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papers presented in Glasgow on 17 January 1996


david jarman

paul mcternan

nick brown

michael thornley

gordon cox

drew mackie

howard liddell

ian crawley

tim birley


introduced by  roger kelly


with a contribution by  colin ward






papers presented in Glasgow on 17 January 1996






- a personal view from Scotland’s Central Belt

david jarman


- putting Moray’s policies into place  

paul mcternan

-Moray’s design approach                                                                            

nick brown


- Whinhill and Kinlochleven      

michael thornley


- Tweed Horizons sustainable technology centre

gordon cox


drew mackie and howard liddell


ian crawley


- A positive agenda for planners

tim birley



colin ward



Design for the Scottish Environment (Battleby Conference1994)                                                        


GREEN PLANNING papers presented in Glasgow on 17 January 1996


On 17 January 1996, the Scottish Ecological Design Association held a Green Planning conference in Glasgow as part of The Planning Exchange seminar series of continuing education for planners.   Attended by 60 participants and speakers, the event surveyed aspects of today’s green agenda.   Sustainable development may have become a talisman of the times, but what does it signify for planners in practical terms?   Are the changes that planning can influence any more than just marginal?   If only long term results are possible, are tidal forces in the development process, or ways in which we are using the environment, remorselessly carrying these advantages away?   Are cultural changes going to be more important than policy ones?   And are people informed and empowered to unlock the resources and enterprise which can make a difference in their own locality?   The papers that follow set out to look at these issues.   SEDA is founded in the belief that environmental understanding and design can make a difference, but our perspective needs realism as well as enthusiasm.


So the proceedings begin with David Jarman’s sharp reminder that meeting local needs locally depends on more than the simple disposition of land uses.   His personal view of Sustainable development from theory to practice exposes the difficulties of transposing city-centric and rural ideas of sustainability to in-between areas like West Lothian where most new growth occurs.   We may seek to reduce the need for travel.   But travel by car he points out, whether to work, to school, to shop, or to leisure activity, has come to be valued in itself, with a vast web of journeys disposed over an almost infinite number of origins and destinations.


David Jarman says that deflecting this inherited momentum of personal preference will take more than the little we can do under existing powers to rearrange development locations or transport infrastructure.   It is, he argues, more a matter of education in community benefits, and going with the grain of awareness, acceptance and self-interest.   And he suspects that society will only adapt to threats to its existing lifestyle when it meets them nose-to-window.   He elaborates on the distinction between hard and soft sustainability.   He suggests some hard new powers for government to consider.   Planning authorities, he reckons, will be left to juggle with softer issues which are difficult to be definite about.   They may be able to justify decisions in sustainability terms only on rare occasions where site-specific reasons can be found.


Picking up the issues raised in his paper, from lowland crofting to central Scotland’s place in Europe, David Jarman would argue of course that planning is no mere controlling mechanism.   It can have the power to inspire and transform.   To see how sustainable development policies can be made effective, we can look at a ready-made example, where a planning authority has used the language of design to transform negative forces into positive ones.   It shows how fair and consistent controls are welcomed when it can be demonstrated vividly that there are practical ways of doing things better.


Five years ago, Moray District found itself up against a threat to its local environment; massive numbers of applications for new houses in the countryside, with no consistent policy basis on which to determine them.   The story of how this was turned round is the subject of  Paul McTernan and Nick Brown‘s presentations on putting green planning policy in place.


Paul McTernan’s paper gives us a fascinating insight into the difference that clear planning and design policies can make.   Slow decisionmaking, inconsistent decisions and a rash of unsympathetic housing development across the district  -these were Moray’s lot in 1990.   The Chief Reporter wrote of  “near Delphic policies for rural development control which have given rise to an increased number of appeals from aggrieved applicants... ...policies invite the suspicion that rural applications are determined by prejudice, favour or caprice.”   The planning response was to put in place a new strategy strongly focused on the community’s stated aim of regeneration and protection of the natural environment.   This would give development controllers a proper set of tools  to work with.   As Paul McTernan says: ”we felt we had to raise expectation levels, embrace new advancements in building technology and ecological design and move the entire debate into the realm of the 21st century”.   The planning response made full use of local expertise.   Summers were spent in village halls and community centres exploring what policy would work to safeguard local welfare and environment.   Councillors, community councils and associations helped to identify boundaries, development opportunities and amenity areas for the 73 rural communities and gave local advice on practical points of ground conditions and drainage.   Consultation was also sought with every agent and architect in the District.    The strategy has been clearly explained and illustrated, with applicants encouraged to recycle derelict sites and reuse existing infrastructure.   Paul McTernan’s paper describes results that speak for themselves.   More is now approved, and more quickly, because the standard of applications has been transformed.


Moray’s approach emphasises rural communities and the reuse of derelict sites and buildings.  But new housing in the open countryside is not prohibited, and Nick Brown’s paper takes us inside the design philosophy which informs the policies and illustrations of the Moray plan.   “A designer, like a cook, has to establish his ingredients and recipe.”   Nick Brown wants us to focus on qualities, not on the minute detail of solitary elements.   He describes the major issues for Moray and explores the inner meaning of vernacular architecture.   What he seeks is a mindshift, a radical change in housing design practice where the priorities are regard, respect and integration, not “decorative bedroom balcony with panoramic views”, or ”arched entranceway with optional bullnosed reconstituted stone panels.”   When, he asks, will a main elevation again openly greet the visitor, with a front door which says “do come in” as opposed to “welcome to my double garage”?


One of the most notable results of the Moray design initiative has been the effect on designs submitted, and Paul McTernan and Nick Brown showed plenty of examples of these.   The next paper presented in Glasgow was an illustrated one which likewise stressed the indivisibility of design and place.   In preparing proposals, how does a designer respond to ideas about sustainable development?


Michael Thornley is an architect who attended the 1994 Battleby conference on Energy conservation and sustainability issues in a Scottish context organised by RIAS, EDAS and SEDA (see notes on page 71).   His presentation on Green Schemes: projects at Whinhill and Kinlochleven concludes that green initiatives are unlikely to succeed without the full participation of the users in the planning process, and that emotional and spiritual issues should not be ignored in the drive towards the functional and economic justifications for green planning.   Michael Thornley describes the thinking behind his approach to these projects.   Both projects are at the initial, concept stages and may or may not be implemented.


At the start of the Green Planning afternoon session, the twin concepts of ecology and economics are brought together by Gordon Cox of Tweed Horizons in his paper on Sustainable business.    As business manager of this centre for sustainable technology promoted by Scottish Borders Enterprise, he has tried to realize the links between environmental concern and economic development.   The sustainable development agenda is very firmly established, not something quirky, he argues, and so we should see sustainable development targets as real business opportunities.   The centre at Tweed Horizons aims to capitalise on these opportunities for the future benefit of the Borders and of Scotland.   Gordon Cox takes us through some of its achievements and potential.  


Howard Liddell and Drew Mackie of Gaia Planning present the next paper: Energy conservation and planning which parallels their approach to a recent study commissioned by The Scottish Office.   Although individual planners and local authorities may be aware of a responsibility to encourage energy conservation, the speakers find no commonly accepted way forward.   Their presentation covers some of the key themes they identify as most important, and offers a matrix of planning levels and topics where action through the planning system could be valuable.   Liddell and Mackie describe promising possible actions under a number of heads: the form of development (Landscape, landform, layout and built form); transport, mixed use; optimising compactness (without overlooking the inevitable complications); regeneration and reuse; agency coordination; energy partnerships; local energy management; education and auditing.   They point out that much of the work on the relation of urban form and energy use centres on transport issues, and warn that planners will need to take a broader view if energy conservation is to become a fully effective concept in day-to-day work.   Planners will also need to find ways of talking about sustainability that are accessible to the general public who must start to own these ideas if they are to be effective - simple rules of thumb that allow local people to judge projects “in terms of how they improve or damage local sustainability.”   Starting with professional education, they argue, energy conservation must become a normal part of planning not the special preserve of experts.   And they see Local Agenda 21 as giving a new framework that can be used as a base for actions and initiatives.


The next paper is from Islington’s Ian Crawley, who had addressed RTPI’s Training Conference on Are You Delivering Quality? at the Strathclyde Business School in 1993.   At that time, he had told his audience:   “Lets not kid ourselves.   Planning in particular, and local government in general, deserved much of the flak it received in the 80s.”   Why?  Along with a couple of other reasons, because planning was secretive, the public were excluded, and people had few rights and were unaware of even these.   He had thrown in the story unfavourably comparing the average Council office with McDonalds: “McDonalds is bright and clean, they always seem to be open, service is prompt, the staff is helpful and polite and always apologise when they are unable to answer problems.”   What can this speaker tell us today about steps to enable local communities to become more involved in environmental decisions?   Local empowerment is a crucial issue for green planning, a key plank of the agreements by world governments at Rio.   One approach to these issues is set out here in Ian Crawley’s paper, Agenda 21 and local empowerment.   Scottish readers thinking about schemes for decentralisation will be interested in Islington’s 12 multi-service Neighbourhood Offices each serving around 15,000 residents and each with a Neighbourhood Forum, annually elected.   They may also be intrigued by the use of officer delegation as a way to involve local groups in decisionmaking.   “For example, I have 100% delegated powers for planning applications if a Forum’s Planning Sub-Group accepts my recommendation.   If not, and a compromise cannot be agreed, the report is referred to the Council’s Development Sub-Committee for decision.”


Tim Birley, Director of the Centre for Human Ecology at the University of Edinburgh, presents the final paper Sustainable development: a positive agenda for planners.   With a long record of interest in sustainable development, both in academic work and government service, Tim Birley is emphatically positive without underestimating the difficulties.   Like Gordon Cox, he argues that sustainable development is mainstream and increasingly part of our day to day business.   Like Patrick Geddes, he wants us to keep our sights on the bigger picture, while taking all the small, practical steps we can to make a difference.   Sustainable development means widening the scope of consideration in any decision.   It means thinking about a long timespan.   This is what planning is all about, too.   Planning can’t claim responsibility for all of the sustainable development agenda.   But it is in a special position, says Tim Birley, because of its statutory basis within the democratic process.   And the kind of policies which have been at the heart of our planning system in Scotland will be reinforced by and aligned with sustainable development.   Tim Birley sees special opportunities for planners to engage with sustainable development issues.   The first is through the establishment of the unitary authorities in Scotland.   The second is through the Local Agenda 21 process and its related potential for partnerships.   Local Agenda 21 will mean forming links with neighbouring authorities, with other public agencies, with the business community, and with other interest groups, to find shared ways forward.   Tim Birley sees big potential here for remotivating the profession.


Illustrations which informed some of the presentations on the day cannot be printed here, but Colin Ward’s address to the SEDA AGM is intended to more than compensate.   Thanks to the participation of the Planning Exchange and the efficiency of their organiser for the event, Jacqueline Balloch, it was a pleasure for me to set up and chair this Green Planning conference on behalf of SEDA.   With a bow to Patrick Geddes and Rocco Forte, we can all thank participants and speakers for making the day so worthwhile.   Read the papers and see what you think.



·     Roger Kelly is a principal planner with The Scottish Office Development Department.

-Go back to CONTENTS to pick up the links


GREEN PLANNING papers presented in Glasgow on 17 January 1996

david jarman


A  personal  view  from  Scotland’s  Central  Belt


There are no original ideas and sustainable development is a new label on an old bottle.   In 1972 for example, the President of the RIBA, Alex Gordon, launched a seminal campaign under the banner  Long Life, Low Energy, Loose Fit.   This still encapsulates what sustainable building and design should be about. As a green student in Sheffield at the time, I wrote a brilliant article for the back page of Planning newspaper, applying this philosophy to our field.   I sat back awaiting response and acclaim.   Reaction : nil.


Only slightly daunted by this little object lesson, I have been trying to put green planning principles into practice in a typical non-city slice of Central Scotland ever since.   Present state of balance sheet : rather heavily in the red I fear.   In other words, I have promoted or been party to a tidal wave of pretty mediocre and inherently unsustainable development, while only securing a smattering of quite tiny and marginal steps towards a more diverse and self-sufficient environment and economy in West Lothian.   O mea culpa.   No wonder I have a split persona, with my public actions for the community I serve quite at odds with my private values and the causes I espouse elsewhere in Scotland.


Of course, there is a very good justification for this state of affairs, and its name is economic development.   When a traditional mining and manufacturing area is hit by deindustrialisation, the lame ducks have their necks wrung, and unemployment touches second worst in lowland Scotland, then high-minded thinking for the longer term goes out of the window.   All development that creates jobs and activity is good development (and might sustain communities that would otherwise disintegrate socially).


Now the wheel has turned again, the phrase “sustainable development” has reached us, our unemployment is happily back down to the national average, and we have less excuse not to take that longer view.   But what do we make of it?


First, a criticism deflector : I am consciously not going to try and define  “sustainable development”,  nor give its pedigree in planning history or official guidance.   Practising planners are far too busy to research these things;  they assimilate the concept from odd journals and seminars, and get on with using it as another convenient piece of jargon in their daily wars of words.


In fact and slightly to my surprise, my colleagues do not make an awful lot of it.   They are all aware of it, and feel it has vaguely positive, unthreatening connotations, a good thing to be associated with.   But they do not see it as directly relevant to the actual planning tasks they are engaged in.   It is rather difficult to incorporate in 98% of our development control decisions, whether as a condition, a reason for refusal, or even a planning gain.   Or in negotiations with Local Enterprise Companies over environmental improvement schemes.   Or even in the legally-scrutinised text of most policies in our local plans, in any way that has real meaning and added value.   We are swimming along with sustainable development as if it were a warm bath - very comforting, but doesn’t get you very far.


My own acquaintance with sustainable development was at this slender feel-good level until a year ago, when by chance John Thomson at Scottish Natural Heritage invited me to be  “the district planner” at a think-in on the subject.   This panicked me into a private brainstormer to dredge up some thoughts to contribute : and very much to my surprise they were all of the Emperor’s new clothes variety.   In mulled-over form, here they are.   As a deliberate provocation to debate and an antidote to conventional wisdom, I stand by them : please do not take this to mean that I am opposed to the underlying aspirations.   My argument is over the role of planners and the planning system, with the means at our disposal.


Key thought:   Planning for sustainable development is essentially a city-focused or city-centric concept; or it is a concept for remote areas and isolated communities.   It is much harder to apply to the in-between areas, where the growth is nearly all happening.   Discuss.




Time was when business and industry were intimately mixed with where people lived, because most people had to walk to work.   One of planning’s great achievements was to unravel all this.   Thus in West Lothian we have Livingston new town with large industrial estates dispersed around its periphery as far removed from housing as possible, and almost impossible to serve by public transport.


Our recent notable inward investment successes have featured large high-tech factories on green field sites close to motorway junctions and not served by regular bus services : Sun near Linlithgow, Digital near Queensferry, Motorola near Bathgate.   Each has a vast employee car park.   More such sites are being promoted.   (Of course, Motorola has a sustainable long-life building, and employs a lot of people to make a low-material-content high-value-added reasonably-durable product which might reduce unnecessary travel, but that is not a planning matter).


Beyond West Lothian, on the edge of Edinburgh, a great new concentration of potential employment is emerging at the Gyle / Edinburgh Park.   The radial bus routes from West Lothian do not detour through it.   It is seen as inaccessible to non-car owners.   It may acquire a railway station - but only once much of the workforce has got used to travelling to work by car on the new M8 extension.


Of course, many West Lothian residents enjoy excellent access to Edinburgh city centre by train and bus and were able to travel sustainably to work at the Scottish Office - until it moved to Leith (with a vast employee car park and no Metro).


What can we do?   Altering this geographical inheritance of valuable fixed investment is a practical impossibility so long as workforces are predominantly organised in offices and factories.   The stock of sites for future employment development in West Lothian is already owned and serviced for the next decade in similar dispersed locations.   Neither the Lothian Structure Plan 1994 nor our Local Plans have anything to say on more sustainable locations;  nor could they be expected to other than in a tokenistic manner.




People have an astonishingly elastic propensity to travel - whether to work, or for other purposes.   Travel is widely regarded as an acceptable, even pleasurable activity - especially in your own car with your own comforts, communications and sound system.   It might even be seen as a  “displacement activity”  - an apparently purposeful way of spending time which postpones actually doing something more positive.   People will therefore quite happily contemplate travelling an hour or more to work, whether they are covering 60 miles in that time or sitting in traffic jams for most of it.


For so long as this attitude to travel time prevails, and for so long as the right to travel is not rationed or restrained, it will be quite futile to plan sustainable settlement patterns, in the hope that balanced residential and employment development will reduce the total volume of travel to work.


Livingston new town has achieved an almost exact balance of working population and employment opportunities, quite remarkably.   However all this effort is undone by the fact that half the residents commute out, and half the workforce commutes in, mostly by car.   This could have been predicted from the early experience of the English garden cities, which despite their commendable promotion of industry also took care to locate on the main railways radiating from London - to which many of their people have always commuted.


In West Lothian, care has been taken over many years to promote higher quality housing opportunities for the managers of the new industries.   So the top people at Motorola travel from east Fife, Largs, Pitlochry, Abington, and Helensburgh - at the last count only one lived in West Lothian.


As well as in-car quad stereo, socio-economic factors which militate against planned endeavours to reduce car travel to work include:

·       The growth of two-career households, whose workplaces may be 50 (or 500) miles apart.

·         The growth of early returns to work, requiring parents to travel to a place of childcare or school as well as a place of work (often impractical by public transport).

·         The greater frequency of job changes, thus negating any initial decision to live close to work.

·         Even for those who stay with one employer, the growing tendency to relocate periodically, to operate from multiple locations (hot-desking around them), to expect staff to do business on the road,  to operate flexible hours.

·         The growing proportion of self-employed, small firms and consultants who take their business to the customer rather than operate from a fixed base.

·         The growing tendency to add other trip purposes onto the return from work - the supermarket, the cinema, the sports centre.


To what extent do we as planners, thinking of sustainable settlement patterns, still instinctively envisage the traditional head of household travelling in by train at a set time from his suburban home to the bank headquarters in the city where he will always work, and the traditional female shop assistant travelling in on the bus to the city centre store?


The reality in central Scotland is of a vast web of journeys dispersed over almost infinite permutations of origins and destinations, and over time, for a diverse range of purposes.   A proportion of these journeys will statistically always be conducive to walking, cycling, lift-sharing, or public transport.   However, the massive and accelerating dispersal of employment, housing and other activities since the war, together with the falling real cost of motoring, make the vast majority of non-local movements car-dependent for the foreseeable future.   Efforts now to plan the location of new development to reduce travel need can only have the most marginal of impacts on this supertanker of inherited momentum.


There appear to be two counter-arguments to justify such planning endeavours.   One derives from the law of intervening opportunities - that given equal qualities, people will choose the nearer destination - and thus that if things are concentrated closer to each other, total travel will be less.   I would like to see this transport modelling approach verified by empirical research:  if we plan a new housing estate opposite a high-tech factory, you can predict that next to none of the house purchasers will actually work there.   People are not naturally loyal to their most local supermarket, hence the need for Clubcards.   Nor do they necessarily follow the nearest football team.   More seriously, this theory may work in the case of the isolated city with surrounding small towns and suburbs (although the surge of long-distance travel around Inverness belies this), but not in a complex urban region such as Central Scotland where people from Fife commute to West Lothian and West Lothian residents shop in Edinburgh, Glasgow or Stirling at will.   In other words, the simple spatial model is negated by extreme elasticity of demand for travel, by unpredictable outcomes of interacting locational decisions, by inflexibility of residential location making it difficult to adjust rapidly to changes in the location of journey attractors, and by sheer cussed human behaviour : it seems that people actually prefer not to live too close to their work - that has the wrong social status, as if the grass has to be greener 20 miles away.


The other counter-argument is the Doomsday one : even if you can swan about freely now, you’ll be jolly glad we planned your homes near the shops and offices when the petrol runs out or the climate goes off the scale.   Leaving aside how mummy-knows-best arguments might be defended on appeal, the reality is that society will adapt to such threats only when confronted nose-on-windscreen with them, whether physically or through the price mechanism. Obvious adaptations will include:

·         More remote housing losing value or being taken up by telecommuters;

·         Intensification of occupancy of centrally-located premises and sites;

·         Changing habits to reduce travel frequency and distance, such as shopping by touch-screen or more locally, social networks shrinking geographically, further growth of home entertainment.




The 1994 Structure Plan has to propose a settlement strategy to meet the possible demand for another  30,000 houses in Lothian.   All other issues are really secondary and consequential : it tacitly acknowledges that strategic decisions on transportation, economic development and other infra­structure are made elsewhere and to a different timescale of politics and quango contracts.   It does not pretend to be a fully integrated development strategy (since this is impossible in a mixed economy) and cannot therefore seek to be fully sustainable.


Its chief proposal is a major incursion into the Green Belt, taking out the South-east Sector.   The Secretary of State’s proposed Modifications leave this proposal essentially intact.   At first sight, this is the most sustainable location for 5,000 houses, as close as possible to Edinburgh city centre.   In the absence of any rail route in this sector, or of any prospect for a Metro, the Plan relies on radial bus routes for sustainable transport.   There is however no analysis (despite requests in consultation) of the way the private housing estates of outer Edinburgh actually function today.   In the absence of any major new employment in the sector - the proposed General Hospital is a relocation of the Royal Infirmary, to which many existing staff will no doubt travel without moving - it is perfectly possible that a large proportion of its residents will commute by car round the City Bypass to Leith, or Maybury, or further afield rather than to the city centre by bus.   This will only exacerbate pressure for widening the Bypass to six lanes.   The alternative, as also for innumerable non-work purposes, will be uncontrollable rat-running through the suburbs.


It is interesting to speculate whether deliberately locating 5,000 houses in a free-standing settlement at a railhead some miles beyond the city would be just as sustainable in overall travel terms, and would influct much less  “traffic cramming”  on the suburbs within the Bypass.


The main effect of the Secretary of State’s proposed Modifications has however been to make it much harder to locate new housing close to railway stations.   This is because the Plan made the tactical error of naming the vocal, well-heeled communities of Currie and Longniddry as favoured candidates.   He blows cold on major development being rail-served as a prerequisite, and remarkably advocates express bus routes as just as acceptable.   Given that under deregulation these can come and go at the operator’s whim, no-one is going to invest in a house on the strength of an express bus being there in 5 years time.   (Or does this make their provision as a Section 50 requirement acceptable and in perpetuity?).


