Use of waterways for freight and passenger services: advocated by government and facilitated by London’s Mayor

Waterways are ‘an under-used resource’ according to Christian Wolmar, award-winning writer and broadcaster specialising in transport. As he writes: “Inland waterways could take thousands of annual lorry trips off North London’s overstretched roads.”

On 11th March, London’s mayor Sadiq Khan sent a message to his mailing list which opened:

“London’s toxic air is a public health emergency. Pollution is shortening lives, it’s linked to asthma, strokes, heart disease and dementia. It costs the NHS £3.7 billion each year and affects children at more than 440 schools who are breathing air that exceeds safe legal pollution levels – this can’t continue. That’s why we’re launching the central London Ultra Low Emissions Zone (ULEZ) on 8 April — a daily £12.50 charge for the most polluting vehicles, 24/7 in the central London Congestion Charge Zone”.

As the forthcoming Gosling report points out: “It is a UK government objective to transfer more freight from roads to inland waterways. The Department for Transport explained in 2017 that waterways are “attractive for the environmental benefits they provide, and the reliable congestion-free freight access they offer over alternate modes.” To this end, note:

  • London mayor Sadiq Khan’s introduction to new Freight and servicing action plan. Key actions include working with boroughs to better coordinate the control of freight movements on London’s roads and increasing use of water and rail.
  • The Mayor of London’s Safeguarded Wharves Review 2018 the mayor of London once more affirms his awareness rail electric vans and cargo bikes Supporting increased use of water by protecting and reactivating wharves.
  • The London Environment Strategy (2018), published by the Greater London Authority, refers to the Mayor’s support for increased use of waterways for freight and passenger services, as well as leisure uses. The main reasons for this are that reducing the number of vehicles and making more use of the waterways will help to improve air quality in London’s busy and congested streets.

In this strategy document, the Mayor sets out aims to reduce emissions from freight through encouraging a switch to lower emission vehicles, requiring a major expansion in electric charging and hydrogen infrastructure. To enable cleaner vessels to use the waterways, new and refurbished wharves, piers and canal moorings to generate renewable power onsite will be encouraged. Where appropriate, shore power or refuelling facilities for low emission fuels should be provided for all vessels moored onsite.

The cost of installing dockside electricity charging stations has been described as a challenge. In Amsterdam a charging rota makes the system commercially viable.

The Loadstar – a ‘multimodal online news resource for the logistics industry’ quotes information from Peter Binham (Transport for London) that the London mayor wants to see about 55% of all project materials carried by river, as well as an overall increase in the amount of freight carried this way. City government efforts are reaping some rewards, with TfL noting that a number of barge trials had been undertaken to increase load-bearing from 800 tonnes to 1,500 tonnes. TfL also uses its influence to indicate transport modes for the projects it is involved in building. (For some reason this link https://theloadstar.com/dhl-express-to-make-a-splash-with-delivery-option-using-thames-barges/, though correct, will not open – it has to be copied and pasted.

The following extract is copied from the Port of London Authority’s informative report, The Thames Vision Goals.

Inland Freight: more goods off roads onto the river

More goods and materials are routinely moved between wharves on the river – every year over four million tonnes carried by water – taking over 400,000 lorry trips off the region’s roads. Future goals:

  • Double underlying intra-port freight to over 4 million tonnes
  • Champion the Thames as a default choice for moving spoil and materials from infrastructure projects close to the river
  • Maintain or reactivate viable cargo handling facilities, with at least five additional facilities brought into operation by 2025
  • Extend the River Concordat to promote freight movements by water
  • Develop the Thames Skills Academy to provide the skills needed on the Thames

Call for a dedicated London freight commissioner

Logistics Manager, a monthly magazine for managers in charge of the supply chain of the UK’s largest industrial, retail and commercial organisations, reports that business leaders are calling on London mayor Sadiq Khan to appoint a dedicated freight commissioner to support the implementation of his transport strategy. They point out that freight movements could be reduced through better use of consolidated trips and of cargo bikes and motorbikes for shorter, smaller deliveries in central London and town centres.

