My new paper to be published soon in Housing Studies Volume 35, Issue 3 explores the democratic practices through which housing site allocations are made in neighbourhood plans in England. “The production of a neighbourhood plan for housing site allocations … Continue reading →
In 2019 I am carrying out national research with groups objecting to housing development. I would like to hear from any community groups who would be interested in taking part in this research through interviews or group discussions.
The objectives of this research programme are 1) to identify the main common elements in the objections to new house-building raised by communities; 2) to test out with communities what changes to the housing supply model would reduce this opposition; 3) to disseminate research that portrays community opposition as rational and founded on notions of public good; 4) to disseminate a critical perspective on house-building that promotes changes to the model of supply and distribution.
The issue of community support for, or opposition to house-building continues to dominate the policy agenda. The release of new household projection figures in late 2018 raised evidential doubts over the government house-building target of 300,000 homes a year, while a new standard methodology for setting housing targets, and a new delivery test have reduced the room for local flexibility over housing supply. The policy emphasis on housing numbers has become hegemonic, but it leaves rational questions unanswered over the importance of affordability, housing type or design standards. In this context the continuing use in academic and practitioner circles of the term NIMBY to denigrate all opposition to an agenda of increasing supply is unhelpful. There is a policy gap in the discourse on housing supply, and a need to provide research that promotes a view of communities as rational in their approach to house-building, and that prioritises questions about the mode of housing supply, and its relation to housing need.
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Green Belt is an environmental designation internationally adopted by spatial planning regimes, and famously associated with the arousal of passionately loyal identification. The passions aroused by Green Belt are often disparaged by the planning profession, but the capacity to arouse public concern is a political accomplishment and one essential to the organisation of democracy.
The practices of town planning articulate public concern for matters of heritage, conservation, and sustainability – among many other issues – and they create objects and settings, the listed buildings, the national parks, the plans and development regulations that organise and demonstrate that concern. These settings become the focus for public engagement; as material things they participate in the organisation of political publics and what Metzger (2013a: 783) called ‘their collective becoming’, or public identification with the spaces of political governance.
This paper investigates the ‘powers of engagement’ (Marres, 2012: 106) invested in Green Belt and explores the work done to engage publics in political debate and to orient them towards the settings of democratic governance. It seeks to contribute to an emerging literature on material participation that asks how non-human entities can be understood to organise and mobilise publics. The paper presents a case study of the performative agency of Green Belt in mobilising publics around a new regional tier of government in North West England, the Greater Manchester Combined Authority. In late 2016 the Greater Manchester Spatial Framework set out proposals to allocate Green Belt land for development to enable sub-regional economic growth. In research with the publics mobilised by this threat the paper explores the capacity of Green Belt to inspire public engagement in the Combined Authority and in competing visions of its future. Read the full paper here: Combined authorities and material participation the capacity of green belt
Public support for Green Belt is legendary. It is unquestionably the most popular planning policy, and perhaps the only one that is readily recognised and fiercely defended. This passionate support is often dismissed as sentiment or as an attachment to a rural idyll. In this new paper I want to locate public support for Green Belt within a specific cultural landscape of outdoor recreation and a particular history of common rights and access campaigns. This paper contends that Green Belt in England carries notions of common rights established in struggles against the physical enclosure and privatisation of open spaces from the early 19th Century and predicated on an understanding that the policy conveys a communal interest in land and landscape. It argues that contemporary public affection for Green Belts is generated and expressed through practices of ‘commoning’ or the performance of claimed common rights of property. Drawing on extensive field research with a mass popular campaign in North West England, the paper evidences the deployment of a history of access struggles to preserve Green Belt as recreational amenity and accessible countryside. In the perception of Green Belt as a common resource and in its performance as social ‘nature’ the paper posits the continuing relevance of common rights to planning policy. It concludes that a clearer understanding of popular support for Green Belt may provide planning scholarship with new perspectives on notions of public good and the use rights of property. Read the full paper here PublicSupportforGreenBelt_full
