All posts by Claudia Carter

What role can planning play in improving urban air quality?

by Claudia Carter

Blog 50 Qhote 1Air 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) [1] [2] [3]. Continue reading What role can planning play in improving urban air quality?


Could design clashes become predictable?

by Erika Pärn

Figure 1: Clash detection snapshot (provided by participating contractor)
Figure 1: Clash detection snapshot (provided by participating contractor)

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’ [1]. 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?


Will Heathrow’s Third Runway Take Off?

by Hazel Nash

The Heathrow Northwest Runway Masterplan found in the Department for Transport (June 2018) Airports National Policy Statement
The Heathrow Northwest Runway Masterplan found in the Department for Transport (June 2018) Airports National Policy Statement

As many of us are enjoying the delights of national airports at this time of year, (particularly Ryan Air customers[1]), the expansion of Heathrow Airport is facing mounting challenges.

Following the approval by the Government’s economic sub-committee, of the plans to extend Heathrow Airport, as set out in the Airports National Policy Statement (ANPS), Friends of the Earth filed papers with the High Court on 6 August 2018 challenging the lawfulness of the policy. Continue reading Will Heathrow’s Third Runway Take Off?


Reconsidering and Repurposing the High Street: The Grimsey Review 2

by Hazel Nash

With the future of the House of Fraser uncertain following the contentious Company Voluntary Arrangement (CVA), discussions about the future of the high street have resurfaced with greater intensity.

High Streets lined with charity shops, banks, estate agents ... and empty units
High streets lined with charity shops, banks, estate agents … and empty units (Photo: C. Carter)

The publication earlier this month of the Grimsey Review 2 coincides with a Commons Select Committee inquiry into the future of high streets and town centres and the establishment of a new expert advisory panel on the future of the high street. Furthermore, a petition has been submitted to the Scottish Courts challenging the House of Fraser’s CVA on the grounds of unfair prejudice against certain creditors amongst other things (see Endnote 1). What is clear is that the retail industry is changing.  Whether entering into a CVA or an administration process, the result for the high street and for commercial landlords tends to be the vacating of premises and possibly long-term empty retail units. This does little for the health of the high street, often putting greater pressure on those surviving businesses. Indeed, taking the British Home Stores (BHS) premises as example, research undertaken by Cushman & Wakefield found that just 29% of old BHS stores have been relet or resold, leaving 102 premises empty two years on (Bourke, 2018). Continue reading Reconsidering and Repurposing the High Street: The Grimsey Review 2


Enhance your planning skills as a Discover-EU-Ambassador

by Hazel Nash

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…

Image of European Cultural Heritage word cloud
DIscoverEU has made available funding for 18 year olds to explore European cultural heritage

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


Planning for a Greener Future – EU Green Week (21-25 May 2018)

by Hazel Ann Nash

Figure 1: The European Green Week is about (Source: European Commission DG Environment, 2018)
Figure 1: The European Green Week focuses on green(er) cities (Source: European Commission DG Environment, 2018)

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:

“Humanity has the ability to make development sustainable to ensure that it meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs.” (United Nations, 1987, para 27[i]). Continue reading Planning for a Greener Future – EU Green Week (21-25 May 2018)


Civic crowdfunding: a new start for micro urban regeneration?

by Silvia Gullino

The railway line in Peckham London
Figure 1: The railway line (Peckham Coal Line project). Photo: Silvia Gullino

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?


The healthy roots of planning

by Claudia Carter

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


The Essence of an EcoHub

by Anna Pirvola

Creating ideas for what an EcoHub space at BCU could look like. Source: Fariha Ehsanulhaq
Creating ideas for what an EcoHub space at BCU could look like. Source: Fariha Ehsanulhaq

When we first started the EcoHub project in February 2017 it was clear in everybody’s mind that our goal was to scope for a physical space within the BCU campuses that could be turned into a ‘green bay’ an area with tables and chairs, bookshelves, a kettle and cups of tea… The project started off well as we set-up student and staff surveys to gather an understanding of the general greenie mood of the BCU community and to find out about the specific things people would like to see in an eco-space. We also learned that Millennium Point was about to be refurbished which spiked some hope in us to actually find a space right in the beginning of the project which we could base our plans on. We produced a simple room plan and waited impatiently for the survey results. Unfortunately, Continue reading The Essence of an EcoHub


Visioning Our EcoHub

by Alexandra Molnar and Claudia Carter

The inside of the Utrecht Green Office
The Utrecht Green Office. Photo: Kamran Fazil

About a year ago one of the BCU Masters in Environmental Sustainability students planted the idea of a BCU EcoHub, inspired by what he saw in Utrecht while completing his placement on the Pioneer into Practice Programme in the Netherlands.  During his visit at the University of Utrecht, he came across the concept of the Green Office central HUB, where “fresh minds and hands come together to support Utrecht University’s sustainable development”.  He brought this idea home, we developed a Student Academic Partnership (SAP) project idea, received funding, and started to work on this project from February 2017.

About the concept… Continue reading Visioning Our EcoHub