The Freight Transport Association, together with the London Chamber of Commerce and Industry and the Federation of Small Businesses, was responding to publication of the mayor’s Freight Action Plan arguing that there is an urgent need for a strong voice to champion freight transport and its particular interests and concerns across London.

 

 

 

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A strong case for a UK industrial strategy: required reading for anyone concerned about post-Brexit manufacturing in the UK

For an analysis of the current position of the UK’s car industry, the range of pressures and issues it faces and its likely shape after any form of Brexit from a range of perspectives, turn to Keeping the Wheels on the Road, the third in the Bite-Sized Brexit books, edited by Professor David Bailey, the foremost commentator on the UK auto industry, Professor Alex De Ruyter, at the Centre for Brexit Studies, Birmingham City University, Neil Fowler and John Mair.

In a major contribution to the Brexit debate, seasoned industry experts, observers, commentators and representatives of the industry’s unions, provide arguments for cautious optimism through to rather shocked pessimism.

From Chapter 5: Just-in-time listening required

Co-authored by Richard Burden, Labour MP for Birmingham Northfield and chair of the All-Party Parliamentary Motor Group and David Bailey, Professor of Industrial Strategy at the Aston Business School.

They have no doubt that the future of automotive does not lie with internal combustion engines – whether diesel or petrol – and stress the vital importance of effective management of the transition

Their counter-intuitive assertion that decimating the market for new diesel engines has brought with it damaging if unintended consequences to the protection of the planet – contributing to the first aggregate rise in the greenhouse gases produced by new cars in more than a decade – sent the writer to search for an explanation online:

Ministerial mixed messages over diesel has undermined the capacity of manufacturers to manage that transition.

The industrial impact of failing to manage the transition threatens to be severe too, with UK engine plants of manufacturers like BMW, Ford and JLR all currently heavily dependent on diesel production.

Messages from ministers have been mixed: recent reductions in plug-in car grants standing in stark contrast to the incentives offered to motorists to buy zero-emission vehicles in counties like Norway. But efforts are now being made by the Government to mandate the expansion of the UK’s vehicle charging infrastructure which should include      on-street charging and monitoring of the performance of public charging points. The authors emphasise:

“A successful transition requires more clarity from the Government in support of both the production and take up of the electric and other alternatively powered vehicles that will be the future of the sector.”

The fact that a number of major manufacturers have yet to confirm plans to build in the UK the next generations of models sends out serious warnings signals that would be foolish in the extreme to ignore.

Ministers could show they are listening:

  • by reducing Brexit uncertainty through ruling out no deal,
  • ending mixed messages over modern diesel
  • and showing much more dynamism in supporting the transition to a connected, autonomous and alternatively powered automotive future,

Burden & Bailey insist that the innovative capacity and diversity that has made the UK automotive sector the success story it has become over the past decade remain in place and David Bailey, in his second chapter, asks for an upgrading in how the UK develops its future manufacturing plans:

“There is a strong case for UK industrial strategy to be afforded an institutional status similar to both UK monetary and fiscal policies. At the very least, it should be the subject of regular strategic long-term reviews. By giving it that sort of priority, the new government would send out the kind of powerful message that British industry and foreign investors need to hear given recent uncertainty.”

 

 

 

 

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A Marshall Plan for stability and sufficiency: proposed by Essex Quaker Ted Dunn and German Chancellor, Angela Merkel

Mass migration deprives developing countries of the young, enterprising, dynamic citizens they desperately need at home

Free movement of peoples, as practised in Britain, is the opposite of internationalism, since it implies that we will continue to employ workers from other countries in agriculture and service industries and steal doctors, nurses, IT experts etc from poorer countries, rather than train enough of our own.

A year ago, Colin Hines and Jonathon Porritt challenged the “permanent propping up of whole sectors of our economy as a direct result of our failure to train people properly here in the UK”.

Hines and Porritt call for the training of enough IT experts, doctors, nurses and carers from our own population to “prevent the shameful theft of vital staff from the poorer countries which originally paid for their education” as government figures show that we currently have 1.38 million unemployed people seeking work.