New settlements are almost off the Structure Plan agenda anyway because of the market downturn, but the Modifications perhaps wisely blur the distinction between them and planned expansions.   There has to be a large question mark placed over the willingness or ability of the private sector to forward fund the primary school and other infrastructure for a village of 5,000, let alone the secondary school on top for the settlement of 10,000 which current opinion has it is the minimum for sustainability in terms of some local self-sufficiency.   For so long as scattered incremental growth can be eked out without any one developer having to pick up the tab for crossing a big infrastructure threshold (a Trunk Sewer?!), this will be the unplanned pattern of settlement - and no doubt as sustainable as any other.




West Lothian is the second largest non-city district in Scotland (148,000). It has no sub-regional shopping centre within it or even close.


Livingston’s Almondvale expansion will bring it to only 400,000 square feet, anchored by BhS/Asda. All our residents therefore have to travel 10-30 miles for their higher-order shopping, to Edinburgh, Falkirk, or the Gyle (which with its M&S is still not of course a recognised sub-regional centre, it just draws trade from the west half of the Region).


On the face of it then to approve a Factory Outlet Centre in West Lothian is not only good for the local economy and well attuned to local consumers’ needs, it is also highly sustainable.   Or is it?   It has been heavily attacked in planning (not community) circles as undermining existing centres (which draw their trade from West Lothian), and as not being bus or rail-accessible.   It is criticised as inessential, frivolous leisure shopping, daytrip bargain hunting, burning fuel on a needless run down the motorway, in contrast to the serious business of dragging the kids in on the bus to purchase white shirts and black shoes in Princes Street.   It would now be taboo under the Retailing NPPG and the Modifications which reverse the Structure Plan’s support for the concept.


But hold on.   Are we not daily urged by our LECs, Tourist Boards and politicians to promote leisure and tourist developments in pleasant rural locations?   Country Parks, Heritage Centres, Holiday Villages, motor rally circuits, new out of town football stadia, and of course those elusive private funded Theme Parks such as Legoland - we must have chased half a dozen such concepts in West Lothian alone, and are still pursuing feasibility studies for a major leisure project.   Car-served almost exclusively - even out of town shopping centres tend to spawn regular bus and coach services.


Why is a family or a bunch of friends in a car on a weekend shopping-for-pleasure trip wrong, but on a weekend trip to Deep Sea World or Culzean House right?   If West Lothian’s Factory Outlet Centre does go ahead at Westwood, as approved, perhaps we can measure the distances people drive to it - and ask them where else they normally go at weekends. For most people in Central Scotland it will be a shorter journey than going to the seaside.   And if society regards the mark of a successful Sunday as a run in the car to somewhere at least an hour away where they can spend a few quid, what right does the planning system have to arbitrarily restrict their choice and type of destination on  “sustainability”  grounds?


Stray thought:    Some of the most sustainable people are the unhealthy computer nerds and Internet freaks.   Some of the least sustainable are the mountaineers and ornithologists who drive hundreds of miles at weekends to bag a Munro or twitch a rare bird, after religiously cycling to work all week.




No discourse on West Lothian is complete without this pioneering initiative, which is actually endorsed by the Structure Plan and even more warmly supported by the Secretary of State’s proposed Modifications.


It was heavily criticised by colleagues in Strathclyde for being, among many other crimes, unsustainable - an excuse for suburban lifestyles in the countryside.   Leaving aside energy-efficient buildings, woodlands, and reed beds to focus on travel, the interesting question is whether the crofters make the same number and type of journeys as town-dwellers, but travel more miles, or whether they spend the same number of hours in their several cars and 4-wheeldrives, thus making less short repetitive journeys to collect little Johnny or a forgotten item of shopping.   Research is needed.


Already half of them are running some kind of business from their crofts - is this good, in reducing peak hour journeys to city work, or bad in generating business traffic in country lanes?   There are no easy answers in sustainable thinking.




Ten years ago we reopened the railway to Bathgate.   The consultants predicted that it would draw 300,000 passengers a year, mainly from the buses, some from cars.   In fact it carries three times that number, without reducing the frequency of the parallel and still commercial bus routes, and without any detectable relief to carborne traffic and congestion.   Much of the travel simply did not take place before - whether new opportunities for work or education, or OAPs taking coffee in Jenners.   Good for the community - but how sustainable?


Even more interestingly, not one of the purchasers of a hundred adjacent Wimpey houses in Bathgate had done so because of the railway, and few used it regularly.   Likewise, there has been no clamour to build around the Livingston North Station.   Yet the three stations’ car parks are having to be doubled and tripled in size.


Deterministic assumptions about improving public transport facilities must be avoided.   Quite often they may be counter-sustainable.   The Bathgate area is now accepted as part of the Edinburgh housing market area, partly because people can now commute to a railhead from a wide radius.   Increases in public transport capacity such as rapid busways in Edinburgh’s western corridor may only serve to increase total volume of travel.


By contrast, we in West Lothian are strong supporters of the Fastlink from the M8 at Whitburn to the M74/M6.   This strategic north-south route will carry relatively low volumes of long-distance, primarily commercial traffic.   It will reduce journey distances to eastern Scotland by 25 miles compared with the Bellshill dogleg, which for existing traffic must be a sustainable good.   With hardly any intra-Scotland traffic potential it is unlikely to generate a lot of new traffic.   It could even reduce the need for widening the existing motorways, which really would induce traffic growth.   A hard one to call, in the current climate!




In the unitary West Lothian a new service area embraces planning and transportation.   All of a sudden, I can see real opportunities for sustainable activity, whereas confined to the levers of land-use planning powers it is hard going to find any.


One early example concerns travel to school.   There has been, nationally, an extraordinary surge in the proportion of children ferried to school by car.   Ostensibly this is because of concern over road safety (now there’s a vicious circle!):  I suspect there are media-fuelled fears of attack and abduction, and also (especially among new car owners) a wish to flaunt it, and an inability to say no to little Morag on a wet day.


Breaking into this means education (of parents, teachers and children), which means awareness, consciousness-raising, prioritisation, motivation, and peer-group acceptability (street cred).   It means incentives (prizes for posters, awards to school funds). It means putting personal benefits - health, social contact, learning to cope with traffic - alongside the community losses - pollution and twin-peaks traffic congestion.   Last and least it means physical facilities - cycle routes and lockers, safer pavements and crossings, bus services;  human facilities such as  “walking buses”  are more important.


There are clear parallels here for development planning.   It is not a question of where houses and schools are located (let alone of catchment area reviews to save crossing main roads!). It is only marginally a question of transport infrastructure.   It is certainly not achievable by ordering people about.   It is a matter of going with the grain of awareness, acceptance, and self-interest (pecuniary and other personal rewards).


Key thought:      There is no such thing as sustainable development.   In the sense of new buildings and works on new sites, it is a contradiction in terms.   Therefore the only truly sustainable thing a planner can do is to prevent development.   We have made a small start in Linlithgow, where the Reporter to the Local Plan Inquiry accepted that the town had reached (arguably, exceeded) its long-term limit of acceptable size.   Discuss.





I came across a really useful word recently which no-one else has heard of.   Not being an academic, I don’t have the source on a file card, but I think it came from Canadian forestry practice.   The word is  sustention.   It has to be thought about a bit, like this:

Sustain - sustainability         (Can you keep it going continuously?)  

Retain - retention                       (You have held it up, you have not lost it, you continue to have it).         Thus:

Sustain - sustention              (You are keeping it going continuously).


The point about sustention is that it is a hard concept, it is definite and measurable : if not necessarily a guaranteed outcome, it is at least a clear, operational intent.   By contrast, sustainable development is a soft concept.


Sustention or  “hard sustainability”  applies where there is substantial control over the system, particularly its direct inputs and outputs, within a natural and political environment which may introduce some unpredictable variations.   Thus if landowners so choose, or if governments so regulate or incentivise, farming, forestry, fisheries and wildlife habitats can be operated on sustention principles, disrupted from time to time by flood, fire, or changes in EU subsidies.   Sustention forestry simply means timber extraction without reducing the diversity, quality and productivity of the forest.


Certain man-made systems can also be closely regulated to achieve  “hard sustainability”.   The railway system has a maintainable infrastructure, and for a measured input of affordable subsidy gives an output measured in a national timetable, subject of course to natural and political disruption from time to time.   Water supplies, telecommunications and (depending on time frame) power supplies are likewise.   In Denmark they have a system in place which is moving towards full sustainability of energy supply - sustention - administered interestingly by the planning authorities.


Where, however, a system operates primarily by free market forces, comprising a myriad of individual decisions which cannot readily be regulated or even influenced, then sustention cannot be practiced.   This is the realm of  “soft sustainability”  in which development planning struggles to find its niche.   Society is not like a farming system, where the inputs of organic fertiliser and outputs of wheat can be determined, and quotas can be set : the inputs of house purchases and outputs of trips to work can be measured, but in a human behavioural system we cannot hope to ordain either the fine detail or the total outcome of who buys and works where.


In Robert Owen’s New Lanark, the place of residence, of shopping, of education, and of leisure time of each worker was controlled, for the sustention of a great manufactory for so long as the external environment remained favourable.   In Livingston, in Scotland, in the democratic world, only  “soft sustainability”  can now be sought : persuading people that they ought to pollute less and consume fewer unrenewable resources.




Progress from soft sustainability aspirations towards hard sustention of our living environment can only be made with public support.   At present, energy is far too cheap, and travel is too cheap, and aggregates are too cheap.   Arguably, housing is also too cheap : the Sustainable Structure Plan of the future would permit no negative-net-impact greenfield development (or legislation should place the full public costs of it on the purchasers) thus suppressing new household formation and under-occupancy.   No government will tax or legislate to these sustainable ends in our present society.   The only exception may be in city centres and other specially sensitive locations (the Forth crossings?) where local taxes or regulations may be acceptable, because the adverse consequences for health or congestion are transparently clear and because alternatives are available.


But the government is under pressure internationally to be seen to be sustainable, and there is also a groundswell of public concern over the environment so long as it doesn’t effect what I do.   The government needs some apparently bold initiative which is politically harmless - a cosmetic, a placebo.


At last year’s PTRC European Transport Forum, the chief author of the English PPG13 told delegates  “we can’t rely on techno-fixes or pricing, but we can now take decisions about where we put things”.    My fear is that the planning system is that convenient cosmetic or placebo.   And that when our plans don’t yield reductions in travel, we will be blamed just as we were for tower blocks and motorway spaghettis.


In touching at last on what we think of as the sustainability guidance note, it is worth remembering that PPG13 is simply entitled  “Transport”  (for which there is still no Scottish equivalent).   In this paper I have dealt almost exclusively with the location of development as it affects total travel.   The Local Agenda 21 approach is a quite different matter, exploring the corporate ability of the Council to tackle sustainability - again with planning having a rather marginal contribution to make.   If the government were to get serious about the role of planning, it would arm us with (inter alia):

·         Powers to require zero-energy building design.

·         Powers to regulate sustainable sourcing of construction materials.

·         Policies to integrate new commercial and business developments into streets with limited, shared parking and multiple uses. (Instead of the present pavilion blocks and retail sheds in seas of tarmac).

·         Powers to regulate all forms of public transport.

·         Powers to offer incentives to non-car travel, and to employers to recruit locally.

·         Requirements to prepare local energy self-sufficiency plans, on the Danish model.


PPG13 now has an accompanying glossy Guide to Better Practice subtitled  “reducing the need to travel through land use and transport planning”.    Those words - reducing the need - are worryingly prescriptive.   Skimming through it on the odd train or two confirms my expectations - it is heavily city-centric, with a gesture towards rural areas, and leaps from vague rhetoric to examples of the most minor impact.   Only one case is given which is relevant to high-growth hinterlands such as West Lothian or Strathkelvin or Gordon - Wansdyke near Bristol where a 1,000-house village expansion is praised apparently because it is on a main bus route, and has a park-and-ride at the edge of Bath!




The real test of whether sustainability can hold up as a valid aim of planning comes of course on appeal.   The legalistic approach is to push aside the broader policy aim and to demonstrate that the site in question cannot be proven to have the adverse consequences on travel or other aspects of  unsustainability claimed by the policy.   In consequence, the planning reaction is also to push aside the inherently unquantifiable and uncontrollable policy argument, and to rely on hard and site-specific reasons for refusal, such as infrastructure and landscape quality.


We believe Linlithgow is the first town in Scotland to be defined as reaching its  “limits to growth”  - yet this now prevents us from promoting local employment sites to try and reduce its heavy out-commuting.   If we zone a site in a good, motorway-accessible location for employment, we run the risk of losing it on appeal to yet more housing - because there is no proven demand for business space (no existing supply!) and no evidence that new local businesses would employ mainly local people - Sun Micro certainly doesn’t.


If developers go along with sustainable development policies, it will either be because they are releasing land in locations where the market wants to go (South-East Edinburgh), or because the requirements of the policy (commuted payments in lieu of parking space - or cycle racks in front of the retail warehouses), are financially tolerable.


It will be easier to secure apparently tough sustainable policies and decisions in sectors such as retailing - where John Gummer has made town centre protection fashionable again - and mineral extraction - where landscape and NIMBY pressures rather than principled sustainability will push towards recycling and foreign sources of supply.


I look forward to seeing a hard line taken and sustained through appeal on a contentious residential or business park development, where there are no traditional contra-indications and no easily-developed acceptable alternative sites.




In January 1956, passenger services were withdrawn from the railway between Edinburgh and Glasgow through Bathgate.   This was way before Beeching (in 1963) and also way before the M8 started.   It signified the self-contained nature of the West Lothian economy, and perhaps the cultural isolation of its ironfounding, coal mining community.   Production of those two staples was hardly sustainable - both have virtually ceased - but with that given income base, the West Lothian community very largely took care of itself.   Its commercial centre of Bathgate, though small, had a department store, a cot-to-coffin Co-op, a full range of local produce on sale, a cattle market, a cinema, even its own distillery.   You could buy a Hepworth suit or any item of ironmongery.   All have since gone, and have not been replaced yet in Livingston (where the town centre cinema came and closed).


The settlement pattern of West Lothian in 1956 had evolved from its modest agricultural origins to reflect the distribution of coal, oil shale, and ironstone - the walk to works, pit, or refinery.   As a loose grid of a dozen small burghs and large villages arrayed along three east-west main roads, it was easy to provide each with schools, churches, and a water supply, and to link them with efficient bus services.   This open matrix settlement structure proved readily adaptable to incremental growth, and also to movement between jobs, for example as pits opened and closed.


This sustainable pattern of home-work relationships and local service economy began to disintegrate in 1960 when the Leyland truck plant was parachuted in as an act of regional policy.   It imported nearly all its components and exported nearly all its product.   Worse still, it drew labour from a wide radius, even beyond West Lothian, by works buses and increasingly (as a high wage, strike prone employer) by car : significantly the plant was planted right beside Scotland’s first arterial trunk road, the A8, allowing rapid access without affecting neighbouring towns.   Its 150 acres of bare concrete have no foreseeable prospect of redevelopment, and are today used for parking imported cars on.


In January 1996, West Lothian is a fully integrated part of the East Central Scotland economy.   The second wave of inward investment - silicon glen - also draws its workforce by car from miles around.   At least it is more diversified than the Leyland/Plessey hegemony, and does not depend on bulk import of raw materials.   The more important underlying trend is the mushrooming of small, locally-controlled businesses of all kinds, most of them servicing West Lothian and Central Scotland companies and communities rather than supplying products to the hi-tech firms or to export.


The settlement pattern today is recognisably that of 1956, fattened up, plus Livingston grafted in as a new heart;  the West Lothian Council is making its headquarters there, in the year that it ceases to be a New Town. Now in theory, expanding West Lothian’s population by 50,000 within that flexible urban matrix should have made it more self-sustaining, more able to support higher-order services (as was the grand concept of the Greater Livingston Growth Area in the Lothian Regional Survey and Plan of 1962).   As we have seen, that critical mass has never quite been achieved, always overtaken by the frantic metropolitanisation of Central Scotland.   If only ... Heriot Watt University had located in Livingston, Jackie Stewart had agreed to invest in West Lothian rather than at Ingliston, the Gyle had been refused and the Leyland megacentre approved ... would these  “decisions we can take about where we put things”  have made West Lothian, or Scotland, more sustainable?


In our Local Plans (for I must make one mention of them) we have been campaigning vigorously for the M8 Corridor of central West Lothian to be recognised as West Lothian’s principal growth area.   This is now clearly endorsed by the Structure Plan and its Modifications.   The reasoning was economic - it is where the people and accessible sites are - and environmental - it is the least sensitive, most spoiled area. It also now appears (post-rationalising as we do) to chime in with sustainable development tenets - it is a linear growth corridor on public transport routes with existing infrastructure.


But in reality, if current trends continue, I find it difficult to see that locating yet another 10,000 houses in central West Lothian will enable it to cross thresholds of self-sufficiency : they will not bring the funding for the proper Higher Education facility we lack.   One third of each new estate will still commute to Edinburgh, and one third to elsewhere in Scotland, as at present.


Only in the last few months we have begun to see chronic congestion creeping into the road network around Livingston, not just the commuter routes to the city.   The amount of movement between West Lothian’s towns and villages is accelerating, as extended families live further apart, as young Murdo is ferried to basketball in a school in another town, as Fiona goes into business selling aromatherapy around the county instead of working in the village chemist.   I begin to sense that our great asset of a loose-knit, flexible settlement structure, with almost every community safely bypassed, is on the brink of being over-fattened.   The communities themselves are beginning to rebel against peripheral accretions : they don’t want to coalesce with their near neighbours.   Yet if greenfield new settlements are ruled out by the Structure Plan Modifications, or more likely by development economics, the logical conclusion of our M8 Corridor and the Region’s Central West Lothian Core Area is its coalescence as an amorphous urban sprawl, subdivided by tokenistic greenways along pylon and pipeline routes.


 “Contributors from around the world debated the prospects for sustainability in the future.   Their conclusions reminded one of the Scots legal verdict, Not Proven”  (PTRC conference report).




My own experience of West Lothian within its Scottish context suggests that its development over the last 40 years - whether planned pro activity or reactively - has very largely made it less self-sustaining than it was.   I find it difficult to see how we might plan the development of West Lothian any more sustainably from now on, with the process and attitudes at our disposal.


It is tempting to take refuge behind SNH’s concept of  “the precautionary principle” - if in doubt as to whether development is sustainable, refuse it!   This is perhaps easier to apply and to get away with in relation to the sustention of natural and semi-natural systems than to the soft sustainability of urban systems. (I commend SNH’s attempt to define the S-word in their mud-brown paper Sustainable Development and the Natural Heritage).


It is also tempting to conclude wearily that more research is needed (for appeal-proof evidence) and more education (of ourselves, our politicians, our public).


As a congenital optimist and believer in public service planning, it grieves me to have penned such an unremittingly negative paper.   How much easier to praise the virtues of public art or geomorphological authenticity!   I turn for final positive inspiration to the Geddesian injunction that we must plan at the right scale.   I believe that:

·         Efforts to achieve sustainable development primarily through land-use and transport planning at Local and Structure Plan levels are futile, being of marginal impact and unpredictable in their consequences.

·         The settlement pattern of developed Scotland is largely fixed and is capable of adapting to more sustainable modes of operation by technological, economic and social evolution in response to governmental, free-market and community pressures.

·         The relevant minimum scale on which to plan for human-system sustainability is Central Scotland (Ayr to Dundee), as a city region of European significance.

·         The relevant minimum scale on which to plan for natural-system sustainability (including energy and minerals) is the whole of Scotland.

·         The appropriate bodies to pursue sustainable planning and policy are therefore those at Scottish level and higher.


Local Planning Authorities owe their prime responsibility to their own local communities, unless and until central government instructs that there is an over-riding national priority.   As a local government planner, I should therefore not be surprised if I progress from promoting economic development and growth at all costs to raising the hurdles higher and higher in front of developers, in response to a maturing and more prosperous community.


The most successful regions in the Europe of the future will be those with the most sustainable environments (some parts of Scotland would do well to learn this lesson quickly).   Our real aspiration as planners should then be to practise in a climate where new development is the exception rather than the rule, where it has to pass the most stringent tests of zero net environmental impact or better, and where the Scottish economy can afford the luxury of turning down investment which is genuinely beneficial.


Late extra:         Scottish Office sources say that our version of PPG13 on Transport is due out for consultation by mid-1996.   A spokesman opined that “land use planning can help to reduce the need for travel in an incremental way at the margins over a long timescale”.



·       David Jarman is Head of Strategic Planning and Transportation, West Lothian Council.


-Go back to CONTENTS to pick up the links

GREEN PLANNING papers presented in Glasgow on 17 January 1996

paul mcternan


Getting Moray’s policy into place


Perhaps the most appropriate context in which this conference can consider the green credentials of Moray’s approach to the subject of housing in the countryside, is the recently published Scottish Office White Paper on the Rural Environment.   Articles in recent planning journals have raised the age old question of the compatibility of a strategy for the sustainable development of the rural economy with increasing public demands for greater protection of the rural environment.


In Moray we did not set out on a green agenda.   Rather, the challenge we addressed was heavily directed by a social and cultural agenda demanding a response to the structural decline in rural services and population levels we had witnessed in Moray for decades, the need to promote regeneration and the compelling desire to improve standards of practice in the design and procurement process through which this regeneration could be achieved.   Having been invited to address this conference therefore, on the back of winning a commendation from the Saltire/Sir Patrick Geddes Award in 1994, and winning outright the APRS Award for 1995, we would hope to argue the case that there is no discernible difference between a green agenda and the social and culture agenda under which we embarked in Moray.   The issue is one of managing human interaction.   The skill is one of finding balance.


Housing in the Scottish countryside is an enormous issue spanning subjects as varied as social housing policy, living standards and conditions, access to employment, access to services and facilities, transport and immobility, cultural traditions and regional identity, affordability, architecture, environmental protection and landscape impact.


I suppose that what we, who practice the art of country planning are seeking, is a pragmatic and positive approach to the paradoxes that have perplexed planners for a generation; how to balance job creation with protection of the rural environment; how to meet local housing needs whilst recognising that new technology and increased person mobility mean that commuters want to live in the countryside too; and how to reconcile the desires of those who see the countryside as a place to be wrapped in aspic and rural dwellers who depend on it for their livelihood.


