. Practical guidance on these issues would be very helpful within new national guidance.
Overall, practice guidance relating to day to day planning activities can not be easily plucked from By Design for new national guidance, it really needs rewriting, explaining what terms like design codes are, and pointing to documents produced by others.
Housing, Transport and Town Centre Design Issues
The NPPF includes specific design policies on these issues and they are important elements of good planning, economic development and place making. There are good tools and guidance outside of the documents considered by the Taylor Review, in particular Building for Life 12 and Manual for Streets 2, and emerging best practice and learning from the Portas Pilots and other town centre initiatives.
In general more specific guidance on how the characteristics of good design and aspects of development form can best be considered for these types of places and issues would be a useful addition to national guidance. This does not have to be overly long, for example Building for Life includes just 12 short sentences as the main design objectives which help create the type of residential areas the NPPF calls for. Similarly the link/place matrix within Manual for Streets, if included in national planning guidance, would lead the way to better consideration of how transport modes and local economic and residential functions are balanced in any one area through the planning system. In terms of town centres, some of the physical issues they face around parking, the quality of public spaces, dealing with their edges, in some cases shrinkage or intensification of commercial uses, unit sizes and types, non retail town centre functions, integrated deliveries and so on all have design elements which could usefully be supported by national guidance.
There it is suggested that a short additional element is added to national planning guidance relating to the design elements of these three planning issues.
More background information can be found here: Taylor Review of Planning Practice Guidance v2 draft.
Conference Rooms 1 & 2, Palestra, 197 Blackfriars Road, SE1 8NJ
Book by email to firstname.lastname@example.org Free event.
A look at the little things that make a big difference to our streets. We know from frequent surveys that cleanliness, fly-posting and a good public realm environment are close to the hearts of those who use our streets; this half day will look at best practice in achieving a well looked after appearance, managing utility companies and current thinking on what works well where, as well as funding opportunities and ‘Street-Kits’ to help communities clean-up their streets.
9.45 Registration & Refreshments
10.00 Cleansing: Motivating Street Cleaners, Keep Britain Tidy
10.30 Dealing with Utility Companies, Laura Markey, Streetworks Manager, LB Lambeth
11.00 Fly-posting, David Quigley, Senior Environmental Officer, LB Camden
11.45 Environmental Reporting System, Kate Parkinson, Environmental Officer,
Cllr Susan Wise, Cabinet Member for Customer Services and Kamal Uddin ,Project Manager
12.15 Capital Clean Up, Groundwork, Vivian Brown/Rachel Kirk LB Lewisham
12.40 DIY Streets and StreetKit, Ben Addy, Sustrans Community Project
1pm Round-up and end
7th of December 2012
On the 7th of December UDL made a visit to the Olympic Park which since the end of the games in August has been closed and inaccessible until its redevelopment is completed. This short review will run you through the most significant transformations that are now starting to take shape on site.
During the Games more than 3 million people and around 14 000 athletes visited the venues and area of the Olympic Games. Currently the area is undergoing a major transformation to turn it from an Olympic Games site into a public park and a place where people will come to live, work and play. The former site of the Olympic Games will form part of the history of East London. To support the redevelopment of this enormous site, Design for London and Mayor of London have been working together on the so called Olympic Fringe Programme which comprises of different projects that aim to support the neighbouring areas so that the achievement of the Olympic Park is uplifted by the success of the areas around it.
Over the next 18 months the Olympic Site will be transformed into the Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park, recognising the celebration of the Queen’s diamond jubilee year. The site of the park crosses 4 boroughs and once finished it will be a bit larger than Hyde Park, for which it will form a whole new part of the city and of East London. The transformation of the park will lay the foundation for further development across this part of London over the next 20 years’ time.
The stages of development of the park are called Clear, Connect and Complete. Clear: clearing and removing the venues, security areas, temporary spectator facilities, fencing, barriers, temporary sports surfaces, etc. Connect: connecting roads, pathways and circle ways; bridges, footways and underpasses to improve public access to the park. Complete: completing the venues for long term uses and doubling the amount of open space.