Today, some of the mental and physical health risks to migrants are set out, for the first time, in a World Health Organization study

Migration is stressful: factors include loss of language, of cultural norms, religious customs, social structures and support networks

John Watson reports in Medscape that research suggests refugees or skilled office workers freely passing through borders opened to them by global trade, are connected by a higher risk for mental health disorders, such as depression, anxiety, post traumatic stress disorder and somatic disorders (mental illness that causes one or more bodily symptoms).

Professor Dinesh Bhugrah is an authority on the stresses of migration. Individuals who migrate experience multiple stresses that can impact their mental well-being. Years of research have revealed that the rates of mental illness are increased in some migrant groups. Stresses include the loss of the familiar, including language (especially colloquial and dialect), attitudes, values, loss of cultural norms, religious customs, social structures and support networks.

Programmes which would build peace, stability and sufficiency in troubled areas

Essex Quaker Ted Dunn, during the war, was a Friends Ambulance hospital administrator in Ethiopia. He spent the rest of his life as an organic market gardener and in meeting or contacting decision-makers in many countries to advocate regional peace and development programmes, sometimes compared with the Marshall Plan.

His work, though highly commended, met with indifference from the British Government and a general public preoccupied at that time with its own personal well-being and interests. A few of the recommendations may be seen below.

UK politicians and media have shown a similar lack of interest in Germany’s invitation to other developed countries to support the G-20 Compact with Africa – a Marshall-style plan to bolster the economies of poor countries and give people hope for the future.

Development Minister Gerd Mueller aims to develop joint solutions with African countries, with a focus on programmes for youth, education and training, strengthening economies and the rule of law.

The latest news (October ’18) is that Germany and Ghana have entered into a 100 million euros bilateral Investment and Reform Partnership agreement on investment promotion, increased use of renewable energy, promotion of rural youth employment, digital education for girls and women and fair taxation   and vocational training. More information may be seen here.

Like Dunn and Chancellor Merkel, Porritt and Hines advocate a redoubling of our commitments to improve people’s economic and social prospects in their own countries, tackling the root causes of why people feel they have no choice but to leave family, friends and communities in the first place.   

In agreement:

António GUTERRES, Secretary-General of the United Nations, which has developed the 17 sustainable development goals (SDGs) to transform our world, urges all to work to “Narrow the gaps. Bridge the divides. Rebuild trust by bringing people together around common goals. Unity is our path. Our future depends on it”.

Jeremy Corbyn, speaking at the United Nations’ Geneva headquarters said: “The world’s economy can and must deliver for the common good”.

Professor John Roberts said in one of his newsletters, “Increasingly my thoughts return to the overwhelming need for all of us to think (and then act) as world citizens, conscious of a primary loyalty not to our local nationalism but to the human race (however confused and divided) as a whole”.

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SOME COMMENDATIONS OF REGIONAL PEACE AND DEVELOPMENT PROGRAMMES

A serious and thoughtful attempt to deal with what is perhaps the most urgent problem facing mankind – Lord Peter Archer, QC

The proposal is an idea which deserves the most serious consideration. H. Dale Anderson, Deputy High Commissioner for Jamaica

I very much support this initiative – Stuart Holland MP, when Shadow Minister for Development

World Peace through regional peace and development programmes should, for example, wipe out the apartheid system in South Africa – Ahaja Shehu Awak; Nigerian High Commissioner

You certainly have my support – George Foulkes, Shadow Minister for the UN

I am a keen proponent of Regional Development. The creation of an International Criminal Tribunal  (is) . . . the lynchpin of the future development of international law. Peter Benenson, founder of Amnesty International

I firmly believe the proposal represents a very wise and potentially creative way in which the world could deal with its most pressing needs  –  John Sarum, Bishop of Salisbury

I think regionalization of the world’s problems is the only feasible way. Johan Galtung, Peace Researcher, founder of the International Peace research Institute, Oslo

We here will do what we can to further encourage your ideas in Commonwealth capitals whenever opportunities arise – Christopher Laidlaw, then Assistant Director of the Commonwealth  Office 

It is clear that in the fifth decade of the United Nations era there is need for new thinking about the way forward in developing world order. Ted Dunn has added to his efforts in furthering public education on world peace a new work that suggests a practical formula for establishing peace through a step by step approach. He focuses on the regional dimension in a novel way – a proposal for official development programmes which are based on and integrate social, economic and political justice. The formula requires a meaningful relationship between rich and poor countries – one which would be advantageous for their common development and thus necessarily contribute to world peace. It is an imaginative and practically-oriented work, grounded in a thorough knowledge of the historical record. It is to be heartily recommended – Shridath Ramphal, when Secretary General, Commonwealth Secretariat.