In their recent guidance to the new Councils on rural strategies, COSLA made the important recognition that rural sustainability should not be seen to reinforce the “no development” ethic in the countryside.   It must be recognised that sustainability is about safeguarding the future of communities and not simply an environmental issue.   It cannot for example be interpreted as narrowly as to relate only to the need to reduce the use of motor vehicles.   The fact is that school children require transport, health care has to be provided and bins must be collected.  These services are not necessarily going to be made efficient or more secure by less people using them.   By their very nature services must be provided to serve a geographically dispersed population.   This is the price of a living countryside.   The alternative is to condone de-population, a minimised service provision and the lack of support for the future of our more remote rural areas.


The preparation of Moray’s policy document took almost 4 years.   It was in draft form before the Scottish Office issued Planning Advice Note 36 (Siting and Design of New Housing in the Countryside), and preceded the publication of the excellent “Tomorrow’s Architectural Heritage”, supported by the Countryside Commission for Scotland.   It pre-dates the Scottish Office Reports on kit house design (John Richards), and the RIAS compilation “Fields of Vision”.   These publications have made a great contribution to stimulating the debate on housing in the countryside heard on the conference circuit in recent years, but to affect actual change on the ground, the debate must move forward and evolve a practice and methodology which is capable of implementation.   By 1991 Moray had begun to evolve such methodology and advance planning practice in this field further than any other Planning Authority in Scotland.


The challenge was to produce a Planning policy for housing in the countryside which reflected the peoples express wish to permit regeneration and new house building, yet gave a lead in establishing new standards of environmental sensitivity rarely seen outwith Britain’s national parks.   To do so required a fundamental re-assessment of the Planning approach which departed from the usual restrictive practice of “a presumption against” to a positive acceptance of change, within the context of a strategy to sustain and revive a vibrant rural culture at ease with itself and its natural environment.


Work commenced on a review of policy in 1989.   The late 1980’s witnessed a significant increase in pressure for house sites throughout rural Moray causing the numbers of planning applications submitted to rise by over 200% between 1987 and 1989.   With hindsight this increase can now be attributed to 3 primary factors: Firstly the de-regulation of agriculture, which reduced levels of protection afforded to agricultural land for its productive capacity, and introduced the concept of diversification, encouraging farmers to become multi-disciplined businessmen seeking to supplement farm incomes from a variety of sources.   Many farmers believed that housing was the new cash crop and sought to develop as many “awkward corners” of their existing landholdings  as possible.


Secondly, the market for rural house sites was being fuelled by the arrival of new households from outwith the district borne of the southern property boom, seeking “the good life” opportunity in Scottish Highlands.  Commuting trends locally were also on the increase.   In a survey of new house buyers in 1992, we discovered that only 5% came from rural Moray.   The majority of households were affluent (2 cars, 4 bedrooms) and this was to be their first experience of rural living.


Thirdly pressure was brought to bear by the activity of a number of local housebuilders and developers, who spotted an opportunity to profit from this market and actively set about acquiring rural farms, selling off the buildings, planting subsidy crops on what productive land was left (one such farm was the first to attempt to grow commercial cannabis in Scotland), and trying to get as many housing consents on the remainder as possible.   These were subsequently marketed these in publications such as Country Life, The Daily Telegraph and even in Spanish Estate Agencies on the Costa Del Sol.   We perceived the situation to be serious.


The Planning problem was assessed as a combination of 4 main components. 


1.   There was a complete absence of a clear Planning strategy.   We had little knowledge of what changes were actually occurring in the countryside, how communities were affected and what effect this level of development activity could have on existing economic social and environmental structures.


2. The Development Control policies which were in place were poorly communicated and reactive in nature.   These policies were not aiding consistency, failed to provide definition and were constantly causing problems at appeal.


3. There was the restricted ability of local agents.   In Moray we estimate that 90% of all applications submitted are by agents who are not qualified architects.   Hence the skills base is low and perhaps this helps explain why the majority of houses built are procured from limited range of kit house brochures.   There was little general awareness of the sensitivity of building in the rural area and a notable lack of awareness of developments and practices in ecological design. 


4. The inherent vagaries of the political system.   The elected members were unclear as to what kind of countryside they wanted to create.   A minority amongst them favoured a totally laissez-faire approach and were successful in breaching policy on many occasions.   Matters reached a peak at one particular Planning Committee in 1990 when the Planning Committee approved 14 consecutive applications for individual houses contrary to the Directors’ recommendation.   Such inconsistency was rife and thereafter, until the new policy was put in place, the Director of Planning issued a memo to all Planning Staff advising that they were no longer in a position to offer the public advice on what the Council’s policy was and that enquiries from the general public should be directed to the individual elected members.  The situation was probably best summed up by the Scottish Office Chief Reporter Sandy Bell who commented on one of the many planning appeals lodged over this period


“Moray District Council has been muddling along on near Delphic policies for rural Development Control which have given rise to an increased number of appeals from aggrieved applicants.......The present policies invite the suspicion that rural applications are determined by prejudice, favour or caprice.   The framework for objective decision taking is lacking.”


The Planning impact was therefore assessed as:


·         An absence of control; proliferation of house building activity unrelated to social, economic or environmentally sustainable principles.


·         Housing by Mail Order : The widespread procurement of standardised suburbia eroding local distinctiveness and Regional identity.


·         Cumulative environmental impact: combined threat to landscapes, the natural environment and local bio-diversity.


The Planning response was first to establish and put in place a strategy strongly focused on the community’s stated aim of regeneration and protection of the natural environment.   As a key element, the strategy would have to embrace change, not reject it.   A new set of statutory policies was required which would give Development Controllers a proper set of tools with which to work, providing definition and clarity and being devoid of ambiguity.


Good communication was essential to change attitudes, hence the requirement for the production of comprehensive guidance to educate, inspire and inform.   If we were to initiate a fundamental change in direction, it was vital that we brought the community with us through every step.   To raise awareness requires education, to pioneer advancement requires inspiration and to do both effectively requires quality information.  We felt we had to raise expectation levels, embrace new advancements in building technology and ecological design and move the entire debate into the realm of the 21st century.


The method to deliver this change was quite clearly through the review of the development plan.   We decided that the one way we could raise awareness of this change of direction was in the production of a separate and fully inclusive document on the subject of housing in the countryside.  All policy information and guidance would be contained under one cover which could be detached from the main body of the Local Plan and distributed independently.   As a communication medium the document had to be top quality with full graphic expression.   Black and white photocopies with simplistic sketches and “do’s or don’ts” graphics would not be good enough.   We invested £20,000 in the production of a document over 100 pages long, in full colour and heavily illustrated.   We printed 500 copies in March 1993 to find that 2 years later we were completely sold out,  (at £10 per copy).   It has proved excellent value for money.


The consultation exercise on the Plan was vital to its success and subsequent passage through District Council Committees.   After the first draft was published, the Summers of 1991 and 1992 were spent in village halls and community centres throughout rural Moray, exploring with Associations and Community groups what policy would work and safeguard their welfare and environment.   Councillors, Community Councils and Associations helped in the identification of boundaries for the 73 rural communities.   They participated in the identification of gap sites, renovation/restoration opportunities and amenity areas and provided local advice on practical matters such as ground conditions and drainage.  Consultation was then sought with every agent and architect in the District in order to understand the communication interface between applicants and developers and the practical difficulties they experience in the design and procurement process.   Wider views were sought with professional bodies representing planners, architects, surveyors, environmentalists and ecologists.   The help of universities was enlisted; Dundee, Strathclyde and Aberdeen, as was the assistance of groups such as EDAS, The Royal Fine Art Commission and SNH.   This helped to place Moray within a wider national context and provided and insight into practices and experiences elsewhere.   It also provided a welcome reassurance that the direction was right and the practice sound.


The strategy which evolved centred around 3 distinctly separate forms of development or “Options” as we refer to them in the document:


·         Option 1: Rural Communities

·         Option 2: Re-use of derelict sites

·         Option 3: New-build in the open countryside


Option 1 was a settlement based strategy using the well established methodology of the settlement envelope identifying boundaries, opportunities for infill and redevelopment, and allowing for the protection of spaces and features of environmental amenity.   The second option centres on the spirit of renewal and the considerable opportunities that exist to restore and renovate in preference to new build.   Moray, like many parts of remoter Highlands has a considerable number of properties in a state of decay and dereliction.   This is an opportunity to re-cycle not only building sites but also building materials.   Finally option 3 deals exclusively with new build in the open countryside, i.e. a new house on a virgin site.   Our approach to this option will be dealt with in greater detail in my colleague’ presentation to follow.




The “options” relate directly to the main choices open to prospective applicants.   Although clearly inter-related, they have been identified as mutually exclusive in terms of the Planning policy and guidance.   I will deal here with the first two options, Nick will deal exclusively with the third:


Option 1 - To target existing communities as a preferred location for new housing in order to maximise social benefits and help sustain essential services (schools, halls, shops, bus services etc.).


Moray’s distinctive rural personality was found in its small villages and rural communities.   They exhibit the imprint of history, record past fortunes and express the modest character of Moravian identity.  Like many rural communities in remote areas of Scotland, many have suffered decline.


In its first 5 year lifespan, this option of the strategy will enable people to take advantage over 350 housing sites identified in 73 rural communities throughout the rural area.   The objectives set are quite clearly to encourage people wishing to build in the countryside to locate within existing communities, and to meet the demand for housing sites within the rural area in a more efficient, community orientated and planned way.


In terms of the impact on the local environment, development will precede on the basis of the most sophisticated analysis of character and location for such small communities contained in any development plan.   Gap sites, new-build and redevelopment opportunities have been pinpointed with specific reference to the distinctiveness of the locale.   The character descriptions, which identify dominant architectural styles and specify the protection of local amenity, (burns, watercourses, trees, hedgerows etc.), combine to give direction on how to introduce new development sensitively.


Option 2: Re-use of derelict sites and buildings -To seek the restoration and re-development of the built heritage of the rural area by encouraging the re-use of sites and buildings thereby sustaining the historic settlement pattern and utilising existing infrastructure.


The technological advances on employment changes during this century have left their toll on the countryside and many 18th, 19th and 20th century structures lie vacant.   Empty cottages, farmhouses, steadings, mills, churches and schools feature in the landscape as monuments to a previous epoch.


The prime emphasis on this aspect of the strategy, lies with renewal.  Applicants are encouraged to re-cycle derelict sites, re-using existing infrastructure such as roads, water supplies and drainage facilities.   It encourages the uptake of existing capacity in the settlement pattern and avails of established sites with ready provided access and very often, shelter.   The Local Plan document provides guidance on all aspects of the re-development process, the re-use of materials and specific advice is provided on best practice in respect of the conversion of mills, churches, schools and farm steadings.





Implementation of the policy was measured in a survey of applications spanning an 18 month period between January 1994 and July 1995.   Over this period a total of 240 applications had been received, from which 176 decisions had been taken.   The Council approved 132 applications (75% were refused 44 (25%).





Option 1: Rural Communities

51 (38.5%)

Option 2: Re-use of buildings and sites

46 (35%)

Option 3: New building in the open countryside

35 (26.5%)


The analysis of approvals suggests that the strategy has been successful in meeting the central objective of directing development away from the open green field sites to regenerative opportunities primarily in the rural communities.   At 38% of approvals, Option One applications form the majority quoted under the policy, suggesting that the practice of actually identifying building opportunities on plans contained within the policy document has been particularly successful.   Furthermore the planning methodology of identifying and retaining the built character of these areas, through the identification of character features and architectural styles, has proved particularly effective - (100% of detailed applications have been approved under this option).


Option 2 applications (re-use of derelict sites and buildings) have accounted for 35% of approvals (46 houses) indicating a relative success in directing demand towards restoration and redevelopment opportunities.  In quality and quantity these applications have been impressive and indicate a spirit of revitalisation and renewal of both settlement pattern and built heritage, previously absent in the year’s preceding the policy.  Changes in VAT regulations for the renovations and conversion work have assisted the economic advantages of this option, but the quality of a number of developments recently completed vindicates the emphasis devoted to this strand of the strategy.


Option 3 proposals (the new house in the open countryside), accounted for only 25.5% of approvals over the survey period.  As this option would have accounted for the predominant number of approvals prior to the policy, (perhaps as much as 75%) it represents a notable success that the plan led strategy to highlight opportunities elsewhere in the countryside and to raise the awareness and sensitivity of careful siting and design has been effective.


The improvement in overall quality of applications is most notable under Option 3.  Due to the detailed advice offered within the policy document, a period of consistent decision taking by the Planning Committee, (only 3 applications overturned in the last 10 Committees), and the adoption of greater sensitivity on the part of agents and applicants in the selection of house site and design, the overall quality of applications has much improved.   It is therefore not surprising that the rate of approval has seen a steady increase as predicted.
















·         The plan-led strategy is working.  The policy has put in place a strategy for rural development hither to absent from previous Local Plans, placing existing communities at the heart of re-generative strategy aimed at sustaining fragile rural services and facilities and safeguarding the natural environment.


·         Pressure has been directed away from open countryside sites to existing communities and redevelopment sites.   Siting and design controls coupled with better guidance for applicants and agents, has reduced the number of poorly sited and designed new dwellings.  Thanks to the success of Options 1 and 2, attracting potential applicants to choose sites in rural communities and derelict sites, an estimated 73% of new development has taken place on the existing settlement pattern, i.e. 73% of proposals have utilised sites and infrastructure are already established in the countryside.


·         86% of refusals under the policy one for new build (Option 3) indicating the dominant consideration afforded to landscape in the natural environment.


In terms of the Development Control policies I would highlight a number of minor points:

·         There are no exceptions for need.  Should a case for personal circumstances arise the Members are encouraged to use the departure process to allow consideration.

·         On re-use of derelict sites the Council operates a defined level of evidence, i.e. old maps, and old photographs will not be acceptable as justifications for replacement proposals.   The building on the ground must be substantially in-situ.

·         All new sites must have established boundaries (not artificially created).

·         Detailed applications only will be entertained for proposals in Areas of Great Landscape Value and for applications for groups of houses.  This minimises speculation and encourages the comprehensive treatment of sites.

·         Finally in terms of ground water pollution and the accumulation of septic tank drainage, all proposals must undertake a soil porosity test to establish the suitability of ground conditions at outline stage.


Finally, in these days of performance targets, a word about efficiency and decision times.   As I have already pointed out, one of the enduring benefits of such a detailed and applied approach to rural housebuilding is the increase in quality of application submitted.   Quality in terms of site selection, landscape treatment, orientation and of course design and material finishes. 


Communication between officers, agents and applicants has benefited greatly from this.   Those long protracted negotiations which were so much part of the decision process in the past (and arguably achieved so little) are no longer so commonplace today.   Pre-application advice is easier to give and is much more consistent.   As a result decisions and recommendations are more straightforward and applications are being dealt with more quickly (i.e. within the 8 week target).  Approval rates have increased (a stated aim at the outset) and Member support has consequently been sustained.


The success of this policy in winning a commendation from the Saltire Society/Patrick Geddes Award for 1994, and winning outright the APRS Annual Award for 1995, is a measure of how Scottish professional planning opinion has judged Moray’s approach.   Success in these awards has come as a result of the policy’s ability to be both ‘green’ and ‘sustainable’, demonstrating that change in the countryside can be managed in a manner that promotes both opportunity and restraint.


·     Paul McTernan is a Senior Planning Assistant with Moray District Council


-Go back to CONTENTS to pick up the links

GREEN PLANNING papers presented in Glasgow on 17 January 1996

nick brown


Moray’s design approach


Let us say that a building occupies land, that can obviously feed people, support wildlife, or simply provide visual pleasure,


and let us say that this building gives nothing back - tarmacs the ground, replaces hedgerows with solid walls or fences, plants no trees and shows no signs of self-sufficiency in the way of vegetable plots, wind generators, rainwater butts, reed bed waste systems and so on,


and moreover, say this building occupies a prominent position without social justification, deliberately contrasts with the context of its siting, and worse still defies and injures nature by cutting parts down and remoulding its surface,


and finally let us say that this building also overshadows its neighbours, fails to offer any sculptural or poetic expression and generally makes no attempt at integration, then this building will at the least cause the viewer some displeasure.


A building displeases because someone sees and feels that it benefits the owner at their or somebody else's expense.   Disregard, disrespect, thoughtlessness, ignorance, unfriendliness, call it what you may, are all behavioural symptoms which cause discomfort when vented publicly.  These feelings are exacerbated when the behaviour is displayed by a member from outwith the tribe.   As in the case of rural Moray I don’t necessarily mean Roger and Mandy from Chipping Sodbury, more likely I mean Gail and Kevin from a nearby town who have made good and want to move only a matter of a few miles out into the country.


It is therefore necessary for us as planners to recognise the causes of displeasure eg. the spoiling of a view or landscape, the wilful destruction of natural habitat, incompatibility of context, flagrant disrespect for neighbours and so on and to root them out of the design process.  This rooting out however is a negative approach and human beings possess an inherent defensive reaction when told not to do something.


A more positive approach is to expound the causes of pleasure in building with all its physical, psychological and economic benefits.   But before embarking on measures to achieve this aim we, as a planning authority, need to establish and understand several points:


·       1.           Design is a thought process, not a product.   The art of design is the art of problem solving.  PAN 36, The Scottish Office’s design advice document for Housing in the Countryside, talks at length about chimneys, dormers, windows, eaves, verges, porches.  This is not design advice, this is stylising.   It's like suggesting to the Greeks that they build with a bit of Corinthian column simply because its a traditional image we approve of.


·       2.   We must understand the dangers of seeing design merely as a product that pleases.   In avoiding what is offensive, do we not instinctively resort to the aedetic images we know are pleasurable, that is those ingrained in our psyche from childhood.   All of us will probably recall the symmetrical elevation of the Play School house with its smoking chimney and 4 pane glazing and those of us with young children will be aware that Postman Pat operates in the best preserved Conservation Area in northern Europe.   However we should realise that opting for buildings which habitually please, has the potential to lead to stereotypical, prosaic and even inane designs.


·       3.           A designer, like a cook, has to establish his ingredients and recipe, that is, in designer terms, to form his brief.   Good design is very much a manifestation of an assiduously compiled brief coupled with an appropriate response.   Some ingredients eg. climate, geography, environment will remain static and it is these which provide the genius loci.   Other ingredients such as technology, affordability, building skills, client's taste are much more dynamic and it is these which provide the sense of time.   Good contemporary design is a happy blend of these so joint effort by planners and architects to raise public awareness about this would be a welcome start in order to create a more thinking culture and a client base committed to long-term values and a healthier environment.


·       4.           Moray is an incredibly diverse district.   In areas it is spectacularly beautiful, in others it is predominantly agricultural, underdeveloped, coastal, undulating, exposed, wooded.   A district which is diverse must surely require diverse responses, probably very different from the responses in other districts.


·       5.           Buildings in the open countryside should have different design responses from those in cities or suburbias.   Isolated buildings in the countryside are manmade statements of human settlement living in a natural environment whereas buildings in clusters, or villages or towns, are manmade statements in manmade environments.   The contexts are very different.   The symbiosis of a manmade structure with the natural environment is unfortunately much harder to achieve than with a manmade environment and this is why catalogue housing developed for suburbia is so often incongruous in rural situations.


·       6.           There is a dichotomy of on the one hand satisfying the requirements of the indigenous people, renowned for their plain living and high thinking and on the other hand dealing with the requirements and desires of a new breed of immigrants escaping from the hustle and bustle of city life in search of a rural idyll, ignorant perhaps to the fact that they could be party to its irrevocable demise by living a city style life in a rural setting.


The significance of the six points just mentioned is that they form the framework for understanding the subject matter.   They reveal that in order to preach assuredly about pleasurable appropriate buildings, we should know our locality intimately so that our assessment is historically, visually, ecologically and socially analysed within our planning capacity as only minor players in the overall construction process.


The writer Brunskill describes architectural character as being “easy to see, difficult to explain, hard to recreate and even harder to extend”.  Beauty is in the eye of the beholder is it not?   As Dutch architect Aldo Van Eyck said at a recent conference “good and bad buildings are like the difference between pornography and erotica”.


Our decision is therefore to analyse the design of new houses not so much in terms of the style and taste, preferring to focus on what we consider to be the major issues for Moray and not to get bogged down in the minute detail of solitary elements.   In an attempt to elucidate these issues we have identified six key headings.


The first is location.   Due to advances in construction techniques and technology eg. JCB’s, timber framing, double glazing, electricity, etc. houses can be erected faster than ever before and in locations where previous buildings feared to venture eg. hilltops.   The pattern of settlement of mass housing is today therefore not seriously restrained in the way it used to be but unrestrained development can have a costly effect on, amongst other things, ecology, productive land, the character of the landscape, services dispersal and road safety.


Designers and applicants are therefore now requested by our policy to select a site (which if it is not recycling a former site), mitigates the planning concerns ie. to elect a site which will have the minimum impact on other humans, the service infrastructure, land use, flora, fauna, the earth’s surface and the earth’s atmosphere whilst at the same time utilises the positive aspects of the natural environment to the best energy and economic advantage.   In doing so, designers are also asked to view a location in terms of forming part of a much wider landscape rather than a focus merely on an individual site, which is the next heading,


Siting.   Designers are requested to pause and consider siting from the points of shelter, solar gain setting, the environment and social integration rather than simply the current approach of selecting where the best view may be.


If a designer is responsible for selecting a high impact location, or is hand-tied by his client’s choice of such a location, careful siting within the location might alleviate the impact of the building.


Bad decisions on both location and siting should make an application a non-starter and we should not be mollified by an exciting product if these two fundamentals are wrong.


The third heading is Scale.   Size and stature equates with dominance and superiority and in many respects these are characteristics, understandably yearned for by a high percentage of today's rural house owners.   As in nature, however, the reverse of dominance and superiority is a feeling of fear and awe, surely no longer an acceptable fate for the current inhabitants of the countryside to pay.   If we feel the scale of a house in wrong, in terms of overshadowing, context, social integration and so on, is there any point in beginning to consider the next heading:


Form.   Unlike nature, human creations and buildings are based on geometric shapes such as rectangles, triangles and circles.   They are rarely amorphic, a notable exception being the work of Antonio Gaudi but there are not many like him in Moray.   Curvilinear shapes are smoother, gentler causing a sense of repose, could this be why the peaceful inhabitants of the Findhorn Foundation enjoy their round houses?


