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Timescapes, Power and Democracy
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A deep exploration on how questions of time and its organisation affect planning practice, this book is aimed at public and private planning practitioners, national and local politicians and policymakers involved in planning, academics and students studying planning and related disciplines.

It presents time as a pervasive form of power that is used to shape democratic practices, and questions ‘project speed’: where time to think, deliberate and plan has been squeezed. The authors demonstrate the many benefits of slow planning for the key participants, multiple interests and planning system overall.

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The chapter considers the role of time, public interest and deliberative democracy in relation to how planning inputs are organised and managed. In doing so, it considers the wider ‘public interest’ justification for planning to meet a range of present and future needs, and the role of democratic processes and deliberation as a means to enable ‘good’ planning. These are discussed in view of the implications of, and linkages with, time as a resource and the aims of planning, with consideration of the processes and tools available to foster proper time for planning. Care to sustain appropriate deliberative practices is linked to the act of planning itself as a participatory undertaking rather than an adjunct to public engagement, which is often offered under narrow terms and reflects attempts to orchestrate inputs. The challenges to enabling more deliberative approaches are considered in relation to critiques of (post-)democratic citizenship, competing values within increasingly pluralist societies and the unequal operation of power relations. Despite these issues, the case is made that enabling deliberation is an important component of good planning and should form a key part of the normative principles underpinning planning systems.

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The chapter highlights that neoliberal discourses have a particular prominence and influence on political and economic thought and policy in the UK. The thinking behind neoliberal policy places time firmly in view as something to be ‘managed’ in order for ‘efficiency’ to be assured and ‘delay’ minimised. This view stresses that business and service imperatives are promoted in governmental policy generally and through planning policy more specifically. The chapter presents a discussion of planning and the role of time in a neoliberalised policy environment, and outlines the idea of ‘project speed’, cited to focus attention on the political project of reforming planning in the English case. It shows that there have been concerted efforts to orient planning timescapes not necessarily in service of good planning or of supporting democratic accountability but instead to primarily achieve growth. We view the reforms promoted by waves of neoliberalisation and ‘project speed’ over a longer period as attempts to control the present and future. Both the use of political time to service these agendas and the wider temporal politics of growth are questioned as effective long-term strategies in aiding good processes and/or outcomes.

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This chapter provides a deep exposition of time and practice as conceptualised in the wider social sciences. It presents a review of how time has been theorised in social theory, drawing on key thinkers who emphasise the role of time in shaping social and institutional practices across capitalist economic systems, interpersonal power relations and political strategies. In considering this range, the chapter draws on a number of theorists’ work, notably, Pierre Bourdieu, Barbara Adam, Helga Nowotny and Nomi Lazar, whose ideas are presented as key in highlighting the operation of power, political strategy and the relationship of time to practice (and vice versa). This sets out a framework for analysis and provides both an insight and a guide to understanding the multiple temporalities of planning and how timescapes structure practice. By considering the use and organisation of time in organising how planning is practised and who is involved, the recognition that planning itself produces particular futures is brought into view. Key theoretical ideas are used specifically to examine, in later chapters, the way time is organised and deployed as a tool to exert control in the planning system in England.

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This final chapter summarises the main arguments of the book and argues for a more reflective planning and practice that takes time and its implications more seriously. It reflects on planning timescapes as oriented towards neoliberal speed-growth agendas, such as project speed, in order to assist in problematising existing approach(es) to planning. In doings so, the case is made that there is much more at stake than simply whether planning is ‘fast’ or ‘slow’; instead, far greater emphasis is required about what we are planning for and why. A reset of planning systems away from short-term political and business agendas and towards considering longer-term challenges requires a rethinking of normative principles and overall goals, as well as, it follows, a reshaping of the timescape(s) of planning in order to fashion proper time(s). This assemblage should feature the central tenets of inclusion, deliberation and public interest as design principles for planning systems, processes and practices. How time is conceptualised, challenged, managed and practised by different actors with a stake in planning and its outcomes appears critical to just, sustainable futures. It concludes by outlining a research agenda in which understandings of time in and for planning can be further developed to advance practice.

