Saturday, 31 October 2009
The magazine was, 'The Economist' and the 'main draw' was an article and a Leader comment on 'Falling Fertility' across the world.
Apparently the fall in fertility is both very large and very fast and soon half of humanity will be having only enough children to replace itself - the fertility rate of half the world will be 2.1 or below.
How this decline will relate to global environmental damage is of course another matter and this is covered in more detail in the 'Leader'.
I am glad I treated myself, and I think they have a few copies left in Inverness stores.
(No, neither I nor anyone I know works for them as far as I am aware; they have just got a plug on the basis of including some food for further thought.)
"The Scottish Government is a member of the Climate Change Officer Support Group, chaired by COSLA, which supports COSLA's Elected Member Climate Change Task Group in developing and reviewing the local government climate change response."
The link provided above is as per that found on the SG web site and takes you to the COSLA web site page Regeneration and Sustainable Development Executive Group. Confused; must be because it is a weekend!
What will it actually mean in practice? If you have any info please do let us know, and that is a really big PLEASE.
"The scientific evidence for climate change gets stronger by the week."
"Yet something is not right. Despite an Amazonian forest worth of reports, studies, documents, guidance, advice and media stories, the message is only partially getting through to many at the planning or development coalface. For some, it is not getting through at all. There is only so much that cheering from the sidelines can achieve. It is up to the players on the pitch."
What is the Scottish Government saying?
"The Scottish Government recognises that climate change will have far reaching effects on Scotland's economy, its people and its environment and is determined to play its part in rising to this challenge - and, through our strong action, influence other nations to do the same."
"Climate change is one of the most serious threats we face. Urgent action is needed to cut emissions which cause climate change. The Scottish Climate Change Bill will introduce a target to reduce emissions by 80 per cent by 2050, and a statutory framework to support delivery."
(Alex Salmond, First Minister September 2008)
The Climate Change (Scotland) Act 2009 contains the following text:
57 Duty to produce a land use strategy
- (1) The Scottish Ministers must, no later than 31 March 2011, lay a land use strategy before the Scottish Parliament.
- (2) The strategy must, in particular, set out—
- (a) the Scottish Ministers’ objectives in relation to sustainable land use;
- (b) their proposals and policies for meeting those objectives; and
- (c) the timescales over which those proposals and policies are expected to take effect.
I am off to find out.
"Ray Furlong visits Spain's Mediterranean resorts to hear how members of the country's one million-strong British expatriate community are weathering the recession. High unemployment in the construction and tourist sectors means that boom-time on the Costas is over, translating into increased home repossessions and divorce rates."
Next on: Monday 2 Nov 2009, 11:00 on BBC Radio 4
Friday, 30 October 2009
And tomorrow on 'Open Country', Queen guitarist Brian May uncovers the story of an Oxfordshire village captured in time by Victorian photographic pioneer T.R. Williams.Extract:
"May has been fascinated by 3-D images since collecting cereal packet picture cards as a boy. He was particularly intrigued by a set of stereoscopic images of village life taken by photographic pioneer T.R. Williams. Further investigation revealed all the images to be 3-D pictures of the tiny Oxfordshire village of Hinton Waldrist, taken in the 1850s."
"A recent housing study undertaken for The Highland Council has highlighted a chronic and persistent lack of affordable housing in the Highlands. "
For more details click here and APTSec has contacted THC to ask for a copy of the study mentioned in the news release - and I have to say spoken to an extremely cheery and helpful lady who was answering the 702000 number (in fact those who have answered the phone to APTSec at this number have been most helpful and pleasant)
The Highland Council's Housing Strategy 2003-2008 (September 2003) is also currently available on the web site, and it contains some interesting facts; for example:
"In terms of housing, the Badenoch & Strathspey Area is one of the most stressed. It is also the fastest growing mainly due to a large in-migration of households at or near retirement age. Its population is older than the Highland average and is ageing significantly. Employment is mainly based on the tourism industry and so low/seasonal and insecure incomes affect people’s ability to compete in the housing market. Due to high levels of second / holiday home ownership, many houses in the area are not accessible to the local population but they are important to the local economy. Average house prices are the highest in Highland and fewer houses are being sold at
the cheaper end of the market76. There is considerable need and demand for affordable rented housing. The very high number of properties sold through the Right to Buy is thought to have contributed to this."
