We now discuss the development and aims of Planning Aid and its early exponents. We highlight the organisation’s role (past and present) and suggest how that work remains relevant in the contemporary planning and development environment. While we argue that new and established forms and combinations of advocacy planning are needed, there is a consistent theme throughout the history of Planning Aid (as reviewed below) relating to the unease with which the planning polity has viewed advocacy – even in its more mediatory or collaborative forms. Spaces which encourage agonistic exchange are likely to face a degree of resistance from other interests as the status quo is being challenged. Institutional arrangements which destabilise a dominant urban politics can also be regarded with suspicion; particularly where time and other resources are claimed to be scarce on a practical level, and where established interest positions and assumptions are likely to come under increased scrutiny. This reflects how urban planning remains ‘a crucial site of political struggle’ (McCann, 2001: 207) and where questions of social, economic and environmental concern are confronted locally.
The political and institutional context in which Planning Aid has operated highlights the practical but fundamental issues that have dogged ‘classic’ and ‘activist’ advocacy in the UK given the way that the role and purpose of planning has been reshaped. As a product of such change ‘other better-endowed groups are already busy with advocates of their own’ (Friedmann, 1987: 300). For example, this could be private sector agents lobbying on behalf of those who can afford their services.
Efforts to widen and deepen participation, develop progressive aims and enhance the legitimacy of decisions in local governance have acted to provoke a renewed concern with the redesign of institutions to enable these aims (Healey, 2003; Cleaver, 1999; Cleaver et al, 2001). Ostrom’s (1996; 2000) work on institutions derives from a research context exploring multi-stakeholder governance of natural resources, but also concludes that new ways of structuring governance arrangements more generally should provide citizens with a necessary and more effective role in modern democracies. There is clear influence from Hegelian philosophy latent in such arguments, where the highest of human needs is purported to be the need for participation (Sabine and Thorson, 1973). This speaks to participation in planning as being important for the fulfilment of citizenship beyond individual self-interest and to contribute to shaping the future.
As discussed in Chapter Two, despite theoretical bases that promote participation in planning practice, the profession has wrestled uneasily with the challenge of community engagement since at least the 1960s. There has been limited acceptance of participation efforts offered by public authorities and private developers; both sectors tend to relegate participation for different reasons and it typically remains either under-resourced or marginalised. A cynic might ask why would the powerful wish it any other way? After all it is rather a leap of faith to think that fulfilling citizenship is enough of a motivating factor for those with their own agendas, instrumental orientations and limited resources, particularly when control of the planning process mitigates against political and economic risk.
For many years theorists considering institutional arrangements to govern multi-interest decision-making have urged that ‘systems are needed to cope effectively with problems of modern life and to give all citizens a more effective role in the governance of democratic societies’ (Ostrom, 2000: 3). While arguments about the need for advocacy and related activism (and for the Planning Aid role in principle) have not receded, the planning polity has struggled to enable the latter part of this call to action. One reason for this is that Planning Aid organisations in the UK have been without the wherewithal or conditions to provide a more pervasive system of support. This corresponds with the mainstay of the critique levelled by Allmendinger (2004; 2009). A more radical rethink of Planning Aid was intimated in that assessment, in order to enable forms of advocacy planning to become established. It has become clear over time that the role for Planning Aid as conceived by the early proponents of advocacy planning is one that cannot be easily reconciled with current neoliberal governmentalities, yet it is this very tension that highlights how important it is that alternatives and challenge (that is, forms of agonistic exchange) are present in the system and voiced in opposition (that is, forms of antagonistic exchange) where necessary. Neo-advocacy activity is needed to bolster (post)collaborative forms in order to hold the system to account and provide needed balance. This is particularly so given the effective lobbying and advocacy role that the private sector plays on behalf of the development industry, a function that has grown significantly since Friedmann (1987) highlighted it 30 years ago.
This book examines the challenges in delivering a participatory planning agenda in the face of an increasingly neoliberalised planning system and charts the experience of Planning Aid England.
