03 Larkham Morton

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03 Larkham Morton

  1. 1. Increasing density in mature suburbs: Character, resistance and quality? Nick Morton and Peter J. Larkham School of Property, Construction and Planning Birmingham City University
  2. 2. Part 1: Defining the Territory
  3. 3. “ Mature” suburbs <ul><li>We refer principally to well established, mature planting, often large houses in large plots </li></ul>
  4. 4. “ Mature” suburbs <ul><li>But the issues we identify are moving down the suburban hierarchy to affect even areas of smaller detached and standard semi-detached houses </li></ul>Site after demolition of 1 house to form access to rear gardens
  5. 5. Imminent demolition, Sutton Coldfield, 2005
  6. 6. Redevelopment and marketing of large apartment blocks
  7. 7. A very “ordinary” product (but a developer with a sense of humour?)
  8. 8. Suburbia <ul><li>80% of the UK population is “urban” </li></ul><ul><li>The vast majority is suburban </li></ul><ul><li>The favoured – idealised – place to live </li></ul><ul><li>Typical individual house & garden: privacy, individuality, personalisation, high quality of life </li></ul><ul><li>Contribution of suburbia to biodiversity etc </li></ul>
  9. 9. The “Brownfield” issue <ul><li>BUT </li></ul><ul><li>changing Government definition of suburban gardens as “brownfield” means target for development and intensification. </li></ul><ul><li>Demonstrable national need for additional housing, and Government targets for each region. </li></ul><ul><li>Therefore the character, appearance and – arguably – quality of life in established suburbia is changing. </li></ul>
  10. 10. Press Coverage: Sunday Telegraph , May 30 th 2004 Suburbs as brownfields
  11. 11. Leads to piecemeal and “unplanned” intensification Brookdene Drive, Northwood (Jones and Larkham, 1993)
  12. 12. New suburban landscape of apartment blocks …
  13. 13. … and often of stark contrasts in form
  14. 14. “ Brownfield” or “previously-developed land”? <ul><li>“ 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). </li></ul><ul><li>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 </li></ul>
  15. 15. <ul><li>This definition is maintained in the 2006 Planning Policy Statement on Housing: </li></ul><ul><li>“ 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.” </li></ul>
  16. 16. <ul><li>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. </li></ul>
  17. 17. Impact of changing national policy guidelines: Suggestion from 2000 that new residential development should average 30-50 dwellings per hectare. DCLG (2008)
  18. 18. High profile media attention and often emotive debate
  19. 19. Public interest
  20. 20. <ul><li>To summarise, therefore, latest estimates show that new dwellings in England are being built at an average density of 41 per hectare (DCLG, 2008). </li></ul><ul><li>This compares with 34 per hectare in 2003 and only 25 per hectare in 1996-2003. </li></ul><ul><li>Not to develop at these densities is seen by DCLG as unsustainable and “a profligate use of land”. </li></ul><ul><li>But some have commented that these high densities are a result of the recent boom in apartments instead of “traditional houses”. </li></ul>
  21. 21. Suburbs as sustainable communities <ul><li>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). </li></ul><ul><li>However, other commentators have also pointed out there are disadvantages to intensification achieved by redevelopment - </li></ul>
  22. 22. Suburbs as sustainable communities <ul><ul><li>Loss of green coverage and gardenspace </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>cf criticisms of this raised in What homebuyers want (CABE 2005). </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Loss of choice and diminishing stock of family housing. </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Loss of historical grain of landscape – a growing issue for urban landscape management and heritage/conservation. </li></ul></ul>
  23. 23. Demolition of the oldest remaining house in Hall Green, 2008
  24. 24. Part 2: Intensification in the Birmingham region
  25. 25. High density and demand in the West Midlands region
  26. 26. The Birmingham context: 2006-7 <ul><li>3,079 new-build dwelling completions across the City of Birmingham </li></ul><ul><li>99% were on ‘previously-developed’ land </li></ul><ul><li>76% of new development was at densities over 50 per ha </li></ul><ul><li>2600 new-builds were under construction at April 2007, 53% in the city centre </li></ul>LDF Annual Monitoring Report 2007
