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The contradictions of planning the big society Andy Inch Department of Town and Regional Planning University of Sheffield ESRC Seminar Series: The Big.

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Presentation on theme: "The contradictions of planning the big society Andy Inch Department of Town and Regional Planning University of Sheffield ESRC Seminar Series: The Big."— Presentation transcript:

1 the contradictions of planning the big society Andy Inch Department of Town and Regional Planning University of Sheffield ESRC Seminar Series: The Big Society, Housing and Localism Belfast, October 24-25

2  ‘Locating localism’ (Tait and Inch, unpublished) 1. Conjuncturally 2. As the mobilisation of a distinct spatial imaginary 3. As rearticulation of traditions of conservative thought 4. As a response to the intractable politics of planning for housing  Conclusions  Relocating the politics of planning for housing?

3 “Our local plans represent one of the biggest shifts in power for decades. It’s genuinely one of the most radical and transformative policies that a Conservative or any government can introduce. Suddenly you can see how a system that was controlled by the few can be run by the many. You can see how it’s possible to get neighbourhoods to come together to solve problems together. So this won’t just help to improve our broken planning system –it’ll help to build stronger communities and help to mend our broken society too.” (David Cameron, February, 2010)

4 1. Localism/ Big Society (LBS) as an opportunistic politics exploiting Labour’s weakness (e.g. Clark and Mather, 2003) 2. LBS as an electoral and democratic appeal to the conservative core 3. LBS as the politics of coalition - a point of convergence in UK politics 4. LBS as a post-political response to crises: of neoliberalism and the market; of the political class; of the state 5. LBS as a ‘front’ for ideological cuts to the size and role of the state (Levitas, 2012) 6. LBS and ‘sink or swim’ politics (Lowndes and Pratchett, 2012), redefining spatial ‘fairness’. 7. “is this taking the p*ss?” – the view from the libertarian left 8. “the big society is b*ll*cks” – the view from the backbenches of the conservative party 9. LBS as naïve, inconsistent and unlikely to emerge once ‘reality’ hits 10. LBS as a new philosophy responding to the failure of the bloated state and free market by empowering civil society intermediaries (Blond, 2009; Norman, 2012) 11. LBS as an opportunity? Progressive localisms? (Featherstone et al, 2011; Taylor, 2012)) 12. LBS (and the big society) as a passing political fad? (Clarke and Newman, 2013) 13. LBS as a front for marketisation 14. LBS as advanced spatial liberalism (Clarke and Cochrane, 2012) – post-bureaucratic, managerialised government (Finlayson, 2012)




8 When Cameron speaks of Britain’s ‘atomised’ and ‘broken’ society, and calls for a return to a ‘broad culture of responsibility, mutuality and obligation’, or Blond writes about the ‘revival of the associative society’, in which the ‘common good’ is ‘cultivated organically from within’, it’s Ambridge that they have in mind. The rhetoric of both men seems to be shot through with plaintive rural nostalgia for the small, self- contained life of the village; for a world where ‘frontline services’ are ‘delivered’ from within the community by the church, the WI and the Over Sixties Club, where no one dies unnoticed by his neighbours, the pub serves as a nightly local parliament, ‘ethos’ is reinforced by the vicar in the pulpit of St Stephen’s and ‘mutuality’ flourishes in the gossip at the shop. (Raban, 2010, n.p.)

9 “I believe that when people enter public life, wanting to make a difference, the dreams that they have are of their own communities. Their ambitions may be for the nation as a whole, but when they envision change, it is familiar people and places that they see in the mind’s eye” (Greg Clark, June 2010)

10 No man ever was attached by a sense of pride, partiality, or real affection to a description of square measurement. He never will glory in belonging to the Checquer, No 71, or to any other badge-ticket. We begin our public affections in our families. No cold relation is a zealous citizen. We pass on to our neighbourhoods, and our habitual provincial connections. These are inns and resting-places. Such divisions of our country as have been formed by habit, and not by a sudden jerk of authority, were so many little images of the great country in which the heart found something which it could fill. The love to the whole is not extinguished by this subordinate partiality. (Burke, 1986 [1790] p.315)