In an age of austerity, government spending cuts, privatisation and rising inequalities, the need to support and include the most vulnerable in society is more acute than ever. However, forms of Advocacy Planning, the progressive concept championed for this purpose since the 1960s, is under threat from neoliberalisation.
Rather than abandoning advocacy, the book asserts that only through sustained critical engagement will issues of exclusion be positively tackled and addressed. The authors propose neo-advocacy planning as the critical lens through which to effect positive change. This, they argue, will need to draw on a co-production model maintained through a well-resourced special purpose organisation set up to mobilise and resource planning intermediaries whose role it is to activate, support and educate those without the resources to secure such advocacy themselves.
‘It is through disobedience that progress has been made.’ (Oscar Wilde, 1891: 8)
A clear challenge lies before us in attempting to induce, maintain and use participatory experiences in planning in such a way that people are widely engaged, listened to and responded to by government. Thinking about planning in particular, this includes ensuring that local populations are involved in the development of a range of different options about what changes might take place in their communities. In reality, we know that communities are often presented with a form of planning that, although it may not be packaged as such, is substantively a fait accompli. Participation, where it occurs, might too often amount to little more than an empty ritual. Planning practitioners have a responsibility for communities both present and future, and have a tricky balance to strike in discerning and acting in the ‘public interest’ and delivering sustainable development.
Local populations need to feel invested in, and informed of, the results or consequences of different trajectories of change – over which they may have varying degrees of control (and enthusiasm for), especially when measured against their own self-interest. There is indisputably a need for better public education about planning and a more robust way of ensuring that the product of such education (and much more) is meaningfully incorporated into planning processes. Formulations of such activity could be varied and operate at a range of scales and through different modes. As intimated by Oscar Wilde above, spaces of/for intervention may be created through political activism locally, and this may require a range of (ant)agonistic tactics involving new combinations of actors and resources.
The advocacy model, in variants of the classic and activist strands, was initially criticised because of the possible disempowering effect of others speaking on behalf of marginalised groups. There was also a perceived danger of agendas being warped by advocates to suit themselves. Yet our view is that advocacy, understood as acting across the categories identified by Peattie (1978), can be rehabilitated and reformulated. It is clear that in some circumstances the need for another to amplify views on behalf of marginalised groups is made necessary by circumstance. However, the employment of this practice has been somewhat supplanted by other forms of engagement; in a sense the alternatives have supplanted rather than complemented advocacy.
The debate over participation in planning and the tensions between insider/outsider planning activity is still a live one; as indicated in the review of Planning Aid presented here, and given the changing operating environment of planning in the UK. Faced with decades of politicians’ claiming to want to see more active citizenship and to empower communities, the introduction of neighbourhood planning in England seemed a real opportunity for neighbourhoods to take some control of their ‘own’ area. Yet uptake has been somewhat dominated by those in more affluent areas. Meanwhile most local authorities have lacked the will, motivation or resources (or all three) to do more than the minimum in terms of community engagement in the process of Neighbourhood Plan preparation, where the regulatory requirements require that ‘a local planning authority must give such advice or assistance to qualifying bodies as, in all the circumstances, they consider appropriate’ (Localism Act 2011: s61.3(1)).
Engaging the public in planning processes carries a dominant narrative that the development of understanding among interests and the garnering of knowledge from communities about their needs and preferences is a positive good. It is common therefore to hear exhortations about engineering supportive institutional arrangements and sensibilities in planning systems and how these are a necessary element for a legitimate planning. Thus, while arguments over the general principle of participation have largely been settled, what remains are a range of questions over how to effect public participation, on what basis and what to do about the competing knowledge claims and futures generated by wider engagement in planning, that is, questions of resolution. As such this topic area, which may be characterised as part of the empowerment agenda, has generated a huge amount of interest given that it strikes at the core of not only planning processes but of who determines the substantive goals of planning. A rich vein of research and analysis from the academy and agendas from numerous governments has spanned the period from the early 1970s until the present. Across that period key motifs of techniques, degrees of empowerment and collaboration, the role of the professional planner and how to respond to a more fragmented and fluid society, feature prominently.
