Tag Archives: politics

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?


The missing E and C

by Claudia Carter

Recent political changes have made one thing clear, when it comes to discussions regarding the Environment and Climate change, the talk is weak and the walk in tiny steps, confused or on a retracting path. The Brexit vote waved goodbye to EC membership – for some plausible concerns but largely a fog of nebulous ‘facts’, figures and fairy-tales. But the lack of informed debate, transparency and ‘good news’ continues. The last few weeks have been a political spectacle and a series of short-lived headlines, reporting (or not) one incisive event after another. In terms of decision-making, some interesting and worrying characteristics keep occurring. While change is unavoidable it is not necessarily always for the better as a mixture of new and older changes, in my view, signal.

  1. BBC website

Blog 34 illustration BBC website interfaceLet’s start with something seemingly quite banal, such as the revamp of the BBC website just over a year ago.  The dedicated Environment section, which was useful and informative, disappeared Continue reading The missing E and C


Does Climate Change change our perspective and actions?

by Claudia Carter

London Peoples Climate March 21 Sept 2014_Leonie Greene via twitter
People’s Climate March, London, 21 Sept 2014. Photo by Leonie Greene via twitter

Participation in ‘People’s Climate March’ last week-end was reported from across many cities and continents, with Birmingham contributing its own contingent of citizens’ voices to demand action by UK politicians and other Governments on global climate change. Increasingly, we are confronted with the likely scenario of irreversibility of change – and that is change for the worse rather than better, as rapid environmental change and extreme weather events manifest themselves faster than technological utopian remedies. Sluggish energy-related targets and policies across sectors that hang onto economic growth fairytales are beginning to frustrate an increasing number of not so happily ever after citizens. Yet, the September demonstrations showed their own ugly dilemmas of modern consumerism and mobility: how to reduce negative impacts in travelling to climate change events and reduce adding high-energy trash of convenience foods and drinks – the hypocrisy being captured by some media photos of rubbish left behind.

Quote 1 for Blog 22In the larger scheme of things though, I was rather impressed by the appetite for effective ‘real’ action to help curb the emissions and negative impacts of our carbon-hungry industries and associated superfluous life-styles. Continue reading Does Climate Change change our perspective and actions?


The future of urban form and infrastructure: more effective management of flooding and other challenges

by Peter Larkham

“Plan boldly!” (Lord Reith, 19401)

Photo of flooded residential area at Wimborne, February 2014
Flooding on the Stour, Wimborne, Dorset.
Photo: Ian Kirk (via Flickr)

The recent floods are just one example of the problems we are likely to face in the coming 50-100 years as a result of environmental and social change.  Traditional urban forms are vulnerable, and current ways of planning are weak and slow to respond.

I spent a day recently at an ‘expert symposium’ on the future of urban form and infrastructure, part of the Government Office for Science’s “Foresight Future of Cities” project.  It was a fascinating and wide-ranging discussion with a good range of experienced academics and professionals.  But it actually said very little about form or infrastructure in any detail.  We largely accepted that much existing research had already identified good and bad form, and in fact the key to better urbanism in the future was better management, at all scales.

So, acknowledging ideas from the assembled experts (though anonymised via Chatham House rules), there are some radical lessons for planning and management. Continue reading The future of urban form and infrastructure: more effective management of flooding and other challenges


Are the Streets of London Really Paved with Gold?

by Roger Wall

 

Hey!  This is one question to which I think I know the answer.  That’s unless they’ve been doing a lot of expensive repaving work since I was there a couple of weekends ago to see the Rolling Stones in Hyde Park.  The reason I’m so confident that nothing will have changed is that the government is too busy saving up so that it can build HS2.  This (of course) is the high speed rail link that seems designed to get us all to the capital as quickly as possible.  Despite controversy over the economic case, the environmental consequences and the (lack of) social benefits (not to mention a sudden £10bn price-hike a couple of weeks ago), the government seems determined to drive this one through.  It’s only track ‘n’ rolling stock but they like it.

Quote Blog 10A few things occur to me.  For a start, why are we all so desperate to get to the Big Smoke?  Sure, it’s a great place and I like going there; but Birmingham’s pretty good too and I’ve also heard nice things about Manchester, Nottingham and Sheffield (feel free to amend this list to suit your own preferences).  I spent a few years living in Germany and one of the things that struck me over there was the way in which the major cities all had their own identities and sense of importance.  Perhaps this was a consequence of the (then) capital being the relatively small town of Bonn (which might give a clue as to how long ago I was there) but it always seemed very healthy to me.  One of the ‘pro’ arguments I’ve heard for HS2 is that it will allow people flying to Birmingham to get to London quicker.  Is ‘Birmingham International Airport’ destined to become ‘London North’?  Surely, it would be better if the people actually wanted to stay in Birmingham. But don’t start me up on that one.

Continue reading Are the Streets of London Really Paved with Gold?


The Growth of the NUMBY

by Roger Wall

Gasland movie cover and trailor linkDoes the Earth move for You? If you live in the North West of England, it already has on a couple of occasions and may well do so more often in the future.  After a one-year moratorium on exploratory fracking, the Government has decided that the scientific evidence does not link the practice of forcing liquids into the ground at high pressures to crack rocks with the occurrence of earthquakes.  Moreover, within weeks of this ground-breaking decision (did you see what I did there?), it has decided to offer huge tax incentives to companies wishing to exploit the supposedly vast reserves of shale gas beneath our feet (or at least under the feet of those who live in the North West).  So after a few wobbles, energy policy appears to have shaken off its reservations, papered over any cracks in the science and embraced shale gas as the next cheap energy alternative.

Continue reading The Growth of the NUMBY


Has Health and Safety Gone Mad?

Has Health & Safety gone too far?
Has Health & Safety gone too far?

by Ian McDonald

On 11th June, the Construction workers’ Union (UCATT) held a rally entitled ‘SOS: Save our Safety’ in an attempt to “highlight and expose the … Government’s attacks on health and safety”. This stems from a speech given by the Prime Minister, David Cameron, in January 2012 in which he told an invited audience of entrepreneurs and representatives from small businesses that he is “waging a war against the excessive health and safety culture that has become an albatross around the neck of British business”.

Mr Cameron’s comments were, unsurprisingly, well-received by much of the written press – who have been at the forefront

Continue reading Has Health and Safety Gone Mad?