A big challenge for the London Legacy Development Corporation is improving the public perception of the Olympic Site – pre-games the area was inaccessible for 7 years during the construction of the Olympic Park which acted as a barrier for the neighbouring areas. During the Games the park was open only to those who could afford and get a hold of tickets. Currently the site is just how it was pre-games and the controlled access will continue to be the same until end of July 2013 when the North part of the park will open for the public. A way to overcome this negative perception of the general public is the reopening of the viewing platform that is accessible through the Greenway cycle and pedestrian route, which happened earlier in December.
The whole area of the Park forms five future development sites which will exapand into five new neighbourhoods: Sweetwater, Pudding Mill, Chobham Manor, East Wick and Marshgate Wharf. Some of the main roads that already exist will remain but some new ones will also be introduced to modify the new neighbourhoods. These sites will be developed over the next 20 years, meanwhile interim uses will take place on different locations to test options on site and unlock the enormous potential for activation of the area.
The North part of the park will be the first site of the former Olympic Games Park to reopen for the public in late July 2013. It will provide a large green open space area for the adjacent communities of Leytonstone and Hackney Wick, where they will find a place for family picnics, jogging, leisure time activities and children’s play. The park will provide events spaces along the River Lea which will encourage creativity and will host exhibitions by local artists. The landscape of the North park area is inherited from the Games and in its vast majority will remain as it is to provide a lasting legacy for people to enjoy in the future. The amount of open public space will be doubled and the wildlife in this urban meadow will be preserved. Harvested rain water and treated black water will be used to irrigate the vast landscapes of the park.
The former Press and Broadcasting centre is located in the North Park and is now being transformed into a major commercial district to provide jobs for the generations to come. Cyclists will be able to access the North park through a cycle route which will connect the former Velodrome with the national cycle system and a new cycle workshop will be provided along with the redevelopment of the Olympic BMX track. The nearby located Basketball arena will be dismantled and be the site for the first housing development on the park. This part of the park will see the opening of the first venue after the end of the Olympic Games, called the Copper Box – multi use arena which is designed to accommodate 7, 500 spectators and will cater for sporting activities and community uses.
The South part of the Park is due to open later in 2014. It will see the creation of a large green space area animated with temporary installations. The South part will host the former Aquatics Centre whose spectacular seats are currently being dismantled and will be replaced with glass windows making a totally different structure. Major milestone of the developments in the south part of the park is the opening of the South Park Hub building which was won through a competition by the architect of the well-known High Line in New York. The Hub will provide a vibrant place to meet, eat and share a drink, and buy tickets for the Park events. The former Water Polo arena will be dismantled and its features will be given out for school projects and recycling initiatives. The Olympic Stadium’s structure will be reduced in size and will be used for major international championships, other sporting fixtures, concerts and arts events. The viewing platform of the Arcelor Mittal Orbit will remain providing café and restaurant facilities on the top and offering a magnificent view over the whole park area. The east athlete’s village will be ready in the late summer of 2013 as it is currently being transformed installing kitchens and making the apartments usable.
Key parts of the park are its waterways for which a strategy for the canal and river is developed aiming to be a complementary to the north and south park areas. The canal park project will focus on creating a public space along the canal as generous as possible to cater for pedestrian and cyclists and to be a park stretch that relates to the surrounding park activities.
A big challenge for the LLDC is making the link between the north and the south parts of the park and maximising the potential of the link. The only physical connection is the Belvedere bridge structure which is also the highest point in the Olympic site and the question of how to address the height difference between the north and south park areas is still to be resolved.
