Effective Practice in Spatial Planning
eBook - ePub

Effective Practice in Spatial Planning

Janice Morphet

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eBook - ePub

Effective Practice in Spatial Planning

Janice Morphet

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About This Book

After years of being regarded as a regulatory tool, spatial planning is now a key agent in delivering better places for the future. Dealing with the role of spatial planning in major change such as urban extensions or redevelopment, this bookasks how it can deliver at the local level.

Setting out the new local governance within which spatial planning now operates and identifying the requirements of successful delivery, thisbook also provides an introduction to project management approaches to spatial planning. It details what the rules are for spatial planning, the role of evidence and public involvement in delivering the local vision and how this works as part of coherent and consistent sub-regional approach.The conclusion isa forward look at what is likely to follow the effective creation of inspiring and successful places using spatial planning as a key tool.

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This book is about spatial planning in England. The formal introduction of spatial planning in England was marked through the implementation of the 2004 Planning and Compulsory Purchase Act, although much of the development in the thinking about the role of spatial planning came before this and there has been more since. Many have attempted to define spatial planning, and it is most frequently characterised as being integrated and concerned with delivery. Its origins are usually seen as being within the European spatial planning context but, as this book shows, English spatial planning has a more international provenance. A new form of spatial planning is developing that could be described as hybrid or transitional and, in this emergent form, it is likely to shape spatial planning in England for the next ten years.
The spatial turn in 2004 in England represented a significant shift in planning’s role within the local governance structure shifting from a set of regulatory policies to being a delivery mechanism. Years of Thatcherism’s promotion of the market and undermining the state from 1979–1997 resulted in planning’s retreat. Achieving the proposals of development plans was primarily in the hands of the private sector, whilst in the public sector, the economic crisis meant that delivery was through regeneration. Yet, both in 1947 and 1970, planning had been secured as a key delivery tool, particularly for expenditure and investment in publicly funded infrastructure. In the longer term, the abdication of the direct delivery mode for planning between 1979–2004 may be seen to be the deviant period. History will decide.
The shift from delivery to policy in the post-1979 period has left a legacy which continues to work through the system. The residualisation of the proactive role of planning and the foregrounding of private sector planning proposals, often at the margins of planning policy, meant that the planning system was conducted in a regulatory space. Once policy and plans were prepared, the focus in the system was directed towards upholding them. Developers sought to stretch them to their limits. The benefits of exploiting the conditions of an imperfect market came from the private sector, where breaking a plan policy could considerably increase land and development values.
For many planners, the regulatory phase of planning has been their only experience of practice. In more economically buoyant areas, planners have left the role of implementing development to the private sector. Alongside this, the planning role has been focussed on extracting developer surplus to mitigate the effects of development. In less economically buoyant areas, the leadership for development has been primarily through public sector regeneration. In England, most local authority areas have as much social and economic variance within them as between them, so both approaches to development were frequently run in parallel. In 1979, most planners were employed in the public sector but by 2009, more members of the Royal Town Planning Institute (RTPI) were employed in the private sector, albeit many working for public sector clients as the mixed economy has developed. The introduction of spatial planning in 2004 was not accompanied by any major fanfare. Those involved in implementing the new system, at all spatial scales and in all sectors, were unprepared for what was to follow. As a response, Government has had to make its intended role for spatial planning clearer whilst planning practitioners are beginning to develop this new role and the associated activities that it brings.
Yet this is not a completed story. The history of planning is one of change, progression and, at times, returning to recapture old skills and experience. Planning’s history is one of adaptation and change. Planning has held the thread of improving places and ensuring the best use of land and buildings, whether through development or protection, through regulation or promotion. The era of planning when regeneration led to delivery, particularly in the 1970–1990s, was critical at the time, but the underlying Nimbyism and revolt of middle England against planning represented not only an attack on change but also something deeper. It was a concern that places had become secondary to the market. Places were perceived as being less important. Those areas not in the main focus for change were somehow second best or received less attention. Planning’s regulatory character allowed less time to consider the cumulative impact of many individual decisions in localities apart from those that had specific designations such as Conservation Areas. Spatial planning can address this in its new role in which, together with a fresh approach to development management, provides a key opportunity to ‘make everywhere somewhere’ (Morphet 2007b). Spatial planning brings together the multiplicity of decisions about place, whether through planning or through the activities of other organisations; it makes places more than the sum of individual decisions. Spatial planning is a key component in this approach to shaping and making places.