"The Caithness population has been declining over the last ten years and projections suggest that this trend will continue over the next decade, mainly due to out-migration. However, the extent of this will be dependent on the success of economic initiatives. An ageing population will accompany the decline in population, with numbers of people under 44 expected to drop at a higher rate than expected across the rest of Highland. Caithness includes a number of communities considered to be ‘fragile’ particularly in the south-east. In general, unemployment is similar to the Highland average although there are pockets of deprivation, with unemployment being highest in Wick."
"Inverness City dominates this area – it has a third of Highland’s population. The Inner
Moray Firth is one of the fastest growing areas experiencing population growth along
with significant employment growth, anticipated to continue due to its relatively
buoyant economy and inward investment. In-migration, a current (and projected)
population that is generally younger (although with above average ageing in Ross and
Cromarty) and the overall trend towards smaller households all contribute to a
projected substantial growth in households and growing demand for housing in the
area over the next five years.
"Demand for social rented housing is much greater than current supply across the area and particularly within Nairn and the rural communities of Inverness. Most people are applying to living in Inverness where the Council’s housing waiting list is increasing at a faster rate than average. Inverness has most of Highland’s homelessness. There are small pockets of deprivation and lower demand housing evident in the Inner Moray Firth. Although Inverness’s private rented housing sector is growing there are indications that demand is greater than supply, and turnover is high. There is a very high projected shortfall of social rented housing to meet need, particularly in Inverness"
"The population in Lochaber has fallen and whilst this trend is expected to continue (although small), there is a projected growth in people aged 35 – 54. Population increases have been highest in the rural communities around Fort William. Whilst the area has low levels of unemployment it is very dependent on tourism and so low and insecure incomes, combined with high costs of living, affect people’s ability to meet their housing needs on the open market."
"There is a lack of housing for locals and key workers and the availability and cost of housing is a key constraint on attracting employees into the area, which is affecting economic activity. Applications for Council and housing association housing are increasing, both in Fort William and in surrounding villages, and there is above average demand compared to supply. Supply of social rented housing is not expected to meet housing needs. High levels of Right to Buy Council house sales have resulted in over half being sold."
"Skye and Lochalsh is one of Highland’s most pressured and fastest growing areas. The population is expected to increase particularly through in-migration of those at or near retirement. An above average increase of older people is expected. Some remote rural communities are regarded as ‘fragile’. Employment growth around Portree and Broadford is increasing housing stress in the area."
"Sutherland’s population is very sparse and this impacts on issues, service delivery and policy responses. There is a difference in the type of issues facing the east and north/ western areas of Sutherland. Considerable population decreases are projected, particularly those aged between 35-54 and young people. There are more older people, compared with Highland, and a significant increase in elderly households is projected. There are very high unemployment levels and seasonally fluctuating employment. Economic decline is the main issue to contend with and a large number of communities are ‘fragile’ and in need of economic regeneration."
"This area is characterised by small, dispersed settlements. The population in Wester Ross
has marginally increased, particularly in the small west settlements. Whilst it is expected to remain stable, there are, on average, more elderly people and there is projected to be a significant drop in the 15-34 age group reflecting the continuing fragility of this area and decline in economic activity. House prices are similar to the Highland average although prices at the cheaper end of the market are higher than elsewhere and rising faster than prices overall. This may cause problems for low income households trying to access home ownership. High prices are possibly due to houses tending to be larger than elsewhere and/or because of in-migration of households (purchasing retirement or second homes) increasing prices and putting pressure on the housing market."
Thursday, 29 October 2009
According to their web site:
SWT's Head of Policy, Tony King said “This planning proposal is ludicrous. It offers no benefit whatsoever to the local community. The Scottish Wildlife Trust believes this development will damage irreparably a hugely important area for Scotland’s natural heritage.
For full item click here
Wednesday, 28 October 2009
"A factory unit has been allowed in a County Durham woodland after an inspector decided that the policy presumption in favour of industrial development outweighed the site's ecological, educational and recreational value."
Read more here
It just goes to show the importance of statutory protection and local plan policies.
Read more here and perhaps leave a comment.
Tuesday, 27 October 2009
The leader of the Green party has demanded the EU launch a full investigation into American tycoon Donald Trump's plans for a golf resort in Aberdeenshire
"Under EU law, an environmental statement should have been submitted for the five supplementary applications which have now been approved. This didn’t happen, so denying members of the public an opportunity to fully comment on the applications – and planning officers the chance to give proper advice on environmental impact and recommended mitigation."
