Wednesday, May 30, 2007

Planners have the ultimate responsibility – so why do we live in souless places?

Planners are ruining our cities

The article explores rationale behind the supply-side of the demand-supply equation in housing. Normally I would read it and not post it but there were so many comments about Planners and planning yesterday that I thought it would be appropriate. Scanning yesterdays comments on planning, the majority appeared to suggest a desire for less [none] involvement from planners and more freedom of the market to produce homes people wanted to live in. Faren__451's comments summed up nicely. But clearly we know nothing because we're not the unelected experts in Town Planning; the State will provide everything for us simple, ignorant, proles! How dare I suggest otherwise!

Posted by talking rot @ 05:41 AM (571 views)
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9 thoughts on “Planners have the ultimate responsibility – so why do we live in souless places?

  • Planners are officers of elected members, who vote in new policies, decide which decisions can be taken by officers and decide important, contentious cases with lots of objections. Even the 1960’s debacle can be blamed on the democratic mandate for solving a horendous social housing crisis. Conservation Areas, which stopped the demolition of historic town centres after the 1960’s destruction was on the back of a democratic mandate. Planning is skewed because only 40% of us bother to vote. It was the Tories who destroyed planning during the 1980’s and the system is only now reforming to re-engage with the private sector and built up policies, skills and resources. If you are interested in reading about some of the positive things happening in planning since about 1997, like, how we now plan for disabled access, climate change, affordable housing provided in private schemes for wealthy people, sustainable heritage, encouraging good design and use of decent materials, sustainable transport, avoidance of crime, safeguarding of employment spaces, to meet local housing needs, using developer contributions to subsidise additional need from development for education, healthcare and infrastructure, etc. at times when politicians feel that the market is failing to do so (why would a private developer selling to BTL’rs have the altruism to provide the above without a poke, think about it), then have a look at some of the following links:

    Reforms that may help meet some of TR’s concerns (yes, we need do need more reforms): http://www.communities.gov.uk/index.asp?id=1002882&PressNoticeID=2425
    Design: http://www.cabe.org.uk/publications.aspx
    Heritage: http://www.english-heritage.org.uk/server/show/nav.1043
    Royal Town Planning Institute – some good descriptions about the profession (of course the institute is biased, but all professional bodies are) 🙂 http://www.rtpi.org.uk/what_planning_does/
    Very detailed information, for only those with a total interest and bit of time on their hands: http://www.planningaid.rtpi.org.uk/pooled/articles/BF_PSART/view.asp?Q=BF_PSART_231650

    My argument is not that planning is perfect, but that, if we want a decent system, we need more sections of society voting, fairer voting systems, more investment and skills in planning, etc. Anybody who blames all the ills of society on one professional group is more than likely expressing a half truth, half, because planning is not and cannot be perfect for everybody, because it mediates between so many interests. Many groups represented by the torygraph oppose planning because they are the ones who have the money to control the system outright without planners. Everybody in society is effected by it, all needs groups are provided places by it and planners are just one of many professions that form part of the planning process. Remember that the tories are famous for using planning to protect the wealthy suburbs and villiages where their their voters live, so why not get involved to make it work for your needs to? Do you think developers will ever listen to you without a statutory system? I don’t know any planet on earth without a planning system, you can’t dismantle it, objectors only dismantle it until their oposition groups are excluded, then keep the bits that represent them.

    Talking Rot, I have been honest about my profession and simply tried to get some balance to the argument here, there is no point having a 1-sided website, and articles like this are often the result of press releases from groups with vested interests, so hopefully, if you respond it can be positive rather than agressive. I hope some people find that positive, even if they disagree with me, it is their democratic right to give up the right to being represented by a democratic planning system! Please, I invite you, what is your profession TR, are you a member of the house builders federation? Or a right wing think tank? Pray tell.

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  • Oh, and here is a London policy for family accommodation. Get rid of planning and you loose things like this. We have to fight to make sure that developers meet the policy:

    See the policies for yourself on http://www.hackney.gov.uk

    THE COUNCIL WILL NORMALLY PERMIT NEW
    BUILD HOUSING SCHEMES WHICH PROVIDE:
    (A) AN APPROPRIATE MIX OF DWELLINGS;
    SUBJECT TO SITE CHARACTERISTICS ONE
    THIRD SHOULD PROVIDE FAMILY
    ACCOMMODATION OF THREE OR MORE
    BEDROOMS, SUITABLE FOR USE BY FOUR OR
    MORE PERSONS;
    ONE THIRD OF THE FAMILY
    ACCOMMODATION SHOULD BE FOUR
    BEDROOM UNITS, SUITABLE FOR USE BY SIX
    OR MORE PERSONS;
    FAMILY ACCOMMODATION SHOULD HAVE
    DIRECT ACCESS TO A GARDEN (30sqm minimum).
    (B) DWELLINGS SUITABLE FOR OCCUPATION BY
    PEOPLE WITH DISABILITIES;
    ON SITES WITH SUITABLE ACCESS THE
    COUNCIL WILL SEEK TO ENSURE HOUSES
    AND GROUND FLOOR UNITS DESIGNED TO
    MOBILITY STANDARD AND ON SUITABLE
    SITES GREATER THAN 0.1 HECTARE (0.25
    ACRE) 10% OF SUCH UNITS DESIGNED TO
    WHEELCHAIR MOBILITY STANDARDS;
    (C) SAFE AND CONVENIENT LEVEL ACCESS
    FROM THE PAVEMENT TO THE FRONT
    ENTRANCE OF EACH DWELLING WHEREVER
    FEASIBLE;
    (D) AN APPROPRIATE DENSITY OF
    DEVELOPMENT; NORMALLY OF
    APPROXIMATELY 250 HABITABLE ROOMS
    PER HECTARE (100 PER ACRE);
    (E) DWELLINGS SO DESIGNED AND
    CONSTRUCTED AS TO MINIMISE ENERGY
    CONSUMPTION. The Council considers that new housing
    should normally contribute to meeting priority
    needs in Hackney. The Borough is densely
    built-up and there are relatively few housing
    land opportunities. In view of this, the
    Council is concerned that new housing
    schemes recognise the Borough’s particular
    demographic characteristics and needs by
    providing a balanced range of new housing
    opportunities and choice.
    Hackney has a greater requirement for
    family-sized accommodation than most
    London boroughs. It has significantly larg e r
    than average household sizes, in part-
    icular those with young children. Almost
    half the Borough’s population are from
    ethnic minority communities. Some have
    significantly higher than average household
    sizes and have cultural and religious
    requirements for sex segregated sleeping
    arrangements for children. This indicates
    the Borough’s substantial demographic
    requirement for both 3 bedroom units and
    l a rger family units providing 4 or more
    bedrooms.
    L a rger families experience difficulties in
    meeting their accommodation needs and
    tenurial preferences as most of Hackney’s
    l a rger dwellings are on upper floors in
    Council flatted blocks with poor amenity
    provision. New housing development which
    includes a proportion of large houses with
    gardens, normally of a minimum size of 30
    square metres and regularly shaped, will
    ensure that the needs of larger households
    with children are better met.
    The Council therefore considers that the
    specific housing requirements and local needs
    of the Borough constitute sufficient “specific

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  • PR,

    While I acknowledge that a planning system is needed to protect undesirable development, I have no faith in the current one. To me it seems to exist to ensure that not enough (or no) adequate housing is built, so prices stay high and housing bubbles occur, so that people have to saddle themselves with huge mortgages. This means that Mr Shareholder can be sure that his workforce will be around long enough to make him lots of money. No point having to keep training people, is there ?

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  • European-bear says:

    No reason at all not to build family flats. In Switzerland, most new accomadation is new flats. But the mojarity have at least 3 bedrooms, many 4 bedrooms and some have 5 or more bedrooms. And they are large, spacious, big balcomy and very good communal areas (like children’s playgrounds) and the car park in the basement (and hence are traffic free). There is a great community spirit and you get space, space, space…..I am living in one and would not want to trade in for a British 3 or 4 bed (semi) detached….And since most of Switzeland is uninhabital mountains, the space premium is eevry bit as much as S.E. England, but the quality of accomadation is superb. The problem is not flats in the UK, its the obsession that anything bigger than 2 beds must be a house! We get gardens, play areas for the kids, traffic free, space, light, good friends with the neighbours and someone does the gardening!

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  • There is not much to ruin, this country is a dump anyway! Just when you think the UK can not slip further down the toilet it will always sink further.

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  • Wage Slave: In America, where planning is often very lax, developers respond to a bubble with an oversupply of dwellings that investors are piling into, hense, right now you have the biggest oversupply and fall in prices in American History. UK planning laws have to a some extent moderated the bubble in small flats by requiring family sized units.

    European Bear, Switzerland has a much stronger planning system, as with other European planning systems, because, unlike here, councils can’t be awarded costs to pay developers to the extent as here when they enforce planning policies. You can bet your bottom dollar that Switzerland produces family houses because planners have done housing needs surveys and created policies to make sure that developers meet local needs. This is a market based intervention, feeding the market a better information base. On the continent, as a general rule, what the policy says, the developer does because european planning policies are based on a verified sound evidence base, an EU requirement, which hasn’t been the case with Development Plans from the tories 1990 planning act. but, and this has being rectified with labour’s 2004 planning act, with local development frameworks currently being produced by all UK councils, that have to be judged sound, on an evidence base by a planning inspector, councils could get away with spurious policies on the previous system, which is being phased out (you will be consulted on the new plans for your local area, get involved, petition your councillors if your local council isn’t doing enough to provide decent family units).

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  • tyrellcorporation says:

    EB… sounds idyllic, when can I move in?!?

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  • TR, you went a bit quiet sweetie, never did tell me your profession and expertise in this area. xxx

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  • TR, for the record, I will not slam you for publishing anti-planning articles. I have no problem with that, I’m in the planning system because I know that work needs to be done to make a difference. I will however respond strongly to anybody who suggests that the market saves all and that planners and the state, period, are wrong. If neo-liberalism was in fasion then we would all worship george bush. the left and right battles have been destroyed, now it is time for the public and private sector to stop fighting and learn to live in harmony, both learning each other’s strength’s and weaknesses. The state works best when markets fail (often in relation to social and environmental needs external to economic decisions) and the market works best in achieving productivity, etc. within social and environmental limits set by centuries fought for democracy. The debate is how that relationship is made to work and certainly not about en-mass dismantling of the civil systems that represent society. Even the tories now admit that there is such a thing as society. So lets get a lively positive debate, I can tell you a squillion failings of the planning system, let you into loads of juicy stuff, but I won’t hear a call for an end to democracy and an end to public services and the local and national civil service, because that is just plain stupid, people wouldn’t be represented, big business wouldn’t be represented, the environment wouldn’t get a look in and we’d get rioting and civil dissorder, society would break down and markets would go with it. So lets get some decent, sensible, balanced debate on this site.

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