Category: Blog

Following yesterday’s post on making London more dense, Tim Lund suggested I do a slightly more sophisticated analysis. Planners in London use a metric called the Public Transport Accessibility Level, or ‘PTAL’, which does pretty much what you’d expect. Rules for things like car parking levels and the density of housing you should build are based on these, because obviously if you’re in central London you have no need for a car and you can justify quite tall blocks of flats, but in low rise suburbia with only sporadic bus services it’s accepted that more car parking and less dense housing is appropriate. So if you were to follow these rules, how much more housing could you build in London? First, I took the data for PTAL levels (the map on the left). Then I took my wards, sliced up to remove any areas that cannot be built on, cut…

How do we build more homes in London? The Mayor’s latest exercise assessing needs suggests we need up to 690,000 over the next ten years, but a parallel exercise looking for land only came up with sites for 420,000 homes. The usual debate is whether or not we build in London’s greenbelt to make up the difference. But there are at least three good reasons not to go down this route to solve our problems: there are an awful lot of protected habitats that we really cannot build on; building sustainable developments around transport hubs and avoiding those habitats could only deliver (in Andrew Lainton’s estimation) 72,000 homes; and if we ignore these,  it could lead to more low density, car-dependent urban sprawl, which the greenbelt was established to prevent. The alternative, or perhaps complementary, approach is to make London more dense, particularly around transport hubs in sprawling, low density…

One of the many abuses of the English language in mainstream political parlance is the denigration of ideology. Defending his government’s cuts to public spending, David Cameron wrote in 2011 that: This is a government led by people with a practical desire to sort out this country’s problems, not by ideology. More recently, Nick Clegg attacked Michael Gove’s education policies as ideological, reportedly saying: Parents don’t want ideology to get in the way of their children’s education In fact, Nick Clegg really appears to have it in for ideology because he attacks it all the time. He said a couple of weeks ago: I don’t take an ideological approach to public spending. But it isn’t just our dear leaders trying to avoid the whiff of ideology. You hear it all the time – the Government’s cuts are “ideological” (i.e. bad), the Green Party’s opposition to nuclear is “ideological” (i.e. invalid).…

At the Green Party autumn conference, I attended an early morning panel discussion on population. I wrote about this in a recent blog post, describing the debate between a representative from Population Matters and Sebastian Power from the Green Party. I also mentioned that Sebastian offered during the debate to send references for his claims to anyone who was interested in what he said. Now that he has sent these around, I wanted to write a third (and hopefully final) blog entry on the population debate. Having followed up his references, I felt I had to write this because so many people in the conference audience and more widely will have heard his arguments and heard his claim that he based them on solid, scientific references. He also made the same arguments in an article for the internal magazine, Green World, and I have heard the same arguments from several other party members.…

The population debate rumbles on. David Attenborough crashed back into the debate with a pretty crass set of remarks about not sending food aid to places struck by famine, earning lots of impassioned responses. The activist-comedian Robert Newman wrote an interesting piece pointing out that population growth is tailing off so claiming it really isn’t the issue, and so it continues, round and around. At the Green Party autumn conference, I attended an early morning panel discussion on population. We heard from a speaker from Population Matters, who argued that our impact on the rest of nature is a function of our population, our affluence (and inequality) and our technology. I explored this “IPAT” formula a bit in my previous blog entry. Then Sebastian Power made more or less the same case as Newman – that we suffer from (in his words) “rich white men” consuming too much, not too…

In the past couple of months I’ve been able to combine work and my mapping hobby, working on a web site about air pollution in London. I’m going to be speaking about this at the October geomob meeting. I’m lucky enough to live in one of Europe’s most polluted cities. Air pollution causes more early deaths than obesity and road collisions, and is only bested by smoking. The Mayor published some really good open data on pollution levels, which of course is incomprehensible to ordinary folk. So despite having a sense that it’s not the cleanest city, Londoners don’t know all that much about the problem or how it could be solved. We want to help change that. Our first splash was a map showing the quantities of some major pollutants dropped on sections of roads across the capital, so Londoners could find out – how polluted is my road?…

Green Party leader Natalie Bennett recently took a strong stance on migration, warning of the dangers that the other parties risk when stoking up public anger about population. She rightly suggested that we shouldn’t blame migrants for problems with the NHS, schools, housing and jobs. Instead, we should be concerned about the failure of misguided economic policies that have caused these problems. In response, three members of the Green Party wrote a letter to the Guardian saying that they, and many other Greens, are concerned about migration as well as the nasty rhetoric. The authors of the letter wrote: Many of her party’s supporters are as concerned as the rest of the public about a high level of net immigration, mainly because it is a major contributor to population growth. This adds to the uphill task of protecting our environment and moving the economy to an ecologically sustainable one. A…

Here’s another message I have sent to the Today programme broadcast on BBC Radio 4. For readers unfamiliar with the programme, it is the BBC’s flagship news and current affairs programme. But the substance of this message is an all-too-frequent problem with their coverage. Unlike my last complaint, I just sent this one in as feedback. I didn’t feel it merited a formal complaint. If I get a reply I will post it below, as before. Regarding the item on npower’s report on energy prices, I was disappointed that the questioning seemed to ignore or underplay the urgency of decarbonising our energy supply. You rarely question the assumption that we must close the fiscal deficit, which is an economic construct and a subject much debated by economists. Yet you are happy to entertain the idea of ignoring our carbon deficit, which is a scientific fact beyond debate with 97% of…

I started writing this as an email to Richard Fairhurst, but then thought I’d post it to my blog. I wrote something on a similar theme just over a year ago. Richard, I just wanted to say that I thought your talk at the SOTMUS conference was spot on. But when you talk about the cycling community, I think there’s an important caveat missing. Lots of people in our mapping community (or lots of the 5% who do 95% of the mapping) are enthusiastic cyclists, but few in the enthusiastic cyclist community are mappers. I’ve not come across the London Cycling Campaign or any of the borough groups really getting involved with cycle mapping. Some members (myself included) do, but my impression is that most don’t. Despite embedding CycleStreets on their homepage and collaborating on a cycle parking campaign with them, I’ve never come across a big concerted push from…

The BBC broadcast a report today by Roger Harrabin entitled “has global warming stalled?“. You can follow the link to listen to the piece. I don’t often submit formal complaints, but I think the framing of the issue is so important that I submitted the following to the BBC complaints department. I have two specific complaints in relation to your Today programme piece on climate science broadcast on the 17th May. The first is that the report used misleading language about recent developments in the science. My second complaint is that the report gave undue attention to a marginal opinion. Roger Harrabin’s report contained some interesting interviews, but the presentation was entirely misleading. On my first, I believe it is misleading to suggest that the scientific establishment agrees that “global warming appears to have stalled” as he did in the opening segment. The media, including Radio 4, covered a Met…