 

 

 

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US Green New Deal campaign: US Senator Bernie Sanders

As Colin Hines and Richard Murphy write in the Guardian, British media has failed to notice that the US Green New Deal campaign is now centre stage. Supporters of the Green New Deal made their voices heard on Capitol Hill in December.

“The bold moral leadership of newly-elected members of Congress like Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez has me feeling more optimistic about our collective chances of averting climate breakdown than I have in years,” writes Naomi Klein. But a whole lot of things need happen very quickly if the political tide is going to shift in time – including finding new ways to engage the public in this fight.

In this hopeful moment, Naomi Klein had the opportunity to sit down with one of the few politicians who has consistently focused on this issue — Senator Bernie Sanders, whose  record speaks for itself. They spoke at the Sanders Institute Gathering in Burlington, Vermont, this weekend. Sen. Sanders then hosted a ‘town hall’ on climate change with guests including Ocasio-Cortez, 350.org founder Bill McKibben, activist and “Big Little Lies” star Shailene Woodley, climate scientist Brenda Ekwurzel, activist and musician Xiuhtezcatl Martinez, and Mayor Dale Ross of deep-red Georgetown, Texas.

Naomi Klein’s interview with US Senator Bernie Sanders (Independent) was published on 3 Dec 2018 and may be seen here.

Highlights

Corporate media is not covering issues of poverty, inequality, health care and – above all – climate change so – after saying drily that the survival of the planet ‘might be of some concern’ – Bernie Sanders has been successfully working with ‘progressive media outlets’. One video had over a million views, more than CNN on the same evening.

As the latest ICC report says that we have 12 years to transform our energy system, Sanders proposes a ‘monumental task’ – getting countries all over the world to co-operate to do this:

“Think what it would mean for our people to get together to transform the energy system instead of waging war – making war on climate change.“ He continues:

The promise of a Green New Deal means:

  • reducing carbon emissions,
  • increasing energy efficiency,
  • transforming electricity generation and
  • using much more energy efficient building methods.

The poorest people in the world suffer most from pollution and climate change – see the incidence of asthma amongst children in the Bronx.

We must rebuild communities in a green way involving people from all communities which will have social and economic benefits – and above all – address climate change and our very survival.

How can it happen?

14,000 Californian homes were recently destroyed, this and other climate related calamities are signs of a worrying future unless we get our act together.

The grassroots will have to stand together. 18 members of the House select committee for the Green New Deal are already supporting these measures.

Remember in 1994 the passion which Newt Gingrich had the House sitting for 20 hours a day as he pressed his right-wing agenda.

We must push the progressive agenda with the same energy and passion, offering

  • a million new jobs
  • lower fuel bills
  • health care for all
  • living wage
  • and protection, training and resettlement for all who lose jobs during the process of change.

Hines also recommends:

Alexandra Ocasio-Cortez Ignites Crowd In Climate Change Town Hall: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ha6PAyNVWbQ, New York Times article by Nobel Prize winner. Professor Paul Krugman , https://nyti.ms/2GMcJFm  and ‘Pass a Green New Deal’ in the Washington Post: which opens, “The world has until 2030 to drastically cut our emissions. Where do we begin?” and offers 11 policy ideas to protect the planet.

 

 

 

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Short-circuit damaging economic growth: from Douthwaite to McDonnell

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Richard Douthwaite stayed at the Centre for Holistic Studies in Mumbai as a young ‘unconverted’ economist. After reading ‘Short Circuit’ and – later – ‘The Growth Illusion’, CHS founder Winin Pereira was amazed and very pleased to see how Richard’s thinking had changed during that Indian tour. In his book, The Growth Illusion: How Economic Growth Has Enriched the Few, Impoverished the Many, and Endangered the Planet (1993), Richard asks:

Is economic growth improving our lives?”

