A blog by Patrick Crozier

August 27, 2002

We regret to announce that
Patrick Crozier

We regret to announce that CrozierVision will be off air for the next few days.

August 24, 2002

Modern Houses - Update #3
Patrick Crozier

Alistair Twiname replies:

Your councillor friend makes some good points about over regulation causing declining standards of housing. However the regulations encouraging minimum densities are very recent additions, the problem with modern housing is not a question of density, the number units per hectare of a typical Victorian development (Islington in London, Marchmont in Edinburgh et all) was way, way higher that what is currently built on Greenfield developments. yet these are the lofty spacious houses that we bemoan the loss of. The real problem is the developers' lack of imagination and skill in creating density, developers have decided that people would rather die than live in a terrace house or in a flat. They build detached rabbit-hutches with a garage instead of making decent terraces / tenements they have stuck to their formula and people bought it. Council's demanding higher density is more likely to be the cure rather than the cause of the problem. I am all for the reduction of the amount of regulation in the construction industry but the real problem is the lack of skill and understanding.

Building regulations, (which affect the sizes of doors, fire escapes etc) have made building a building a far more technical activity but I cannot see that as an excuse for poor building. Citing the 70s as a era that passed the building regs and repeated the formula is a fudge, that's what they did when they built Bath, Edinburgh and Bloomsbury 200 years ago.. the problem wasn't that they repeated, the problem was that they repeated something that wasn't worth repeating.

Maybe developers do lack imagination. But the question is why do they lack it now when they had such an abundance of it in the past? The other question is why isn't the market working to provide the sorts of properties that people want when it works so well in other fields like cars, chocky bars and mobile phones?

Saddo - go for it!
Patrick Crozier

We should treat Saddam as our friend and not our enemy. That's the surprising view being put about by (probably) fictitious political analyst, Claire Berlinski. Her view is that in Mid East terms, Saddam is the least of our worries and we should get him to sort out our real problems in Saudi Arabia and Iran. Writing in Samizdata she (or is it he?) said: "Yep, you heard us right. That was the green light, just like the one you thought you got from that Glaspie woman, only this time we mean it. Take Kuwait, and Saudi Arabia too. It would take you what, three days? Go ahead and butcher the Al Sabahs and the whole Saudi royal family."

She also has an answer to old-style human rights worries. She told Saddam: "Any dissent? We know you know how to handle it, just don't tell us about the details. Let Noam Chomsky worry about it."

Human rights are for poofs.

Other news
Patrick Crozier

Don't trust GDP stats - Liberty Log
Scots Tories in trouble - Freedom and Whisky
Indie hypocrisy - Public Interest
Sleep sucks - Conservative Commentary
Economics is not moral - Samizdata

August 23, 2002

Freedom attacked - libbies silent
Patrick Crozier

The freedom to take drugs has once again come under attack from conservatives and once again the question is being asked: Where are the libertarians?

Today's attack came from Stephen Pollard who claims that cannabis is not necessary for medical purposes. This is the latest in a series of articles which have included pieces in The Edge and Conservative Commentary.

These have yet to elicit any response from any libertarian. This has led to speculation that many think there is no case to answer.

Stop the power grab
Patrick Crozier

There have been renewed calls today for people to resist attempts by politicians to smuggle in power grabs under the smokescreen of protecting children. Writing in Dodgeblog and commenting on the existence of plain evil people Mommabear said: "This fact bears repeating more than ought to be necessary, but there are too many people who will avoid understanding this or deliberately ignore this in order to further their agenda of using evil-doings as a pretense for placing more and more stupid, nasty controls on the rest of us. We are being slowly subjugated by the power-grabbing professional politicians under the guise of protecting us from evil, when the real evil is those power grabs."

The UK government is currently using the Holly and Jessica case to try to suppress the internet. The internet had nothing to do with their murder.

Other stories
Patrick Crozier

New York or California? Which will collapse first? - Samizdata
Pro-gun stats wrong - Mr Happy?
Imports, not exports, make countries richer - Liberty Log
MEP - "doesn't understand" - Freedom and Whisky
Fun in the sun - the TCS way - Samizdata
Death penalty still good - The Edge
Airport security questions to be dropped? - The Captain
"Hysterical morons" sign of the times - Public Interest
Natalie Solent is back
Mark Steyn - serious - Conservative Commentary
Iraq is likely to end up as roadkill on the third way - Airstrip One
Why is acting on the radio so crap? - Mr Happy?