Touring around the big construction site that the Olympic Park currently is does not seem to give one the perfect idea about the atmosphere that is aimed to be achieved in the area. The feeling of a big change happening is on the agenda, but among all the tarmac removing and building works the human scale is lost and it is yet hard to see the bigger picture of the development taking shape. For a site that has been closed for construction for such a long time, then open for such a short period and closed again, one can almost say that the marvel/sensation of the Games has vanished. Visiting the site now makes it hard to even imagine the crowds of millions of people strolling around in excitement during the Olympics.
Whether the transformation currently taking place will be successful is yet to be evaluated. Most of the Venues, being its architectural landmarks, will be more or less preserved in their physical appearance, and maybe people will be able to recognise them in the future. But more importantly there is optimism that the message they have inherited from the games will not change its meaning over time. Or maybe the spirit of the Olympic Games will be effectively preserved in the vast open areas that in the future will provide publicly accessible spaces for play, sport and education for generations to come. Only time will show. One thing is certain – the phased opening of the different parts of the Park will hopefully regain people’s trust in the site and give them the opportunity to weigh up the outcomes themselves.
In light of the Lord Matthew Taylor Review and following on from a UDL Leaders Briefing on planning, UDL contacted its members on the 13th November 2012 to undertake a brief email survey. We explained to recipients that the Taylor Review will be making recommendations to the government as to what planning guidance should be cancelled, combined or updated.
We gave members a list of design related publications and asked which, if any of these they referred to, and what other guidance they use in their work to make assessments or decisions in the planning process.
We received over 150 responses from across London built environment practitioners (primarily from the public sector), representing a much larger professional community. The graph shows the number of times a document was said to be useful by the first 150 respondents.
As you can see, there is increasing overlap between highway and planning systems and guidance, hence the very popular, relevant and useful Manual for Streets (1 and 2) receiving the most votes.
The other top scoring documents are eminently practical. They include concepts and information which have been proved to work, such as setting out the basic qualities of successful places that should be strived for through development and place management and have had a real impact on the quality and usefulness of urban environments.
However there is overlap between many of the documents, and scope to combine the top 5 scoring ones. By Design and the Urban Design Compendium have much of the same content and in many ways can be seen as the parent documents for the others. Design and Access Statements, the Manual for Streets and Building for Life are topic specific and help practitioners to apply the By Design and Compendium ideas when dealing with planning applications, streets and housing. Other documents, whether produced by the GLA, CABE or a Government Department also explain how many of the same principles relate to more specific issues or audiences such as tall buildings or councillors.
Although respondents were mindful of the breadth and somewhat duplicating nature of guidance, a number said that the less widely used, more specific documents were useful when assessing good design in special situations. In general respondents felt that having specialist guidance available and that they occasionally used, as well as general advice was helpful, for example:
- Principles of Inclusive Design, CABE 2006
- Schools related design publications, CABE
- Car parking: What works where, EP & Design for Homes, 2006
- Creating Successful Masterplans: a guide for clients, CABE 2004
- Quality reviewer: Appraising the design quality of development proposals UDS 2010
Respondents frequently raised the usefulness and practicality of CABE publications, as well as recognising that with recent changes to the planning regime, design guidance and publications could be usefully reviewed, without throwing the baby out with the bathwater.
The suite of design related documents have helped to foster certainty around design requirements within the planning system and have encouraged synergy across sectors – basically most people seem to see the ideas in the documents as sensible and they do not in themselves add any requirements or slow the system. It would be possible, and potentially extremely useful, to pull together the suite of design related documents into one place, removing duplication and out of date content and certainly By Design has been in need of updating for quite a few years. However such a consolidation would involve a significant amount of work and it is unclear who could do this at the present time. If there is no proper review and rewrite process it would be more appropriate to retain these useful and used documents.
In case you are interested, here is some further information:
The ruling can be found at:
The design guide it refers to can be found at:
The ruling relates to the lawfulness of the borough’s design guide, due to its differences from national guidance.
The key issue appears to be that the borough’s justification for these alterations is unclear, as any adopted guidance should be properly backed up with evidence. In this case the judge did not find such justification for the borough’s decisions, particularly relating to the lack of blister tactile provision at uncontrolled crossings and the decision to not use red coloured tactile paving at controlled crossings.