In 1992, when the first edition of The Growth Illusion appeared, most people thought the answer was ‘Yes’. Today, however, there is widespread acceptance that, while growth might be necessary to generate jobs, the development path we are following isn’t making life better for the health of human beings and the environment.

The theme of this book is that, even if growth was beneficial at one stage in human history, it is now damaging.

The author, economist Richard Douthwaite, presents evidence of social and environmental damage caused by economic growth which has ‘enriched the few, impoverished the many, and endangered the planet’ (see chapter 11: “Growth in the Greenhouse”). The book looks at the effects of a policy of growth before and after the 1950s:

  • – it has affected national health
  • – damaged family, community life and the environment
  • – and forced companies to adopt new technologies before their impact on the environment can be assessed.

There is now a growing awareness of the mainstream economy’s vulnerability – reinforced by the government’s Brexit contingency measures; even in a wealthy country, the vagaries of free trade and the unimpeded movement of capital pose a threat not just to job security but to food and energy supplies as well.

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In a later book, which may be downloaded, Short Circuit: Strengthening Local Economies for Security in an Unstable World (1998) Richard advocates short circuiting the global structures and developing a local functional sustainable economy.

The concept of conventional economics focusing on the firm vs. the community and family is the primary reason we see so many communities go for trying to lure a major corporate saviour (at fantastic expense in foregone tax revenues and numerous social, environmental and economic costs) instead of trying to develop a sustainable standalone economy. Such firms threaten to move their operations to countries where the fiscal environment is easier, almost every government’s ability to raise an adequate amount in tax has been reduced.

Richard Douthwaite advises communities to ‘cut the monetary tie’ – or at least reduce the outward flow of money – by rebuilding an independent local economy capable of supplying the goods and services its people would need – establishing:

  • local currency schemes
  • community banks that enable local interest rates and credit terms
  • locally-based energy generating and saving schemes
  • low-external-input agriculture.
  • more cooperative commercial attitudes.

In the Foreword, colleagues Helena NH * and Ed Mayo (when NEF) points out that economic globalization developed because governments have been subsidizing international and long-distance trade through:

  • tax breaks,
  • cheap fuel,
  • and massive investments in the underlying transport and information infrastructure.

Even a child might ask, ‘Why must food be transported thousands of miles, when it can be produced right here?

This is not efficiency but economics gone mad. Wilderness areas and biodiversity are under increasing pressure as the demand for industrial resources grows. huge multinational corporations have replaced the hundreds of thousands of small businesses, shopkeepers and farmers that traditionally generated most economic activity and employment.

Unemployment in the industrialized world has soared while, in the cities of the South, populations are exploding because millions of rural families are being drawn away from local self-reliance by the promises of the consumer society – only to be plunged into urban squalor and hunger”.

Reverse the process of globalization: the system that has emerged suits nobody in the long run. The threat of mergers leaves even senior managers in permanent fear of losing their jobs and even billionaires cannot hide from the collapsing biosphere.

if the hidden subsidies for fossil fuel use were removed, local and national economies would become much stronger. Not everything could be produced locally, nor would there be an end to trade – there should be a better balance between local, regional, national and international markets. Large corporations should have less control, and communities more, over what is produced, where, when and how, and trading should be fair to both parties.

Governments should get together to curb the powers of the multinationals by negotiating new trade and investment treaties removing the subsidies powering globalization and giving local production a chance.

The world has now woken up to the environmental implications of ‘plundering the planet for profit’ as John McDonnell put it in Another World Is Possible (sold out on Ebay etc). At the end of his chapter, ‘Plundering the planet for profit’, he proposes:

  • developing an energy system based on local energy production, clean coal technology and wherever possible powered by renewable energy sources,
  • producing food in this country where possible instead of importing it from distant countries,
  • homeworking and video-conferencing instead of commuting long distances and flying abroad,
  • using public transport instead of driving,
  • reclaiming social ownership and control of our public transport, prioritising social and environmental goals,
  • encouraging manufacturers to produce durable and repairable goods.
  • ensuring that every home is energy-efficient and that houses are built to the highest environmental standards with the ability to generate their own power or served by local combined heat and power systems,
  • regulating industry, housing and planning with environmental concerns central to decision-making and
  • devolving power so that communities have the power to protect their local environment, setting enforceable carbon emissions and environmental targets.

