One of the blogs and academic material sites I keep myself up to date with is the Australian Macro-Business Super Blog. In short, the site provides interesting analysis of all sorts of issues in Australia and around the world. Issues such as (and most certainly not limited too), economics, finance, global politics and urban planning/economics are all discussed in-depth with plenty of links to external sources for those who wish to go exploring.
One article that caught my attention day was this PIECE from the super-blog site. The blog author was providing a basic summary to an academic paper recently published in the UK on the links between planning and economic performance.
The article from Spatial Economics Research Centre at the Department of Geography and Environment, London School of Economics (had to mention that as I am a Geography graduate at the University of Auckland and hold the that Department in very high regards) I will link up below and I do recommend as a very good read.
The SERC Article
In brief the article by Max Nathan and Prof. Henry G. Overman provided a brief analysis using empirical evidence (rather than ideological as commonly seen) backed up with further academic references for further reading on how planning regulation in the UK is a direct influence on economic performance.
Many opponents of the planning reforms think that development should be heavily focused on Brownfield – i.e. previously developed – land. This policy protects previously undeveloped land,
but is not cost-less.
During the 1990s and mid-2000s, the combination of a national brownfield land target and a minimum density floor for development helped concentrate new development in urban areas – particularly core cities such as Manchester and Liverpool. These cities also benefited from a number of other important supporting factors – a benign macro environment, rising public spending, an expanding higher education sector, a growing consumer interest in city living,and readily available finance for building and buying (Nathan and Urwin 2006).
The national target ensured these trends played out more broadly. In 1998, approximately 50% of development occurred on brownfield land (a figure that had been remarkably stable for long periods of time). The Labour government committed itself to a target of 60% of new development on brownfield land by 2008. The target had been met by the early 2000s. In 2005, 70% of new development was on brownfield land (Urban Task Force 2005).
From the point of view of the opponents of the NPPF, meeting the national target sounds like success. Qualitative research suggests that in cities like Manchester and Liverpool, brownfield policies that targeted the urban core may have helped repopulate city centres, and encouraged commercial activity to return. These policies also may have helped local leaders reposition their cities’ public image (Nathan and Urwin 2006, Unsworth and Nathan 2006).However, somewhat surprisingly, we know of no evidence that rigorously assesses the
causal impact of the brownfield target on the pattern of development within cities, or on the overall effects for the city as a whole. We can speculate that in cities like Manchester, the Brownfield target may have led to more development across the city than previously. However, an alternative strategy of focusing on (say) South Manchester might have brought higher overall development to the city, but with a different spatial pattern. That is, skewing development towards city centres may have come at the expense of less growth for the city as a whole.
Brownfield land is expensive to build on suggesting that there could be an effect on overall levels of development from the decision to prioritise brownfield land. Findings on the negative effect of town centre first on retail productivity are consistent with this (Cheshire et al 2011). Further from the point of view of England as whole, lots of brownfield land is in ex-industrial cities where – unlike parts of, say, London and Manchester – demand for housing and commercial development is low
A point take note of. With our land prices already artificially high any Brownfield development would rightfully seek a price of return to cover those high prices. This has a knock on effect of high consumer prices at the end of the chain which can hamper economic performance if consumers are busy paying off high debt owing those high prices. In short we need to get land (and development) prices under control and affordable again if we do not want to see Auckland’s economic performance hamstrung from that department.
In terms of the spatial pattern of development, large pieces of land that become available (for example, former MOD or NHS sites) are often some way from existing settlements (working against other stated objectives on densification). Worse, as highlighted by the coalition government, a small but increasing share of building on ‘brownfield’ land has been building on private residential gardens – the share of new homes built on previously residential land rose from 11 percent to 23 percent between 1997 and 2008.
Word of warning to our central planners, any intensification or Brownfield development has the potential to have the same effect as what happened in the quoted piece above. We need our green in the city but it should not play second fiddle to any Brownfield development. Nothing worse than a monolithic concrete jungle.
In short, top down targets for brownfield land haven’t always delivered the kind of development people want in the places where they want it. The combination of brownfield
targets and density standards has also tended to produce large numbers of small flats in urban areas – although there is a clear need for larger, family homes in these places (Unsworth and Nathan 2006, Silverman et al 2006). These costs need to be offset against the benefits of preserving undeveloped land. Undeveloped land does deliver benefits, but SERC research
suggests that these are often not as large as claimed (Gibbons et al 2011).
A word of warning as I sense this could happen here as well wittingly or unwittingly. What could make the situation acute is that not every can “live” in some rabbit clutches called flats or apartments. Some need 4-8 bedroom homes as they have extended family with them (its called part of their culture) and so the Draft Auckland Plan should make easy provision (via the market (and Housing NZ when the situation arises as it does)) for these large type houses a nice sizable plot of land. You would also find that a housing market that was more responsive to the heterogeneous needs of Auckland’s population would go some distance in reducing over crowding in homes and improve the physical and social environment of the population.
Again I implore the Auckland City Council to read the SERC Document and the other articles referenced in it. I do not believe the 75:25 Brownfield/Greenfield ratio for development will work in net benefit for Auckland and the SERC article has a lot similarities to Auckland even though it was for the UK scene.
This SERC Article I will be referencing as I continue with my Draft Auckland Plan Series.
Below is the actual SERC article. All Rights of the Article belong to the article authors.