CAN LOCAL ADMINISTRATIONS EVER BE EFFECTIVE AT URBAN PLANNING?
How to deliver the 'public good' without any 'public funds'....
PLENTY OF FAILURES NOWADAYS!
The production of Local Plans is well outdated. Lengthy, expensive, obscure… Alex McGregor commented before: “Old style planning by way of 1. a report of survey, 2. a written statement 3. public consultation, and then 4. a Development plan followed by 5. goodness knows how many examinations in public, revisions, more examinations and eventual approval by Central Government with modifications - all of this was outdated a quarter of a century ago.”
The evidence of failure is all around us. In London, one of the richest and most dynamic cities in the world, there is shortage of housing, unreasonable living costs, real risks your kids will not have a school place unless you create a school yourself, cost-cutting driven hospital closures irrespective of needs, etc.
In the UK, during this week alone:
• Planning Minister Brandon Lewis launched an expert panel to speed up development - http://linkis.com/www.gov.uk/governmen/M32xQ
• Leading architect and planning advisor Richard Rogers, speaking at Newsnight, called for deep reforms to planning and housing delivery
• Political parties made lofty promises for dozens of ‘Garden Towns’ and accelerated development.
Lots of political interest. Lots of awareness of a failing system… But no chance of action for any local administration without deep reform. Mr Lewis’s experts have their hands tied from the start: the point is not (just) speeding up development, which is the symptom of a system that must change. It is like taking paracetamol and carrying on, while cancer is spreading.
SHOULD LOCAL ADMINISTRATIONS EVEN DO URBAN PLANNING?
Of course! Who else?
They were created with the primary purpose of providing a local and democratic response for the promotion of ‘public good’ in city making. But faced with urgent problems, they are tied down by procedures and bureaucracy – both eating up the scant resources that they have left.
Can urban planning ever be ‘out-sourced’ and privatised? That would be the ultimate downfall of democracy, the final privatisation of the ‘public good’.
The only option is then finding ways to make urban planning agile and responsive with the resources and administrations we have got.
IDEAS FOR THE FUTURE
Smart Planning is about using all available means to improve the prosperity of cities and people. It is not about a dark room of techno-wizards or a mega IT company taking over our lives. It is about finding ways for citizens to drive their urban future and for local administrations to lead urban areas – rather than ‘control development’. So, then:
1. Local Administrations should focus on preparing the future
Political leaders and citizens should be constantly engaged in the definition of what the city is about and what the plans are for. Yes, planning charrettes are good, and help the planners, but cannot run continuously and inclusively. New interactive technologies have the potential for additional reach and penetration – they can no longer be ignored! A constant low-effort debate is better to inform dynamic plan-making.
2. Local Administrations should look at consolidating urban management outside Local Plans
Let’s admit it. 90% of a Local Plan (more?) is a simple update of the plan before, which was also based on the previous plans. Why not take out of the plan what it is simply ‘good day to day management’ of the city, and seek ways to minimise effort – and maximise automation – for all routine and well understood urban affairs?
3. Local Administrations should take charge of identifying trigger points
With all the data available today, and a bit of clever cross-referencing, we can surely establish most population needs dynamically and in reasonable advance: school places, housing, healthcare, sport fields, etc. No need to wait for the next plan revision or census to discover catastrophic shortfalls. Dynamic modelling can even take account of behavioural changes and reforms as they happen.
4. Local Administrations should engage citizens and investors over priorities
Freed from much of routine planning, and with a new proactive outlook, the administrations could then centre their activity on identifying and resolving priorities: speeding up the implementation of housing, preparing for changes in transport, whatever… As long as there is an agreed time scale and a means to report back to us, the citizens.
MARTINA JUVARADirector at URBAN Silence
URBAN Silence is friendly and fun, but committed to intelligent work
- TIME TO RETHINK - LOCAL PLANS ARE NO LONGER FIT FOR PURPOSE!