Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Welcome to unreal world of planning

DanthePlan has been a local government planner for 13 years and in the private sector since 1989.  He teaches planning at the Oxford University Department of Continuing Education and also does some training of solicitors in the dark art.  There has been a smattering of private consultancy and work for voluntary organisations.  There are many different forms of planners and I use this shorthand for those practicing the 'town and country' kind empowered by the Acts of similar names.

Why a blog?  Sometimes I need to spell out my thoughts so that I can read them and see if they make some sense.  Repetition of views which can be found elsewhere would be senseless but I believe that DanthePlan can make an original contribution to the debate about how we plan for future development.

The planning minister spotted that there has been a remarkable lack of planning from the 20,000 of us marching under the banner of professional planners. Whist he is hoping that we will dance to his tune as recently set out in the National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF), I have something entirely different in mind.  Planners have been guilty of being the poodles of politicians and the mouthpieces of developers.  Before they protest these allegations, planners should look carefully at the developments carried out since 1948 and decide whether they would rather take the credit/blame of shove this onto politicians and developers and start instead with a relatively unblemished record in 2011 guilty of the lesser charge of being spineless?

My proposal is that planners should look at what would really comprise 'sustainable development' and refuse to pander to the individualism and demands for privacy which has unsustainably high environmental costs.  Planners should stand up for and privilege forms of housing, employment, retailing, use of the countryside and recreation, which can be shown to be part of a low carbon economy. My guess s that will rule out support for much if anything of what has been the practice of developers during the last 60 years. We should stop being pension providers; limiting the supply of houses and preventing unneighbourly development to maintain the value in house owner' bricks and mortar, but actually start to become an environmental profession.

That is my starting point and every week or so I will explain how I believe planners could earn the trust of people and politicians and be given the responsibility to share in the planning of the transition to and realisation of a low carbon, bio-diverse and socially inclusive future.  To the many (if not most) planners who disagree with my prognosis I would put the question why they should be trusted with finding a route out of a mess of their own making?


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