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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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This chapter examines the aftermaths of regeneration at three estates – West Hendon, Woodberry Down and Carpenters – and analyses what kinds of new places and inequalities are being produced. Regeneration has been going on for 15–20 years at these estates. Not only is this timescale much longer than the 1990s’ CEI and SRB schemes (Chapter 3), but these later work-in-progress schemes are unlikely to be completed within the next decade, if then; hence any aftermaths are provisional. I encourage readers to refer to Chapters 3 and 4 for details regarding housing tenure and rehousing provision at the three estates, which are distinct from one another in relation to tenure patterns, governance and finance. This chapter provides an experiential socio-spatial perspective on the emergent new places. As such, the chapter does not assess the estates’ respective micro-political economies à la Hodkinson (2019), although brief comments are made about governance in the next chapter.

The West Hendon and Woodberry Down cases illustrate how the long-term, incomplete and dualistic nature of degeneration/regeneration means that two places are in symbiotic tension: the old estate which is undergoing degeneration, displacement and demolition, and the redevelopment which is under construction and receiving new tenants and owners. West Hendon and Woodberry Down represent hybrid schemes comprising elements of both places. Four aspects of these hybrid places are analysed: the old part of the estate as a residential area; residents’ views on new homes and new landlords; the new redevelopment as a neighbourhood; and whether ‘mixed communities’ are being created. The final section returns to the Carpenters estate, where regeneration has hardly begun despite having been under ‘regen’ for 15 years.

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This chapter examines the beginnings of regeneration including consultation. It briefly reviews the impetus for regeneration, and then goes on to analyse two examples of early-stage regeneration: the first is the long-running Canning Town/Custom House scheme in Newham, and the second is Northwold estate in Hackney. The consultation process is then examined in depth from the perspective of residents, followed by a briefer analysis of professionals’ perspectives. The final lengthy section teases out the complexities of residents’ responses to comprehensive redevelopment involving extensive demolition.

Residents are by no means necessarily opposed to regeneration per se. Given that their homes and estates had been neglected, unsurprisingly many welcomed regeneration of some kind – at least initially, as noticeable at the NDC estates. The immediate impetus for regeneration has primarily originated with councils and housing associations in a top-down manner, either by responding to central government regeneration programmes (for example SRB, NDC, and so on), or by addressing their own regeneration agendas which have latterly involved ‘solving’ London’s housing crisis via estate densification. Somewhat less often, regeneration has been prompted by bottom-up pressure as residents have lobbied the council to do something – anything – to improve the quality of their homes and estates other than merely reactive repairs. For example, in 2003 Carpenters residents formed a protest group called ‘Tower Block Action Group’ which staged a series of actions to highlight the problems they were having, including an infestation of ants, asbestos, poor repairs and lack of safety (Strauss, 2007). This protest helped to prompt the long-running and still unresolved regeneration scheme at this estate (Chapters 4 and 12). Another example is Bacton estate in Camden, where residents approached an architectural firm to improve their blocks (Wainwright, 2016; Karakusevic Carson Architects, 2017).

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Having outlined the multiple discontents that estate regeneration involving demolition gives rise to, I hope that the question raised in the Introduction – ‘why do London estate residents pray that regeneration won’t be coming to their neighbourhood anytime soon?’ – has been answered. This concluding chapter summarises the key findings and makes various policy recommendations.

Chapter 2 examined the rise and fall of public housing in London. The expansionary period involved local government initiatives up until the 1940s, and then reached its apogee under the post-war Keynesian welfare state. The development of public housing in the capital was enabled by the Labour Party’s unbroken 30-year control of the LCC which embedded council estates into the physical landscape of the city – municipal socialism in action. The expansionary period allowed hundreds of thousands of working-class Londoners to escape from the manifold inadequacies of the PRS via the decommodification that public housing facilitated.

In challenging notions of a Butskellite consensus in post-war housing policy, I identified how Conservative local government interventions in London began to undermine housing decommodification during the 1960s and 1970s via a series of proto-Thatcherite reforms, including encouraging discretionary sales of council housing. During this period, Labour councils consistently reversed these reforms. Wholesale housing recommodification was then initiated by 1980s’ Thatcherite privatisation and demunicipalisation policies, notably the RTB, which brought about the neoliberal decoupling of public housing from the UK welfare state. New Labour continued this decoupling, albeit in a less damaging form. It was more generous in terms of overall public spending on local authority housing, notably via the DHP which helped to redress the Conservative government’s disinvestment and the national £19 billion backlog of repairs.

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This chapter examines what happens once regeneration-as-demolition begins in earnest. In stark contrast to the official regeneration rationale – creating better places and lives – it argues that residents experience physical, social, symbolic and psychosocial degeneration. If regeneration involves spatially targeted reinvestment in and revitalisation of physically rundown and socially deprived areas, degeneration is regeneration’s demonic alter ego in the form of financial disinvestment in those areas and their accelerated physical, social and symbolic deterioration over and above any original problems they might have. Such degeneration encompasses multiple overlapping strands: enhanced landlord neglect, loss of valued estate facilities, boarded-up properties, increased population transience, living on a building site and heightened stigmatisation. As degeneration takes hold, estate residents’ support for and engagement with regeneration dissipates, and trust breaks down. Degeneration/regeneration elongates into the distant future and creates a psychosocial limbo-land in which residents put their lives on indefinite hold.

Regeneration ushers in degeneration via heightened landlord disinvestment which is experienced as ‘enhanced neglect’. Such enhanced neglect involves ‘managed decline’, which refers to the notion that ‘the area’s problems could be solved by allowing the neighbourhood to get worse and worse until it was no longer viable and had to be pulled down’ (Davidson et al, 2013: 62). Residents thought managed decline was occurring via the actions and inactions of the official regeneration partners, initially to soften them up for major redevelopment, and then later to pressurise them out of their homes. An exhibition held at a ‘Northumberland Park Decides’ meeting included photographs of rundown areas and asked, ‘Is this managed decline?’ (Photograph 9.1) at Northumberland Park estate.

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