The Guardian released a preliminary report prepared by Britain’s Royal Town Planning Institute on the state of planning in Britain, and the need for planners. Sure, this sounds like one of those studies, of course a planning institute will say that planners are needed. But here’s the thing-The Guardian’s Rowan Moore says a better Britain could be built if planners were given a chance.
“At one time or another, most people will have reason to be grateful to their profession – for mitigating the expansion of a neighbour’s house, for example, or stopping an open-all-hours club opening in their street. We take it for granted that noxious industries can’t pop up in residential areas and that historic buildings and green spaces have some protection. This is due to planning, an area of government that is nonetheless showered with exceptional levels of derision.”
Moore notes that the way planning systems are instituted in municipalities and regions is constantly changing to be speedier, deliver more service, and also to save money. Planning departments are being cut back in budgets, and developers and other governments want less red tape.
As reported by Moore “So it’s not surprising that the overwhelming majority of planners, according to a report to be published this week, believe that they cannot provide the benefits of planning due to the constraints and changes in their jobs. The report argues that reforms of the planning system often don’t work. It challenges the fantasy that, if only the bolts on the planning machine could be loosened enough, private enterprise would achieve the abundant flow of new housing that the country desires. It argues that there are economic costs to inadequate planning, such as uncertainty and the cost of poor decisions.”
Planning at a municipal and regional level can confirm livability and accessibility through planning that private developers cannot. The article cites Brindleyplace in Birmingham, where 12,000 jobs are now based, and Cranbrook in Devon, which may provide 7,500 homes.
“When building a kitchen, you don’t just plonk down a stove, sink and fridge and hope that they will end up in the right relationship to each other. You plan them. This gets more true as projects get larger and as space for building gets more scarce and precious, as is happening in Britain now.”
Both Britain and British Columbia are looking at how to provide affordable housing, create jobs, provide good accessibility and public transit, and create lively, sustainable communities. In British Columbia, there is pressure to cut red tape at municipalities so that buildings can be produced quicker, faster and cheaper. But is creating more buildings the answer to creating cohesive, connected communities? Can we really construct our way to housing affordability, enhanced public transportation, and better places to live without a consolidated comprehensive overview? Is it too late?