Spatial planning has a wide range of theoretical underpinnings from the meta-theories which locate it within a general social movement to middle range theory which attempts to set out what spatial planning is and how it works. In terms of this text, the key concern is to understand where spatial planning sits within its theoretical context and then to identify ways in which this theoretical underpinning can be used to predict outcomes, particularly in practice. Theories vary in their type and role, and much that has been written about spatial planning could be called ‘intuitionism’, or normative, identifying what the role of spatial planning ‘ought’ to be, based on some self-evident moral position, with equitable principles (Alexander 2009). This is particularly true of communicative planning theory which identifies the key role of spatial planning as being concerned with the inclusive mode of planning. It has a concern for redistribution and with an emphasis on discourse analysis as a means of determining the relative outcomes for those with differential access to power. As such, the theory sets a model of what some, e.g. Healey (2006; 2007), argue planning should be about. It is a high level theory, and works through case study approaches although it does not relate to detailed practices of spatial planning within an operational context. In these terms, communicative planning theory can create a critical discourse about the outcomes of spatial planning based on the key principles included within it. Overall, it is generally useful and is one means of considering the role and purpose of planning and evaluating its progressive and reformist role.
A second approach to spatial planning theory is one that has concentrated on the political dimensions that it involves and can be described as structuralist in its approach. This is based on the arguments that all planning processes have redistributive outcomes based on class/power relations. This approach to planning theory does not concentrate on process, but rather judges whether it has been successful within its theoretical framework. Those discussing spatial planning theory within a political context are more concerned to look at the interaction between spatial planning and the levers of distribution exercised within it by political process (Massey et al. 2003; Sandercock 2003; Friedmann 2005). This theoretical approach includes both the formal and informal political processes and the role of power interests from those who own property and other major capital assets, as well as local politicians who make specific decisions. The political explanation of spatial planning provides a model which may generally predict outcomes, based on a variety of other theories on the issue of power (Bevir and Rhodes 2003; Dryzek and Dunleavy 2009).
A third approach to spatial planning theory rests on decision making in governance. If a system is well regulated and managed, these theorists such as Hood and Peters (2004), Pollitt and Boockaert (2004) and 6, P. et al. (2002) argue that there are generally better outcomes for individuals if decisions are supported by more integrated administrative arrangements rather than taken by separate organisations with differing and internalised objectives. This approach takes a ‘holistic’ or joined-up approach and argues that public policy and service delivery should be shaped around individuals and places rather than organisational or administrative principles. This is frequently described as reflecting the difference between user- and producer-based views of policy and delivery. This theoretical approach has a profound influence on the underpinnings of spatial planning. In many ways, spatial planning is one of the ways in which this holistic approach is both most necessary and most likely to be able to be implemented, with its focus on place. The holistic approach can be characterised as horizontal integration and it deals with the issues of vertical integration between activities at different spatial scales by drawing them into the most local. Tett (2009) describes this as organisational ‘lattice’ which she argues is more resilient than silos or strata.
A fourth approach to the theory of spatial planning is one which is based on the predictability of spatial planning as a model of delivery of outcomes, locally and nationally. In this approach, the wider aims of redistribution and equity are embedded in its priorities and in the way it operates to ensure some specific outcomes. In one approach to the use of this theory, Government is assuming that providing more houses will reduce the blocks on economic growth that have been caused by a housing market which seems to reduce the potential for labour mobility (Barker 2004; 2006; Gibb and Whitehead 2007). However, a more developed form of this approach to the theory of spatial planning assumes that specific actions such as joined-up investment will have measureable outcomes and a cumulative impact on places. This then becomes an empirical or positivist model of spatial planning, with a series of expected outcomes that are specific and measureable (Wong 2006).
In considering these theoretical positions, spatial planning is generally placed within the normative mode, although frequently failing to meet the expected outcomes of integrating multi-scalar actions (Albrechts 2006). This approach assumes that planners are the actors making these changes on predetermined approaches based on shared value systems. However, Alexander (2009) and Newman (2008) take another view. They argue that a positivist approach which recognises the institutional context and the motivations of the actors, including planners, provides a closer assessment of what planning can achieve. Alexander argues that it is the people in any area that should decide what the best is for them. Spatial planning offers an approach to delivering better places, within a framework that is set nationally. However, it is the local use and interpretation of this which is of value. Newman argues that:
we suggest a shift in emphasis in our approach to contemporary planning practice from a search for ideal strategic planning to a greater concern with tactics and the perception by planners of institutional and political constraints and opportunities.
(2008: 1373)
Spatial planning provides more opportunities to actively deliver change but success will depend on how appropriate the actions are for localities and how engaged communities have been in selecting them. Spatial planning’s dependence on an evidence-base suggests that delivery can be integrated within local solutions that are verified and triangulated with communities and partners, rather than being focussed entirely within a regulatory context.
All four theoretical approaches underpin spatial planning in different ways, but it is the third and fourth approaches which are currently more predominant. When considering the application of the positivist version of spatial planning in practice, it is also important to understand the context in which it will be operating. Government also uses theories or meta-narratives to explain and justify the actions that are being taken directly and through others. The choice of narratologies will generally swing between those based on people and those based on places. During the Thatcherite period, the narrative of Government was about individualism and the state restricting the individual’s progress. The individual is the key focus of neo-liberalism and places were also seen to hold people back in ‘those inner cities’ (Lawless 1989; Imrie and Raco 2003) whereas, in Thatcher’s view, the apogee of individualism was home ownership. Similarly, the entrepreneurial spirit of companies that wanted to locate in the green belt or on green field sites was considered to be frustrated by planning processes that were supporting places (Boddy et al. 1986; Hall 1973). The restructuring of major parts of British industry were undertaken without any recourse to their effect on place.
In the first period of the Blair government, 1997–2001, this focus on individuals continued. The relationship with place was part of the ‘old Labour’ cannon, where places had to be saved at all costs and where people were shielded from change. In pursuing targets for health and education outcomes, Blair focussed on the potential of the individual, how they could be better supported by the state and their lives have improved outcomes? During this period, some of the ‘places’ that had long-running problems were tackled through neighbourhood renewal, but again there was a focus on support to individuals and their life chances through joined-up government.
The second period of the Blair government, 2001–2004, started to move away from a focus on people to a focus on place as the overriding governance narrative (Morphet 2006; 2008). Through the new place-based policy, ‘new localism’, the intersection between people and place became paramount and represented a paradigm shift back to place which had not occurred for over 20 years (Ball 2003; Corry 2004). Why did this shift back to place replace individualism in the narratology? As Blair remained a solid individualist throughout his period of office, it can be assumed that there were wider forces at play which encouraged this shift. This influence towards place came from various sources. First, there was an assumption that the scale of support for an individualistic approach had probably run its course and that the rump of social deprivation, poverty and other social problems could not be helped on an individual basis. What was required to tackle these issues was a change in local cultures (HM Treasury 2004). Poor educational attainment, truancy, crime, drugs and unemployment became a hard set of problems to shift through individualistic means. Those that could be helped had probably taken advantage of what was on offer. How could people clustering together in problem estates, in deprived wards and families be tackled? Under the influence of Robert Putnam’s notion of the positive effects of social capital as a means of effecting localised cultural change (2000), the area-based approach was seized upon. Targeted spatial intervention coupled with other initiatives has been predicted to have beneficial economic and social outcomes. An early trial in Kent showed that cross-agency intervention could make a difference. What stopped it were organisational silos and attributions of costs and savings (Bruce-Lockhart 2004).
Another key issue that emerged as a challenge driving the second Blair period was that of climate change, particularly manifested through flooding. During 2007, there were numerous instances of flooding without any warning and outside the parameters of existing risk assessments (Cabinet Office 2008). The need to deal with climate change through mitigation and adaptation at all spatial scales emerged as a major priority. Coupled with this, the growing concerns about the globalised supply of energy and its role in international security policy brought consideration of energy production and a policy for potential self-sufficiency into sharp focus (Wicks 2009). These issues have had a shaping influence on spatial planning in England at all scales. They have included a focus on energy supply, water management and consumption. The push towards sustainability, carbon reduction and meeting climate change targets has also suggested a more local economic approach, where goods and services are produced and consumed locally. In England, the creation of the Infrastructure Planning Commission in 2009 to determine nationally significant infrastructure projects within government guidance on an independent basis, and is another outcome of the risk assessments that events such as flooding ha...

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