Most housing however in Britain for centuries now has been based on the rectangle and triangle.   This simple combination evolved in northern Scotland as a means of providing shelter from the climate using the materials and knowledge available.   The depth of the triangle, until the invention of iron and concrete, was determined by an ability to clearspan timber economically in order to provide one functionable room depth.   The length of the rectangle was determined by the accommodation required and the land available, hence rural houses tended to be elongated.   The third dimension, the height was established by man’s biological requirements to comfortably access the dwelling through a door opening and for ergonomic reasons, this was best placed in the middle.  The angle of the triangle was determined by the requirement to keep out driving rain and the capabilities of walls to absorb outward thrust.  Invariably in northern Scotland this was in the order of 45°.   A regular shape evolved responding to mans needs, abilities, resources and climatic conditions.


When accommodation needs and resources changed, restricted by the ability to span great distances, buildings were heightened, lengthened or added to in the form of right angled extensions.   For several centuries, building throughout Scotland adopted such forms and in the undeveloped countryside, they are still the predominant building form.   The technological advances however of this century have transformed man's building abilities, and spans of great distance are easily achieved.   The inevitable outcome in housing is the desire to create buildings of two rooms depth, negating the need to utilise roof spaces or form appendages to the main bulk.   A monofunctional roof need only satisfy the minimum technical requirements for keeping the bulk watertight - a roof pitch in the order of 25°.   The net result is a housing form with a significantly different proportion from all its predecessors.   Added to this departure are the inventions of central heating and double glazing which has seen the loss of chimneys as an external feature and increase in the ratio of light to solid.


And what is wrong with this?   Would not our forefathers have embraced these new abilities given half the chance?   It is likely that they would have, so why do we have a problem accepting this form?   Is it the obvious culture shock, the overt display of our Scottishness, what ever that is, being rapidly diluted in our drift towards internationalism?   Is it the insensitivity of siting buildings of a form and scale significantly different from the existing palette, leaving us in no doubt about the current level and attitude of migration?   Or is it simply the embarrassment to witness an apparently sophisticated animal still living in such a crude box?   The search for national characteristics in art and architecture may however have something to do with an uncertainty about the future in the face of a new millennium and a search for security in an age characterised by rapid uncontrolled change.


Nevertheless, the proportions of new mass housing are important if they are to bear a more evident physical relationship with the existing buildings which seem to integrate well with our countryside.   Having already identified the reasons for having wider buildings than ever before, it can be witnessed that there exists a potential conflict between the natural advancement of building houses and the contextual relationship of new and old.


Yet it can be seen from the various studies by Fladmark, Evans, Richards and the RIAS that modern needs and desires can easily be accommodated within houses which are contextually appropriate with little or no capital cost implications.   Indeed in some cases, John Richards argues it can be cheaper.


One of our responses to this conflict is to try and demonstrate Moray’s problem in evolutionary terms and in an attempt to reconcile this departure in relationship we offer an obvious solution to contextualisation which is easily understood at all levels.   This solution is rooted in the production of plan forms as perceived on the gables of houses which directly relate to 18th and 19th century housing and as a result, demonstrable changes are occurring in the submission of self-build designs to our authority during the past 18 months.


Moving on to materials.   It can be said that nature commands our consciousness with respect to materials and colour.   Sameness is the rule, variety is the exception.   Dull tones convey inertia, repose and majesty and are associated with large objects such as the oak, the mountain, the stag.   Bright colours convey dynamism, alarm and attention and are associated with the small or the ephemeral such as the wasp, the flower.   Charming though colourful cottages may be, as a controlling authority we may have justified reservations about Professor Charles McKean’s bemoaning of the use of “cowpat colours”.


Nevertheless, we will always encourage natural materials selected from the locality since they will inevitably assist the building integrate and relate with its landscape.   If the materials are local and natural, they will also cut down transport costs, reduce the embodied energy in a building, reawaken employment in craft skills and raise a building’s quality in numerous ways but for the time being we, as a planning authority, have to admit the current forces of transport and economy and accept the use of manmade materials. 


We should however continue to make the market contemplate the viability of reopening the lime, slate and stone quarries and planting trees for construction purposes.   We should be much more active in influencing the market than allowing the market to influence us, should we not?




And so having identified these six aspects as being the key public issues of design, we now have to translate these into a design policy.


Would you agree that it is commendable to try and retain the strength of our built culture in Moray?   We do.   Would you actively encourage the building of traditional rural houses?   We do, we have it in our policy but what exactly do we mean by “traditional building”?


Well for 14 centuries after the Romans it certainly was not stone and slate.  Until the 16th Century, stone was still very much confined to the buildings of the great chiefs.   A cast through the history books reveals the extent of rural houses built entirely, or in combinations of turf, earth, clay and thatch.   Even the 1951 Statistical Account still refers to the numbers of buildings constructed using timber cruck, clay and bool, timber and crinkly tin.   Humble buildings such as these are being lost on a daily basis yet the timber tradition survives in other countries equatable to here such as in Norway and Finland.   Stone, by its nature, is one of the most resilient materials available to us, so it is little wonder why stone buildings remain intact long after materials of lesser resilience have broken down.  Consequently, the tradition in building we witness today is only one part of a wider tradition.   It is therefore put that the importance of traditional buildings as we have come to label them, is not so much the realisation of the buildings, rather 1) the process that established them in the first place and 2) the role they now play today in creating the context.


By demonstrating fitness for site and context, houses which respond regionally to the evergreen sheltered glades found in Speyside, will inevitably have differences to those responding to the dramatic contours of the Highlands or the barren exposed areas of Banffshire.   No wonder therefore that current mass produced houses often offend because they are designed and decided upon (and even produced) long before the context is set.   How often have you heard “I’ve already bought my kitchen units by Fifesteen and am promised a good deal on Marley Mendip”.  This cack-handed approach to design ie. product before site, debases us to stereotypes and market niches - happily married couples with 2.4 children, 2 cars, a dog and a steady job in town.   Surely to enrich our lives properly, user and viewer alike, a house must be designed only after the brief is complete, when the person’s requirements, the landscape, the neighbours, the climate, the materials, the colour range etc. is fully known - a truly vernacular approach, not the hackneyed version we have come to associate with 18th and 19th century products.   We therefore need a mindshift, a radical change in design practice in the housing construction industry where the priorities are regard, respect and integration, not “decorative bedroom balcony with panoramic views”, or ”arched entranceway with optional bullnosed reconstituted stone panels.”   When will a main elevation again openly greet the visitor, with a front door which says “do come in” as opposed to “welcome to my double garage”?


Final years of centuries seem to have encouraged cultural introspection with the promise of a national style.   In our nationalistic quest for a rural Scottish House, could an unending stream of repro 18th and 19th century houses not lead us towards a building culture on an admirable parallel with other national icons such as the drunk Glaswegian, Bonnie Prince Charlie, the Alexander Brothers and so on.


Is true Scottishness, not so much a set style as an attitude, buildings being the outcome borne of a determination to maximise resolutions appropriately often in spite of less resource than others.   Thus our buildings have always reflected contemporary expedience and aspiration. Is it therefore not so much the product as the spirit which is important in current building.   Will a future to be proud of not be designs which readily acknowledge the context, the environment, the tradition and the society yet still achieve an original spatial response to the living needs and desires of the times of a particular area or region?


Anyway, enough effulgent ponsy crap, how has the public reacted to all this?   How has the design strategy operated?   Unfortunately design is intangible, subjective and perceived from different standpoints so it is difficult to accumulate equivocal statistics.   It is however reasonable to cite the following:

·       The approval rate for new housing is up, suggesting that the design quality of submissions has improved.

·       The involvement of professional designers has increased, suggesting that the procurement of agents has altered.

·       For the first time in recent recollection, submissions are being refused solely on design grounds.

·       Appeals against refusal on design grounds are being upheld.

·       The public appear to endorse the objectives.

·       Architects and agents appear to be able to work with the objectives.

·       Developers are changing their product range.

·       Other Councils, the DOE for Ireland and several schools of Planning and/or Architecture use the document.

·       The document has been commended by the Saltire Society and subsequently received a Patrick Geddes award.   It recently received an APRS award.


With this document in place our planning authority should be able to act with consistency and not have applicants frustrated by individuals using the system of power to fulfil personal ambitions or preferences of taste, hence the success of our formalised policies and guidelines.


This aside, not all design matters can be elicited by empirical rules.  If this were so, planning and architecture would cease to be arts.   Within the confines of established principles, consented objectives and analytical criteria, there must always be room in both professions for skilful judgement and the breaking (or rather the unlearning) of rules in order to enable the art of building to advance and to ensure that the monotony and anonymity which pervades as a problem today, is not simply recreated under a different guise.


This is not a talisman of the times, this is simply good design practice.


·     Nick Brown is a Senior Planning Assistant with Moray District Council


-Go back to CONTENTS to pick up the links

GREEN PLANNING papers presented in Glasgow on 17 January 1996

michael thornley




The two main conclusions of our work on the planning of housing at Whinhill in Greenock and for the regeneration of the site on an aluminium works at Kinlochleven are that:

·       Green initiatives are unlikely to succeed without the full participation of the user clients in the planning process.

·       Emotional and spiritual issues should not be ignored in the drive towards the functional and economical justifications for green planning.

·       Both the projects examined are at the initial, concept stages and may or not be implemented.




Strone Farm is a housing estate that lies high above Greenock overlooking the Firth of Clyde.   Built in the 1930s it has been the subject of at least 5 studies in the 1990s.   It is a single entry estate, within a Priority Treatment Area.   There is a heterogeneous collection of tenement buildings, the majority of which will be demolished.   Parts of the site are situated at the end of an extended road system.   An electric power line traverses the area.   While the potential dangers of this are acknowledged no decision has been take on re-routing the power line at the cost of approximately £650,000.  


The housing is on a steep north facing slope, the greatest of which is steeper than 1 in 7.  Existing housing has substantial underbuilding.   The prevailing wind is funnelled between the blocks that run parallel with the contours and the site is severely exposed.     An initial phase of development has taken place on the most favourable part of the site, reducing the possibilities for improving the road layout and casting shadows across the site - a case of short term thinking that has compromised the long term replanning of the area.


Initial Response


Our initial response was to contact EDAS with a view to carrying out a study on solar access, shadowing and improvement of the external environment by way of reconfiguring the buildings and by the introduction of planting as shelter.


The work on solar access indicated that, in winter, the solar door is slammed shut at about midday.   In the summer, however, long shadows are cast by the low angle of the setting sun, which could be a problem if buildings or trees are introduced to act as barriers or filters to the wind.


Minor re-orientation of the principal facades towards the east (about 10o away from the orientation of existing buildings) creates significant benefits while a movement in the opposite direction condemns many houses to potential darkness.   Similarly, a relatively small reduction in height of the  ridges, for instance by split level housing, has major benefits in reducing the length of shadows down the slope.   More difficult to address, because of the lack of introduction of techniques, are the benefits or otherwise of reconfiguring the housing layout and shelter to reduce air speeds.


"Green" Issues


At first sight the replanning of a semi derelict housing estate did not appear to offer much scope for "green" interventions.   With social and economic issues at the top of the agenda, "green" issues might be seen as an intellectual luxury that cannot be afforded.    Fionn Stevenson's paper presented at the SEDA event at Battleby in November 1995 gave the lie to this.   Agenda 21 from the Rio Summit and the EU 5 Action Programme shows that we need to see environmental impact in terms of social concerns for potentially vulnerable groups such as women, children, the elderly and indigenous populations.   All of these groups are represented in housing areas such as Strone Farm where the impact of changing consumption patterns are all too evident. 


Clearly, at present, Strone Farm is not a sustainable human settlement.    Yet the Communally Based Housing Association has the potential to recognise and tap into the human resources of the local people and their community.    There is a clear relationship between technology, ecology and not so much culture but rather the social and economic objectives of area improvement.   Thus there are real benefits in looking at, with the residents, the replanning of their area in terms of ecosystems and in a holistic way rather than in terms of a narrow vision of new housing.


The Way into The Process


Given our absence of detailed knowledge on green planning and green architecture, we fell back on a search through literature to identify possible interventions that may be considered as part of the physical planning process.   These are set out under the following headings:



·       Reuse of existing structures

·       Grouping of buildings to increase comfort levels

·       Passive solar energy

·       Insulation and weather sealing

·       "Vernacular" buildings where material issues are considered first

·       Space planning to reduce heat loss

·       Space planning to utilise heat gain from occupants activities

·       Space planning for home based work

·       Energy efficient heating and lighting systems

·       Eco labelling and use of materials with low embodied energy

·       A toxic free environment

·       Sourcing materials and labour locally

·       Reduction of waste in building process

·       Exemplary building systems

·       Gardens

·       Self Build



·       Resident participation

·       Local employment initiatives

·       Access to health care

·       Access to school facilities

·       Access to shops

·       Access to housing management

·       Access to day care for young and elderly

·       Access to sheltered accommodation (refuges, hostel and grouped homes    for special needs groups)

·       Access to support structures within the community (lets)

·       Breaking down barriers/making connections

·       Planning and building solutions that are implemented and tested in small increments


·       Water storage

·       Reed bed sewerage systems

·       Separating soil/waste and rainwater run off

·       Solar power

·       Wind power

·       District heating

·       Reuse of existing services (roads, drains cables etc.?)

·       Low energy public lighting

·       Recycling of waster material (space for 3 bins)

·       Proximity to public transport

Site and Landscape

·       Recycling of demolition materials

·       Preparation of existing topsoil

·       Protection of soil from erosion

·       Traffic calming

·       Encouragement of pedestrian power

·       Planting as shelter to increase comfort levels

·       Planting as habitat creation

·       Planting as forestry enterprise

·       Planting for psychological benefits

·       Recycling of waste materials (composting)

·       Outdoor space for leisure activities and play

·       Outdoor space for pets

·       Sites for community facilities


It was interesting for the residents and myself to recognise that many of the possible interventions were relevant to the replanning of Strone, some of which could be included as a matter of course.   The exercise had helped us highlight the importance of a number of key issues that, if we had not gone through the process, would have remained implicit and unclear.




Kinlochleven lies at the head of a deep fjord like sea loch.   It is dominated  to the north by the fine hill walking ridges of the Mamores and to the south by the Aonach Eagoch ridge, an interesting scramble in summer which can turn into a major undertaking in winter.   Until 1900 there were only a few houses and a shooting lodge at Kinlochleven which was reached by a track that ran along the north side of the loch.   The attraction of the site for the British Aluminium Company was its relative proximity to two rail heads, access from the sea and, most important of all, the water to create hydro electric power.


Construction commenced on the Blackwater Dam, while the pilot project for what would be the first aluminium works in the world was established on a nearby site that, traditionally, had been a smiddy.   A graveyard close by to the dam stands testament to the men who died in constructing the dam.   Water is delivered down huge pipes to the power house which contains a line of turbines that feed electricity directly to the cells on the factory floors, to which bauxite is brought from the large bunkers on the site.


In the 1930s expansion and upgrading of the factory was thwarted by a dispute between the County of Inverness and Argyll over the access to water and a new plant was built in Fort William.   This episode laid the seeds for the closure of the Kinlochleven plant which is likely to take place in the relatively near future.


In order to explore the possibilities of life after British Aluminium a community business was established to look at alternative ventures that might be attracted to the area.   The strengths of the area were identified as the abundance of the good clean water, which had originally attracted British Aluminium, and its close proximity to Glencoe and Ben Nevis, both popular climbing areas.


Out of this analysis has developed a strategy aimed at encouraging "green" businesses that would benefit from the environmental qualities of the site.    Also a hill walking centre will be promoted to  capitalise on Kinlochleven's location on the West Highland Way and to encourage newcomers to safely enjoy the mountain scenery.   Interpretive proposals were sought and it is in this context that replanning of the site was developed.


Initial Response


The aluminium works were constructed on a flat site dug out of a hillside.   It is about 2/3 of the size of the Glasgow Garden Festival site and lies almost at sea level.


The site is bound on two sides by the River Leven and this strong natural edge is reinforced by the long structure of the Power House and tail race that runs through a deep concrete slot back into the river.   The southern half of the site is covered by the aluminium works housed within a 1 storey steel structure.   The northern half is dominated by the bauxite bunkers which stand like a fortress overlooking a number of other structures, some of which are currently being removed.


To the north is a slag heap or rather a steep embankment that was created when the site was cut into he hillside.   A burn runs in at the south west corner and is channelled through the concrete base that covers the whole site.   To the west of the site is a tall flat roofed building used by the army as a base for training activities.   An isolated plug of rock which acts as a grandstand lies within the site.   The entrance to the site is to the north, at the point where the housing in Kinlochleven and the aluminium works meet at the road by bridge over the River Leven.


Initial ideas suggested the creation of a garden, along the lines of the Bells Garden in Perth, that could provide a setting for both the new companies that it is hoped will be attracted to Kinlochleven and, at the same time will be a draw for visitors as well as an amenity for residents.   (There is no major garden on the west coast mainland between Arduaine, south of Oban, and Inverewe in the far north).   Out of this grew the idea that the natural regeneration of the flora on the site might become a symbol of the economic regeneration of Kinlochleven itself.


The Way into the Process


An analysis of the slag heap reveals at its base, large stones lying in a matrix of soot.   However, further up the slag are signs of regeneration with herbaceous material such as digitalis (foxgloves).   Grasses emerge on top of the slope where salix (dwarf willow) spread over the larger boulders.   The grassland merges at the south west corner with natural birch and oak woodland that clings on to the steeper ground on both sides of the burn.   The cutting of the site into the slope has created two areas of water, or issues, one on the slag heap and another adjacent to the burn at the point where it merges into the site.   Above this the woodland gives way to the area of rank grass that terminates abruptly at the edge of the small cliff faces that forms the boundary of the site.


In contrast to the natural shapes of the mountains and woodlands is the strong framework of the manufacturing plant which for design purposes was projected over the whole site to provide a planning grid.


Precedents and Inspiration


While the site analysis was carried out a number of precedents were being considered, including Geoffrey Dutton's "Marginal Garden" (Geoffrey Dutton "Harvesting The Edge" Menard Press).    Following the precedent of the Sawyers at Inverewe Geoffrey Dutton has fenced and then forested a craggy hillside at about 400m above sea level in the southern Grampians.   By careful intervention and management of the canopy he has created a garden true to the Scottish landscape that has been subtly adjusted to accommodate "foreign" plants that survive in an arctic environment where the snow lies for many months of the year.


Another related precedent is the movement in Italy and Switzerland for mountain gardens where alpine flora is grown at relatively low levels.   There, visitors who would not normally reach the highest ridges, can enjoy and study alpine plants.   A further connection are the west coast gardens of Scotland where exotic plants such as rhododendrons, magnolias and other introductions from the mountain regions of the world flourish in a relatively mild climate, encouraged by a notably high rainfall.   In contrast are the formal gardens in Italy with their water chains and fountains through which the visitor travels from "civilisation" represented by the villa and its terraces to the "wildernesses" of dark woodland and craggy grottoes.   The final, and even more formal inspiration comes from Japan, notably the Zen gardens with raked gravel and stones, carefully tended azaleas and pines that create infinite mountain landscapes in the mind.




Applying all these thoughts to the project the following solution presented itself.   First, the building structure should be maintained for reuse.   Certainly the main columns could be left to support a new structure in the future or to be overgrown by the plant life.   Water can be brought into and across the site from the existing burn, carried in channels attached to the columns, like alpine "bisses".  The existing concrete that covers the entire floor of the aluminium works could be broken up where necessary but rather than be removed from site could be heaped up against the slag heap to form a ridge or moraine capped by the minimum amount of imported stone.   The slag heap, now connected to the site by the ridge, will be fenced to allow natural regeneration to take place without interference from sheep and deer.   The final outcome of this intervention is not known.


The existing woodland provides the nucleus for expanding the woodland cover with new trees planted across the rank grassland to provide, in time, protection for exotic introductions.  The wet areas will provide a habitat for native plants with heather on the ground above.   In contrast a much more formal landscape is envisaged for the aluminium works site itself with trees replicating the existing steel columns and hedging following the line of the existing grid to create compartments, within which new commercial initiatives and other activities can take place.


Thus a Mountain Garden of Scotland is created with habitats that represent the stony ground of the high ridges, the mountains, the heather moors woodland and wet land.   This merges with the more colourful Mountain Garden of the World which provides an appropriate setting for a hostel or hotel converted from the army training building, close to the entrance to act as a draw for visitors.  This area is linked to the site itself by suspension bridges that will be flung across a "gorge" to the plug of rock, or "Belvedere", from which the whole site can be viewed along the formal vistas of the Four Seasons Garden.  Finally, the visitor can contemplate the Peace Garden, a small part of the site where nature's efforts to regenerate have been terminated.   The Peace Garden sits between the remains of the old factory (where there are proposals to construct a "Helter Skelter" Interpretation to tell the story of aluminium and its products) and the naturally generating landscape.


The Outcome


The project is being developed by the Local Enterprise Company and may be the subject of a Millennium Fund Bid.   The existing bank of turbines in the Power House are to be replaced by one new machine that will generate two thirds of the total existing power.   A second new machine is to be added later.   The electricity created will supply the aluminium works in Fort William, with the surplus being exported to the national grid.   The existing turbines could provide, with very little maintenance, electricity to the site and the wider community.   Instead they are likely to be decommissioned.   Perhaps the real means to regenerate the economy in Kinlochleven would be to harness the water that is available to create power for the benefit of the community.


·      Michael Thornley is a partner in Michael & Sue Thornley, Architects, Glasgow.


-Go back to CONTENTS to pick up the links

GREEN PLANNING papers presented in Glasgow on 17 January 1996

gordon cox


The Tweed Horizons Centre for sustainable technology


What makes sustainable development so important for business?   From a Scottish Borders perspective we can see the strategic thrusts of the RIo Earth Summit 1992, the European Union’s 5th Action Plan on Environment, the UK Sustainability Strategy 1994, and the business dimension of Scottish Enterprise’s Strategy Statements.   And in the Borders itself we have a Borders District Study, a Renewable Energy Strategy, a Sustainable Development Forum, and finally Tweed Horizons.   The Local Enterprise Company (LEC) for the Borders, Scottish Borders Enterprise, has a Business Plan which has to be seen in that context, with its 1995-98 objectives for competitiveness, exports, new ventures, inward investment, skills & knowledge, business infrastructure, and access to opportunity.


What is ‘Sustainable Development’?   There are currently something like 120 different definitions.   The best known and most often used is: “Development that meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs” from ‘Our Common Future’ The Brundtland Report 1988.  EU and UK governments are now committed to the principle.