August 22, 2002

Modern houses - Update #2
Patrick Crozier

Alistair Twiname, who is an architect ie a real person who actually knows something wrote:

I reckon your right.. the vast majority of modern housing is drivel, although I'd say the worst of it is over.. some new houses are not all that bad (see Wayne H and Barratt)

Though one thing I'd say you miss is that whilst workmanship standards have dropped (something to do with having to pay builders enough to live on or some other commie nonsense) the actual performance of buildings in terms of waterproofness, thermal performance, heating, ventilation etc is far far superior. plus with new-ish technologies like galvanising steel and preserving timber they might not fall down as quick as I'd like them to. I'm not sure about the crampedness of houses getting worse either, compare the living space of a factory worker 100 years ago with today. I heard a statistic that said that if current houses continue to be replaced at the current rate the newest ones will be as old as the pyramids when they get replaced. Our problem is we don't have the mechanism to build very big chucks of city and towns and don't have the Victorian political/entrepreneurial muscle to do it any more. Still the lack of thought, organisation and brain power put into our housing is staggering.

That's a hell of lot of points in a hell of a small space. I enjoyed seeing the reference to large housing estates. As I understand it this was pioneered in Britain by the Metropolitan Railway. Yes, they built John Betjeman's Metroland. So, it seems they did a good job. Funnily enough, private Japanese railways have, in more recent times, done exactly the same. See Saito's paper on Japanese railway diversification. Once again their developments are regarded as being a cut above the rest.

Modern houses - Update #1
Patrick Crozier

TBHNT is something of a hobby blog - one that only occasionally gets updated, and so, only occasionally gets read. So, I have been overwhelmed with the response to my piece on modern housing especially since Brian Micklethwait plugged it on Samizdata.

John Harrison who in addition to having the dubious distinction of being an ex-university chum of mine is also a Conservative councillor wrote me a long e-mail about how he sees things from his end. He wrote:

You raise an interesting question about modern housing and whether smaller rooms and bad workmanship are caused by controls such as the planning regime. I would suggest that numerous different factors have an influence but the main ones are planning, building regulations, consumer choice and latterly new planning guidance such as PPG3.

Since Metropolitan Green Belts were established, there has been increasing pressure on builders to locate new housing on a diminishing supply of land within existing settlements rather than by spreading the suburbs further over green fields. So we end up with smaller houses as a result of less land being available for building. Under new Planning Policy Guidance 3, Councils are encouraged to seek increasing densities of housing so the trend is set to intensify.

The other influence of the planning system is that Councils try to extract planning gain, so that as part of a development, developers have to stump up cash for new roads, schools, and increasingly provide a proportion of the land for 'affordable' housing. So to make a site profitable, developers have to make enough profit out of the remaining land to cover the development of the whole site. This adds to the pressure on house prices because the 'affordable' housing does not add to the supply in the market since it is only available to those who can not afford to buy. This creates a further incentive for developers to cram as many houses as possible on the part of the site that remains theirs to sell. Of course, many housebuyers have little option but to buy the smaller houses since the prices have been pushed up by the planning system and these are all they can now afford. The reason for smaller rooms, I suspect, is that builders are responding to legitimate consumer preferences. Given a certain size of footprint for the property, would you rather have three bedrooms or four? Properties with more bedrooms sell for a higher price, even if one of those rooms barely gives enough space to rotate a feline.

Land and buildings are expensive and builders need to build to a timescale and budget that allow them to sell at a price that finds a buyer in the market. With all the costs loaded on them by planning policies and planning gain and affordable housing quotas, is it any wonder that the quality of the build suffers?

There is also the effect of the building regulations which increasing lay down standards which must be followed, prescribing all sorts of things from the width of doors to the steepness of staircases. Once a house design has passed the hurdles of this the builder will re-use it over and over again - the bland designs of the 1970s come to mind. Councils have, to some extent, learnt that this leads to very boring street scenes and to their credit, insist on variations in design to give some interest to the view but within all the constraints of the planning system, these variations are only cosmetic - a few different coloured bricks here and there; use of a few different 'standard' house designs through a street.