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This paper explores the production of what counts as authoritative knowledge in neighbourhood planning in England. Its aim is to evidence the process through which the intelligibility of place was established in neighbourhood planning and to chart the exclusions and exceptions through which spatial norms were produced. It evidences the moderating effect that logics of economic development had in a policy dedicated to the promotion of sustainable development, and, in contrast, it analyses the new expressions of place intelligibility successfully rendered in neighbourhood planning. The paper concludes that the ability of neighbourhood planners to privilege place over logics of development points to a more inclusive and egalitarian approach to the construction of planning knowledge. The paper has been accepted for publication in Town Planning Review. Neighbourhoodplanningandtheproductionofknowledge_final
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My latest paper to be published in Planning Theory and Practice discusses how neighbourhood plans represent a sense of place and how a convincing narrative of place impacts on policies for housing development. It argues that neighbourhood plans invoke the subjectivities of distinctive environments and establish norms of social relations that help determine the acceptability of planning applications.The selection of specific sites for housing, the specification of the size of the development, and policies regulating the mode of delivery, its affordability and relation to local need are evaluated and rationalised in reference to a locally constructed frame of community identity.
Does it matter that three neighbourhood plans failed examination last year? With over 2000 neighbourhood plans underway and 240 now passed referendum, are these failures to be expected as the number of plans increases? Or is it, more worryingly, the case that the weight of planning orthodoxy is now being imposed on the voluntary plans of citizens, perhaps driven by the illimitable appetite of developers for legal action against neighbourhood plans? Continue reading →
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Neighbourhood planning has created opportunities for communities to advance new socially and environmentally sustainable housing solutions that conflict with the interests of corporate house-builders and unsettle the depiction of citizens’ groups as protectionist and opposed to all economic growth.
The emergence of neighbourhood planning in England after 2011 was unusual both in its devolution of statutory planning policy to community organisations and in its explicit intention to reshape the protectionist opposition of citizens into enthusiastic support for housing development. It was anticipated that giving communities the right to devise neighbourhood development plans would secure their compliance with a pro-growth agenda and increase the number of sites allocated for housing. Neighbourhood planning was an experimental policy at the seismic juncture between localism and the liberalisation of housing growth. Making this policy work meant giving local people real influence over the scale and shape of development and at the same time enabling the volume house-building corporations that dominate the industry in England to access land and gain planning approval more easily.
A new paper to be published in Housing Theory and Society later this year, written by me and my colleague William Sparling, explores the conflict that emerged between neighbourhoods and the volume house-builders and analyses government responses. It then identifies the distinctive spatial practices that are emerging in neighbourhood plans with regard to housing delivery and evaluates the impact of neighbourhood planning on the dominant market model of house-building. The paper concludes with an assessment of the contribution of neighbourhood planning to housing delivery and its significance in understanding the tensions inherent in the state strategy of localism. Download the full article free: Neighbourhood planning and house-building_final
The government does not intend to solve our housing crisis. Instead it aims to use the housing crisis as a weapon of policy against the beliefs and attitudes that sustain a welfare state.
Much of the attack on the welfare state has been about constructing a new common sense view in which the private market is the only really fair system of distributing goods and rewards. It is seen as unfair when people don’t pay their way – meaning when they don’t pay market prices they seem to get something for nothing.
This common sense says that housing benefit is unfair, we are told, because it allows some people to live in expensive neighbourhoods without paying for it. The message is that if you can’t afford to live in nice places, you shouldn’t live there – it’s as simple as that. As a result housing benefit has been cut back and capped, and the fairness of the housing market has been reasserted, with house prices fairly keeping the nicest and most expensive areas – and those parts of the country where homes are most in demand – out of the reach of anyone who is not already very well-off.
The Housing and Planning Bill makes that message of fairness even more explicit. Continue reading →
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