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03 Larkham Morton






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03 Larkham Morton 03 Larkham Morton Presentation Transcript

  • Increasing density in mature suburbs: Character, resistance and quality? Nick Morton and Peter J. Larkham School of Property, Construction and Planning Birmingham City University
  • Part 1: Defining the Territory
  • “ Mature” suburbs
    • We refer principally to well established, mature planting, often large houses in large plots
  • “ Mature” suburbs
    • But the issues we identify are moving down the suburban hierarchy to affect even areas of smaller detached and standard semi-detached houses
    Site after demolition of 1 house to form access to rear gardens
  • Imminent demolition, Sutton Coldfield, 2005
  • Redevelopment and marketing of large apartment blocks
  • A very “ordinary” product (but a developer with a sense of humour?)
  • Suburbia
    • 80% of the UK population is “urban”
    • The vast majority is suburban
    • The favoured – idealised – place to live
    • Typical individual house & garden: privacy, individuality, personalisation, high quality of life
    • Contribution of suburbia to biodiversity etc
  • The “Brownfield” issue
    • BUT
    • changing Government definition of suburban gardens as “brownfield” means target for development and intensification.
    • Demonstrable national need for additional housing, and Government targets for each region.
    • Therefore the character, appearance and – arguably – quality of life in established suburbia is changing.
  • Press Coverage: Sunday Telegraph , May 30 th 2004 Suburbs as brownfields
  • Leads to piecemeal and “unplanned” intensification Brookdene Drive, Northwood (Jones and Larkham, 1993)
  • New suburban landscape of apartment blocks …
  • … and often of stark contrasts in form
  • “ Brownfield” or “previously-developed land”?
    • “ Brownfield” was traditionally held to mean land formerly occupied by industry (or similar uses): a definition used in UK planning was land that is “not open countryside and often has accommodated previous industrial users” (Thames Gateway RPG, 2004).
    • PPG3 (2000) referred to “previously-developed land” and this included all of the curtilage of any developed site, and thus extensive back gardens of houses
    • This definition is maintained in the 2006 Planning Policy Statement on Housing:
    • “ Previously-developed land (often referred to as brownfield land) is that which is or was occupied by a permanent structure, including the curtilage of the developed land and any associated fixed surface infrastructure.”
    • The reliance on “brownfield” means that many sites are “windfalls” – ie they are never identified for housing development in planning policy. Some developers are very active in identifying these.
  • Impact of changing national policy guidelines: Suggestion from 2000 that new residential development should average 30-50 dwellings per hectare. DCLG (2008)
  • High profile media attention and often emotive debate
  • Public interest
    • To summarise, therefore, latest estimates show that new dwellings in England are being built at an average density of 41 per hectare (DCLG, 2008).
    • This compares with 34 per hectare in 2003 and only 25 per hectare in 1996-2003.
    • Not to develop at these densities is seen by DCLG as unsustainable and “a profligate use of land”.
    • But some have commented that these high densities are a result of the recent boom in apartments instead of “traditional houses”.
  • Suburbs as sustainable communities
    • The discourse of “sustainable development” often equates urban compaction (i.e. higher densities) with increased sustainability cf Sustainable Communities: building for the future (ODPM 2003).
    • However, other commentators have also pointed out there are disadvantages to intensification achieved by redevelopment -
  • Suburbs as sustainable communities
      • Loss of green coverage and gardenspace
      • cf criticisms of this raised in What homebuyers want (CABE 2005).
      • Loss of choice and diminishing stock of family housing.
      • Loss of historical grain of landscape – a growing issue for urban landscape management and heritage/conservation.
  • Demolition of the oldest remaining house in Hall Green, 2008
  • Part 2: Intensification in the Birmingham region
  • High density and demand in the West Midlands region
  • The Birmingham context: 2006-7
    • 3,079 new-build dwelling completions across the City of Birmingham
    • 99% were on ‘previously-developed’ land
    • 76% of new development was at densities over 50 per ha
    • 2600 new-builds were under construction at April 2007, 53% in the city centre
    LDF Annual Monitoring Report 2007
  • The Birmingham context: 2006-7
    • The City is heavily dependent on ‘windfall’ sites to help meet its housing requirements . It is assumed that land for just over 2,900 additional dwellings (excluding redevelopment from clearance and conversions) will come forward in the form of ‘windfalls’ in the period 2007-2011.