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This introductory chapter provides an initial grounding for the rationale, aims and scope of the book. It also indicates why this topic area should be embraced and absorbed in planning, and how this is useful for providing a deeper understanding of time in practice and the impact of time on practice. The consideration of time in relation to planning is an obvious one: planning is critically concerned with time as an activity in creating plans and policies for the present and future. Yet, beyond such seemingly self-evident claims and understandings of the importance of time, we need to consider the concept much more deeply to appreciate the profound role that time and ‘timescaping’ plays in structuring society, economies and politics, as well as for understanding how temporalisation shapes planning, which in turn shapes the experience of planning. In this respect, time has often been an obscure or uncritically accepted part of discourses shaping planning. This lays the foundations for exploring the contention that time, in its deployment both rhetorically and practically, can have profound impacts on both planning processes and outcomes.

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Since the turn of the century, private renting in many advanced economies have been affected by trends and events that have caused transformative change in the nature and role of private rental housing. These trajectories of change have occurred on both the demand and the supply side of the private rental sector; and have been facilitated or affected by the growing financialisation of housing. This recalibration is partial rather than wholesale because much remains unchanged. The chapters in this book underscore the pivotal impact that the global financial crisis (GFC) has had on this recalibration of private renting, either as a catalyst of change or reinforcing changes that began beforehand. The GFC created a ‘critical juncture’ that, to a greater or less extent across the nine countries, helped shift private renting onto a new ‘developmental path’. But the transformation was also the outcome of slow-moving trends that preceded the GFC. The COVID-19 pandemic and subsequent lockdowns created the second major economic shock of the early 21st century. It had a substantial, short-run impact on private renting; but it seems unlikely to substantially alter the trajectories of change examined in this book.

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Private renting in Australia increased markedly during the 2000s with demand fuelled by middle-income households unable to purchase housing in an era of rapidly escalating house prices, as well as high levels of migration in a growing economy. Rents became increasingly concentrated at mid-market levels, presenting acute problems for those on low incomes. Small-scale landlords drove the increase in supply but there were also signs of more purposive and financially driven activity including multi-property landlords and a nascent build-to-rent sector. The trend towards management of private rental properties by real estate agencies continued with widespread development and application of digital technology presenting both efficiencies and inequities. Reforms to residential tenancies legislation in Australia’s lightly regulated market were vigorously contested. The COVID-19 pandemic saw hitherto unthinkable government interventions in the private rental market through temporary state/territory laws to introduce eviction moratoria and suspension of rental increases, measures which were subsequently removed. Notwithstanding these emergency interventions, COVID-19 highlighted the existing power imbalance between landlord/agents and tenants as well as path dependence and a laissez-faire attitude to the operation of rental markets. The broader implications of increased private renting on Australia’s homeownership society, including asset-based retirement policies, are yet to be addressed.

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The Irish housing system has undergone tremendous change over recent decades. In addition to the turmoil of the property boom and bust associated with the global financial crisis, it has also witnessed a long-term decline of homeownership and social housing, a growing share of households in private rental accommodation, almost a decade of record rent inflation, and a chronic homelessness crisis. This chapter conceptualises these changes in terms of the transition from a ‘homeownership society’ to a ‘post-homeownership society’ (Ronald and Kadi, 2017), a transition which has transformed the housing system into a key driver of inequality. By taking the global financial crisis as an inflection point, the chapter examines changing patterns of housing investment, demand and policy. Indeed, in recent years an unprecedented volume of new policy has been introduced, including rent regulation, enhanced security of tenure and strengthened enforcement. These policy reforms have met with mixed success, and the challenges of affordability and security, in particular, remain. An examination of the Irish case is instructive in understanding the structural changes associated with the transition to post-homeownership, the issues associated with this transition and the challenges in terms of how policy can respond.

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This chapter explores developments in private renting in the advanced economies since the turn of the century. In many advanced economies, the private rental housing sector has either grown, changed in fundamental respects or both. The timing, pace and extent of these developments have varied between countries, but most have experienced some or all of the following: increasing financialisation of rental housing; decline in homeownership and rise in private renting; an increase in landlordism among better-off households and growth in ‘portfolio landlords’; an influx of international property investors; growth of large-scale corporate landlords, including pension funds and residential property companies; emergence of purpose-built student accommodation blocks as a new international investment asset class; the rise of PropTech online letting and management firms; loss of rental homes to the short-stay accommodation market in city centres and tourist localities via online platforms such as Airbnb; and a rental affordability crisis among low and moderate income households. In some jurisdictions, reforms have been implemented to introduce or tighten rent regulation. Taken together, these and related developments reflect profound changes in the ways in which private rental housing is financed, produced, owned, consumed, and perceived in the early 21st century.

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