It is probably best for anyone interested in this case to read the documents themselves and make their own deliberations. If you would like to send in any comments we can compile a summary without attributing comments to individuals or organisations, and will post it on our website; send to email@example.com
Michele Dix, Transport for London
John Dales, Urban Movement
Phil Jones, Phil Jones Associates
Nick O’Donnel, London Borough of Ealing
David Rowe, Transport for London
Jim Smith, Trees and Design Action Group
Stephanie Groot, Transport for London
The Mayor of London’s Roads Taskforce
The Taskforce is the first major strategic review of London’s road network in decades. Michèle Dix from TfL gave a full overview of the issues it sets out tackle, the initial direction of the work, and the results of consultation undertaken so far. This was followed by an appraisal from John Dales of Urban Movement, who looked at some of the more controversial issues that the Taskforce might need to grapple with.
Michèle set the scene with some arresting statistics:
- 28.5 million journeys are made on London’s roads daily
- London’s growth means an extra 1 million trips a day by 2016, with the majority expected to be by public transport, cycling or walking
- 90% of freight in London currently travels by road
- By 2016, there may be up to 30% more vans making freight and servicing trips
- Road congestion costs the London economy £2 billion per year
- Even with everything proposed by the Mayor’s Transport Strategy, including unfunded measures, congestion is projected to worsen by about 14%
- Road traffic contributes significantly to poor air quality in London, with EU limit values for NO2 regularly exceeded
The Taskforce itself consists of 26 invited members, who will meet several times over the coming months with the aim of producing a final report in Spring 2013. The members have been selected to represent a range of user interests as well as being able to bring specific skills and knowledge to the process. Their initial thinking has included developing a typology of roads to help in considering the balance between ‘moving’ and ‘living’ functions in different areas: a framework that owes much to ‘Link and Place’ theory. There is an explicit recognition that streets are where people live, work and shop and that London’s international profile depends on the quality of its public realm and street environments as much as it does on the ability to get around.
Consultation, which ran from July to September 2012, has highlighted several areas of concern, including: the impact of population growth; recognition of the need to improve conditions for pedestrians and cyclists and to support public transport use; concerns around air quality, noise and vibration; the need to improve the physical state of London’s road network; and challenges of managing street works and utilities infrastructure. A suggestion has emerged that reinstating a hierarchy of road users would help inform thinking about future priorities, while the kind of delivery options mentioned by consultees have ranged from using rivers and canals for haulage to funding new infrastructure through tolls.
John Dales was enthusiastic about the agenda set out by Michèle Dix, finding much to commend in the scope of what he felt should rightly be called the ‘Streets Taskforce’. He supported the notion of taking the time to look properly at what the future may hold. However, he voiced concerns about several specific points, while also worrying that the views of certain road users would be outweighed by others in the process, particularly the perceived ‘motoring electorate’.
He questioned the assumption that we need to accommodate an increasing amount of motor traffic when traffic volumes have not been growing in recent years, and he was concerned at the suggestion of a return to a ‘predict and provide’ approach to road space. If it’s about making more road space available, then we need to be clear about who it’s for and where it gets us once we consider other policy areas and take ‘the bigger picture’ about the future of London into account.
John also cautioned against reading too much into headline-grabbing statistics, particularly the notional cost of congestion to the economy. Even if we can really calculate how much future congestion will cost London, are we able to weigh that against the economic potential of other modes? How would we factor in the value to the economy of air quality, visitor friendliness and resilience to climate change? There may be lessons we can learn from international experience to help with understanding how to measure and predict social, economic and environmental impact.
He also took issue with overly simplistic ideas about traffic behaviour, such as the assumption that traffic calming measures in one place will shift traffic and cause congestion elsewhere. While research could no doubt be more extensive, there is no current evidence to prove that street improvement and traffic calming measures have a traffic displacement effect. The Taskforce should take an evidence-based view of these issues, not allowing instinctive reactions and “numbers masquerading as facts” to colour its judgements.