Shadow housing minister Grant Shapps has accused the government of creating a nation of NIMBYs, failing on house-building and exacerbating the housing crisis.
What he is reported to have said:
"This government’s insistence on ignoring local people and removing their power and control means that, despite the housing shortage, Labour has left in its wake a deep suspicion of house-builders and developers. A new generation of NIMBYs has been created as a direct response to the government’s own misguided attempt to make something happen."
"So our Local Housing Trusts will give communities the power to grant themselves permission to build. The land will be locked in for village use forever, while the homes that are needed are built."
To read the bits in between click here
Shame he used the word NIMBY
"Deprived communities have been hardest hit by the downturn, according to a new report.
Social policy research charity the Joseph Rowntree Foundation (JRF) has published a study examining the impact of the current and previous recessions on neighbourhoods and exploring what can be done to minimise the damage."
Monday, 26 October 2009
Sunday, 25 October 2009
It was interesting that when the HwLDP Main Issues Report was first put before the PED Committee back in August, one of the elected members from a NW Highlands constituency noted with concern the incorporation of the earlier Halcrow-drafted A96 Corridor Framework Plan into the new draft. He warned that the Council seemed to be "putting all their development eggs into the A96 Corridor basket". He noted that the bulk of the development opportunities, the proposal for a new town, the extensive designation of new land for housing, and the associated investment and infrastructure, were all targeted on the relatively small and already heavily-developed area stretching from East Inverness to Nairn.
Of course as a representative from North Highland, he might perhaps be expected to say that. But the Council planners' own accounts of the consultation-meetings around the Highlands suggest that he has put his finger on one aspect of the draft plans which finds an echo - in different ways - around the entire region.
The Council's reports of the public meetings around the Western and Northern Highlands reveal that there have been recurrent calls for a better balance. People at consultation meetings in Easter Ross, in Fort William, at Golspie, on Skye, and in Lochaber, have all questioned the emphasis on the Inner Moray Firth/A96 corridor and called on the Council to readjust its priorities. The HWLDP's own blog reports residents on Skye as saying that the plan "should not concentrate too much on Inverness and the A96 at the expense of the remoter areas of Highland."
At the same time one of the clear themes to emerge from the meetings held at centres within the A96 Corridor has been serious disquiet over the scale and density of new building and development proposed for this part of the region. The justification for a complete new town at Tornagrain has already been challenged repeatedly over the past few years. All along the so-called A96 Corridor the residents have begun to register, with alarm, the massive expansion in population and housing envisaged for the Inner Moray Firth. In Nairn, residents have expressed serious misgivings about plans which aim at doubling the size of Nairn's population within the next 30 years (and still with no firm timetable or funding commitment to a bypass - but that's another story). Some suspect that Nairn is to become an "overspill" town for people who have to be rehoused as a result of Inverness City's own riverside-redevelopment plans. The Council's wider aspiration of a total increase in the population of the region far in excess of even the government's official "high-migration" forecasts has raised serious concerns.
These views are in effect two sides of the same coin: the Inner Moray Firth worried about overdevelopment, and many other more peripheral areas of the Highlands afraid they are missing out on investment, growth and infrastructure.
The reaction of Council planners thus far has been to point out - quite accurately - that the pressure from developers is to build along the A96 Corridor. This is hardly surprising. The land is flat and accessible, which might enable a lot of high-density housing construction; and such development, especially if urged on by policies aimed at further expansion of services, employment and facilities in Inverness, will find a ready market and be extremely profitable.
But it does raise the question of whether the Council's plans are being shaped by the ambitions of developers rather than the interests of all the residents of the Highlands, and it casts some doubt on the Council's avowed mission "to create sustainable communities balancing population growth and economic development across the area".
Unsurprisingly, therefore, for different but complementary reasons, the consultation is producing calls from the public for the planners to rethink their "spatial strategy". The message is that the planners should look again at the location and scale of proposed development, and should explore other options for the expansion of Inverness. This might usefully include more decentralisation and dispersal of the administrative and economic activity currently concentrated in the city, in order to achieve a better balance.
The councillor who spoke in committee about eggs and baskets was both shrewd and prescient. It will be interesting to see how far the Council planning department takes this on board in the drafting of the new plan.