See Local Futures’ constantly-growing library of examples of localization happening all over the world for news about people who have started to build alternative systems ‘without waiting for politicians to give us their blessing or for the world to burn’.

 

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Capital controls: Kavaljit Singh

Capital controls operated in the United Kingdom from the outbreak of war in 1939 until they were abolished by Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher in October 1979. There was a flood of funds abroad and the FT records that, as manufacturing industry declined, more than 3m people were unemployed.

Kavaljit Singh focusses on the statements of Nor Shamsiah Mohd Yunus, governor of Malaysia’s central bank, Bank Negara, that capital controls can be helpful in pre-empting financial crises (“ Malaysia backs option of capital controls”, FT October 17).

Two decades ago Malaysian prime minister, Mahathiar Mohammed, imposed restrictions on capital outflows at the height of the Asian financial crisis to stem the flight of investor funds. FT Journalist Stefania Palma describes this measure as “a landmark moment of defiance against the International Monetary Fund, which had backed capital account liberalisation through the 1990s and strongly opposed the decision”.

As many emerging market economies in Asia are currently grappling with the challenges posed by large capital inflows followed by abrupt reversals, Singh recommends the IMF to revisit its 2012 Institutional View endorsing capital controls only as a last resort, imposed selectively on capital inflows, and on a temporary basis.

He describes it as a welcome departure from the IMF’s earlier rigid stance but as being problematic on a practical level:

  • First, why has the IMF ruled out circumstances where the capital controls may be the first choice to deal with destabilising capital flows?
  • Second, why disapprove controls on outflows? The restrictions on outflows can be prudent to prevent rapid currency depreciation and capital flight, as witnessed in Malaysia (1998) and Iceland (2008). Further, controls on outflows are more relevant for poor countries that do not have large foreign exchange reserves or access to regional financing arrangements to manage abrupt capital reversals.
  • Third, what’s the rationale for recommending the use of capital controls on a temporary basis? Some situations may require the deployment of controls for sufficiently long periods.

Singh (right), reminds us that in Iceland controls were initially introduced on a temporary basis, but they lasted almost nine years.

China and India — two recent “success stories” — deploy controls on both a temporary and permanent basis to maintain financial stability.

As both of these economies have achieved impressive rates of economic growth without full capital mobility, Singh recommends:

“In the light of current financial stability risks, the IMF should adopt a more flexible approach towards capital controls and support member countries with all the policy options needed to safeguard financial stability”.

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Kavaljit Singh is the Director of Madhyam, New Delhi. His latest book, Fixing Global Finance, is available for free download. His previous books include Why Investment Matters (Madhyam Books, FERN, The Corner House, CRBM, 2007); Questioning Globalization (Zed Books, 2005); Taming Global Financial Flows: Challenges and Alternatives in the Era of Financial Globalization (Zed Books, 2001).

 

 

 

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A localised world is possible – four talented exponents with complementary messages –4: Karen Leach

Since 2001, Karen has been the prime mover and co-ordinator of Localise West Midlands, a not-for-profit organisation which promotes the environmental, social and economic benefits of:

  • Local trading, using local businesses, materials and supply chains
  • Linking local needs to local resources
  • Development of community and local capacity
  • Decentralisation of appropriate democratic and economic power
  • Provision of services tailored to meet local needs.

The localisation approach makes economic development and government systems more sensitive to local autonomy, culture, wellbeing and the responsible use of finite resources. It is growing in popularity with people and organisations all over the world.

