Spamifesto hits the city, but why?

I’ve been developing my new manifesto for Sustainable Places and Movement, aka the Spamifesto (scroll down for a summary). In the first draft, there are 5 key points, which relate to my mission to reconnect place and movement, moving away from thinking about “Land Use and Planning”, and adopting a design-based approach which has at it’s heart, the experience of users of the Built Environment, and focuses around equality and energy use.

In itself, this is not at all revolutionary – Planning practitioners and researchers have long recognised that there are serious problems with the way Planning (both spatial (Town and Country) and transport) work, but there has been a reluctance to do anything about it, particularly from those who have the most invested in the current systems. The Atlantic CityLab reported a few days ago on the revolution waiting in the wings at this year’s AESOP (Association of European Schools of Planning) conference, and organisations like Planners Network UK have long campaigned for structural changes in the Planning system.

There has been something of a sea change in the last year or so, at least in the UK, of which the reported discussions at AESOP are just a part. Planning lecturer Dr Peter Matthews resigned his membership of the Royal Town Planning Institute (the professional body for Town Planners – membership is effectively a requirement in order to practice) in a damning post about their attitudes to those involved in activism and progressive planning (focusing on the needs of people rather than capital), although in transport planning (which has long been considered a separate discipline despite the intrinsic interconnectedness between spaces and places and the movements between them), there seems to have been a growing dissatisfaction with the way things are done, which is beginning to make itself clear in debates over the implementation of cycle routes and how the generally accepted (read: mandated by the Department for Transport) design principles fail to work properly when designing infrastructure which needs to address the conflicts between cyclists and motor vehicles.

In short, the knowledge that there are serious problems with the existing Planning system is nothing new – and indeed was being debated even before the most recent Planning Act and Localism Act which begun to strip Professional Planners of part of their role in the development process – which is now reached the point where there is a proposal for Planning Permission to be automatically granted for brownfield sites, which makes a mockery of the whole Planning system (which exists to carefully consider all proposals), and for Planning Permissions to be granted by directly elected mayors in London and Manchester, rather than the locally elected councillors who look after individual, neighbourhood scale patches. The system is in crisis, and many (if not most) in the Built Environment professions know this, but how do we move forward and built new structures and systems which can deliver what we need, in terms of housing demand, effective transport infrastructure, reducing the environmental impact of the built environment, and meeting the needs both of local neighbourhoods and of cities and city regions. The Town and Country Planning Association have, to an extent, been leading the charge here, but what we need to do, collectively, is to figure out why the calls from professionals and academics have been unheeded by both politicians and the industry for so long, and how we can take practical steps towards the aims which seem to be shared by many people working in Planning.

Spamifesto represents a first step here, following from the manifestos of both PNUK (not currently public) and the TCPA’s new “Planning4People” manifesto launched in June. Like them, I am setting out my stall, with a different, yet compatible and complementary perspective.

Spamifesto’s five points are:

  1. Stop being a SLUT – a rejection of the “Sustainable Land Use and Transport Planning” paradigm that has been gaining traction amongst transport planners in particular
  2. Places and the movements between them define each other – that there can be mo separation between Town and Country Planning and Transport Planning
  3. Start with the User Experience (UX) – that User Experience of the Built Environment should be central to design, rather than an afterthought
  4. Design for equality, not privilege – on a number of levels, of mode of transport, ability and social status, among others
  5. Design out energy use – making the reduction of energy use key to Planning decisions

In support of this, I will be at Green Drinks Leeds on Wednesday 22 July, where we will be walking around Central Leeds and exploring some of these issues

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