Urban Update 5 March 2024

News and Research

Built Environment 


Developers still building high-rises that won’t meet future regulations >>>>


Bristol on brink of 'co-living' housing boom as tower blocks set for approval >>>>


M&S wins court challenge to Gove’s block on razing of Oxford Street store >>>>

Judicial review holds that the Secretary of State did not apply planning policy correctly. 

Henrietta Billings from SAVE, which has campaigned for the re-use of the existing building, commented that the case had focused “widespread public attention on the wasteful knock-it-down-and-build-again process that has dominated our construction sector for the last 100 years.” 

The knock-it down-and-build again process is zero rated for VAT, whereas refurbishment projects are penalised with 20% VAT.  This disparity is wholly at odds with other Government environmental and climate change policies.

Full Judgement
It is worth reading the judgement to see how the law operates. It can be understood by anyone with a reasonable understanding of English and a little patience.  Much revolves around what the National Planning Policy (and other policy documents)  actually say.  Eg: "it is important to note that where the NPPF wishes to create a presumption, or suggest or direct refusal if certain conditions are not met, this is made clear on the face of the NPPF"

Impact of single and combined local air pollution mitigation measures in an urban environment - Science of The Total Environment

This study finds that while Low Emission Zones are the most effective single measure to improve local air quality, for greatest impact they should be combined with green infrastructure.

Why daylight should be a priority for urban planning - Journal of Urban Management

This study emphasises the importance of daylight for health and well-being and addresses the tendency of higher densities in urban areas to reduce people’s exposure and access to sunlight. It refers to a high prevalence of vitamin D deficiency in many cities, such as Singapore, as evidence of this.
The paper therefore proposes that sunlight be treated as a resource like water and energy, and be paid close attention to in urban planning.

Humans, Health, Society


A trip to Selkirk, where 'independent shops are flourishing' >>>>


UK teens believe they will have harder lives than their parents, research finds >>>>


Australian cities hollow out as younger families move out and inner suburbs get older >>>>


Subjective social integration and its spatially varying determinants of rural-to-urban migrants among Chinese cities - Scientific Reports

This paper reviews aspects of social integration and examines how someone’s individual characteristics, family characteristics, policy participation, social participation, and other factors influences their subjective sense of social integration.
The study uses data on migrant’s attitudes to their local cities to map differences across 246 cities in China.
In North China, the paper finds that a lack of participation in local decision making and voting is a key issue, while for South China it identifies housing shortage as the greatest factor, with housing prices discouraging migrants from settling down. It further criticises the existence of a closed “factory society” due to an abundance of enterprises, which limits people's ability to establish local social ties.

Social “Integration” vs “Liquid Lifestyles” - International Migration Review

This paper imagines a more fluid idea of migration where immigrants are less attached to settling in and having themselves assimilated into a new area, and instead adopt a “liquid lifestyle”. It uses surveys of 6242 Latvian emigrants to attempt to ground this concept, and considers what integration really means.
From the survey responses, the paper suggests that migrants staying for a short term see integration in instrumental or functional terms, being able to navigate the environment and communicate with locals effectively and comfortably, above more abstract senses of belonging.
The paper presents this “functional adaptation” as a first stage before “deep integration” defined as “a socio-psychological process at the core of which is a change in identity and social embedding in the local community and society”, and finally “assimilation”, where a migrant fully blends into the receiving society.
Nevertheless, the paper notes that “there is often no homogenous society to integrate into (particularly in superdiverse cities)”, with migrants tending to “integrate into smaller “bubbles” (groups or networks) that they are members of—their work teams, international educational campuses and ethnic communities or even sub-cultures”.
The paper emphasises that “it is important that any attempts to facilitate integration should become more holistic, dynamic, and open-minded, and take into account the unique perspectives and needs of migrants”.

Natural Environment 


Marmore, the Highest and Oldest Artificial Waterfall in Europe, Created by the Romans >>>>


Politics, Philosophy, Economics


The role of vertical segregation in multi-story buildings - Nature Cities

Looking in particular at Athens, this paper examines segregation within urban neighbourhoods, referring to the presence of a social divide between people living on different floors of multi-storey buildings and apartment blocks.
The paper therefore emphasises the challenges to policies designed to encourage social mixing purely by bringing unequal social groups closer in space: “Simply mixing social groups in space does not lead to social integration. Segregation is more an outcome and less a cause of urban social inequalities.”
The article also stresses that key to social mixing is the establishment of ties and functional relationships and understanding between people and communities over time. As such, rapid changes of social make-up such as gentrification often disrupt these features and so nurture antagonistic interactions among completely unrelated groups in a sense competing for space.

Smart city development as spatial manifestations of 21st century capitalism - Technological Forecasting and Social Change

This paper briefly summarises and draws together modern understandings of capitalism before examining how these can be applied to smart cities, analysing how these serve to capture and concentrate financial, human, physical, natural and social capital to maximise profit. The article emphasises the role that digitalisation plays in this regard.
It suggests that “behind the alluring story of the smart city as a promising way of making human life ever more convenient, efficient and intelligent, there is a far less elevating reality of hard-nosed and ruthless shareholders subordinating any aspect of natural, human and social life to technological innovation”.
The paper, nevertheless, stresses the ability of local institutions and customs to play a mitigating role in the tendency of smart cities to intensify inequality, and explores bottom-up alternative routes for smart cities.



Coventry Very Light Rail system - progress >>>>

Coventry Very Light Rail is a research and development project, using the latest automotive expertise in the region to develop an innovative track design and vehicle, and deliver an affordable light rail system, for Coventry and beyond.

Rush-hour LTN to curb traffic in Greenwich and Blackheath, council confirms >>>>


Mixed views one month on from LTN removal from Jesmond, in Newcastle >>>>


Work starts on expanding 20mph zone in Ely >>>>


Energy and Climate Change


Gardens in England and Wales blooming four weeks early, says National Trust >>>>


Peterborough's Flag Fen archaeologist warns of climate change >>>>


Norfolk broads boat firms concerned for future after sustained raised water levels prevent boats pass under the famous medieval Potter Heigham bridge (built 1385) >>>>


Mobilizing institutional capacities to adapt to climate change: local government collaboration networks for risk management in Mexico City - npj Climate Action


Heatwaves and homelessness - Perspectives in Public Health

This article highlights a lack of relevant peer-reviewed evidence in the United Kingdom Health Security Agency’s guidance for supporting homeless people before and during hot weather.