The more radical or systemic responses to the empowerment agenda are borne out of a long-running search for ways to ‘emancipate communities’ (MacDonald, 2014; Matthews, 2013) and ensure that planning becomes a more inclusive process. Some efforts have claimed to redress issues of exclusion and widen access to planning while other mainstream forms and changes have been little more than tokenistic in their execution, with consultation and shallow engagement acting as much to justify professional plans and individual schemes as to actually shape them.
Infrastructure delivery planning can be considered by sector, funding, location or delivery method. While these are all important components of infrastructure delivery planning, the approach that is advocated here as being most effective is a focus on place. Without this, infrastructure delivery planning can be producer-driven and disconnected from society’s needs. Consideration of infrastructure delivery planning can also be undertaken at varying spatial scales appropriate for different types of infrastructure. Areas have their own requirements for infrastructure and this investment impacts on places influencing the quality of life for residents and business.
A major challenge for infrastructure delivery planning is the integration of producer and user interests to create added value. This can be achieved through a spatial vision incorporating standards of access, quality of service and efficiency in delivery. Different providers of infrastructure are not required to work together, even as part of regulatory and consent regimes. Spatial planning’s role is to bring together the strategy, policy, programmes and projects in ways that are beneficial for the areas and its population. This does not suggest that spatial planning has specific delivery roles or powers over all infrastructure delivery decisions. However, spatial planning has a role in understanding the combined effects of existing and planned infrastructure that can be of significant benefit to investors and localities. Much of what spatial planning can achieve will be through its role in advocacy, agenda setting and framing investment decisions.
Spatial planning is concerned with both the development of plans and programmes and their delivery.
Infrastructure is an essential element of making places. It is delivered through spatial, territorial and strategic planning. It supports all aspects of life through existing and new infrastructure. Infrastructure delivery planning is concerned ensuring that this investment is focused on achieving sustainability, equity and economic objectives. As shown in Box 12.1, spatial planning is about place-shaping and placemaking. The use of infrastructure is central to achieving these ends.
In this book, infrastructure delivery planning has been considered by types of infrastructure – physical, environmental/green and social/community and by scale of governance. There has also been a consideration of the methods used in these process of accessing existing infrastructure needs and those of the future. It has also been concerned with the funding that can be applied to infrastructure delivery. In this last chapter, the key principles of effective infrastructure delivery planning are discussed.
When engaging in infrastructure delivery planning, specific negotiations of development applications or pressures from providers can narrow the consideration of infrastructure requirements. Developers may offer infrastructure that appears attractive, creating new facilities, whereas providers will argue the case for investment based on their own criteria and priorities. These factors are important in spatial planning but they also need to be set into a wider context to ensure that infrastructure decision-making is not within silos or taken in isolation from the rest of the infrastructure investment for the scale of territory under consideration. Modes of transport, for example, may be delivered separately but unless they work together their investment will be underutilised.
Green infrastructure is used as a generic term to identify practices and investment that support the environment (CEC, 2013i). Green infrastructure ranges in scale and type from major flood alleviation schemes to small open spaces. In this chapter, rural and larger scale green land uses are discussed as environmental infrastructure while the term green infrastructure is used for urban settings. Tzoulas et al (2007) define green infrastructure as comprising ‘of all natural, semi-natural and artificial networks of multifunctional ecological systems within, around and between urban areas, at all spatial scales’ (p 169) and can include all types of formal and informal spaces including gardens (Cameron et al, 2012).
Linkages between environmental and green infrastructure are an important consideration in their provision and the associated value that they generate. Together they are a major contributor to the resilience of any locality, its people and economy as well as its environment. Environmental and green infrastructure also support biodiversity and contribute to the visual impact of places acting as an important component of health and well-being.
Environmental and green infrastructure has a core role in the protection and support of biodiversity as it operates vertically and horizontally through ecosystems (Duffy et al, 2007). While biodiversity is important in specific locations, this is within the construct of wider governance and regulatory systems. The EU has had a long-standing interest in biodiversity although this has primarily been through legislation on specific aspects (Jordan, 2008) until 2012 when a more integrated approach was introduced (CEC, 2012c).