On Monday 15 April 2019 fire broke out at the cathedral of Notre Dame de Paris. It is hard to think of a more iconic ecclesiastical building in such a key location in such a tourist-historic city. Media images show smoke billowing high into the sky, the high roof burning, and the thin central spire collapsing – all watched by numerous disbelieving locals and tourists.
The cause and rapid spread of the fire have yet to be investigated, although part of the cathedral – where the fire appeared to start – was under repair and scaffolded, and a number of historic properties have been damaged by fire under such circumstances (for example at the National Trust’s Uppark House in 1989, which started from lead workers ignoring carefully drafted “hot work” rules against precisely this risk). The spread of smoke, heat and fire within the large timber roof voids of major churches is problematic to control and contain. Continue reading The Notre Dame fire: considerations for reconstruction→
Recent announcements by Marks and Spencer, New Look and Debenhams as well as the purchase of House of Fraser by Sports Direct Founder, Mike Astley, signal that Britain’s high streets are struggling to stay relevant and attractive to residents, shoppers and visitors. Unsurprisingly, Chancellor, Philip Hammond, in the recent Autumn Budget (29th October 2018), emphasised the need to reform the planning system to encourage new businesses and homes. Consultation has begun with the publication of the Government’s Consultation Paper entitled: “Planning Reform: Supporting the high street and increasing the delivery of new homes”.
Permitted development rights (PDRs) have long been used as the means of enabling certain types of development and changes of use to be undertaken without the need for planning permission. The Town and Country Planning (Use Classes) Order 1987,SI 1987 No.764 as amended and the Town and Country Planning (General Permitted Development) Order 2015, SI 2015 No. 596 as amended set out various uses of land and buildings and types of operational development respectively that do not require express planning permission. Effectively these developments, subject to the conditions and limitations set out in the legislation, are not considered to pose a risk or harm and therefore do not need to be controlled through the planning determination process. They are, to all intents and purposes, authorised as of right. Continue reading Can Widening Permitted Development Rights Solve the Crisis on the High Street?→
Air pollution has once again become one of the biggest concerns for cities with hard-hitting evidence emerging on the high numbers of premature deaths and the range of health and environmental impacts. While air pollution from industrial processes has been significantly curbed, transport emissions have over the past 40 or so years become the main contributor. Part of the problem has been the sharp rise in diesel cars, traffic congestion (ever increasing numbers of vehicles on the road and stop and start driving) and dirty ‘old-tech’ private and public transport vehicles along with newer less than adequate performing engines (or poor driver skills). Evidence has also emerged on the significant contributions of particulate matter (PM) – and especially particles less than 2.5 micrometres (called PM2.5) that can penetrate deep into the lungs – coming off tyres and breaks even if the engines are relatively clean or emission free (e.g. with the increase in hybrid and electric vehicles)   . Continue reading What role can planning play in improving urban air quality?→
The current paradigm shift in the Architecture, Construction, Engineering and Operations (AECO) sector towards data driven decision making is founded upon an endemic shift towards digitalisation of building data. Data is viewed as the new commodity or ‘oil’ of the information technology and predictive analytics as its new ‘combustion engine’ . Concomitant benefits of data analysis proffered by the more advanced sectors (i.e. finance, manufacturing and aerospace industries) include the inherent potential to uncover patterns, trends and associations related to design data, human behavior, and the interactions between the two, for improved data driven decision making [2, 3]. This is why academics at BCU have sought to investigate whether data driven decision making could help mitigate design clashes with analytics; and specifically whether contractors’ clash detection reports could be used to identify trends and patterns of the most commonly occurring design clashes. To test this we used a recently completed BCU campus project as a case study. This blog post outlines the premise of this novel research and its key findings. Continue reading Could design clashes become predictable?→
If you are training or working in Planning and Cultural Heritage, applications are open for the ‘DiscoverEU Ambassador’ – with the opportunity to travel and learn. Read on…
The recent UK parliamentary votes on the European Union Withdrawal Bill brings into stark reality the imminence of Brexit. Despite this, the day-to-day operating conditions of the UK as a whole continue as a full member of the European Union. This means that all new law and policy adopted at EU level applies equally to the UK as all other member states, until exit day, creating a moving feast for those civil servants working on the ‘Great Repeal Bill’.
Putting aside the troubles of Mrs May and the public servants in London and the devolved administrations grappling with the detangling of half a century of law, infrastructure and common operating mechanisms, students at BCU, like other Universities across the UK, have emerged from under their mountains of text books, revision notes and draft assessments, to find a long summer stretched out in front of them. What to do? How about combining European travel with cultural experiences sponsored by the European Commission? Enjoy the benefits of EU membership while we have it and explore other EU countries… Continue reading Enhance your planning skills as a Discover-EU-Ambassador→
This week is EU Green Week (see Figure 1) and whilst the UK grapples with challenges associated with its trading relationships post-Brexit, conversations in Brussels are focused instead on greening cities. This is a pertinent reminder that many of the big challenges are faced not by just one state but by all states around the globe. Nowhere is this more clearly recognised than in the strive towards sustainable development which has long been a relatively well agreed principle. First articulated in the Brundtland Report, the definition still most commonly used, explains sustainable development:
Crowdfunding is the collective effort of a large number of people, who pool together a small amount of money to support a great variety of projects they believe in or expect a return from. Examples range from helping museums to commissioning artwork, to supporting new technology applied to smart clothing, from connecting communities through food ventures to producing movies.
The process of fundraising, which has recently gained popularity for a wide range of purposes, takes place online on digital platforms such as Kickstarter and Crowdcube. Here ideas get posted to get visibility and attract support. Fundraisers, in order to reach their financial target, also seek funds by setting up their own website and starting their own crowdfunding campaigns. Money is raised through different networks, often starting with family and friends and extending the reach through social media (Twitter, Facebook, Blogs, Instagram) in order to secure a wider base of support. According to the specific platform used, supporters can then receive different forms of benefits that are unique to that project: they can donate as a form of lending and returns are financial, they can donate in exchange for equity, or they can donate because they believe in the cause and don’t expect anything back. Continue reading Civic crowdfunding: a new start for micro urban regeneration?→
While too young to have witnessed the coal-ash smog years (though briefly experienced in Tuzla, Bosnia[i]) the issue of acid rain and air pollution was well-ingrained in my childhood years in Southern Germany, where aged 10 or so I was wondering how safe it was to eat my dad’s garden-grown tomatoes worrying about all the polluting particles that would have been absorbed and settled on them! I washed and ate them in the end savouring their full flavour and sweetness. Moving to the UK in the late 80s the political / environmental narratives slowly shifted to biodiversity, climate change and water/flooding, though in the past year or two air pollution has climbed back onto the political radar. And so have health concerns more generally, with increased awareness and diagnostics of cancers, obesity, stress and mental health impacts of a fast-paced, fast-consumption society.
How much of UK planning seems to have forgotten its roots seems, however, astonishing! Last week I attended a Royal Town Planning Institute (RTPI) West Midlands CPD event on ‘Planning and Health’ where the topic rightfully took centre-stage with a full room of planning practitioners and researchers absorbing the facts, figures and wide-ranging examples how health is and should be intrinsically connected with planning. Continue reading The healthy roots of planning→