    Birmingham.gov.uk ‘Land for future development in Birmingham’ (2007)
  • Planning decisions by year New dwelling construction in Sutton Coldfield n=87 n=81 n=70 n=79 n=92
  • Number of dwellings proposed for demolition Associated with new dwelling construction in Sutton Coldfield n=96 n=43 n=47 n=74 n=65
  • Applications for residential development in Four Oaks, 2003-6
  • Redevelopment sites since 2000, opposite Four Oaks Conservation Area
  • Location map of one example in Sutton Coldfield showing conservation area (red) and existing infill (pale green).
  • Sequential applications for demolition and intensification immediately adjoining the conservation area
  • The new intensively-infilled urban landscape
  • A series of back gardens - Before Example 1: Jordan Road, Sutton Coldfield
  • After
  • The next proposed development sites
  • The first proposal
  • The amended, higher-density proposal
  • Part 3: Community and policy responses
  • A national political response:
    • Greg Clark, MP for Tunbridge Wells, Protection of Private Gardens Bill in 2006 after an Early Day Motion gained cross-party support from 179 MPs
    • Lorely Burt, MP for Solihull, Local Government and Planning (Parkland and Windfall Development) Bill 2006
    • Caroline Spelman, MP for Meriden, 10-minute Bill calling for the removal of gardens from the definition of brownfield sites – Land Use (Gardens Protection etc) Bill 2007
    • Spelman’s Land Use (Garden Protection) Bill 2008.
  • Politicisation
  • Public response: local press coverage from Solihull News and Sutton Coldfield Observer
  • Even at the very localised – neighbourhood - level
  • Community response in Sutton
    • Although recognising the difficulty of accommodating societal shifts without development of some kind, the Sutton Coldfield Civic Society is “acutely conscious” of a series of threats:
  • Community response in Sutton
    • Relentless pressure from developers
    • Financial pressures on Council: costs of losing Appeals
    • Establishment of precedents for more development
    • Subjectivity of some Appeal decisions
    • Cumulative impact on area character
    • Lack of safeguards for non-Listed properties
    • Difficulty of energising concerted community action.
    • (Elizabeth Allison, Chair, Civic Society)
  • Changing community responses
    • The “Save Sutton” website no longer exists
    • The Solihull News ’s Windfall Watch campaign no longer exists
    • And the Lib Dems’ website had had no new content for over a year
  • Overview
  • Overview: national
    • Current central government policy is significantly increasing infill developments in existing low-density residential areas.
    • Many of these areas are popular and of established mature form and character.
    • The development proposals are extremely unpopular with residents (except those targeted by tempting offers from developers!).
    • One popular policy response has been to designate more, and larger, residential conservation areas. Sutton shows that most intensification proposals are adjoining , not within , such areas. Designation may thus increase pressure on un-designated areas.
    • Pressure immediately outside designated areas can still have impacts within the area boundaries.
    Overview: national
  • Overview: national
    • A more considered response is to develop specific Supplementary Planning Documents, via public consultation. But it can be a slow process (4 years in Birmingham!) and its effectiveness at Appeal remains to be fully tested.
  • Overview: national: Parliamentary
    • There is continued Parliamentary debate, but all Bills (from private members) have so far been “talked out”.
    • Despite pressure from individual MPs from various political parties there seems no realistic prospect of a legislative solution.
    • Appeals in Sutton in 2003-6 largely supported the LPA decisions.
    • But this is a hugely expensive procedure for LPAs and local residents.
    • Developers may simply submit a sequence of slightly different applications, each having to be treated wholly separately under planning law.
    Overview: local
    • These continuing intensification proposals suggest culs de sac , larger building footprints, gated developments, underground car parking and other physical forms with little conformity to existing form and character.
    • Residents remain increasingly sceptical of the local impact of central government planning policy.
    • But individuals and groups may lose the will to continue fighting repeated and expensive legal battles.
    Overview: local
  • And, finally … the ultimate low-impact infill? An underground bedsit