Category Archives: Uncategorized

The National Planning Policy Framework

Wordle courtesy

The new UK national planning document, the National Planning Policy Framework, was officially released today.  I haven’t had a chance to see how many changes were made from the draft version (which has been kicking around for months); the blogosphere was fairly quiet about it today (although the internet has had plenty to say about the NPPF over the last year or so).  The best resource so far is this article from the Telegraph.

The idea behind the document is that it replaces thousands of pages of documents generated over the course of decades with a single go-to policy “in favor of sustainable development.”  The NPPF has cheerleaders and detractors.  As I read it, the central tenets of the document aren’t fundamentally bad, but (as one might expect, when 50 pages distills 1000s), its capable of being interpreted about a bazillion ways: sustainable is never defined, for example.  What constitutes sustainability? I could give you my definition, but somehow I doubt it corresponds to what the conservative politicians had in mind when they drafted it. It is also hazy on things like density, urbanity, provision of affordable housing, and conservation of green belts around towns, among other things.  These aren’t niggling details.  They are critically important to envisioning the future of England as dictated by the NPPF.

If I were to provide the glossary for the document, I think it might be pretty strong.  But since no one’s asked me to yet, I think the definitions will be hashed out over time.  It will be sloppy and yield some unfortunate planning results.  But the planning system as it has historically existed isn’t streamlined or efficient, and leaves much to professional judgment.  Basically I think the former planning system was the lesser of two evils.

Those of you outside the UK are probably unaware, but whether good or bad, its a huge shift in the way the country approached planning and could have real implications for the way England builds in the coming decades.

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I’m a guest blogger!

This Saturday I was a guest blogger at Erin Chantry’s blog Helm of the Public Realm, a blog devoted to urban planning & design.  I wrote a piece on the differences between the US & UK attitude toward transportation; you can check it out here.


The city of Malmo, Sweden has just announced a plan for a 4-lane cycle highway between Malmo and Lund, another major cycling city located 20 miles northeast of Malmo.  Treehugger posted about the plan on Jan. 16.  While I fully support cycle infrastructure (obviously), I wonder how much use they expect a path like this to get.  Twenty miles is certainly do-able on a bike, but its not exactly something you do on a whim.  Most people don’t even drive twenty miles on whim.  Nonetheless, here is the preliminary map:

I think it depends a lot on how much traffic, how much lighting, how many ons and offs there are, and how much elevation change there is between Malmo and Lund.  Would you cycle twenty miles, if it was all on an off-street path?  I think I would, but a forty-mile roundtrip isn’t a weekday event.

A New Old Map of London

Image courtesy Wellington Travel via Mapping London

Wellington Travel is a small private mapmaking company that just produced this old-timey looking map of London that actually highlights all of the city’s great buildings, including the Shard of Glass, visible here, that is not quite completed yet.  For more great maps of London, head over to a blog dedicated to just that.

I’d Live There

Right next to Lake Park...

I’ve loved this house in Milwaukee, Wisconsin for years.  Its on the East Side of the city, right near a Frederick Law Olmsted-designed park and near Newbury Street, recently named on of America’s great streets by the American Planning Association.  I particularly love the external staircase on the right-hand side and the pitched roof that must make the third floor seem incredibly spacious.  And I love the variety of windows.

There are a ton of beautiful houses in this neighborhood, but this one has always been my favorite.

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The New York Times “Abstract Sunday” blog ran this very clever piece last week.  Its not quite urban planning, cartography or the things in our usual purview – but I wish I’d thought of it.

XKCD on Map Projections

XKCD on Map Projections

Though this is a slight departure on the theme of this blog, I thought today’s XKCD was a great (and humorous) way of illustrating how maps can affect the way we see the world, and space in general.

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Hello world!

Dear Internet,

My sister and I have decided to start a blog on all things urban & geographical.  She is a GIS specialist with a background in archaeology (not architecture) and urban studies; I have masters degrees in urban history and city planning.  So we’re pretty much perfect for the job.

My sister lives in Toronto and I live in Cambridge, UK but am formerly of Cambridge, MA and we are both formerly of Milwaukee, Wisconsin.  We love us some cheese and cornfields, but apparently we love the expat life even more.

I have another blog, chronicling my fabulous life in intimate detail, viewable here, but Ink & Compass will be reserved for commentary on the built environment, transportation planning, regional planning & conservation, and other stuff that we feel is related (especially good infographics. Who doesn’t love a good infographic?).

So thank you for reading and please check back to learn more about the interesting things we have to say.

Until soon,

Franny & Izzy
The Sisters Ritchie