11 The old view was that the best way to solve problems - whether in schools, health, local government or planning - was for good, serious people to sit down and work out what is the best template to achieve collective goals, to codify it, and roll that out across the country requiring others to implement it. The idea was that this would lift up the under- performers to a dramatically higher standard and so improve social welfare. The trouble is that people, at least in this country, tend not to fall into line with this approach. They bridle at imposition from afar, however well-intentioned, and will expend considerable effort and ingenuity in resisting it. It requires a bureaucracy of enforcement which becomes divisive and adversarial and costly as well as entailing uncertainty and delay. More than that, it doesn't accord with the real life experience that people are at their best when they can exercise their own talents and judgement - in which local initiative can flourish. (Clark, June 2010)

12 “…if we enable communities to find their own ways of overcoming the tensions between development and conservation, local people can become proponents rather than opponents of appropriate economic growth….Open Source planning will engage local communities and foster a spirit of innovation and entrepreneurship” (Conservative Party, 2010 pp. 1-2)


14 “And what of the charge that nimbyism will act as a permanent brake to development? I’m afraid I see metropolitan snobbery at work here. In particular the semi-inverted snobbery aimed at the leafy suburbs and market towns of middle England. Here supposedly is the seat of stagnation” (Greg Clark, June 2010) “By moving from conflict to collaboration, we can be both pro-development and pro-localist” (Greg Clark, June 2010)

15 As the latest housing minister pulls the levers of state, he or she pushes the people further away...A new generation of NIMBY’s is created as a direct response to the Government’s own misguided attempt to make something happen (Shapps, October, 2009) minister-Grant-Shapps-saying-house-isnt-investment.html

16 So how are we going to become a nation of homebuilders? Well let's start by giving people something in return for development. When your community builds more homes, we'll match pound-for-pound the extra money that your area gets through council tax for 6 years… Because all these things take power away from local communities. This government doesn't trust people. But we do. We want to create nothing less than a nation of homebuilders... So we'll give you the tools... the incentives... and the power to build. And in return, we will share the heavy responsibility for results; Not through targets or bureaucracy, but with a simple measure of success; building more homes together. (Shapps, 2009a) minister-Grant-Shapps-saying-house-isnt-investment.html

17 This finally sounds the death knell to the principle established in the 1940s that the planning system should be used to protect what is most special in the landscape (Reynolds quoted in Bloxham, 2011) h/hands-off-our- land/8819314/Hands-Off-Our- Land-planning-policy-author- says-it-must-change.html

18 got-the-moves-like-thatcher/

19  "If I am planning minister after the next election - shoot me.” (Nick Boles quoted in Gunter 2013) objecting-to-development-and-have-a-constructive-dialogue-instead- Nick-Boles-tells-homeowners.html

20 Localism?‘Muscular localism’ (Pickles, 2012)? ‘One-nation’ conservation? Neighourhood plans? (though limited in relation to housing unless pro- development) Presumption in favour of (sustainable) development Revisions to NPPF and definition of sustainable development Community rightsIntroduction of ‘special measures’ Revocation of regional strategies? Changes to the use classes order (office/ retail to residential) Red tape challenge: a developer’s charter? Emphasis on housing land supply in local plan examinations Elevation of local financial considerations as a material consideration in legislation

21  Planning as a contradictory space for Conservative (and other) governments  Stuck in very narrow politics of planning, focused around housing in imagined Ambridges  Danger of neighbourhood planning taking attention from wider dismantling of the idea of a planning system and from other key goals: environmental challenges, tackling socio- spatial inequalities  Need to rebuild space for more progressive models of meeting housing need within a spatially balanced economy  Need to explore life beyond the development/ participation knot that seems to generate perpetual planning reform  Need to challenge assumptions of pro-growth planning and housing models

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