United Kingdom

Urban Future: The Revolt Against Central Planning

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In Milton Keynes, perhaps the most radical of Britain’s post-Second World War “New Towns,” the battle over Brexit and the culture war that it represents is raging hard. There, the consequences of EU immigration policy, of planning instituted by national authority, and of the grassroots yearning to preserve local character have clashed together to shape a platform that may set a precedent for whether central planners or local residents will determine the urban future.  read more »

Brits Opt Out

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The famous shot heard “’round the world” this time came from the other side of the Atlantic, but its longtime impact could be equally profound. By voting to leave the European Union and its intrusive bureaucracy, the British people have also risen up against a regime of crony capitalism that has encumbered and perverted democracy across the entire Western world.

The implications, of course, are greatest for Britain and Europe, but they will affect politics here in North America. The Brexit raises to first priority the more general debate about the trajectory of global capitalism which, for all its many accomplishments, has grown to resemble, in its haughtiness and inbreeding, the very statist despotisms that it was supposed to overturn.  read more »

Vote For Brexit Explodes the Myth of the Global City-State

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The UK has voted to leave the European Union.

The Brexit campaign was revealing because it was based on the exact opposite of the urban triumphalist vision that so often dominates the discourse.  read more »

Working Class British Voters Led the European Union Rejection

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On Thursday night the first results from Britain’s referendum on pulling out of the European Union came in.

A small clue to the way things were going last night was the vote in the North East.  read more »

Urban Renewal Needs More than ‘Garden City’ Stamp to Take Root

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Every few years the ideals of Ebenezer Howard’s garden city utopia are resurrected in an attempt by the UK government to create new communities, and address the country’s housing crisis. Sometimes this takes the form of new towns or eco-towns, and sometimes proposals for an actual garden city are put forward – as in the last budget.  read more »

Britain's Planning Laws: Of Houses, Chickens and Poverty

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Perhaps for the first time in nearly seven decades a serious debate on housing affordability appears to be developing in the United Kingdom. There is no more appropriate location for such an exchange, given that it was the urban containment policies of the Town and Country Planning Act of 1947 that helped drive Britain's prices through the roof. Further, massive damage has been done in countries where these polices were adopted, such as in Australia and New Zealand (now scurrying to reverse things) as well as metropolitan areas from Vancouver to San Francisco, Dublin, and Seoul.  read more »

Why British Prosperity is Hobbled by a Rigged Land Market

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The British have the least living space per head, the most expensive office rents and the most congested infrastructure of any EU-15 country. Thanks to a rapidly growing population –  the result of a healthy birth-rate and immigration – these trends are worsening steadily. At the same time, the British economy is languishing in a prolonged slump brought on by a collapse of demand. The answer is obvious: Britain needs to build more. Unfortunately, the obstacles to development are formidable.  read more »

Britain's Housing Crisis: The Places People Live

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For twenty years British house building has fallen behind demand, forcing up prices and rents. Here's a series of photos showing some of the things people have had to do to live.

Victoria Campbell was living in a shed in her parents' garden in Havant, while she and her fiance saved up for a deposit, but the Council has told her that she has to move out.  read more »

The Drive-It-Yourself Taxi: A Smooth Ride?

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Despite a corporate sponsor that paid handsomely for the naming rights, Londoners stubbornly refer to our bikesharing system as ‘Boris Bikes’, in a nod to our colourful Mayor, Boris Johnson. But what will we call our new drive-it-yourself taxis? My suggestion: ‘Boris Cabs’ – and they are now a reality here, thanks to Daimler’s car2go service, if you happen to live in one of three small and separate sections of town. But why did a one-way carsharing system have to limp into London, when more than a dozen other cities have welcomed these arrangements with open arms? In the US, car2go first appeared in Austin, Texas, and since then has moved into Washington, D.C, Miami, Portland Oregon, San Francisco, San Diego, and Seattle. It operates in Canada  read more »

Postwar Prefabs: Britain's Factory-Made Palaces

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After the financial crisis of 2008, much of Great Britain's construction industry capacity was wiped out. Now, in 2012, there is much fear that the “traditional” construction industry is too weak to rapidly increase the rate of housing production, even if the administrative planning system wanted it to. Which it doesn’t.  read more »