Friday, August 29, 2014

Theory and Practice

The obituaries describing the quite extraordinary achievements of Prof Peter Hall who died last week left me breathless and humbled.  He seems to have bridged the gap between academia and practice as an exception to the 'rule' that the British planning system in practice has operated in a space that has been remarkably free of theory.  It would take more than a Blog to explore the reasons for this disconnect but I would like to pick on two parts of Hall's work. 

Hall was preeminent in both understanding the part that urban containment played in post-WWII development in this country and in his advocacy of new settlements.  My Blogs have suggested other dimensions to these elements of our planning system; the limiting of supply has served to maintain the value of houses owned by members of our property owning 'democracy', and that we should be looking at how to use new development to re-balance the size of houses and households in existing settlements before (but not always instead of) building new settlements with the same imbalance and latent needs for more housing. Like Hall, Prof Danny Dorling (see previous Blog) is a geographer and has some important things to say to planners and politicians who care to listen.

Hall's puzzlement at the arrival of a Chinese translation of this text on British planning  reflects my bafflement at what readers in Moldova and Turkey are making of make of DanthePlan's critique of the British system? Hall was very engaged internationally and was able to develop a macro overview of planning as it was practiced in Europe and the USA.  DanthePlan has developed an essentially micro view of the planning system through 40 years' practice and is still looking for assistance from the academic world to develop a workable (and politically acceptable) definition of 'sustainable development' that could be used by decision-makers to apply the presumption in the NPPF put a stop to the building of hundreds of thousands of new dwellings (reports just today of an upturn in delivery to over 120,000 per year) that are adding to the problems associated with urban development eg excessive  carbon emissions, reliance on private transport and exacerbating social exclusion and isolation.

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