However, planning has become increasingly disconnected from peoples’ lives because it no longer deals with many of the issues people care about. At the same time, much of the political and media debate about the future of planning has become a discussion of the merits of deregulation.
It is easy to forget that the planning movement sprang from the public health movement and the Victorian slums of the 19th century. It went beyond the basic drive to deliver more homes in a sanitary environment to include community design and social isolation. Planning offered people a better way of life, and as a nation we shared a collective ambition to rebuild Britain after both world wars.
However, the post-war period saw a retrenchment of the explicit social aims of planning and a greater focus on technical professionalism. In London and numerous other cities, many people continue to live in the social housing designed in the 1920s and 1930s and in the well intentioned, but ultimately misguided, post-war high-rise blocks.
That is why we have set out to reframe the debate about the future of planning. A year-long research project studied four communities and found strong evidence that planning could play a much more positive role by better integrating with sectors such as regeneration and health and reconnecting with issues that matter to local people.
Planning cannot reduce poverty and promote social justice without a clear signal from government that it should be a key priority. New legal duties on poverty reduction should be introduced and planners should have to demonstrate how their work will reduce poverty.
The National Planning Policy Framework and new planning guidance also needs an overhaul to ensure social sustainability is recognised in planning so that there is clarity about the impact planning should have on communities.
There is an absence of a clear urban policy for England which deals with the multiple problems faced by many communities. Part of the solution must be including planning within social policy more widely and understanding how planning can be tailored for communities struggling with issues such as social exclusion.
Another major challenge in securing fairer outcomes from planning is the behaviour of the private sector, which often has a dominant role in thedevelopment process as recent planning reform has been predicated on the deregulation of the system. However, there is a major opportunity to align the objectives of the public and private sectors to secure lasting public benefits. This will require an increasing focus on corporate social responsibility in an era when planning regulation is retrenching.”
Finally, there needs to be a reinvention of the practice of planning. Planners must have the skills and opportunity to increase their understanding of places and how their work affects how people live their lives.
Kate Henderson is chief executive of the Town and Country Planning Association. Read the 12 recommendations of the Planning out poverty report here.
IMAGE :: picturesque planning of the Amalienau neighborhood