Wednesday 30 January 2013

Planning, planning, planning

I seem to have spent the week so far talking and thinking about planning and development.

Monday was spent in Durham at a land market event being held as part of the North East Independent Economic Review. Interesting to hear people talking about how the recession has forced a shift to 'more market focused' plans (in other words, a system that responds more to price signals). I'll reserve judgement on whether this is happening, but some of us have been arguing for that shift for quite some time.

I spent most of Tuesday writing up my think piece for the NEIER. But also find time to enjoy Tony Travers piece in the Evening Standard on the implausible alliances emerging on either side of the green belt debate. I also very much enjoyed reading a post from Phil Barnes on the politics of planning arguing that planners need to increase their educational role in making the case for more housing. As part of this, I would like to see greater debate around the role for more market focused plans in delivering this housing. Interestingly, when I made the case for this at my recent public lecture, a (rather angry) member of the audience accused me of being a neo-liberal. I don't think this kind of response is particularly helpful (and without going in to the details of my personal politics, I'd tend to place myself on left-leaning side of Travers' implausible alliance in favour of more green belt development.)

Finally, on a more personal note, I've spent this morning cursing the planning application from my local surgery for a dispensing pharmacy and needle exchange (on a residential street, next to a nursery and community centre). I haven't decided yet whether to object, but just in case here's an earlier post justifying my 'hypocrisy'. More seriously, these cases serve to remind us that the planning system has an important role to play in moderating competing claims over land use. Just because I think the current system gets some aspects of that decision wrong doesn't mean I think there's no role for planning. I am, after all, no neo-liberal.