The aim must be to bring the interests of business, people and the environment into closer harmony.   Sustainable Development is economic development which safeguards and enhances the future environment.


“... The major cause of the continued deterioration of the global environment is the unsustainable pattern of consumption and production, particularly in the industrialised countries, which is a matter of grave concern, aggravating poverty and causing imbalances ...” Chapter 4, Agenda 21, Earth Summit, Rio de Janeiro 1992.   Sustainable technology addresses the issues raised at the Rio summit through research and business development.   Its creative application of science and engineering aims to achieve pollution-free power generation, and the manufacture of products from materials which may be renewed and re-used while making best use of natural resources.


Tweed Horizons faces the challenge presented at the Earth Summit by supporting the commercialisation of Sustainable Technology and aims to play a major role by raising awareness of sustainable technology and providing for the international exchange of information and ideas; supporting companies which have commercialisation of sustainable technology central to their business philosophy; demonstrating sustainable technology and its relevance to economic development.  Change is inevitable.  Tweed Horizons, through its activities, aims to direct that change towards a commercially acceptable and sustainable future, regionally and worldwide.  The progress we make today must be in the direction of meeting tomorrow’s needs.


What is the sustainable development agenda?

·       strategic targets;

·       minimisation of waste;

·       careful and sparing use of non-renewable resources;

·       shift to using well managed renewable resources;

·       minimising energy use;

·       increasing public awareness of the issues;

·       internalisation of environmental costs.

Like it or not, the sustainable development agenda is firmly established. Fundamentally it’s about responsible progress with the environment in mind; employment leading to wealth.   It is not peripheral and it is not in any sense quirky.   Sustainable development targets represent real threats.   They also represent much greater opportunities.   Tweed Horizons aims to capitalise on these opportunities for the future benefit of the Borders and Scotland.


Imagination, creativity and ingenuity set the human race aside from all other creatures on earth.   Recent history has shown that both constructive and destructive activities have resulted from the application of these qualities.   Although there is growing awareness of the harm caused by inefficient consumption of energy and the over-use of natural resources, much remains to be done to reverse these trends.   The way we view economic development, the way we consume goods and services, the way we utilise our natural resources - all these things need to change.   Tweed Horizons is an International Centre for Sustainable Technology, based in Scotland, networking worldwide, working towards a commercial, sustainable and enjoyable environment for future generations.   The earth is our children’s greatest inheritance.


Our business philosophy is to support the commercialisation of sustainable technology.  It is estimated that by the year 2000, the world market for the environmental sector will be £200 Billion (OECD), £248 Billion (ECOTEC); £283 Billion (EU Business Journal).   This will be larger than aerospace (£120 Billion) and approaching that of the chemical industry (£333 Billion).   Governments around the world are committed to sustainable development.    Frontier companies will take advantage of new opportunities created.   The UK market for the environmental sector in the year 2000 is estimated at  £10.4 Billion & 13% of EU Market (OECD); £12.4 Billion (ECOTEC).   The current UK employment in this field is between 75,000 & 115,000 (ECOTEC).


Developing profitable business with the environment in mind is one of the principal aims of Tweed Horizons.  We are developing a policy of living and working while protecting the earth and its inhabitants.   We are trying to deal with the legacy of past attitudes.   We are making use of human skills combined with commercial drive and instinct.   As a catalyst, we are nurturing fledgling businesses.   Tweed Horizons supports the creation of jobs and wealth while caring for the environment; encouraging new, partner companies to take advantage of the facilities and support available at the Centre.   Interested parties are invited to present credentials and plans for consideration, showing how sustainability is central to their business philosophy.   The Centre houses companies in the fields of energy conservation, new materials and product research, information technologies, sustainable agriculture, and new environmentally-related technologies.


Objectives of Tweed Horizons are to -

·       provide a ‘sheltered’ environment for sustainable businesses;

·       promote the concept of sustainability through the use of a small scale biofuel CHP plant;

·       demonstrate the potential of new IT technologies;

·       encourage re-use of surplus agricultural land;

·       provide information and training.


Based in a former seminary at Newtown St Boswells, Tweed Horizons occupies a tranquil and picturesque site overlooking the River Tweed.   Purchased by Scottish Borders Enterprise in 1993, it contains within its 25 acres a Site of Special Scientific Interest with ancient and semi-natural woodland.   In the long term, this land will act as a proving ground for new, sustainable, land-management techniques.   After sensitive development, the Centre for Sustainable Technology now offers modern business:

·       Energy-efficient office accommodation - 250-1000 sq ft unites with ISDN links, low-energy light fittings, upgraded insulation with digital measuring of each unit, and movement-sensitive light switching throughout the building.

·       Five demonstration land based projects established on site including sustainable agriculture and coppicing.

·       The UK’s first, commercial, small-scale combined heat and power plant fuelled by willow coppice - This provides Tweed Horizons’ heat and lighting.  Its high, thermodynamic efficiency allows the generation of energy for the Centre at a competitive cost, while using renewable supplies.  Equivalent generators running on natural gas produce approximately four times the level of pollutants.

·       TweedNet - the Borders Internet point of presence, giving companies access to a world-wide market of over 30 million people.

·       A conference suite  - with digital communications, video-conferencing, state-of-the-art audio-visual equipment and simultaneous translation facilities.   The auditorium seats up to 100 people and has allied meeting and restaurant facilities.


To date, 17 companies have become involved (11 of them new).   They are required to be both financially & environmentally sustainable; 13 are located in Tweed Horizons itself.   50 jobs have been created with £1.5 million turnover in the first year, and there is international recognition of our activity.


Types of activities sought have been

·       Both new and existing businesses;

·       R&D and product development; Example activities include new means of waste reduction & processing;

·       Recycling technologies;

·       Renewable energy production & energy efficiency;

·       Resource-efficient agriculture;

·       New materials;

·       Environmentally-related sciences & products;

·       Information technology & software.


Dependable non-polluting power generation from renewable resources is a key to a sustainable industrial society.   In demonstrating this philosophy, Tweed Horizons has installed a Combined Heat and Power Plant (CHP), taking advantage of locally available farm and forestry output.   Our CHP plant is the first, commercial, small-scale unit in the UK to use willow coppice and forestry brash as fuel.   The willow is harvested in a three-year cycle.   The CHP plant is fully-automated and converts the harvested fuels into environmentally-friendly power and heat.   The various types of wood-fuel consumed are converted into producer gas which drives an engine and generator set.   The high thermodynamic efficiency of the plant provides low-cost energy for the Centre.   Approximately 50kW power is supplied from an input of 4 to 5 tons of woodchip / biomass fuel per week.   At the same time, waste output is minimal and benign.   Waste ash is used as fertiliser.   Water vapour becomes precipitation and the small amount of carbon dioxide emitted by the plant is ingested by plants.   All the waste is re-cycled - the virtuous circle.   The Tweed Horizons CHP plant is one example of sustainable heat and power generation.   Research and development in other methods will be encouraged.


We believe in raising awareness - exchanging information and ideas.   Tweed Horizons is an international meeting point, exploiting the latest fast-track computer and video technology to support those businesses intent on investigating and developing acceptable, sustainable technologies.   It is a catalyst for the generation of new concepts in business development.    TweedNet, the Scottish Borders link with Internet, offers E-mail, world-wide web and file transfer.   Through ethernet, electronically-transmitted information can be screened in large-format within the conference centre.   Video-conferencing, with a choice of screen formats, allows presentations from around the world to be delivered on a real-time basis.   We have a comprehensive suite of up-to-date communications media in our fully-integrated conference centre.   Lectures and seminars, as well as regular exhibitions are held here, addressing environmental themes and sustainable development.  Seating 100, the centre has simultaneous translation facilities and is promoted as the ideal venue for international conferences.  Tweed Horizons has forged links throughout the world.  Delegates from many countries including USA, Sweden, Poland, France, Finland and eastern Germany have visited us, and we have set up partnership links with the Centre for Sustainable Technology at the Georgia Institute of Technology in Atlanta.


Tweed Horizons is an international centre, developing a cluster of sustainable companies in the Scottish Borders.   We aim to extend the practice of sustainable development, throughout Scotland, the rest of the UK and overseas.   The Centre is striving to play a leading role in demonstrating sustainable technology and its relevance to economic development.   Scottish Borders Enterprise, the LEC which has developed the Centre from its inception, will foster the development of a chain of similar centres throughout the European Union, together with an IT Network for information exchange.   Future development will focus on 4 key elements: Internationalisation - Links with complementary overseas centres, hosting visits and academic exchange;  Technology - Technology transfer from elsewhere to encourage local company development and company birth;  R & D - Provide research facilities for the further development of sustainability monitoring, indicators & performance measures;  Education - Establish links with higher and further education centres in Scotland and beyond to establish suitable academic and information courses for delivery at the Centre.


What is the next step?   Our demonstration of sustainability in action in the Borders can become a virtual Institute of Sustainable Development.   Its mission:  - To create a centre of excellence in Scotland which will promote, through education, business development and R&D, the practical delivery of sustainability by business.   We will continue our Activities in Partnership, our educational, R&D, and business development programmes, with and for wider community benefit.   We will continue to promote environmentally sensitive business, to develop indicators and performance measures, and to look for suitable innovative projects.  We will encourage international strategic alliances and technology transfer.   The future for sustainable technology is the challenge, and the opportunity must be grasped for Scotland as a whole.


We can all press for wider recognition of the crucial link between economics and environment.   But we should not underestimate the task.   We must always be open to challenge and question.   We have to promote real environmental efficiency in product manufacture.  We must look at least 5 years ahead and try to anticipate tomorrow’s technology today.   Above all, we must understand that sustainable development is a process not a state.


Food for thought - “knowledge is wonderful but imagination is even better.”  Albert Einstein.



·     Gordon Cox is the Business Development Manager of the Tweed Horizons Centre for Sustainable Technology at Newtown St Boswells.


GR-Go back to CONTENTS to pick up the links

EEN PLANNING papers presented in Glasgow on 17 January 1996

drew mackie + howard liddell



This paper describes our approach to research carried out for the Scottish Office into the consequences for Scottish planning of taking energy conservation seriously.   Although we were asked to provide a ‘think piece’, this was not to be a theoretical study.   It was made very clear to us at the start of this programme that our client required the results to be practical and capable of being applied in the day to day work of the planner.   The aims of the study were to:

• identify leading ideas

• produce practical results for planners

• produce simple guidelines


Energy conservation is not yet seen as a mainstream part of planning.   Although individual planners or local authorities may feel that they have a responsibility to encourage the conservation of energy, there is no commonly accepted approach to the issue.   When a planning authority does implement energy conservation measures they are seen as “special” rather than part of the common culture of planning.   Indeed some English authorities trying to incorporate energy conservation measures in their local plans in the past, have had these rejected by ministers as not a legitimate planning concern.


This situation is changing.   A number of factors are making energy conservation a key issue in the planning of both urban and rural areas. These are:

•      connections between energy consumption, pollution and health

•      global warming caused by “greenhouse” gases produced by energy use

•      the availability of alternative, renewable energy sources

•      the political vulnerability of existing energy sources

•      congestion and environmental degradation caused by the growing use of private transport.


Public perceptions are also changing.   In some areas the public has already taken matters into their own hands in demanding the right to restrict traffic when local pollution levels become too high.   The thrust of thinking about these problems is occurring in university research departments and the bulk of published material comes from these sources.   Our initial problem was to canvass a wide spectrum of views and ideas from researchers throughout the UK and abroad and to capture the leading edge of their thinking.   This would not be done through reading alone.   It required a vehicle for face to face debate.




In parallel with a programme of literature search taking in UK, European and US sources, we ran a series of workshops for key researchers.   The purpose of these was to ensure that the leading ideas in the field were incorporated in the study results.   We held two types of workshop.   Initially, researchers were asked to identify the key issues and to outline what sort of actions planners could take to further the aims of energy conservation.   A further workshop was later held with practitioners in Scotland to test the practicability of the study proposals.


The first workshops were held in Edinburgh and in Bedford.   Participants were selected from a literature review in which we identified key texts and authors.   The Bedford locations allowed researchers and planners from the Open University, Cranwell University, Oxford, London and from Bedfordshire itself to attend.








These workshops were very open in form and encouraged the participants to pursue their own interests as well as the general subject of the effects of energy conservation on planning.   The key issue areas identified were:

• Infrastructure

• Transport

• Settlement Pattern

• Land Use and Activities

• Site Layout, Built Form and Landscape

• Education and Perception

• Health


At this point we should mention a characteristic concerning the discussion of energy conservation which pursued us through the whole study.   The energy spent on transport is around 27% of total energy use in Scotland.   Yet transport dominates the debate on how planning can assist energy conservation, although it is commonly agreed that many transport issues are beyond the powers of planning!


There are several reasons for the obsession with transport:

•      The effects of any policy which targets transport will be felt relatively quickly.   In contrast, planning policies which affect the building stock (which uses 40% of consumed energy in Scotland) will only be felt slowly as only about 1% is added to the building stock in the form of new building annually.

•      Transport is a very visible energy consumer.   Its pollution effects are also much more visible

•      Many of current battles on environmental issues have focused on the building of new roads.

•      The conventional wisdom is that cities have grown mainly in response to the development of transport.   On the other hand, the role of energy grids (gas, electricity) is less appreciated.   A recent study of the growth of Chicago by Harold Platt shows clearly that the growth of energy grids, changes in distribution of energy generating sources and the management of the energy industries had a profound effect on the pattern and rate of growth of the city.


This concentration on the role of transport meant that we were constantly having to steer the discussion to other areas.   It shows up in the literature as well.   Much of the work on the relation of urban form and energy use centres on the transportation issues.   The planner will require a broader view if energy conservation is to become a fully effective concept in day-to-day work.




The next stage was to create a framework within which the ideas culled from the workshops could be placed so that we could see the interrelationships.   This was achieved by creating a matrix with the issue areas along one axis and the scales of planning action along the other (see below).   This allowed us to identify forty two actions at various scales that planners can take to encourage the conservation of energy.



Strategic Planning



Development Control

Design Guidance


Public Consult-ation


Disposition of Road Nets, Energy Grids etc.

Use of local supply sources. Support of existing infrastructure. Interface with new energy efficient systems.

Location of Energy Supply Sources.

Interface with new energy efficient systems.

Road Layout.


Prioritise energy efficient schemes to implement.

Transportation reviews.


Disposition of Road Nets, Energy Grids etc.

Encouragement of public transport. Limitation of car use.

Provision of public transport and cycling facilities.

Parking standards. Interface with traffic calming.

Traffic calming, encouragement of walking, cycling & public transport.

“Car-free” schemes.

Park & ride. Traffic calming.

Transportation reviews.

Car pooling campaigns.

Settlement Pattern

Encouragement of compact settlements,

Encourage energy efficient forms. Siting according to microclimate.

Use of planting. Optimum siting.

Energy Rules for site selection, building type, layout.

Town centre projects for energy conservation.

Energy conserva­tion as an issue in local and strategic plans & major projects.

Land Use & Activities

Overall distribution of housing and employment land. Declaration of traffic free zones. Strategic energy audits.

Encouragement of mixed use. Strategic landscape distribution.

Greater flexibility of use mix. Interface with building control and environmental health.

Control of densities.

Strategic landscape. Shelter belts. Planting to achieve CO2 balance.

Promote energy conscious mixes. Develop CHP schemes.

Energy conservation as an issue in local planning & in practical projects.

Site Layout, Built Form & Landscape

General Statements of principle.

Disposition of uses to energy appropriate sites. Consideration of microclimate.

House types and orientation.


Minimisation of wind chill and road length.

Design Guides. Design Briefs.

Promote energy conscious schemes.

Publications for prospective developers.

Education & Perception

National & Regional Policies.

Identify energy conservation as a critical material factor.

Use local knowledge.

Working with developers.

Require written statements of how develop­ment proposals use energy conserv­ation principles. Double account­­ing methods.

Establish best practice.


RTPI/RIAS inter-disciplinary CPD.

Demonstration projects. Preparation of information, workshops with sectoral and local groups.

Work with schools.


Consideration of emissions in location of development.

Consideration of emissions in siting development.

Interface with pollution control.

Prepare joint documents of siting, emissions, etc.

Socio-epidemiological studies of areas with / without energy conser­v­ation regime.

Explain planning / energy measures in terms of health gains.



This list is useful and could be applied by planners in their general work.   We felt, however, that a more focused set of actions would better carry the message that planners can do something now.   We therefore developed a set of ten integrated initiatives that planners could take which incorporated most of the matrix list.




The first workshops concentrated on identifying issues.   The second workshop looked at the practicalities of implementing planning action.   The matrix was presented to an audience consisting of planning officers, planning consultants, reporters and from the Scottish Office staff.   The suggested ten planning initiatives were then presented on cards.   These were used to structure the discussion in groups.   Each group was asked to assess:

• the practicality of the various planning actions

• how easy each would be to implement

• if the suggested areas covered the whole range of possible actions

• the priority of each action area

• the interconnections between actions

The workshop agreed the list of initiatives with some amendments and made suggestions as to how they might apply in practice.




The report of our research has been written as a “think piece” for The Scottish Office.   If and when it is to be published will be decided by the client.   We understand however that it may well be available soon to local authorities and others as a stimulus to the debate about planning’s possible influence on energy conservation.




The matrix already shown indicates the sort of actions we think that planners can take at various scales.   A rather more direct indication of what sort of projects planners might initiate is needed.   Ten areas for action that we can envisage are:


•       Physical Planning:  The Form of Development

The location, layout and form of development and its attendant landscape can have a considerable effect on the way that an area uses energy.   The most relevant aspects are:

·       Landscape & Landform

·       Layout

·       Built Form

However, only 1% per annum of building stock is new build.   This means that changes in energy consumption achieved by new forms of building or by innovative layouts will be very slow.   In assessing what form are the most efficient, we were struck by the fact that traditional forms of streets, blocks and squares often offer the best results in terms of the external area exposed to heat loss, shelter, compactness, etc.

Possible action:

·       consider location in terms of orientation and exposure

·       encourage compact forms

·       use landscape for shelter

·       encourage forms and materials which minimise all types of energy losses


•       Physical Planning:  Transport

Much of the discussion of energy conservation centres on transport.   As we have pointed out, transport takes up only 27% of the total annual energy use in Scotland. Buildings are the largest user at 40%.   This is an area of decision making where planning is often peripheral - transport projects are not initiated by planners who have little power over them.   Transport is, on the other hand, the area in which use patterns can change very quickly, in which the growth of energy consumption is greatest and with the greatest potential for increased consumption (80% of the world’s population does not own a car).   The Toronto targets for the reduction of CO2 are now plainly unattainable if we rely on technical fix alone and will need social, management & political changes if they are ever to be achieved

Possible action:

·       encourage schemes to reduce private transport

·       promote public transport

·       promote cycling, walking

·       support land use patterns which shorten journeys


•       Physical Planning:  Mixed use

Much travel is spent on journeys between different use areas.   A greater mixture of use would possibly lessen these.   Often planning will reinforce the division of uses (between housing and workshop activities for instance).   Developers and the agencies which finance them are also not keen to see the mixture of several uses in the same vertical stack of development.   Planning could ease this situation by taking a more relaxed view of mixed use.

Possible action:

·       relaxed approach_

·       mixed use at energy nodes

·       discourage car dependency

·       encourage compactness, diversity, accessibility


•       Physical Planning:  Optimising Compactness

There is a great debate at the moment as to the effects of compactness of development on the use of energy.   Authors talk of the “compact city.”   The theory is that concentration of development will bring savings in energy use through cutting journey length and emphasising non-car modes of transport while concentrating energy grids.   The deeper you dig into this, the more complicated it gets, and seemingly obvious savings become less so.   Concentration of uses suggests the concentration of some of the adverse effects of energy use - congestion, pollution etc.   The location and interrelation of adjacent compact centres adds further complication.   Finally, arguments can be made for considering compactness along transport or energy lines rather than around a point.   The danger is that this concept is adopted by planners without the necessary consideration of these complications.

Possible action:

·       minimise dispersion

·       compactness around energy nodes or along energy lines

·       develop nodes within existing fabric


•       Physical Planning:  Regeneration

A great deal of energy has already been expended in creating our towns and cities.   This “embodied energy” is thrown away when we demolish and new energy is required to rebuild.   It has been estimated in the USA that it takes from 5 to 10 years of a building’s day-to-day energy use to construct it in the first place.   Major savings could therefore be made by retaining and upgrading our existing stock and the infrastructure that supports it.   This implies greater emphasis on incremental development and the “mending” of the existing urban fabric as well as the use of “transfer stations” to encourage the recycling of building materials.

Possible action:

·       retain existing buildings

·       encourage low energy materials

·       encourage establishment of “transfer stations”


•       Management:   Coordination of Agencies

It is important that a local authority takes a holistic approach to the conservation of energy.   This means that all departments should take a part. Indeed, the actions of planning will be futile if this is not the case in formation of policies and their implementation.   The planning department can take a lead in bringing other departments together to review their policies in the light of conservation and to co-ordinate action.   This would be best done by focusing on a number of target projects that can encourage such joint working.

Possible action:

·       form partnerships led by planning

·       target projects for joint action


•       Management:   Energy Partnerships

The counterpart of joint action by the local authority is combined action by developers and land users.   Adjacent industrial users may be able to share heat sources, or the surplus heat from one might benefit the other.   Such partnerships will have economic benefit for the partners as well as reducing energy consumption and Co2 emissions.   Planning departments can take the lead in suggestion such arrangements and in providing the auditing mechanisms necessary to evaluate possible benefits.   Action should be based on effective audit (e.g. through local action centres - see next heading).

Possible action:

·       planners to act as catalysts to bring partners together

·       local authority to create data bank


•       Management:   Local Centres

It will be important for the local authority to bring together actions at a local level in a holistic way.   This could be done through the establishment of neighbourhood energy strategies, covering all aspects of energy and the consequences of conservation at all scales, from local to global.   This should include the full participation of the local residential and business communities.

Possible action:

·       identify neighbourhoods for energy saving and conservation

·       establish local “ecostations


•       Tools:   Education and Perception

If energy conservation measures are to be effective, they must have both understanding and support of both the general public and the planning system.   Education in the subject is needed for both if an informed debate ifs to take place.   Schools of planning should work towards establishing energy conservation as a natural part of the planning curriculum.   At present, it is seen as “special.”   This should not just consist of more lectures in the subject.   Projects that planning students undertake should also reflect energy conservation as a factor to be considered.   To bring the rest of the profession up to speed, the CPD system should incorporate energy conservation as a subject.   Local authority training should attempt to bring all departments into the energy debate.   In general education, planners can take a lead by assisting local schools in giving their pupils the information and ideas to be able to make reasonable judgements.   The general public can be informed by campaigns spearheaded by planning.   All this requires the planning profession itself to become more knowledgable in this area.

