Monday, 19 September 2011

I'm a planner and I want to see development

I just want to quickly bash this post out as it's been on my mind over the weekend, after I got a negative comment about planning.

As my research has been on regeneration, focused at deprived peripheral housing estates, I've worked very closely with researchers in housing. The recent debate about the planning system in England seems to be pitting housing against planning, so I wanted to clarify where I stand.

I commented in the middle of last week to someone via a tweet that I was pleased that the debate about the proposed National Planning Policy Framework in England had produced a refreshed political debate about planning in England. This was a pleasant change to the utterly tedious technocratic discussion that surrounded Regional Spatial Strategies and Local Development Frameworks. However, it's fair to say, the debate about the NPPF has not been the most positive.

Both good ol' Eric Pickles and the likes of the CPRE and National Trust have made stupid, unhelpful assumptions about what planners do and what the NPPF proposes. As a result, I've seen planners caricatured by some people with a housing focus as full signed-up members of the CPRE who want to stop everything being built. The RTPI have (unlike them usually) bothered to start the "Five Planning Myths" campaign to add some planning perspective to the debate.

So, here's my planner's perspective. As I urban and regional planner I do not want to stop development. In fact I want to encourage development in the right place. I fully recognise the shortage of housing in the UK. I also recognise that releasing more land for housing is only one solution to the problem. As a regional planner I also recognise that this cannot all be in the centre of London. We need more effective regional rebalancing in the UK if economic development is not to put too many pressures on the south east. I want a plan-led system. To put it bluntly, as a planner I don't want to see five million people continue to be homeless. I want them to be housed in decent housing, in economically and ecologically sustainable communities. Maybe even a bit like Ebenezer Howard's garden cities.

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