One comment and one question. I like the idea that the up-front costs of obtaining planning permission have an impact on the speed of development. The question is: if building is confined to urban areas why don't people try to build taller buildings? I imagine that if every building in the South East sprouted an extra storey the housing crisis would disappear overnight.

Pollard in pain
Patrick Crozier

Daredevil Stephen Pollard, the man who likes to be attacked, has found one sort of pain he doesn't like - and this time it's self-inflicted. Pollard, who came through unscathed after an attack by dead sheep David Aaronovitch, found that in attempting to read Tom Nairn's "Pariah" he'd bitten off more than he could chew. He said: "I cannot remember feeling pain before when reading a book. Boredom, yes. Annoyance, yes. But not real, physical pain. Pariah, however, is so turgid, so overwritten, so trite, so predictable and above all so deeply, deeply pointless that...I began to ache, and not just in my head."

Although stopping short of demanding that that "Pariah" be classified along with heroin and LSD Pollard gave a stern warning to anyone thinking of picking up the book. He said: "Please, please don’t look at this book. With one in five of the adult population functionally illiterate, ‘Britain’ can’t afford to lose any of those of us who can read, and if you start Pariah you may, like me, start losing the will to live."

Axe the tab tax
Patrick Crozier

Proposals to more than quadruple California's ciggy tax have been slammed as ineffective and likely to lead to the creation of a black market. Writing in Give War a Chance, Hawkgirl said of the proposed $2 a pack tax: "How stupid do they think we are (don't answer that)? Do you think that I would opt to pay 50% more for a pack of cigarettes instead of taking a short drive to Mexico or Arizona? Do you think I am the only person that has considered opening a black market retail outfit of my own to fly in the face of this sort of blatant discrimination? Do you think it's going to get me to quit? Because if you do, you couldn't be more wrong. I'll quit when I'm good and ready, and for reasons of my own..."

Tobacco tax in the UK is about $6 for a pack of 20 cigarettes.

Other stories
Patrick Crozier

100 Greatest Britons - The Captain, Dodgeblog,
Tranzi storm continues - Samizdata, Junius
Cuthbertson "finds" manifesto of the unknown liberal - Conservative Commentary

August 21, 2002

Take the CrozierVision Challenge
Patrick Crozier

Bored with the debate over capital punishment? Think it's just common sense? Want a more fertile topic upon which to exercise your infinite wisdom and imagination? Well, if so, the CrozierVision Challenge is for you.

As you all know the main methods of doing away with murderers and traitors are the long drop, electrocution and lethal injection. Boring or what? It is amazing that with the vast array of technology available - technology such as elasticated ropes, mobile phones and Velcro - we haven't come up with a more innovative, interesting or - let's face it - entertaining way of getting people to meet their maker. That's the challenge. In no more than 5,000 words describe how you would do away with society's unwanted. Marks will be given for originality, use of modern technology and commercial spin-off potential. Prize? Hmm.

It's over to you.

"Non-elitist poof Brits" - I am sorry
Patrick Crozier

Hawkgirl has made an apology - but not to everyone. The unprecedented move came during a take down of Guaridian retard, Matthew Engel. She said: "Our little Engel just couldn't resist the self-righteous "in closing" bit about how superior his little dwindled empire (with apologies to non-elitist poof Brits...) is to America"

CrozierVision is trying to establish whether you have to be a poof or not to qualify for the apology.

Hole in anti-Tranzi thinking
Patrick Crozier

Chris Bertram of Junius has claimed to have found a hole in anti-Tranzi thinking. He believes you can't be against groups and for nations. Reviewing an article be Steven Den Beste he said: "It seems as if Den Beste's real (and unargued for position) is not that individuals are more important than groups but that some groups (nations, and especially nation-states) are more important than other groups (ethnic minorities within nation-states, for example)."It seems as if Den Beste's real (and unargued for position) is not that individuals are more important than groups but that some groups (nations, and especially nation-states) are more important than other groups (ethnic minorities within nation-states, for example). "

"Tranzi", a term coined by Samizdata's David Carr, is short for "transnational progressive".