Possible action:

·       spreading the word

·       training (all departments)

·       encouraging community debate


•       Tools:   Auditing

Methods of energy auditing exist at the building level and at the global level.   There is no general agreement on the methods that might be used at the level of planning and urban design.   This discontinuity means that methods are needed to link action at several scales.   More work is needed to determine what auditing is needed at this intermediate scale and how this can be incorporated in the normal decisions of planning.

Possible action:

·       methods must be simple to use

·       part of decision making at local level

·       clear enough to be used by developers in proposals

·       methods must be recognised at appeal





There are a number of parallels between issues in energy conservation and the issues that face sustainability in general.   Practical measures need to be taken at local level if we are to affect the more global concerns of sustainability and energy conservation.   These concerns are, however, expressed in language which is both esoteric and imprecise.   The aims of the Brundtland Report or the Rio Summit are generally agreed by politician and public but they are so general that it is difficult to see how you can make a difference by the way that you act in day-to-day life.


The need for simple models

As sustainability grows as an issue, there is a need for ways of talking about the subject that do not require great expertise but that are accessible to the general public who must start to “own” these ideas if they are to be made effective.   In other work with Rural Forum, we are exploring simple models that allow local people to talk about sustainability and to make judgements about projects in terms of how they improve or damage local sustainability.


The need for broad education

The awareness of energy conservation and the ways that planning can make a difference must start in the education system.   The first priority must be that planning education itself takes on board some of the principles and incorporates them in teaching and in the way that student projects are judged.


Making energy conservation normal

Energy conservation must become a “normal” part of planning (Local Agenda 21)   At present it is seen as the special concern of experts.   We need to be able to integrate energy conservation into the culture of planning so that all actions take it into account.   This will require generally accepted rules of thumb so that planners can get a feel for how they can assist.   The advent of Local Agenda 21 provides a further framework of sustainability matters that can be used to structure energy conservation actions.


Central Government backing

To ensure that energy conservation measures are taken seriously and in particular, hold up at appeal, Central Government must make its support clear.   This would best be done through the publication of a planning advice note.   The aim of our research work has been to provide basic ideas that, if taken forward, might result in such a document after a period of debate.



·     Howard Liddell and Drew Mackie are founders of the consultancy Gaia Planning, based in Edinburgh and Aberfeldy.

·     Energy Conservation and Planning, the thinkpiece commissioned from Gaia Planning by The Scottish Office is now available from HMSO Books: isbn 0 7480 5138 4


-Go back to CONTENTS to pick up the links

GREEN PLANNING papers presented in Glasgow on 17 January 1996

ian crawley



This paper explores how participation and partnership are basic tenets of Agenda 21.  It considers why this is important in the context of delivering Local Agenda 21 in the UK.   Utilising Sherry Arnstein’s ladder of citizen participation, the range of local authority / citizen relationships are considered.   This provides a backdrop to the Islington experience of decentralisation, and the firm foundation for Local Agenda 21 this gives the Council and local people.


The Agenda for the 21st Century agreed at the Rio Earth Summit in 1992 states that, ‘by 1996 most local authorities in each Country should have undertaken a consultative process with their population and achieved a consensus on a “Local Agenda 21” for the community ...’.    It included the key themes of:

·       developing strategies for sustainable development through the widest possible participation and the open availability of information;

·       education, both as a general requirement for human development to assist empowerment and involvement and as a specific tool for increasing environmental awareness and responsibility;

·       the importance of local and global partnerships.


The Agenda specifically mentioned the need for empowerment and involvement of the following groups in society:

   -           women

   -           children and youth

   -           indigenous people and their communities

   -           non-governmental organisations

   -           workers and their trade unions

   -           business and industry.


Why seek to involve local people in developing and implementing strategies aimed at achieving a sustainable future?


Firstly, the environment is too important to be left to environment professionals; although it is also too important to be conserved, managed, developed and sustained without them.


Secondly, genuine progress in working towards a sustainable future will only come from all interests and agencies working together and preparing, promoting and acting on a shared  ‘Local Agenda 21’.


Thirdly, empowering local people can deliver real benefits:

·       the strengthening of our system of representative local democracy;

·       the generation of greater local commitment;

·       the uncovering and application of resources;

·       the application of local knowledge, skills and ideas;

·       the emergence of more sustainable lifestyles;


·       it adds value, particularly through the human energy released and the extension of mutual understanding, recognition and respect;

·       and most importantly, for Local Agenda 21, the action plan reflects concerns and priorities of residents and thereby gains their support - a necessity because they will play a major role in its implementation.


Many professionals, however, are not very good at involving and empowering local people because they lack confidence in sharing knowledge and understanding; they do not wish to give up some of their power; they are unsure how to engage local people in LA21 work; or they are just constrained by a professional ethos which places the expert on a pedestal as ‘always knowing best’.


The key to successful empowerment is confidence amongst the professionals involved, as genuine empowerment must involve a transfer of power - of control over decisions about policies and proposals and the resources, structures and processes to achieve them.


Few local authorities have gone far down this road as politicians are equally loath to devolve power and officers can only operate within the framework set by politicians.   I suspect the reason I am here today is that the London Borough of Islington has gone farther than most through its decentralisation programme and a wide range of related initiatives in the environmental field.


Islington’s 24th Neighbourhood Office opened in March 1987.  This was 2 years after the first opened and almost 5 years after the new Labour administration was elected with a Manifesto commitment to decentralise the delivery of a range of Council services into a network of accessible multi-service Neighbourhood Offices; and extend local democracy by promoting the creation of Neighbourhood Forums in all Neighbourhoods able to speak and act on behalf of local communities.


Subsequently, the number of Neighbourhood Offices has been reduced to 16 and currently 12 with each serving approximately 15,000 residents.


Annually elected Neighbourhood Forums are based at each Office.


Specific services delivered via Neighbourhood Offices are Housing, Social Services, Environmental Health, Council Tax Collection and Housing Benefit.   A Directorate of Neighbourhood Services was established in 1992 to cover Housing and Social Services, and each Neighbourhood Office has an overall Manager.   Political steering is provided by a Neighbourhood Services Committee.


In addition, there is a vibrant and growing local voluntary sector with over 1,000 voluntary organisations including 90 women’s groups, 50 black and ethnic minority groups and 50 environmental groups.   Some have their headquarters in Islington such as the National Asthma Campaign, others are local branches of national organisations such as Friends or the Earth.


To place Islington’s experience in context I have borrowed from the United States.   Sherry Arnstein drew up a ladder of citizen participation in the United States in the 1960s as a way of categorising local government approaches.   It is equally relevant in the UK today.


Sherry Arnstein’s Ladder

     Degree of Participation          Timescale                              


< Continuous

<  Regular

<  Occasional

^ Citizen Control




^ Delegated Power




^ Partnership




^ Placation




^ Consultation




^ Informing




^ Therapy




^ Manipulation





Before we climb onto the first rung we are in the realms of non-participation where decisions are made not to inform local people of opportunities for involvement.   The majority of local planning authorities still do not allow objectors to speak in planning committees.   In Islington we have allowed this for over 15 years.


Climbing onto the lower rungs labelled manipulation and therapy we enter the realms of participation as public relations.   Advisory groups are set up to legitimate decisions taken elsewhere.   Glossy brochures are published on what the Council has already decided to do.   The Council may even encourage groups to come together around an issue far removed from the important issue of the moment.


Informing, consultation and placation are all forms of tokenism.   People can be informed and consulted but are not given a voice.   They may be notified of a planning application being submitted but without being told of their right to object.   Or informed of a meeting but not encouraged to attend.   With consultation there is no assurance that views given will be taken into account.   Invited to a planning committee meeting, objectors may find themselves at the far end of the room and unable to hear the proceedings.   Placation is a higher level of tokenism, forums and panels may be set up to involve local people; funding may be provided for independent technical advice to be obtained but at the end of the day the Council proceeds as if no alternative view was even available, let alone presented to Councillors.   Partnership, delegated power and citizen control are all degrees of citizens power and therefore of empowerment.   Partnership should involve participants having equality of power, responsibility and status.   They can then use this power through negotiation and bargaining and be involved in trade-offs.   Delegated power involves an actual transfer of decision-making responsibility by the Council, albeit within defined limits and usually resource-bound.   Citizen control is where sufficient resources and responsibilities have been transferred to enable independent decisions to be made which can change the futures of the decision-makers.


Where is your local authority on this ladder?   Does it hold rigidly to a set of principles about participation or recognise the value of flexibility and tailor the opportunity to participate to the circumstances?   How does it balance the desire for efficiency and prompt decisions with giving people access to the decision-makers and the decision-making process?   How far is participation determined by political priorities or officers’ professional aspirations?   LA21 represents a fundamental challenge to traditional approaches.  Responding successfully to that challenge in respect of participation and partnership requires a sensitive understanding of where the local authority currently stands involving local people.




In the environmental field decentralisation has involved Neighbourhood Forums in:

·       having their own capital budgets for environmental improvement schemes and traffic management measures;

·       having funding to employ consultants to:

     -     prepare planning briefs for development sites

     -     undertake environmental audits

        -     undertake traffic and pollution surveys and design traffic management schemes;

·       organising and carrying out their own surveys

- street furniture surveys

- tree surveys

- air pollution surveys

·       and using the results to seek changes in Council policy or a redistribution of resources;

·       determining planning applications;

·       establishing their own priorities for highway maintenance expenditure.


Legally these actions are undertaken by extending officers’ delegated powers.   For example, I have 100% delegated powers for planning applications if a Forum’s Planning Sub-Group accepts my recommendation.   If not, and a compromise cannot be agreed, the report is referred to the Council’s Development Sub-Committee for decision.


To address environmental issues more effectively, Islington Council established a Joint Environment Advisory Committee in 1989.   This is chaired by a local MP and involves voluntary groups, business organisations, Neighbourhood forum representatives and Councillors and officers.   This can make recommendations direct to Council committees and has been instrumental in changing Council policies on energy efficiency, recycled paper, tropical hardwoods and low emission vehicles.   It will shortly become an LA21 Forum with its administration transferred to a local university from the Council.


Each Neighbourhood Office has a Development Worker to support the local Forum.   They are taking the lead in LA21 in their Neighbourhood.  The Chair of the Council’s Environment Committee and a senior officer (in some cases myself) have visited every Forum, explained about LA21 and the opportunities for local action, and initiated local debates.


An Information Pack for Neighbourhood forums and voluntary organisations has been prepared outlining LA21 in the context of sustainable development, setting out the Council’s commitment to achieving a sustainable future, listing sources of information and assistance and detailing the sort of initiatives that can be pursued at individual, small group and Forum levels.   The Council has established an internal Environmental Management System and following a LA21 Civic Forum, attended by over 200 people one Saturday in May 1995 at the local university, an LA21 structure has been created in the Borough.   The environmental management system and LA21 structure are shown below.




Islington’s LA21 Structure


 Currently officers are acting as facilitators for local Neighbourhood discussion groups to assist each Neighbourhood to determine its LA21 priorities from amongst the following:

·       Immediate Actions

for example  -choosing locations and designs for new on-street recycling facilities;

                      -establishing priorities for Council officer time on traffic scheme investigations and designs;

                       -setting environmental targets for the Neighbourhood Office and other Council facilities managed from that office, eg in energy saving and recycling;

   -organising volunteer tree wardens;

   -setting up a local pollution watch initiative.

·       Promoting individual resident and business participation in feedback initiatives such as Global Action Plan or Eco-feedback.

·       Participating in National Campaigns at Neighbourhood level, such as Green Transport Week, National Spring Clean Week, National Environment Week and National Walk to Work Week.

·       Undertaking curriculum LA21 projects with local schools.

·       Building a sustainability dimension into the:

     -     Neighbourhood Action Plans for local service delivery;

     -     Neighbourhood Regeneration Strategies;

     -     Neighbourhood Housing Strategies.

·       Undertaking Neighbourhood Future Search events to develop local LA21 Action Plans (as promoted by the New Economics Foundation).

·       Establishing local Sustainability Indicators that reflect local characteristics and concerns.




Local Agenda 21 is an inspirational initiative which had encouraged new approaches to partnership at:

Local Level, eg

   -the Environment City Programme involving Leicester, Leeds, Middlesbrough and Peterborough;

   -the World Wildlife Fund partnership with Reading Borough  Council.  Now extended to 16 local authorities.

National Level, eg

   -the Environment Council which runs initiatives such as Environ­mental Resolve to develop, promote and use consensus-building processes to prevent and resolve environmental disputes and problems;

   -the Central and Local Government Environment Forum;

   -the National Roundtable on Sustainable Development;

   -the Citizens Environment Initiative (known as Going For Green).

European Level, eg

   -the Sustainable Cities Group;

   -the Car-Free Cities Network.


Only at the local level, however, are residents involved and even then often within very limited partnership arrangements.   The UK Local Government Associations have committed local authorities in the Declaration on Sustainable Development to creating partnerships with all sectors of society.   Whilst some see these partnerships as being enabling and empowering, we must constantly ask oursevles in carrying forward LA21 work if we are merely involving local people in a Council initiative or genuinely empowering them to find their own solutions to their own problems.


Experience in Islington and other local authorities gives us a number of general principles for LA21 and local empowerment.


Firstly, ask the question why?   Why will people want to be involved?  Why do we want to involve them?  Are there barriers that must be removed, such as a Council tradition of placation or even manipulation?


Secondly, establish a clarity of purpose.   Is the Council committed to listening, supporting, enabling or actually empowering local people.  Are Councillors and Council officers ready to treat local partners as equals?


Thirdly, assemble the resources and skills necessary to involve communities.   This could be language skills or money to fund community-based LA21 initiatives.


Fourthly, build confidence in the community.   Establishing a Sustainable Development Strategy and Action Plan for the 21st Century is just the beginning.  Implementation will be a long haul which will require strength through confidence.


Fifthly, ensure openness and accessibility so that information and ideas are available to all.


Lastly, and most importantly be honest.   You cannot do everything and limits are inevitable, so always be direct and honest about what is - and is not - on offer in any situation.


LA21 cannot all be about empowerment and we need to recognise that there is a role for many different approaches:





Typical methods


Tell people what is planned

Leaflets; media; video


Offer a number of options and listen to the feedback

Surveys; meetings

Deciding together

Encourage others to provide some additional ideas and options, and join in deciding the best way forward

Workshops; Planning for Real

Acting together

Not only do different interests decide together what is best, but they form a partnership to carry it out

Partnership bodies

Supporting com­munity initiatives

Help others to do what they want - perhaps within a framework of grants, advice and support provided by the resource holder

Advice; support; funding



All the best for the 21st Century.






·       Association of Metropolitan Authorities (1993)   Local Authorities and Community Development: A Strategic Opportunity for the 1990s

·       Association of Metropolitan Authorities (1994) Getting Involved: A Good Practice Guide for Councils and Tenants in the 1990s

·       Beresford, Peter and Croft, Suzy (1993)   British Association for Social Workers   Citizen Involvement - A Practical Guide for Change

·       BDOR, Newcastle Architecture Workshop and the Planning Co-operative, DOE Research Report (1995)   Community Involvement in Planning and Development

·       Local Government Management Board (1993)   Building Effective Partnerships

·       Local Government Management Board (1993)   Learning from Consumers and Citizens

·       Local Government Management Board: (1993) Local Agenda 21 Roundtable Guidance   Community Participation in Local Agenda 21

·       Local Government Management Board  (1994) Creating Involvement

·       Wilcox, David (1993), Joseph Rowntree Foundation   Community Participation and Empowerment: Putting Theory into Practice



·     Ian Crawley is Assistant Director (Development) Technical and Environmental Services, London Borough of Islington


-Go back to CONTENTS to pick up the links

GREEN PLANNING papers presented in Glasgow on 17 January 1996

tim birley




This paper has something of the role of the reply to an Adjournment Debate in the House of Commons.   It has to meet a prescribed time-limit - the end of the conference - and aims to take into account some of the contributions made in the course of the day.   In this case, I feel even more like a Government Minister, knowing that at an earlier stage in the proceedings a show of hands suggested that by a majority of two to one the delegates felt a degree of scepticism about sustainable development and green planning.


I therefore feel that I ought to start with an advertisement, to be read in the commanding tones of the voice-over from old Barratt, or perhaps washing powder, commercials:  “Tired of roller shutter enforcement notices?   Bored by a protracted local plan Inquiry?   Then why don’t you try Sustainable Development?   Sustainable Development dissolves all known environmental problems with no trace of undesirable after effects.   Yes, Sustainable Development, now with added Local Agenda 21.”


There is a sense in all this of a magic product which will either frustrate and irritate if you are a cynic, or may feel like a universal solution if you are an enthusiast.   The message I would like to try to get across is:

·       First, that sustainable development is for real.  The issues are real and matter, it is something we are going to have to tackle: several presentations (including by Gordon Cox and Howard Liddell) have already made this point.

·       Second, sustainable development is mainstream.   An increasing number of individuals and organisations are taking sustainable development as central to what they are about.   In my judgement it is only a matter of time before there comes a transition to the stage where it will have become part of all of our day-to-day business.

·       And third, the response to this is going to be up to you.   I say this because I think there are real choices to be made about the pace at which you and the agency within which you work take these matters on board.


Sustainable development and planning have, I think, common roots.   They are both about the idea that there are fields in which decisions taken collectively in the public domain are better than the sum of decisions taken by individuals.   In my view this is a key rationale for planning.   If people were able to carry out development precisely as they wanted in their own self interest, then the sum of the outcomes of such decisions would not be as beneficial to society as the decisions that can be made through the democratic process.   Indeed it is because of the conflicts of interest that arise and need to be brokered, that the democratic process is invoked.   Sustainable development has the same rationale.   To use the language of the economist, both are means for dealing with the externalities.   Sustainable development means widening the scope of consideration in any decision, so that you don’t take resources for granted; and you don’t cease to have responsibility for waste products.   It is a concept that envisages the earth as a spacecraft so that where resources are going to come from, and where waste products are going to go to, has to become an integral part of your concern.


The concept of sustainable development now has a remarkable level of international support.   In the 1960s and 1970s it tended to be seen as the message from a few idealists and those who have been referred to today as eco-doomsters, albeit the ideas received considerable airings at international events such as at the UN Stockholm and Vancouver conferences.   What was remarkable about the Earth Summit at Rio in 1992 was the number of world leaders who took part, and the extent of the international commitments they entered into.   And those international commitments have two rather different, but now close coupled, driving themes.   The first is the question of resource use, and an appreciation that the way we are using the planet is putting at risk the climate, and that climate change could jeopardise the future of humankind.   This isn’t an ‘eco-doomster’ perspective, but the best scientific evidence.   We are changing the climate by our actions, in particular through greenhouse gas emissions.   This climate change has destabilising effects at the local level, as forecast would occur by the University of East Anglia Climate Change Unit some 15 years ago.   While the average increases of temperature on a global scale are quite modest, what is significant is that we are starting to see ‘more weather’: more storms, more drought, and more spells of hot weather.   Water companies are now finding that the 50-year event seems to come round every 5 years.


The second theme of the main agreement reached at Rio, Agenda 21 - the action plan on sustainable development for the next century was a concern with equity; that we could not go on with the disparities between rich and poor, be it rich and poor between the northern countries and the southern hemisphere, or between groups that have and groups that have not within one’s own country.   The collective voices of the poor, the deprived, women’s interests, children’s interests, and indigenous peoples, are as much part of the whole Rio package as concern with the use and disposal of resources.   It is at last realised that a major cause and outcome of unsustainable resource use is the inequitable distribution of costs and benefits of such resource use.   It is really quite remarkable that those two issues have become recognised as intimately bound together and equally remarkable that there is such a level of international agreement and commitment to secure action.


Planning cannot, of course, take or claim responsibility for all of this agenda.   But planning is in a very special position because in our country it has a statutory basis, it is a process that is linked into the democratic process, and it is in my view a potentially significant tool for sustainable development.   Now I don’t challenge most - though I do challenge one or two - of David Jarman’s reservations.   First, we must not overstate the role that planners can take, we can only influence, and only influence part, of the agenda.   Second, we must recognise that change will be incremental, and that we are talking about a long timespan.   Where I disagree with David is that I don’t think that our role is necessarily marginal, and while I am sure he is right that we have to start from where we are, I don’t think we can be complacent that the market will sort it out.   Planning decisions at a number of spatial scales from individual house to the national framework all influence both the pattern of resource use and its distribution in society.   Consigning the future to the two career, two car household, with job mobility making substantial commuting inevitable takes account neither of the households with very different patterns or aspirations, nor does it necessarily present a particularly attractive goal even for those for whom it might be attainable.


David Jarman is right that the Government have signed planners up for considerable responsibility.   The four volumes of the UK post-Rio documents - the telephone directory that Gordon Cox referred to - cover climate change, forestry, biodiversity and sustainable development.   All have implications for planners.   For example, the UK Programme on Climate Change states that measures to be considered might include: “continuing policies to develop land in ways which reduce the need to travel and hence emissions (draft guidance to local authorities on using their planning powers to achieve these aims have already been issued)” ; that is a reference to PPG13 of course.   Another reference is to “work, especially by local authorities, to develop integrated packages of transport and land use policies which maximise the potential for walking, cycling and efficient use of public transport.”


These are fairly typical of the policy statements that are signed up for nationally and then developed into national planning policy guidance.   I picked up a couple of these this morning: NPPG1 on The Planning System, and NPPG3 on Land for Housing.   In just these two examples, sustainable development comes up front as part of the policy context and then implications for issues such as energy (which we have heard of today from Howard Liddell and Drew Mackie) are spelt out as the policy considerations.   Further work of the kind they were commissioned to do will flesh out the implications for practice.


So sustainable development is, as Gordon Cox said, real; it’s there in the policy commitments and it relates to real problems.   The implications have already been spelt out in the course of today.   They are to do with issues such as the use of resources, the treatment of waste, energy use, recycling, life-cycle design; they are also to do with participation whether in the sense of citizen participation (as in Islington) or the process of involving members in rural housing design policy (as in Moray).