“Roads? Where we’re going, we don’t need roads”
Doc Emmett Brown, Back To The Future
In conclusion, John offered his own version of the Terms of Reference for the Taskforce, suggesting that the key question should be “what do we want London’s streets to be like when we’re done?” rather than starting with “what do we do to address existing problems?” If we are to protect the qualities of London as a fine city for people, then we need to have an open mind about the future and a willingness to challenge assumptions. Sometimes that’s about going back to basics – does all the motor traffic we see on London’s streets really need to travel that way? Who does it benefit? – and sometimes it’s about seeing through political barriers – if extending road user pricing is unacceptable now, that doesn’t mean it will always remain that way in the future.
Ealing Cycle Hub
The day continued with a presentation on the Cycling Strategy of the LB of Ealing by Nick O Donnell and its achievements so far. The strategy is been developed to provide for the next 6 years and is driven by three main targets: to increase the number of cycle trips in the Borough; to reduce the rate of KSI cyclist per journey and to increase the detection rate for stolen cycles. To support this strategy the borough has run a number of programmes in recent times to engage the community with the cycling idea and to encourage more people to use the bike as their regular mode of transport. Nick briefly introduced the results of a town centre research that was carried out in 2011, based on which the council recognised that the top priority of the Cycling Strategy should be the establishing of cycle hubs to develop a wider network within the borough. The study findings clearly showed the high cycle parking usage outside Ealing Broadway which identified the station as the location of the first cycle hub. The indicated site for the new hub originally contained a taxi shelter and 37 Sheffield Stands in a bad condition, which had its negative reflection on the overall perception of the area. It was strongly emphasised that the project for the new hub was a part of a wider plan for improvements around the station area and aimed to address the needs of local people, and designed as to help with the integration and enhancement of the surrounding environment, which was convincingly backed up with recent photos of the finished article. The new cycle hub features around 130 cycle parking spots, new taxi shelter with integrated facilities (toilets), CCTV coverage and a new Brompton Cycle Hire Dock. The presentation finished with a short overview of the recent effects of the Ealing Cycle Hub which include an improved pedestrian and cyclist circulation, lower cycle thefts level and local businesses uplift. The overall impression of the delegates was that the successful cycle hub project definitely deserves a site visit.
Chewing gum: new report on impacts on streets and mitigating measures
The meeting ended with a presentation by Stephanie Groot from TfL who talked about her research on street solutions to chewing gum. The challenges that chewing gum causes when disposed of on the pavement surfaces are not to be ignored. At first that issue might not seem such a big deal, but it does cost a lot of time and capital to be removed – the annual expense of removal in Britain along is estimated at £150 million. Boroughs are often faced with the challenges of removing chewing gum from the public spaces which is their legal responsibility, but when gum becomes flattened councils are no longer under duty to clean it and it becomes a problem. Stephanie presented several solutions to tackling that issue. One resolution is the protective and restorative coating “MagicCote” that helps prevent surface soiling from oil, coffee, food, gum, etc. Treating spaces with that substance makes them easier to clean and substantially cuts the costs for that service as case studies from Westminster, Southwark and Tower Hamlets showed. After the treatment most surface contaminants would even wash away during a heavy rainfall which is a much desired outcome in the first place. Other street solutions that Stephanie presented included the use of smart bins around lamp columns or sign posts, recycle bins and the innovative Gumdrop bins made out of recycled chewing gum. Among the policy solutions the introduction of a tax on gum companies to contribute to clean up cost of their products was remarked as a possibility. When concluding the presentation Stephanie gave her recommendations to talking the chewing gum issue by a wider promotion of the existing surface treatment opportunities and the development of programme of cleaning and restoration of existing pavements to improve public spaces and reduce the costs of maintenance in the long run.