Planning matters

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3D printing in construction, health and manufacturing
It’s one of those internet memes that appears on social media every once in a while, but it’s hard to track down the first iteration but it essentially goes like this: It gets a chuckle from me every time, swiftly followed by memories of the clunking staccato rhythm of loading a floppy disk into my first PC home (it still doesn’t beat the noise of loading a cassette tape-based game into the old BBC Acorns but I fear I may be showing my age now). Nostalgic memories aside, the meme confirms that 3D printing is slowly becoming a well-established, socially recognised technology medium. It’s a technology that is on the cusp of simultaneously shaping multiple industries and is destined to change the definition of design, manufacturing, construction, retail, medicine and space exploration. It’s also one of those technologies that I’m a self-confessed fan of and follow its progress as avidly as some like to watch their local team play football. This blog sets out how 3D printing will soon impact on three industries – construction, retail, and health, and how it will become as standard as the floppy disc drive once was!   Construction Industrial 3-D printing is at a tipping point, about to go mainstream in a big way. Most executives and many engineers don’t realise it, but this technology has moved well beyond prototyping, rapid tooling, trinkets, and toys. Harvard Business Review   Image Source: Total Kustom The construction industry has been doing the same thing for well over a hundred years now. Houses for example are still very much set to rectangular standardised plans, mostly built from single materials joined together by mortar and nails, and constructed over a number of weeks. Not for much longer. Say hello to the Rudenko 3D printer which is a gantry-based concrete extrusion printer. Rudenko is one of a growing number of start-up companies using concrete to print structures such as the above example of a castle, or the World’s first 3D printed hotel suite. The castle was very much a proof of concept for the makers and took around 3 months to print back in 2014. However the technology is moving fast. How fast? Well the below example of a 3D printed house prototype was printed earlier this year. But the most impressive part of the house isn’t just the fact that it was 3D printed, it’s that it only took 24 hours to print. It’s no longer a giant leap to imagine a similar system employed by housebuilders in the coming years. If we could turn these systems into a mobile platform (some of which already are), housebuilders could one day park up a printer, programme it with designs for a row of houses (houses which could have been designed by the future residents, to perfectly match their needs and wants) and away it would go. It could greatly speed up house building, which could minimise disruption to the surrounding area and boost affordable housing provision. In addition it could open up a whole new market of custom homes, allowing prospective home owners to tell the housebuilders how they want their house to look and what the layout should be.    Its potential for house builders is obvious but it could go much further than that. Such a system could also be deployed to disaster zones to quickly build shelters to house those who have lost their homes.   Manufacturing & Retail Image Source: PC Advisor Any rail traveller or music lover knows it’s far more convenient and easier to simply print your tickets rather than collecting them at the station or waiting for them to arrive in the post. Convenience can be a killer of the high street shop however. Just as the rise of the digitally downloaded album or movie saw a corresponding fall in high street sales and ultimately a swathe of retailers like HMV closing stores, other retailers could soon feel the effects of 3D printing as it will ultimately change the way we purchase our goods. This would foreseeably have a knock-on effect on supply lines and the need for a physical high street presence. With more and more materials being developed for use with 3D printing and more 3D printers having the capability to print multiple materials simultaneously,  the idea of on-demand printing of products no longer seems to far-fetched. Home 3D printing has many advantages over the more traditional retail models. Why go to the shops to replace the broken door handle when you could just print a replacement at home? Or why stand in the cold and rain waiting for the latest iPhone when you could just pay apple direct for a download link and print it yourself? And even if the convenience of not having to physically go to the shops isn’t a selling point for consumers, the ability to then customise those products are virtually limitless. Imagine being able to print a pair of shoes that are customised - from the colour and style right down to a perfect fit for your foot.  Health 3D printing is making a noticeable impact in hospitals across the world. In Birmingham for example, the Queen Elizabeth Hospital recently announced that it is saving an average of 3 to 4 hours and £20,000 per surgery by printing 3D models of patients’ organs using their new in-house 3D printer so that doctors and surgeons can see what needs doing before ever picking up a scalpel. Final thoughts If I were to take one thing away from this blog, it’s that I’m going to be buying a 3D printer for my daughter for Christmas soon. Why? Because we are in the early days of 3D printing and like my old BBC Acorn, they are expensive and have limited functionality. However it’s those limitations that encouraged the Bill Gates, Steve Jobs and Tim Berners-Lee’s of the world to start playing with the technology, developing new programming languages and new ways of using it. It’s my feeling that it will be the kids of today who grow up with these 3D printers in their homes and schools who will really push the technology in the next 10/20 years - and jobs in the industry will increase in number exponentially. It’s a technology that is here, and must not be ignored.