It is also correct to say that much that is familiar in planning best practice is likely to be aligned with sustainable development.   The concern that we have had in Britain for the containment of urban areas; for keeping (and I am thinking of Inquiries which I conducted in the context of the Strathclyde Structure Plan, for example) shopping facilities ‘in or adjacent to existing town centres’, keeping modern facilities being developed, but trying to make sure that they are in locations where people live nearby, and where those who don’t have access to a car will have prospects of being able to use public transport.   Such policies which have been the norm and the mainstream of our town and country planning system in Scotland, will be reinforced by and aligned with sustainable development. 


But there is also innovation.   We have heard today mention of mixed use, and about local policies which reflect quality and design for the setting of a particular place.   It has also been pointed out that most energy use is in buildings, though it is in the transport sector that there is greatest energy growth.   Both these areas are amenable to change by planners, and there should be particular opportunities for planners in design guidance, in control over layout, landscaping and orientation of buildings, and in the relationship of buildings to one another.   It is from this relationship that is derived the demand for movement and transport of goods and people from one building to another.   A key influence is therefore settlement strategy, although, as has been pointed out, that strategic framework can only be part of the matter.


Opportunities for change and influence will also come about through facilitating and working with authorities who want to put much more emphasis on public transport, wish to develop car-free areas, and encourage using human powered modes, i.e. walking and cycling.   It is significant, for example, that George Hazel is going to be the new Director of Transport, Planning and Economic Development in Edinburgh.   He has a degree of scepticism about continuing to cater for the demand for continued increase in the use and ownership of the car.   For example, he points out that traffic coming into the city of Edinburgh in the last 10 years has been growing at an average of 6-8% per year.   That is not sustainable.   It means that the new M8 extension will look like the old A8 in a very few years time and, in that sense, will not solve the problem.   It is absurd that when half the people who come into Edinburgh city centre use public transport, most in buses, but those buses take only 3% of the roadspace, whereas the car users take 80%.   There is no equity in this, and there is no sense in solutions which perpetuate the overall net disbenefit of systems which have tried to cater for the car and disadvantaged the bus user.   This isn’t, of course, helped by rail privatisation and bus deregulation.   I am not being particularly radical in pointing that out.   No less an authority than the Royal Commission on Environmental Pollution in its report on sustainable transport has suggested that such aspects of institutional change are unhelpful from the point of view of sustainable development.


In the new unitary authorities there is the potential for new alliances, and in particular for better working between the people responsible for roads and transport and those in local planning and development control.   Even though it will have been made more difficult by deregulation and privatisation, there is a prospect, particularly where those departments are now coming under unified management, for getting the planning and management of land use and transport into the kind of relationship we were taught in our planning schools.   It has always proved extremely difficult, particularly when those two functions have been split between different authorities.


Further opportunities come through Local Agenda 21.   I suspect there may be people still wondering what happened to Local Agendas 1 to 20.  Local Agenda 21 is Chapter 28 of Agenda  21.   Agenda 21 is the document which sets out the management plan for sustainable development for the twenty-first century, and was one of the four documents agreed at Rio.   Chapter 28 gives a major role to local authorities, and the UK local authority associations, including COSLA, have signed up to implementation in 1996, as they were encouraged to do at the Rio Earth Summit.   Therefore most of you will be working in local authorities which will be taking forward the kind of work we have just been hearing about in Islington.


Some authorities will take a radical approach, part of which may be restructuring their authorities with considerable decentralisation; others will send the responsibility off to the environmental health department to be packaged along with refuse collection, perhaps with a clearly marginal environmental badge.   Planners will have an opportunity to participate in the organisation of the process, to the extent to which you, your fellow officers, your chief officer, your own authority and its members, wish to take it forward.   There are those authorities, and I think probably Lancashire County Council is at the forefront, where they have asked: ‘Why can’t we put the planning system and Local Agenda 21 fully together?’   The argument is that the planning system has, firstly, considerable expertise in public participation, albeit sometimes at not terribly high rungs on Sherry Arnstein’s ladder and, secondly, statutory responsibility to undertake participation.   Therefore the budget cannot be totally axed, and public participation duties allow a way to meet new obligations taken on board with Local Agenda 21.   So there is potential for planners to play very major roles in the local authority’s overall approach to LA21.


At the same time all of us who have undertaken public participation know that it is not easy, that there are dangers of raising unrealistic expectations which cannot be fulfilled, and that extensive work is involved in making even consultation meaningful, let alone moving towards empowerment and capacity building at a local level.   I well remember a meeting on site in the Central Scotland Woodlands area where we were looking at planting round a housing estate, and one of the local residents asked: `Why are you doing this?’   She said, `the problem here is crime, I want better street lights.’   The people I was with said `Well we’re sorry, we’re dealing with tree planting; crime and street lights, that’s not our responsibility’.   She said, `No, your trees are what is worrying me...’   And it turned out that the trees were for her a security threat.   The trees and the planting were where people would go glue sniffing, where there could be muggers, and thus there was a direct connection between the planting of trees, which the local authority and others saw as an environmental improvement, with the issue of concern to her, which was safety on the streets.


That example illustrates one of the key points about the Local Agenda 21 process.   Those with planning responsibilities will tend to seek to get people to couple into the planning agenda, quite reasonably because they are responsible for producing the local plan and the framework for development control.   But you will find people will come to meetings and raise issues and are going to be told: `Dogs fouling the pavement - that is another department’ etc.   Now, you can’t do that.   The whole thrust of Local Agenda 21 is to be responsive to the issues people raise, to channel their concerns to those who can help them, and quite often discovering that their concerns are some other side of a coin with which we are principally concerned.


I’ve now mentioned two opportunities for planners to engage with sustainable development:  the first may come through the establishment of the unitary authorities;  the second is the Local Agenda 21 process.   A third area that I would stress, and I think probably three is enough for an adjournment debate, is the issue of partnership.   Agenda 21 tends to be talked about as if it were solely to do with links and participation between local authorities and local communities.   It isn’t.   Local Agenda 21 requests that authorities liaise with all the stakeholders (the word used by Ian Crawley) in their area.   That means forming links also with neighbouring authorities, with other public agencies, with the business community, and with other interest groups, to find shared ways forward.   That is why initiatives such as the Sustainability Forum in the Borders, which although it is being driven forward by the Borders Regional Council and will be driven forward by the successor authority led by Drew Tulley, is forming a close link with Gordon Cox and the work at Tweed Horizons and in Borders Enterprise generally.   That is part of a process of sharing and understanding what is possible and seeing that there are benefits which run across from the different sectors one to another.


Final concluding remarks, to keep to my timescale.   The role that you actually play in this is for you to decide.   There are people who will wish to try to bring about change from a position outside the mainstream.   Others will work within mainstream organisations to produce change from within.   There are a variety of roles you can play at the individual level, but this agenda is going to confront you, and you are going to have to respond in some way.   The NPPGs are going to come forward with more sustainable development within them.   There are going to be Planning Advice Notes.   Sustainable development will start to be a material consideration in planning appeals.   Therefore you can actually either decide to try and see how to run with it and make something of it - and certainly there is already some competition between Edinburgh and Glasgow as to who is going to get really green first - or you can just accept that it is going to come, and even if you have got a degree of scepticism at least be aware of what is coming into mainstream planning practice.


I believe, as you may guess, that there is a considerable potential here for remotivating the profession.   A lot of us came in to planning not just to be bureaucrats processing applications, but because we were concerned about the quality of the environment, about poverty and deprivation, and about local participation and empowerment.   We believed in local government, not just local authorities as providers of specific statutory services; we actually believed in local democracy.   I think that sustainable development not only matters, it is not only real, it is a super opportunity, and what you make of it is for you.



¨       Tim Birley, an independent adviser on planning, environment and sustainable development,  is Director of the Centre for Human Ecology, University of Edinburgh


-Go back to CONTENTS to pick up the links

GREEN PLANNING papers presented in Glasgow on 17 January 1996



david jarman, Head of Planning, West Lothian District Council:   David Jarman has been carrying out a long-profile participant analysis of planning in West Lothian since 1973.   He has variously backed retail megacentres, railway openings, lowland crofting, Motorola, and new economic landscapes - but is still trying to work out which losers are really winners or vice versa.   He is now Head of Strategic Planning and Transportation for the unitary West Lothian Council and has bought the mandatory bike to be photographed on.  He remains an incorrigible enthusiast for the value of planning.


paul mcternan, Senior Planning Assistant, Moray District Council:   Paul McTernan is a Senior Planning Assistant in the Local Plans Section of Moray District Council.   Born in Derry, he is a graduate of Queen's University, Belfast and joined Moray in 1987 following a period working for 'Community Technical Aid' in Belfast.   Paul is a principal author of the Moray District Local Plan and has supervised its preparation and progress through the plan's various statutory and consultation stages including public inquiry.   He has a specific remit for rural policy making and implementation.


nick brown, Senior Planning Assistant, Moray District Council:   Nick Brown is a Senior Planning Assistant in the Conservation Section of Moray District Council.   Born in Aberdeen, he studied at Scott Sutherland's school of Architecture then progressed to work for five years in private practice, firstly with The Law and Dunbar-Nasmith Partnership then latterly with Douglas T Forrest, Architects as a member of the UK wide Acanthus group.   He joined Moray District Council in 1991 and,  amongst other roles, established a partnership with Senior Planning Assistant Paul McTernan who had already begun examining Housing in the Countryside some 18 months earlier.   He is currently a part time research student with the Robert Gordon's University in Aberdeen and a member of SEDA.


michael thornley,  Michael and Sue Thornley - Architects:   Michael Thornley is an architect and  also has a qualification in Town and Regional Planning (as it was called in those days: 1971).   The following year he came to Glasgow to join the ASSIST project in Govan as a community worker, right at the beginning of the housing association tenement rehabilitation programme.   Subsequently he was involved in the early days of the Community Ownership Programme on the peripheral estates where that planning qualification has become increasingly useful.   At weekends he is to be found in his garden with his partner, at work and in life, Sue Thornley.   At present he is reading Simon Schama's "Landscape and Memory".


gordon cox,  Senior Business Development Executive, Tweed Horizons for Sustainable Technology:   Gordon Cox has over 20 years line management experience in manufacturing.   In business with his father for over 12 years he was involved in both the steel and leather industries.   In 1991 he joined Scottish Borders Enterprise and for the last 3 years he has been involved in promoting sustainable technology businesses.   He is currently on secondment to Locate in Scotland looking into the possibilities for attracting sustainable businesses from overseas.   Gordon is a graduate of Glasgow University with a M.A. in Economics and Mathematics.  He is director of Borders Transport Futures Ltd, a company set up to reintroduce the railway into Borders Region, a member of Selkirk Community Council and Chairperson of Selkirk High School Board.


drew mackie, Consultant, Gaia Planning:   Trained as an architect and planner, Drew has worked in the area of Urban Design and Community Involvement for the past 20 years.   He founded the post-graduate course in Urban Design in Aberdeen and has lectured and examined widely in the subject, including a spell as visiting Professor at the Master of City Planning Course in Berkeley USA.   He now works as a consultant carrying out regeneration projects.   Having worked with Howard Liddell many times over the last 12 years, he is now joint principal of Gaia Planning.


howard liddell, Consultant, Gaia Planning:   Howard is an architect who has practised in the field of ecological design for many years.  After teaching the subject at Hull School of Architecture, he moved to Aberfeldy where he set up his practice which is now known as Gaia Architects.  With links to other similarly minded practices throughout Europe, Gaia Architects has undertaken major ecological designs which include a number of innovative energy conservation measures.  Howard is the past Chairman of the Scottish Ecological Design Association.   Gaia Planning is a firm of planners, urban designers and architects who apply the concerns of ecological design and sustainable development at the urban design and planning scales.   From bases in Edinburgh and Aberfeldy, Gaia tackles a spectrum of work ranging from research to the implementation of projects.   Sister companies, Gaia Architects (Scotland), Gaia Lista and Gaia Oslo (Norway) have been active in ecological architectural design and research for many years.   Gaia Planning was founded in 1994 by Howard Liddell and Drew Mackie.    Both have a track record of over twenty years in environmental projects and research.   Howard's experience is in ecological architectural design.   Drew's lies in urban design and regeneration projects.   Both have worked extensively with local community groups to achieve projects.   During the last year, Gaia Planning has worked on projects concerned with Energy Conservation, Local Agenda 21 training and various Millennium bids.   It is also part of the group running the Children's EcoCity project in Edinburgh.


ian crawley,  Assistant Director, Technical and Environmental Services, (Development) London Borough of Islington:   Before Islington, Ian Crawley worked in Planning and Economic Development for London Boroughs of Wandsworth and Tower Hamlets.   He is a member of the Audit Commission Advisory Group on Development Control and DoE Advisory Groups on Planning Charter, Planning Fees and Community Involvement in Planning.  Chair of Steering Group of Joseph Rowntree Foundation Study on Offices into Flats and a member of SERPLAN’s Sustainability Panel,  he was a nationally elected member of the RTPI Council between 1976 and 1986.


tim birley,  Director, Centre for Human Ecology, University of Edinburgh:

Tim's career spans 30 years with central and local government, and as a consultant and academic, including for community and voluntary organisations.   His involvement with the evolution of thinking and practice on sustainable development led to: the TCPSS prize paper in 1982, international assignments, advice for the Scottish Affairs Committee's investigation on dampness in housing, to DEn on local authority energy management, and assisted the establishment of Heatwise (now the Wise Group) in Glasgow.    At The Scottish Office he was an Inquiry Reporter (1985-88); then Deputy Director of SDD's Building Directorate.   Most recently he was Head of Rural Affairs and Natural Heritage; responsible for advising Ministers on SNH, rural and countryside policy, environmental education (Learning for Life), and support for community sustainability initiatives.   He initiated The Scottish Office Rural Framework and chaired the inter-agency Rural Focus Group, which advanced a process and partnership approach based on themes spanning from community participation to sustainable development; these are developed in the recent Rural White Paper.    After this experience in public administration and decision making, he is now an independent advisor and Director for 1995/96 of the University of Edinburgh's Centre for Human Ecology.   Commissions on sustainable development, and the land and the people, include 'access to the land resource' for Ross & Cromarty District Council; with Lothian Regional Council on Local Agenda 21; for Scottish Enterprise, New Lives New Landscapes (lowland crofting); and with ASH Consulting Group (Tranquil Areas and Landscape Strategies) and Gaia Planning (community participation)


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GREEN PLANNING preceding the papers presented in Glasgow on 17 January 1996 was this address from SEDA’s AGM in September 1995

colin ward



We all have a series of nostrums  which influence our attitudes to the art of building and to everything else.   The dictionary defines the word nostrum variously, as "pet scheme for political or social reform" or a "medicine prepared by the person recommending it."   I, a veteran anarchist, place high in my priorities the concept of a self governing society.   I value self government more than good government, with the proviso that I have never come across a good government.   This means that, having watched the rise and fall of housing policies for many years, my particular nostrum in housing is the principle of dweller control.


And this, of course, is why I have always scanned the horizons for signs of the extension of this principle from the realm of the owner-occupier to other forms of tenure in the form of housing cooperatives, tenant management cooperatives and self build.


The very first architect I worked for, over fifty years ago, was an old man who had been a pupil of the Gothic revivalist John Loughborough Pearson and could remember drawing full size masonry details on brown paper on a barn floor in Devon for the building of Truro cathedral in Cornwall, and had then been both a student and a teacher at the Central School of Arts and Crafts when it was founded by W. R. Lethaby, whom he revered.


Lethaby's maxims have certainly influenced me too, and I'll conclude with one of them.   Most of us, I think, use a few simple ideas to pilot us through life.   But my first employer had several practical nostrums.   One was a material marketed as 'White's Hygeian Rock."   For while he believed in cavity walls, provided that bronze ties, not galvanised ones were used, he believed that the cavity should be filled as the walls rose, with White's Hygeian Rock.   I never saw any, but I imagine that it must have been a gypsum (hydrated calcium sulphate) product.   His other nostrums, also lime based, were soft plaster and soft mortar.   He used to despair that he couldn't get contractors, bricklayers, plasterers, nor even local authority building inspectors, to agree with him.   Over half a century later I can completely see the point of these nostrums, but you will know better than me what proportion of brick buildings are constructed with lime mortar.  


And it is almost a quarter of a century since Alex Gordon, during his presidency of the RIBA coined his slogan for what you would call ecological design in the words 'Low Energy, Long Life, Loose Fit.'   I have felt disappointed ever since his efforts made so little impact inside the profession, even though in the very next year came the oil crisis of 1973.   For his three nostrums were instantly comprehensible to layman and expert alike.   They required no understanding of the laws of physics, and they stay in the mind, even if, like me, you seldom get them in the original order.


Now all of us here have our own nostrum on Low Energy, with a series of recommendations about design, orientation, insulation, devices for capturing solar energy, for low consumption electrical devices, and for a combination of all of them.   How about Loose Fit and Long Life?


In terms of Long Life, there are definite observable links with my own nostrum on dweller control.   Owner occupied housing lasts for ever.   The concept of a limited life never arises.   Where I live, in Suffolk, every worn out old barn is given a new life as a desirable residence, partly because of  the constraints of planning control, but partly too, because prestige accrues about the age of your house.   We all know how private landlords grotesquely neglected their property, since all  that interested them was the rent, and how dweller control has radically altered the life expectancy of the buildings.   One interesting case is in central London.   In the 1960's when the squatters' movement was revived, local authorities were compulsorily purchasing swathes of houses for redevelopment proposals in the future.   When they were squatted, the first response of councils was to employ firms of bailiffs to terrorise the squatters.   The second response was to use its own maintenance staff to rip out staircases, destroy sinks and basins and pour cement down water closets.   The third, creative response was to agree with the squatters on short life housing co-ops.   Some of them exist today, the short life has become a very long life, with dweller control.


Local authority housing was assumed to have a 60 year life, based originally on the redemption period of the original loan from what used to be the Public Works Loan Board.   Part of the tragedy of public housing in Britain is that so much of the public housing stock has never reached that assumed 60 year life.   I have been continually shocked by the policies of spectacularly blowing up public housing by authorities, denying any connection with the former local

...[section missing] ...

... [section missing, Pawley?] ...

have a few timbers left over from that period in the sixties where Nescafe packed their products in jars suitable for that secondary use.   A similar later period was the time when Benedicta mustard was packed in whisky glasses.


You are bound to remember Pawley's central homily, which, you'll recall, was to do with bottles.   In the Dutch Antilles, people live in climatically unsuitable corrugated iron houses.   But the islands are littered with Heineken bottles as they are too far form the brewery in Holland to make a round trip.   Why not market beer in a stubby squarish bottle for a secondary use as a building brick?   Mr. Heineken himself commissioned an architect who is probably a friend of several people here, N. J. Habraken, to design such a bottle.   Thousands were made as a trial run, and a bottle-house was built in Mr. Heineken's garden.   But his fellow directors stepped in to insist the firm's business was in selling beer, not in solving colonial housing problems, nor indeed the recycling problem by producing packaging with a secondary use.


Plenty of people here must have been friends with Walter Segal and must value very highly the work of the Walter Segal Self-Build Trust in proving that his approach to housing can be adopted by very poor and disadvantaged people, provided that there is support to steer them through the nightmare of consents, permissions and finance.   It is worth recalling that Walter was essentially a mainstream modern movement architect and that family chances late in life led him to develop the approach to timber framed construction that made him famous: the need to put up a temporary house for his enlarged family at the bottom of the garden while the house was rebuilt.   He developed the idea of using standard cladding, insulating and lining materials in their standard sizes, so that the materials could be recycled elsewhere.   That was 33 years ago.  Some day, no doubt, the architectural historians will be insisting that the "Little House" at the bottom of the Segal Garden should become a listed building.


Happily, people he influenced are not part of any personality cult and, as you will know form the excellent Self Build Book by Jon Broome and Brian Richardson, are tying the links between the Segal

 ... [section missing?] ...

has advantages for builders, self-builders and timber frame

 ... [section missing] ... 

you too specify Warmcel and its equivalents.


Loose fit is another aspect of the same equation.  Any architect over a certain age will remember handbooks showing the minimum space in which to cook a meal, bath a baby, teach a class or operate a comptometer.   "A what?" you might ask, because all that anthropometric data produced an architecture of minimum spaces, unable to adapt to change.   You may have seen the stimulating book by Stewart Brand, the Californian who put together the "Whole Earth Catalog" and its successors.   His book is called "How Buildings Learn : What Happens After They're Built" (Viking 1994) and in it he sums up the views of Frank Duffy, the recent RIBA President.   I'll quote his version of Duffy's observations on the rate of change in buildings:


"Our basic argument is that there isn't such a thing as a building," says Duffy.   "A building properly conceived is several layers of longevity of built components."   He distinguishes four layers, which he calls, Shell, Services, Scenery and Set.   Shell is the structure which lasts the lifetime of the building (fifty years in Britain, closer to thirty five in North America).   Services are the cabling, plumbing, air conditioning and elevators which have to be replaced every fifteen years or so.   Scenery is the layout of partitions, dropped ceilings, etc. which change every five to seven years.   Set is the shifting of furniture by the occupants, often a matter of months or weeks."


It is evident from this comment that one aspect of Long Life is, in fact, Loose Fit.   And in urban situations the reason why we don’t have loose fit buildings is simply because buildings are rented or sold by the square foot or square metre.   Anyone of my age who has seen post-war city buildings demolished, not because they were unadaptable to change but because developers have ensured that the site is more valuable than the buildings on it.   In Britain we have never achieved the political consensus to do something about site values.   The speculator rules.


Thus in housing in the 1980’s we have the absurdities of “starter homes” on sites so small that they could never be extended.   So when the starters started a family their increased expenditure prevented them either from moving to a larger house, or embarking on modest and simple extensions to the house they had.   Yet all through history - look at any old farmhouse or cottage - and you become aware of their origin as starter homes, extended and improved over the centuries as a family’s fortunes improved.   The 18th or 19th century facade is usually a tidying up of the front of a much older accretion of long life, low energy, loose fit.  


