Category Archives: Comment

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.

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 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


How can agriculture and land management address the pressing concerns of ecological and public health? Part 2: Food Thinkers Seminar

Food Thinkers Seminar on Sustainable Diets held at London City University, 24 May 2017. Photo: Veronica Barry
Food Thinkers Seminar on Sustainable Diets held at London City University, 24 May 2017. Photo: Veronica Barry

by Veronica Barry

In the same week as the Pegasus Workshop (see Blog 39), on 24th May, the London City University’s Centre for Food Policy held the Food Thinkers seminar, billed as ‘How can we make progress on ‘normalizing’ sustainable diets?’.  The event brought the relationships between agriculture, food production and consumption with ecological and human health into sharp focus.

As a backdrop to the discussion, Professor Tim Lang introduced his new book Sustainable Diets: How Ecological Nutrition Can Transform Consumption and the Food System (Mason and Lang; 2017).  The book argues that with the growing understanding of the impacts of food production, food systems and unsustainable consumption patterns on the global environment, an urgent shift is needed in the way we produce and consume food, in order to protect human and planetary health. Continue reading How can agriculture and land management address the pressing concerns of ecological and public health? Part 2: Food Thinkers Seminar


Conflict and Cheetahs

by Claudia Carter

The news of endangered species, extinctions and near extinctions seems hardly to bat many eyelids or feature in news channels.  Unless it is a species which seems to strike a chord or has some sort of direct meaning.  And here, the cheetah features.

Cheetah Outreach Trust_photo by Thierry Plaud
Cheetahs are known for their speed. Photo: Thierry Plaud, Cheetah Outreach

For me, living in England, and not a great fan of caged animals / zoos, thinking about cheetahs was triggered about a year ago when I received an email from Rosie Wilkes who works at the West Midland Safari Park and in her spare time helps raise awareness and support for Cheetah Outreach.  Not teaching biology or environmental conservation as such I thought what on earth does this have to do with my modules, amongst it ‘Complexity, Conflict and Resolution’ for the MSc Environmental Sustainability which focuses on environmental governance and conflict resolution.  As it turned out, much more than I had anticipated. Continue reading Conflict and Cheetahs


Runway economics or plane stupid?

by Claudia Carter

How much airport expansion is good for society? (Source: https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:The_Runway,_Heathrow_airport.jpg?uselang=en-gb)
How much air traffic expansion is good for society? (Source: https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File: The_Runway,_Heathrow_airport.jpg?uselang=en-gb)

 

Development debates often tend to juxtapose environmental concerns with the need for economic growth and job creation. The decision by Parliament today to support the expansion of Heathrow Airport with a third runway, is a good case in point.  An expansion, no doubt, will create more jobs in construction and transport industry, and is likely to result in all sorts of knock-on retail and service-related economic benefits (also a very good job and research opportunities for our building surveying, quantity surveying and engineering students).  There is also of course a long list of environmental and social impacts that are rather unattractive, such as a significant increase in air pollution (from airplanes and increases in associated road traffic) and noise pollution and vibration for those living near the airport, as many prominent politicians and (environmental and resident) lobby groups have highlighted.

Who wins? Who loses? We may be able to quickly identify obvious winners – such as construction firms; air travel companies and supply chain; business and private air travellers – and losers, for example those experiencing the noise and vibration; tax payers who prefer green investment; further deterioration of land, water and air-encompassing ecosystems.  What is rarely talked about in such balance sheets, however, are the indirect but heavy prices paid by society overall.  Continue reading Runway economics or plane stupid?


Spielberg, Dystopia and … Birmingham

by David Adams and Wil Vincent

Birmingham Street used in Spielberg'd forthcoming film
Spielberg in Birmingham. Source: https://www.flickr.com/photos/ell-r-brown/28978795090

Some people will have picked-up on Steven Spielberg’s recent visit to Birmingham.  The director of E.T., Jaws, Schindler’s List, Jurassic Park and current hit The BFG was shooting footage for his dystopian sci-fi thriller, Ready Player One – the film adaptation of the award-winning novel by Ernest Cline.  Set in 2044 with many people living in bleak stacks of homes piled on top of each other; this forms a rather grim urban backdrop.  Photographs of the Birmingham filming locations posted on Twitter, for example, show graffiti-covered walls, streets covered with litter and smashed cars.[i]  The film is scheduled for release in 2018.

Pollution, over-crowding, man-made and natural disasters, and controlling forces of surveillance, all feature Continue reading Spielberg, Dystopia and … Birmingham


Green water, gold medals and, er, infrastructure!

by David Adams

Swimmer sitting on jumping board and looking  at green water body
Peering into to the green depths. Source: https://www.flickr.com/photos/midnightcomm/688063200

The Olympic Games in Rio are in full flight and the gold medal rush continues. Much talk in recent days, though, has focused on how the diving pool has turned from a sparkly azure blue colour at the beginning of the Games to something with a peculiarly green and murky tinge.  Various explanations have been put forward to explain what has happened, though it is still not entirely clear why.[i]  Divers have been assured that the water is safe, and the competition continued, but the event has stirred some deep-rooted fears regarding water quality.

Concerns about water extend beyond the Olympics.  In Beijing, for example, the city is experiencing dramatic subsidence because of the extraction of groundwater; Continue reading Green water, gold medals and, er, infrastructure!