Wednesday, March 29, 2017

Cat swinging is illegal

Another day, another good article on our house building disaster.

Link to off site article here.

An embedded link to a recent Guardian articles is worth following. Another links here.

In Newcastle and Gateshead the office block conversions are likely to be for student accommodation. An extraordinary wave of student housing continues unabated. A friend said she thought that 'when the (student housing) bubble bursts' these places could be re-used for housing non students. This I very much doubt from watching several being built. Whatever, they would be quite dreadful for family life. But then, this boom and the associated Green Belt snatch is all about making money not housing for the future.

Saturday, March 25, 2017

Yes, but are there big drinks in it for builders?

An article on new build in places where people live now. Link (off site)

New build in Sheffield. (Photograph: The Guardian)

Timely. Or would have been for Newcastle's vanishing Green Belt. Housing such as the above and other examples from the article demonstrate the logic of building close to existing transport links, health, education and retail facilities. The logic driving the housing on Newcastle's Green Belt is one of profit. 

The result will be more atrocities like Blue House 'roundabout' the gigantic motorway interchange that is the direct consequence of housing developments on the Gosforth–Ponteland axis.

Wednesday, March 15, 2017


A well known expression in football when your team loses easily is "Well stuffed". Newcastle's Green Belt has by this measure been "well and truly stuffed".

Planing permission for a huge new town has been given the er, green light, the B.B.C. reports tonight here. (Off site link.)

This won't be just an ordinary land grab though; according to the developer's it's an entirely new community. From this artists impression, a bit like how Disney thinks England should look.

Not Ponteland – Fairyland!

Note full grown trees. This must be sometime around 2075 ...

Someone mentioned brownfield sites awaiting development. They just don't get it do they? How are the movers behind this scheme expected to live in Monaco on the kind of returns 'affordable housing' brings in? (The "It wasn't possible to achieve our target for affordable homes after unexpected additional costs were incurred on this site" i.e. flood protection, excuse will be along soon.)

Well at least today's youngsters unable to afford even affordable homes in localities such as this will be able to look back and say "I remember when it was all fields around here".

Friday, March 10, 2017

Back to back to backs

Apropos recent posts, this video on B.B.C. News surfaced today: Link (off site)

It's only taken a disgraceful housing crisis to demonstrate what others have been urging for decades; good quality mass housing.

Once our large cities had whole areas that comprised 'back-to-back' terraced housing. These were solidly built though not without problems. Thousands were demolished and replaced with tower blocks (and incidentally the enforced transport of many long established traditional communities). In many instances these quickly became vectors of crime and dysfunction. These schemes also awarded themselves prizes and commendations from architects and planners who ensured they never lived in such places.

Building on the Green Belt is both transgressive and unsustainable. It increases environmental costs in transport and provision of services. In Newcastle it is impacting on settled communities as road links have to be ungraded to match the expected flows. The chosen areas of Green Belt have already had a disastrous effect on the natural environment and have yet to 'get into their stride'. These chosen areas are along the least appropriate axis for this city, depending for access on the choke point of Gosforth. It remains to be seen how this spectacular planning mistake can be reconciled.

Meanwhile, large tracts of under used or redundant land along the east west Tyne axis is crying out for investment. This 'development strip' contains existing mature patterns of communication – bus and light rail, contains numerous schools and access to healthcare facilities.

What housing development here does not promise is the quick profit of monetising a publicly created asset for private gain.

Havannah Nature Reserve Red Squirrel. Havannah is under threat from developers.

Link to Havannah online petition here (off site link)

Monday, February 20, 2017


From The Guardian article 

The post World War Two planning acts were inspired by walkers. Beveridge, founder of the National Insurance, and the aristocratic socialists, the Trevelyans (joined by others such as author and Irish Independence fighter Erskine Childers), went out of London pre World War One to 'walk and talk' around the nearest countryside at hand. Between them they founded the Welfare State in principal. A feature of this concept were arts and leisure. The 19th century 'Satanic Mills' that crushed impoverished people in slums were on their minds as much as employment, health and education. They shaped the way Britain's society thought and acted up to 1979 and the Thatcher Revolution.

Sprawl was the besetting sin of Britain's unregulated house building. These environmental concerns were shared by many outside the circle of well placed people out on a jaunt. They crop up in George Orwell's novel Coming Up For Air (1939). Housing was creeping out over the green fields of England, particularly, without any care for either common standards, suitability or amenity. The post war 1945 re-construction was planned; new housing based on existing patterns of living, with bomb sites in cities cleared and new forms (as far as Britain knew) of architecture rising up. Alongside these initiatives the legacy of the walkers was to be found in the famous Green Belt legislation protecting access to open landscapes. Our great cities and towns had to provide green spaces for recreation, seen as crucial for physical and mental well being.

Today all the Green Belts are under pressure and some have already been 're-developed' as pressure for new housing grows year on year (ignoring the hundreds of thousands of empty properties around the country and brownfield within easy reach of populations). Now the quality of such quick money schemes is coming into focus. Many of the mass housing builders have a poor record when it comes to quality, with often more thought spent on superficial details than solidity; the timber frame and plastic decoration approach. This is piling up problems for the future.

A report in today's Guardian highlights these building issues with Bovis in the middle of a developing scandal (where are the building inspectors or were they done away with?); but in truth, other big names keep coming up in connection to shoddy work and quick profits, much of which stems from the premium that can be added to the selling price when selling houses built in 'leafy locations'.

The article in full here.

Some of the comments below the article are worth quoting:

"I used to work for one of the biggest housebuilders in the UK and there is absolutely no chance that I would ever buy a new build from any of the main players. A small, local builder, maybe, but Bovis, Taylor Wimpey, Persimmon, Barratt, Bellway etc - no chance."

The same commenter replies to a request for detail to support her (his, their) claims with this:

"Because they are all about volume and speed. They're usually predominantly timber framed, dry lined wooden boxes. I don't believe they'll stand the test of time. They bang them up as quickly as possible and the perception is that there's more money in doing that and sorting out the inevitable snagging problems later than there is in taking the time to do it properly in the first place.
The rooms are too small - did you know they use furniture that is smaller than standard in the show homes to give the illusion of space? When you put your own double bed in the biggest bedroom there'll barely be room to walk round it. Land is a valuable asset so your garden will barely be big enough for a swingball. There are also now stories about homes being sold leasehold with the freeholds being sold on to third parties and not made available to the homeowners so that remortgaging or selling after a few years requires a new lease which the freeholders can charge a mint for."

I once met a professional photographer who told me he had just been out on an assignment for a new build project providing shots of furnished interiors for the sales brochure. He had had to use wide angles lenses to make the rooms seem much larger. He also told me (confirmed years after by another friend) that the furniture was specially designed to be assembled indoors because it would be impossible to buy furniture and get it delivered through the narrow doors or up tight staircases. These were not cheap houses either.

This is a very bad way to go about building homes for living. We have been here before and the outcomes were bad news, but I suspect we are staying this time.