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The demand for homes that the economic success of the Oxford City region brings with it is a key issue across the Thames Valley. In 2015, Oxford City was among the top 5% least affordable locations in England excluding London.Whilst the need for housing arising in Oxford is clear, the rate of housing delivery has been poor, with Oxford City's own figures forecasting that just 206 dwellings will be completed in 2015/16.  In essence the City is constrained by tightly drawn boundaries, the Green Belt and other factors (including areas at risk of flooding).  The surrounding Oxfordshire Local Authorities have recognised these constraints and have spent the last two years, working alongside other stakeholders, to seek to accommodate Oxford City's “unmet need” elsewhere within the County.The requirement for this collaborative approach was recognised at an early date by all the Local Authorities as failure to comply with the “duty to co-operate” jeopardised the progression of each Authority’s Local Plan.  Cherwells Local Plan proceeded last year only on the proviso that it was revisited shortly after adoption to help meet Oxfords unmet need. More recently West Oxfordshires Local Plan didn’t get off the starting blocks pending, in part, clarification of their requirements to help cater for Oxford’s unmet need. OGB Process The Oxfordshire Growth Board comprising all Oxfordshire Authorities, working alongside Oxfordshire County Council, OXLEP and other stakeholders have sought a collaborative approach.  Following some early skirmishes on the capacity of Oxford City to accommodate development agreement was quickly established on a “working assumption” that the Authorities would collectively need to accommodate an additional 15,000 new homes in the period to 2031. Discussions on apportionment have taken longer (agreement was originally due 12 months ago) perhaps reflecting the political ramifications.  The exercise of seeking to apportion housing need arising in Oxford City could seek to reflect a number of factors including housing market areas, transport connections, migration flows, commuting patterns, environmental and other constraints and the sustainability of further development in / adjacent to existing settlements.The two authorities that have recently progressed draft local plans (Cherwell and South Oxfordshire) have assumed that the need would be split equally between the surrounding authorities. Figure 1: NPPF Constraints and Green Belt in OxfordshireFigure 2: Main Public Transport Nodes in Oxfordshire and Journey Times In truth the process of apportionment now proposed within the OGB report for next weeks meeting follows a less analytical approach.  Instead the Growth Board have sought to assess the availability and suitability of specific large sites (capable of accommodating 500 + homes) informed by a series of high level studies on Green Belt, Transport Capacity and Infrastructure capabilities, Education Provision and Habitats Assessments.   A number of sites were excluded from the analysis (including land at Carterton, Faringdon and Long Hanborough) on the basis of being “less directly related to the City” (pg 23).  The remaining sites were classified as “Red,” “Amber” or “Green” with the latter then aggregated to result in the recommended apportionment for each Local Authority Recommended Apportionment for unmet need from Oxford City Source : OGB September 2016 Committee Report (pg 7) Commentary Despite the 12 months delay in the original schedule the process to date has been relatively quick and the comprehensive solution sought should prevent a series of bilateral agreements being challenged or collapsing at Local Plan Inquiries.It is unusual for Local Authorities to have involvement in the identification of sites (and subsequent apportionment of housing allocations) within neighbouring authorities.  The OGB Committee Report for next weeks meeting hints at some of the tensions that have arisen through this process.  The initial list of sites for assessment were put forward by each district themselves or “the partners on their behalf” (pg 23).  The partially subjective nature of assessing all 36 sites, and the scope for disagreements, is reflected in the commentary on the Oxford Golf Club site.  This records that “there was not agreement within the Project Team on the score for this area.  The Rural districts consider that it could be judged to be green if considered on a consistent basis with other areas of search.  Oxford believes that it is not possible to mitigate the hydrology concerns that development would cause.”   The site is therefore “amber” recommended for further assessment but the potential 1,100 homes arising are not included in the recommended apportionment.The OGB will vote on the recommended apportionment next week.  All of the Authorities have been party to the assessment and conclusions and some have been preparing the ground in advance.  In July 2016 West Oxfordshire submitted an ‘Expression of Interest’ to central government to create a locally-led Garden Village to the north of Eynsham.  Land at Eynsham forms West Oxfordshires recommended apportionment in the OGB conclusions.Other Authorities may be less responsive to the OGB recommendations.  South Oxfordshire have long resisted proposals at Grenoble Road with Councillor John Cotton, leader of South Oxfordshire stating in February 2015 “we still believe Grenoble Road is the wrong solution” and it was excluded from the very recent (July 2016) iteration of the local plan.  It is however considered “reasonably sustainable” and forms a “green” site within the OGB analysis with it’s potential to accommodate 2,200 homes inflating South Oxfordshires apportionment to 4,950 dwellings (up from the 3,750 dwellings they proposed two months ago in the local plan).The OGB report is clear that whilst it will dictate apportionment across the County “the short list of areas of search that underpins it must be viewed as indicative” (pg 6) and this exercise “is not seeking to allocate or release sites” as “subsequent Local Plan work may bring forward other sites” (pg 32).  This recognises that competing sites remain open for consideration and the matter will be resolved through forthcoming local plans processes across the County.It goes without saying that housing development at this scale will bring economic benefits to these authorities. Recent research by NLP suggesting that the provision of a further 14,850 homes will result in: Around 1,800 FTE construction jobs with; An additional £371.4 million of resident expenditure within shops and services each year; Result in New Homes Bonus Payments equivalent to £148.9 million across the Local Authorities over a set six year period; and Provide additional Council Tax Revenues estimated to be equivalent to £26.2 million each year And so next Mondays meeting may provide some pieces of the jigsaw for meeting Oxfords unmet need but piecing the jigsaw together seems likely to go on for some time yet.  

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