  27. 27. The Birmingham context: 2006-7 <ul><li>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. </li></ul>Birmingham.gov.uk ‘Land for future development in Birmingham’ (2007)
  28. 28. Planning decisions by year New dwelling construction in Sutton Coldfield n=87 n=81 n=70 n=79 n=92
  29. 29. Number of dwellings proposed for demolition Associated with new dwelling construction in Sutton Coldfield n=96 n=43 n=47 n=74 n=65
  30. 30. Applications for residential development in Four Oaks, 2003-6
  31. 31. Redevelopment sites since 2000, opposite Four Oaks Conservation Area
  32. 32. Location map of one example in Sutton Coldfield showing conservation area (red) and existing infill (pale green).
  33. 33. Sequential applications for demolition and intensification immediately adjoining the conservation area
  34. 36. The new intensively-infilled urban landscape
  35. 37. A series of back gardens - Before Example 1: Jordan Road, Sutton Coldfield
  36. 38. After
  37. 39. The next proposed development sites
  38. 40. The first proposal
  39. 41. The amended, higher-density proposal
  40. 42. Part 3: Community and policy responses
  41. 43. A national political response: <ul><li>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 </li></ul><ul><li>Lorely Burt, MP for Solihull, Local Government and Planning (Parkland and Windfall Development) Bill 2006 </li></ul><ul><li>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 </li></ul><ul><li>Spelman’s Land Use (Garden Protection) Bill 2008. </li></ul>
  42. 44. Politicisation
  43. 45. Public response: local press coverage from Solihull News and Sutton Coldfield Observer
  44. 47. Even at the very localised – neighbourhood - level
  45. 48. Community response in Sutton <ul><li>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: </li></ul>
  46. 49. Community response in Sutton <ul><li>Relentless pressure from developers </li></ul><ul><li>Financial pressures on Council: costs of losing Appeals </li></ul><ul><li>Establishment of precedents for more development </li></ul><ul><li>Subjectivity of some Appeal decisions </li></ul><ul><li>Cumulative impact on area character </li></ul><ul><li>Lack of safeguards for non-Listed properties </li></ul><ul><li>Difficulty of energising concerted community action. </li></ul><ul><li>(Elizabeth Allison, Chair, Civic Society) </li></ul>
  47. 50. Changing community responses <ul><li>The “Save Sutton” website no longer exists </li></ul><ul><li>The Solihull News ’s Windfall Watch campaign no longer exists </li></ul><ul><li>And the Lib Dems’ website had had no new content for over a year </li></ul>
  48. 51. Overview
  49. 52. Overview: national <ul><li>Current central government policy is significantly increasing infill developments in existing low-density residential areas. </li></ul><ul><li>Many of these areas are popular and of established mature form and character. </li></ul><ul><li>The development proposals are extremely unpopular with residents (except those targeted by tempting offers from developers!). </li></ul>
  50. 53. <ul><li>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. </li></ul><ul><li>Pressure immediately outside designated areas can still have impacts within the area boundaries. </li></ul>Overview: national
  51. 54. Overview: national <ul><li>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. </li></ul>
  52. 55. Overview: national: Parliamentary <ul><li>There is continued Parliamentary debate, but all Bills (from private members) have so far been “talked out”. </li></ul><ul><li>Despite pressure from individual MPs from various political parties there seems no realistic prospect of a legislative solution. </li></ul>
  53. 56. <ul><li>Appeals in Sutton in 2003-6 largely supported the LPA decisions. </li></ul><ul><li>But this is a hugely expensive procedure for LPAs and local residents. </li></ul><ul><li>Developers may simply submit a sequence of slightly different applications, each having to be treated wholly separately under planning law. </li></ul>Overview: local
  54. 57. <ul><li>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. </li></ul><ul><li>Residents remain increasingly sceptical of the local impact of central government planning policy. </li></ul><ul><li>But individuals and groups may lose the will to continue fighting repeated and expensive legal battles. </li></ul>Overview: local
  55. 58. And, finally … the ultimate low-impact infill? An underground bedsit

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