Yet this kind of approach to housing is virtually outlawed today because of the constraints on building through the planning legislation, the building regulations and the sources of mortgage finance, which demand a fully-finished product right from the start.   It's a kind of denial of history.   Many of us were intensely interested in the 1960's in the material sent from Lima, Peru by the British architect John Turner, and published in the Architectural Design.   He documented the way in which squatter settlements or barriadas were set up overnight in organised invasions of empty land in straw huts, withstood attack and arson from the police, and if given support rather than persecution, had over a fifteen year period, developed from shanty towns to fully serviced suburbs, major sources of work and of social stability.   Turner played an important part in changing our attitudes to unofficial settlements, but as the political and economic climate in Latin American countries has worsened terribly in the last twenty years, plenty of people have assumed that the message of Turner and people like him was out of date.   But I was happy to read in an account of the Peruvian economy (The Economist  5 August 1995) " that in shanty towns that ring the city, people are once again adding an extra room or a concrete roof."


Several of us have argued for many years that in Britain we should find room for "Do-It-Yourself New Towns".   (See my book "Talking Houses", Freedom Press 1990) and my chapter on this item in my "New Town, Home Town" (Gulbenkian 1993) and you will know that the efforts of the Town and Country Planning Association and the Green Town Group at Milton Keynes came to nothing, victims of the planning authorities.   You will also know too that at Lightmoor in Telford New Town, the enthusiasts actually built their first 14 houses on derelict land and that the worst irony was that the activities of those pioneers on a site ravaged by ancient coal workings so upgraded the notional value of the intended future extension, that it became considered as too valuable for so marginal a settlement.   Now those pioneers were people who were thoroughly imbued with the same priorities as the members of the Scottish Ecological Design Association.   Their small achievement aroused enormous interest.   Locally, they were known as "The Good Life Village", half derisively, but half enviously too.


If I were looking for ways of changing the rules, I would be arguing for giving low income people opportunities to do their own thing in their own way.   I think this is a more important priority in achieving Long Life, Low Energy, Loose Fit than seeking to make yet further amendments to the Building Regulations to achieve at a still greater cost still better insulations and reduction of heat loss, desirable though higher standards are.


Thank you for your kind attention.   I said I would conclude by quoting a remark by William Richard Lethaby.   In 1916, in the middle of the First World War, he gave a lecture which I first read in the middle of the Second World War.   He said, "For the earlier part of my life I was quieted by being told that ours was the richest country in the world, until I woke up to know that what I meant by riches was learning and beauty, music and art, coffee and omelettes; perhaps in the coming days of poverty we may get more of these.”


·     Colin Ward is the author of  The Child in the CityWelcome, Thinner City, Influences, and many other writings on environmental and educational topics including regular columns in Town & Country Planning and New Statesman.   He gave the above address at the Scottish Ecological Design Association’s annual general meeting in September 1995.


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about seda


The Scottish Ecological Design Association aims to bring together all those whose work or interest is concerned with design for a sustainable future.   Influenced by the holistic thinking and practical action of Patrick Geddes (1859-1933), and launched with the solid support of RIAS and The Scottish Office, its members include academics, architects, artists, builders, ecologists, engineers, journalists, landscape architects, materials suppliers, planners, product designers, woodworkers, and many others.   SEDA exists to help people to share knowledge, skills and experience.   We organise events, publish newsletters and occasional papers, and maintain a project officer based at Robert Gordons University, Aberdeen to develop our research and information holdings.

Our current president, secretary and treasurer are Sebastian Tombs, Liz McLean and Jed Pemberton.   They and the membership can be contacted c/o RIAS, 15 Rutland Square, Edinburgh EH1 2BE. [That was then! See SEDA website for people events and news today-RK]



June 1991

Edinburgh: setting up meeting at RIAS

August 1991

Edinburgh: visit to new kindergarten

November 1991: Newsletter

Findhorn: visit to buildings+eco­village

January 1992

Aberfeldy: talk on green tourism & visits to buldings

March 1992

Glasgow: Green Show Exhibition & visit to Strathclyde University Low Energy Housing (solar heating & controlled ventilation)

April 1992: Newsletter

May 1992

Edinburgh Environmental Festival: lecture by Howard Liddell,  workshop by Axel Ewald & Margaret Colquhoun and lecture by Chris Day

September 1992

Newton Dee, Aberdeenshire: visit to Camphill Community Village, buildings and flow forms

October 1992: Newsletter

November 1992

Cromarty: Two days of talks & visits on timber treatments, reedbed sewerage, traffic roundabouts and buildings

January 1993: Newsletter

February 1993

Edinburgh: 1993 SEDA Student Competition: Design of a green house: exhibition in High St

Edinburgh: day seminar on electro magnetism and effects of power lines by Roger Coghill

Edinburgh: Formal launch of SEDA and student prize awards.  Address by Lord James Douglas-Hamilton and talks by Ulrich Loening, Howard Liddell

March 1993: Newsletter

April 1993

Borders: talks by Tim Stead, Graham Bell, and visits (house­-sculpture- cycles-permaculture)

July 1993: Newsletter

Edinburgh: Tour, talk, discussion, wine & cheese for new members

September 1993: Newsletter

Wales & West England: 3 day tour of Centre for Alternative Techno­logy, Ffald y Brenin Retreat Centre, Chris Day kind­er­garten, Scolton Manor visitor centre, Coerllan Study Centre, Mole Manor, The Royal Agricultural Coll­ege at Ciren­cester and the De Montford University Engin­eering Building in Leicester

November 1993: Newsletter

December 1993

Loch Tay: AGM & reception, Master­class on vernacular architecture & ecological design: David Lea & James Simpson, Thornton Kay on SALVO, ceramic stoves.  PVC video

January 1994: Newsletter

Taymouth Castle: International Conf­erence on Timber Treatment:  Anna Pia Koch (Denmark), Naldo Anselmi (Italy), Tim Hutton (UK), Ingvar Max­well, James Simpson, John Palfrey­man,Simon Pepper, David Hyde, Jagjit Singh, Howard Liddell

March 1994: Newsletter

Edinburgh: Lecture by Bruce Walker on earth buildings in Scotland

April 1994

Edinburgh: Lecture by Robert+Brenda Vale on green architecture & buildings at Sheffield & Southwell

Cromarty: 2 day Earth Event: Brennan Soane (soil) & speakers on earth building, bricks, lime mortars & renders, pigments, compost toilets

Cromarty: 2 day earthbuild work­shop

June 1994: Newsletter

Aberdeen: 1 day Air Event: natural ventilation & breathing wall techniques: Brian Ford (De Montford Engineering Block) Jonathan Hines, timber-framed self-build projects

July 1994

Beeswing, Dumfries+Galloway; visit with Soil Association to Loch Arthur community

September 1994: Newsletter

October 1994

New Lanark: 1 day Water Event: hydro power, biological treatment systems, Des McNulty on politics of water

November 1994

Battleby,: Energy conservation & sust­ain­ability in a Scottish context: CPD event for architects with RIAS & EDAS

Edinburgh: AGM, slides

December 1994: Newsletter

Edinburgh: Presentations+network­ing evening with  local eco­logy groups  at British Council (with Soil Association)

January 1995: Newsletter

Abbey St Bathans, Borders: 1 day Ether Event: Projective & sacred geometry, colour, feng-shui, thinking, pataphysics, intuition, planning & the quality of order

March 1995: Newsletter

Glasgow: Evening presentation: Sustainable living for all

April 1995

Aberdeen: 2 day International conf­erence on Eco-labelling in Europe

May 1995

Edinburgh: Evening talks+discussion on ecophilosophy

Edinburgh: Meeting with Professor Bleahu of University of Ecological Sciences, Romania

Inveraray: 1 day event on use of Scottish timber in construction, with woodland ecology +management talk and tour

June 1995: Newsletter

July 1995

Lancashire: weekend visit to Middlewood  Centre, permaculture, Rod Everett

September 1995

Edinburgh: Evening address by Colin Ward , AGM,

November 1995: Newsletter

December 1995

Edinburgh: Social evening for students

Stirling: Presentation+discussion on use of boron as timber presevative

January 1996

Glasgow: Green Planning conference: CPD event with Planning Exchange

March 1996: Newsletter

Edinburgh: Presentations+network­ing evening with  local interest groups

Forthcoming events: Hands-on timber building (E Lothian), Bioregionalism (Aberdeen)

Future events planned for: Product design (Glasgow), Transport, Green money,


 -Go back to CONTENTS to pick up the links

GREEN PLANNING preceding the papers presented in Glasgow on 17 January 1996 was this SEDA event :

energy conservation and sustainability issues in a scottish context


This one-day CPD conference was run by the architects’ professional body, RIAS, in conjunction with DTI’s Energy Design Advice Scheme and the Scottish Ecological Design Association.   Some points from the day:

·         Solar energy gains are of greater value in building design the further north you go.

·          £8,000 worth of solar energy falls on the roof of the average Scottish house each year, we can use it or throw it away.

·         The traditional Scottish slate roof is a very effective solar collector.

·         Toxic buildup in sealed buildings is becoming a common side-effect of energy conservation

·         Materials are a critical concern for specifiers in the sustainability debate.

·         Each year in Britain we fire 3.5 billion new bricks and trash 2.5 billion old ones.

·         30 new machine bricks embody the energy  of a gallon of petrol  and require capital-intensive equipment.   The same amount of human energy can reclaim 8000 old bricks.

·          In Scotland we trash about 80 tonnes of tropical hardwoods every day.

David Somerville (Ross & Cromarty DC), covered the development of the solar energy house in Scotland and mentioned recent work in Stornoway, Dingwall, Glasgow and Colinton.   His insistence on the practical usefulness of solar energy in Scotland was backed up with examples  and  demonstrations  of  various  engineering  approaches  by   Kerr MacGregor (Napier University) who chairs the Scottish Solar Energy Group and who has pioneered the warm slates project in Colinton.    John Hope (Architect) and Lori McElroy (EDAS) then described the Sea Loft building at Kinghorn, a retrofit of an old cinema to provide sunwarmed working  and  living  space  with  the  bonus  of  dramatic  views.    Howard Liddell (Gaia Scotland) described his energy saving earth walled sports centre project at Drumchapel, with accolades for the holistic thinking of the Scottish Sports Council and Glasgow Building Control.   Fionn Stevenson (Heriot Watt School of Architecture) next talked about embodied energy costs and her recent research for SOEnD.   Her results suggest that the energy and CO2 emission costs of retrofit energy saving schemes on local authority housing can significantly reduce and sometimes even cancel benefits obtained over the lifespan of the buildings.   So if we are serious about Rio objectives we should look carefully at environmental costs embodied in building materials, a point which leads towards simple, local, natural materials and above all towards reclamation.   Julian Bishop (Architect) described his Scolton Manor Visitor Centre in Pembrokeshire: local timber construction, energy self-sufficiency and reed bed sewage reuse system.   Building and operating it  provided lessons for his more recent work on affordable green architecture, with the two-storey 6,0000 ft business unit at Dyfi Eco Park, Machynlleth which will cost the client only 10% more than a standard tin shed.   David Norman (Timber merchant) next introduced the Scottish Hardwood Charter and showed the Charter’s video with David Bellamy demonstrating its supported forest management techniques in the Amazon rainforest, and the work being done to begin to reclaim forest from beef ranches and re-establish rural communities.   The symbiosis of rural communities, indigenous woodland and nature conservation was also strongly argued in Ivor Davies’ (Highland Birchwoods) paper on sustainable forestry in Scotland.   Specifiers and anyone else who wants to get involved in the cutting edge of sustainability (sic) should be aware of new local building products like birch veneer, small section stock sizes for reassembly, birch flooring, end-grain industrial flooring, parallel-strand lumber for structural timbers and so on.   Thornton Kay (Salvo) gave the next paper: re-use, recycle, salvage and save.   Scottish Homes has just published his report with Howard Liddell on the potential for re-use in housing.   His checklist for builders, architects and planners is:  First - allow enough time for demolition to be carried out without trashing the materials;  Second - re-use materials on site, or failing that sell them for the benefit of the client;  Third - use 5% of reclaimed (as distinct from recycled) materials in all projects (targets like this could be coming in an EU Demolition Waste Streams Directive).   Dag Roalkvam (Gaia Norway) gave technical insights into dynamic and diffusive insulation: traditional methods being rediscovered in Norway which challenge conventional ideas about high insulation standards.   Norway, implementing high standards, finds itself using more energy to heat homes than 20 years ago because of the ventilation required to counteract the problems of sealed buildings.   The diffusive approach takes advantage of natural ventilation and heat exchange, drawing eaves air down through naturally solar and house-warmed roof space and porous ceilings to be expelled through stacks rising from ground level.   Colin Porteous (Mackintosh School of Architecture) then addressed building rating systems and standards, pointing out that the new building standards will not promote good design or natural ventilation, but that a more imaginative approach to standards certainly could, and deal with problems in existing buildings just  as  Glasgow’s  bylaws  had  as  long  ago  as  1900.      Next  Howard Liddell and Fionn Stevenson spoke of the Scotland Home of Tomorrow project with BRE, Scottish Homes, Scottish Enterprise, Scottish Power and British Gas as sponsors.   Professor Charles Robertson led a lively closing discussion.

summarised for SEDA

-Go back to CONTENTS to pick up the links

GREEN PLANNING papers presented in Glasgow on 17 January 1996

some useful reading

-see also Ian Crawley’s list at the end of his paper on LA21 and local empowerment above




A Ladder of Citizen Participation in the USA

 in: Journal of the American Institute of Planners, July 1969 and Journal of the Royal Town Planning Institute, April 1971



Going green by design

-principles and policy cons­id­er­ations to underlie a sust­ainable approach and the implications for settlements

(6pp)  In  Urban Design  no 57  Jan 1997

issn 0266-6480



DAVIS Geoff & GUISE Richard

Sustainable Settlements

-a guide for planners, designers and dev­elopers , covers basic principles of sust­ain­­able development, environmental cap­ac­ity, locational choice, settlement form, urban, rural & corridor areas, site app­r­ais­al & layout and the individual dwelling.

Local Govt. Management Board, 1995 isbn 0-74889796(255pp) PLANEX H5009



Why we need Energy Utilisation Assessments

-suggests authorities should be enabled to refuse- major devts. which fail to satisfy energy efficiency criteria

in: Town+Country Planning  May/Jun ’95

(2pp) PLANEX K883


BRAND Janet (ed)

Planning for sustainable development

-papers of a conference in Glasgow in January 1993, including Ralph Kirkwood on Biodiversity, Anthony Clayton on Ecological economics & planning, Peter Hawkes on Developing sustainable environments: a commercial perspective, Fiona Ambrose & David Russell on Delivering a sustainable transport policy, Michael Carley on A national sustainabil­ity plan for Scotland, Cameron Easton on Sustaining the Cairngorms environment, Dennis Rodwell on The sustainable city, and Bob Reid on The role of the planner

The Planning Exchange 1993

isbn 0905011 546  (78pp)




The Local Plan Agenda

-current practice in building a sustainable design strategy into local authority planning policies

(5pp)  In  Urban Design  no 57  Jan 1997

issn 0266-6480



Local Agenda 21 -some practical issues

in Local Environment News Aug 1995

(3pp)  PLANEX K1311



Development pressures, environmental limits

-explains how West Sussex County Council makes environmental capac­ity the bedrock of a structure plan review

in  Town+Country Planning Jul 1995

(3pp)  PLANEX K1229



Going Dutch

energy demonstration village of Ecolonia; -reed-fringed lake with bisecting canals

in Planning Week v3 n16 April 1995

(1p)  PLANEX K597


EVANS Barrie

Housing on a glazed street

-describes prizewinning low energy low cost housing association scheme at Milton Keynes in a glazed street with energy advantages and social potential

in: Architects’ Journal 3 Aug 1995

(2pp) PLANEX K1300


FYSON Anthony

Route to Good Practice

Reviews Barton/Davis/Guise ‘Sustainable Settlements’

in: Planning Week , 17 Aug 1995

(2pp) PLANEX K1323



Energy Conservation and Planning

-thinkpiece report to The Scottish Office on work by  Drew Mackie & Howard Liddell  which they describe in their paper (see previous pages: 47-54)

The Scottish Office Central Research Unit 1997 isbn 0 7480 5138 4 (40pp)



Sustainable fuel link for new settlements

-opportunities for renewable energy: wood & biofuel.  Work of Energy Tech­nology Support Unit.   Linking biofuel resources to new settlement planning

in Planning 1101 13 Jan 1995

(2pp)  PLANEX J9751



Fitting new housing developments into the landscape

-consultants’ manual of  site analysis & design with  Planning Advice Note 44

The Scottish Office 1994

isbn 0 7480 0875 6 (56pp)



Energy efficient design

looks at government agenda for energy efficient design & sustainability, refurb of housing association stock, corporate commitment to green housing

National Housing & Town Planning Council 1995

isbn 0905023102 (27pp) PLANEX H5640



Building on energy efficiency

Planners recent activities in promoting energy efficiency .   Well placed in auth­or­ities to take strategic co­ordinating role and calalyse energy saving improve­ments in buildings & built environment

in: Planning Week vol 2 no 47 Nov 94 (2pp) PLANEX J9490


HARDY Sally  & LLOYD Greg

An impossible dream? 

Sustainable regional economic and environmental development

-potential of land use planning for securing sustainable development. of regions and localities

in  Regional Studies Dec 1994

(8pp)  PLANEX J9730


HEALEY Patsy  & SHAW Tim

Planners, plans and sustainable development

-relationship between planning systems, development plans & the environment, traditionally & in terms of future impact

in  Regional Studies vol 27 no 8 1993

(8pp)  PLANEX J7196



Healing our civic ulcers

-green planning for towns+cities based on parks & public spaces.  Initiatives in Europe take greening beyond town park, Suggested answers in long term commit­ment, financially independent democratic local govt. & effective regional planning

in  Landscape Design 230  May 1994

(5pp)  PLANEX J7975



Steps towards sustainability

-role of planners and planning strategy

in Estates Gazette 9501, 7 Jan 1995

(2pp) PLANEX J9590



MITCHELL Gordon  & KAY David

Integrated modelling for a sustainable city

Looks at Quantifiable City project to model processes contributing to urban sustainability.  Best progress via new technology & altering daily lives in a co­ordinated team approach

in  Regional Review Aug 1995

(3pp)  PLANEX K1367



The Seattle approach

-sustainable development through urban design policy and implementation, public participation & an urban village strategy

(3pp)  In  Urban Design  no 57  Jan 1997

issn 0266-6480



Curtiba: sustainability by design

-describes policies  & implementation in this Brazilian city widely lauded as a model of sustainable city planning and a ‘Third World Ccity that works’, integrating land use and transport and using 25% less fuel than an average city of its size

 (6pp)  In: Urban Design  no 57  Jan1997

issn 0266-6480


LIDDELL Howard  STEVENSON Fionn  & KAY  Thornton

New from Old:   The Potential for

Re-use and Re-cycling in Housing

-evaluation of size, nature and state of the art of reclamation/ re-use/recycling industry., suggests how more could be done to establish four orders of priority: 1:restore 2:reclaim 3:recycle 4:burn

Scottish Homes Innovation Study No 1  1994 (10pp)


MORPHET Janice  & HAMS Tony

Responding to Rio: a local authority approach

-looks at implementation of Local Agenda 21 programmes and guidance on sustainable development from Local Govt Management Board & others.  Approach of Woking DC in Surrey

in  Journal of Environmental Planning & Management vol 37 no 4 1994

(8pp)  PLANEX J9333



Can land use planning produce the ecological city?

-looks at ‘ecological city’ concept and seeks framework related to land use: planning in context of many other policy instruments, actions and aspirations in Town+Country Planning  June 1994

(4pp)  PLANEX J8474



The Genesis Project, Consett

-describes project on former steelworks for sustainable economic regeneration

The Planning Exchange  March 1995

(2pp)  PLANEX L1385



How green is planning guidance?

Reviews emerging Scottish National Plan­ning Policy Guidelines & compares with English Planning Policy Guidance

Dept of Planning & Housing, Edinburgh College of Art / Heriot Watt University, Research paper  59  1994

(11pp)  PLANEX H3528


RAVEN Hugh  & LANG Tim

Off our trolleys

-food retailing, the hypermarket economy and issues of sustainability and planning 

Institute for Public Policy Research 1994




The sustainable new community: myth or magic

Contradictions in the concept, environ­mental impacts, ‘unsustainable’ aspects, the ideal and some practical approaches

in  Town+Country Planning Dec 1993

(4pp)  PLANEX J7258



Energy in a sustainable Scotland

study of ‘environmental space’ suggests Scotland could progress to sustainable energy policy by 2010

in  Safe Energy 107  Dec ’95 / Feb ’96

(2pp)  PLANEX K2417



Sustainable economic development and environmental auditing: a local authority perspective

-reviews options.  Humberside CC environmental initiatives  as examples

in Journal of Environmental Planning & Management  Vol 37 No 4 1994

(8pp)  PLANEX J9334



ROSS Andrea  & WALTON William

Sustainable development and the development control process

How far planning authorities can deliver.  No big changes needed to system but scope for problems in gaps between ‘presumption in favour’ ,‘precautionary approach’, ‘other material considerations’ , difficulties of assessing sustainability, and the once and for all nature of development control  

in  Town Planning Review July 1995

(18pp)  PLANEX K1621


STEELEY Geoffrey

Green planning for new communities

-new settlements are add-ons to existing urban systems & their ‘city-context’ is important.  Infrastructure thresholds invaluable in planning investment and resource cost evaluation required.  Looks at criteria, tests & objectives to apply .  Ebenezer Howard model the right starting point.   Self governing, self regulating, municipal management and community-based values point the way

in  Town+Country Planning March 1991

(3pp)  PLANEX J2255



Green building materials

-environment friendly materials, impact and embodied energy of a range of building fabrics, health risks of some

in  The Architects Journal 8 Jun 1995

(3pp)  PLANEX K858


VALE Brenda  & VALE Robert

Green-house living  - balancing need and greed

New environmentally sustainable hous­ing at no extra cost: examples in Notts & Sheffield.  Upgrading stock means chan­g­­­­ed appearance: planning policy needed

in:  Town+Country Planning  Jan 1995

(3pp)  PLANEX J9841


WARD Colin 

Welcome, Thinner City

Looks  forward to low density thinner greener city of the twenty first century How poor city dwellers can rehouse thgemselves and the potential of a high tech work­shop economy.

Bedford Square Press, 1989

isbn 0-7199-1252-0 (122pp)


WARD Colin

Self-help and Sustainability:

the coming dilemmas of planning

-how cities might change,  sustainability problems and opportun­ities, including land values, social disadvantage  and transport mobility   Discussion by Peter Hall and others

Royal Society of Arts 1994  (6pp)

-Go back to CONTENTS to pick up the links


Roger Kelly  SEDA website

Scotland’s Planning Legacy exhibition




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