The scholarship we publish on our Planning and Housing list looks at all available evidence to inform the creation of better homes and a better built environment for all of us – individuals and communities, in the Global North and the Global South.
We have published the highest-quality work in this area by authors like Yvonne Rydin, Nick Gallent, Kate Henderson, Hugh Ellis and Alan Murie. The international Urban Policy, Planning and the Built Environment series examines the interdisciplinary dimensions of urbanism and the built environment – extending from urban policy and governance to urban planning, management, housing, transport, infrastructure, landscape, heritage and design.
Planning and Housing
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This chapter sets out the approach taken in the book, arguing for the need to explore the actual, multiple and diverse practices of planning and the similarly diverse working lives of professional planners. It introduces key changes in the environments in which planners work, including privatisation and the growth of private-sector work as well as linked initiatives to bring commercial logics into the realm of planning. It sets out debates on the purpose of planning and the public interest before outlining the ethnographic approach to data collection in the four case-study organisations.
This chapter follows planners working in a medium-sized planning consultancy. It details the commercial work at the heart of planning systems, including work for private sector clients to promote their developments as well as engagement with more strategic politics and consideration of land and development sites in a particular region. A detailed account of a planning inquiry shows the interactions between planners and other built-environment professionals as well as an asymmetry in resources between private and public sectors. The chapter shows the private sector developing extensive knowledge of regional land markets, local authorities and development cultures. It explores business development practices and networking among private-sector planners, highlighting the existence of communities of practice underpinned by ‘banter’ in which an ‘othering’ of public-sector planners was a prominent feature.
This chapter explores working life in a large, multi-disciplinary consultancy. It shows how planning consultants work with public-sector clients and on increasingly large and complex projects with many players. The chapter reveals the importance attached to sustaining good working relationships with clients and shows planners reflecting on how their work serves the public interest despite the imperatives of capital. We also explore the high-performance culture in the company and its implications for work-life balance.
This chapter draws together conclusions from the four ethnographic case studies. It provides answers to key questions, including: How do planners work? With whom do they work? What do they know? And what do planners believe in? This reveals the significance of concepts such as ‘public interest’, but also the tensions that planners find in identifying and attaining them, particularly in a changing professional environment shaped by austerity politics and commercial imperatives. We reflect on the powers that planners have and how they work in different, often conflictual settings. Finally, the chapter reflects on the implications of our findings for wider debates in planning, both in England and elsewhere.
This chapter explores the work of planners in Southwell, a local authority that has outsourced its planning functions to a large private-sector company. It explores how outsourcing works in the field of planning, revealing a distinct public-private hybrid. It reveals how ‘organisational islands’ contribute to pragmatic decision-making, in contrast to wider ideals of sustainable development. The chapter also shows the long-term significance of workplace culture, looking closely at class, place and gender identity. We reveal how the working practices of planners show similarities with those in other fully public-sector planning departments under austerity politics.
Presenting the complexities of doing planning work, with all its attendant moral and practical dilemmas, this rich ethnographic study analyses how places are made through stories of four diverse public and private sector working environments.
The book provides a unique insight for educators, students and researchers into the everyday lives of planners and those in associated built environment occupations. This exceptional account of the micro-politics of a knowledge-intensive profession also provides an excellent resource for sociologists of contemporary work. The authors use team ethnography to push the methodological frontiers of planning research and to advance organisational ethnography into new areas.
‘Shielding’ and ‘isolating’ were the strictest forms of staying home. Four million people who were particularly vulnerable were asked to ‘shield’ at home for months, initially to protect the health service and latterly for their own protection. At least 12 million who had COVID-19 or suspected COVID-19 were required by law to ‘isolate’ at home to protect others (at least those outside their household). A quarter of shielders and isolators lived alone and became a new category of dependent people. Those who lived with others had to try to avoid infection at home. People on lower incomes were more likely to have to shield or isolate, but they and ethnic minorities were less likely to have a spare bedroom to do so properly, which must have contributed to inequalities in infection and death. Shielding and isolating were only partially successful.
In 2020/21, there were 28 million or 18% fewer hospital appointments than before the pandemic. Millions were providing healthcare for household members with COVID, while trying to avoid infection, or conditions that would normally be treated in hospital. Some 34% more people than usual died at home. This placed extra responsibility on sick and vulnerable people, their households and homes.
This chapter introduces the book. Everyone on earth has views about the COVID-19 pandemic. It was unprecedented and multi-dimensional. It has been seen as a test of resilience, as casting a spotlight on inequality, and potentially as a turning point for policy and society.
The most important policy used to control COVID-19 infection in the UK – and all around the world – was ‘lockdown’, requiring large proportions of the population to stay home. This resulted in mass changes in the way in which homes were used, experienced and paid for, with their own knock-on inequalities. When the pandemic hit, many felt that the UK housing system was in ‘crisis’, but suddenly the unsatisfactory system became the official national refuge. The pandemic provided an unfortunate natural opportunity to learn about the UK housing system under unique pressure: its flaws, its inequalities and its resilience. This book uses a wide range of special surveys carried out in 2020–21, including studies of people aged 19, 31, 50, 62 and 74 in 2020 when the pandemic began, to analyse its impact on people, households, homes and the housing system in the UK.
The COVID-19 pandemic shut down or disrupted large parts of the UK labour market. By May 2020, almost half of the population had lost at least 10% of their income.
Most people turned first to their savings and to friends and family, but in March 2020, the UK government invented new jobs support, benefits and housing policies, which were relatively generous compared to the pandemic policy in other countries and to the normal welfare safety net. A total of 12 million UK people were ‘furloughed’ on 80% of pay for some months at a cost of £70 billion. Universal Credit claims increased by 1.1 million or 39%. At least two million mortgagees took a payment ‘holiday’. A moratorium meant an almost complete halt to legal evictions and repossessions until at least 2022. Overall, median income fell and partly as a result, relative poverty reduced slightly. However, some people experienced stable incomes, reduced costs and increased savings, while others lost income, spent savings and borrowed. Three million people lost income but were ineligible for schemes. Job and income loss affected renters and outright owners more. Mortgagees and private renters experienced worsening affordability and increasing arrears. Renters had no ‘holiday’ scheme. There will be lingering and unequal effects on savings, debts, housing security and ability to buy.
UK policy sought to minimise the impact of the pandemic on the housing market, which was viewed as essential to sustaining economic growth. Home construction and marketing paused only for seven weeks, construction workers received £15.9 billion of pandemic support and at least £4.7 billion was spent on a cut in stamp duty (transactions tax). While completions, transactions and lending reduced in 2020, they soon recovered. In contrast to expectations, house price growth continued at 11% a year throughout 2020 and 2021. This contributed to inequalities in access to home ownership and to wealth.