Karen has played a leading role in Extending Localisation, an ongoing project identifying ways of extending economic localisation good practice in the energy, food, retailing, finance and manufacturing sectors around and beyond the West Midlands region.  She writes:

Since the general election Localise West Midlands has been reiterating the question “how can we have meaningful localism without decentralising economic power?” The UK economy is one of the most centralised in Europe, increasingly recognised as remote from people and society, exclusive and beyond control.

In a diverse, localised economy, more people have a stake, which redistributes economic power, reducing disconnection, inequality and vulnerability. LWM is a thinktank, campaign group and consultancy that promotes this localised approach for justice and sustainability.

Contrary to the stereotype of planning reform opponents, we love economic development – community economic development, which fosters competition and enterprise, strengthens local distinctiveness, and works with an area’s resources, heritage, culture and social capital. We think the economy should be part of civic fabric not something done to the community.

The importance of small business in our economy is often underestimated. For one thing, you could say they contribute more to the public purse because they don’t have the resources to work out how to avoid it! More seriously, firms with less than five employees accounted for over 50% of the new jobs between 2000-2008; without startups, private sector employment would have declined. There is increasing evidence that large established businesses destroy jobs.

So decentralising economic power should be central to localism agenda – but it’s not. Much of the localism agenda simply builds community aspirations to be knocked down by powerful economic interests.

We need to recognise and plan for the collective strategic importance of the small scale. Our problems with the planning parts of the localism agenda are probably familiar to many of you:

  • a presumption in favour of development,
  • the lack of a workable definition of sustainable development;
  • the reduced ability to impose planning conditions that the developer might feel make a development unviable;
  • weakened retail policies;
  • the need to allocate more and rolling land supplies
  • and the abolition of spatial policy for ‘reducing the need to travel’.

The combined consequence of these is the reduced ability to differentiate between quality & poor quality development. This includes a lack of ability to protect economic diversity and accessible local services from bigger competitors: not just the odd independent shop but all types of businesses and the supply chain infrastructure and spatial environment that supports them – a weakening of urban renaissance.

Easier and more lucrative sites cherry picked for economic development or housing will not be integrated with existing economy or infrastructure.

In Darlaston in the Black Country, a colleague tells me that Asda closed their central store and applied for planning permission for an out of town site nearby. They pointed out they had a 99 year lease on the central site, and hinted that any use of the site would be blighted unless they got planning permission for the out of centre site. The council stood firm on policy grounds and the store did eventually reopen in the centre of Darlaston. Strong policy works to favour quality over poor quality development – under the localism bill it might not be possible.

Adverse consequences of catering to the private sector – two examples

We also have issues with providing for every need of private sector organisations that don’t necessarily have the public interest objectives or the accountability to take responsibility for them.

Developers in Ireland now blame the government for giving them planning permission for what are now ghost estates. In Digbeth, Birmingham, there was a compulsory purchase four years ago for site assembly – closing down local independent businesses including the last Italian-owned family business of the city’s Italian Quarter. That land has been completely empty for 4 years.

This raises issues over accountability & evidence of need and also of the danger of exclusive, blank slate large-scale development that ignores community economics. Why not work round and with existing uses? The local authority’s ability to challenge this is greatly reduced in the National Planning Policy Framework [NPPF].

Neighbourhood planning goes some way to address this and has some positive potential for people to think about what local economy needs and how they can meet this, but it requires communities being able to protect, to say no and to set boundaries as well as saying yes. The failure to incorporate neighbourhood planning seems like a missed opportunity to strengthen local economies.

There is also the danger of vested interests swaying the NP agenda – it’s widely reported that Tesco was designing its off-the-peg neighbourhood plan for communities to adapt locally before the NPPF was written. How can that not be a conflict of interest? Of course pressures are worse in areas of deprivation to accept any development, however damaging.

One final example: good economic development on greenfield site: the former farmland land occupied by Lammas Eco-village in Wales used to bring the farmer £2,500 – £5,000 a year through sale of lamb. That same land now provides nine families with £60,000 worth of food, fuel and other goods and is predicted to be bringing in a surplus income of £40,000 by Year 5.

We need planning that can assess whether developments deliver quality of life, revitalised places, job creation, economic diversity, local multiplier. A blanket state of permissiveness doesn’t do it.

 

 

 

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