Futurama 2018

20 Jun 18

Just like England’s in this year’s World Cup, it’s time for a re-brand of the planning system, to shake off past reputations and to focus on the present and future. There is an urgent need to change the public perceptions of planning and development. While mechanisms such as Neighbourhood Planning and the consultation process get the public involved in the planning process at the local level – I feel we need a macro level mechanism to get the public excited about the future of our built form.

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Just like England’s in this year’s World Cup, it’s time for a re-brand of the planning system, to shake off past reputations and to focus on the present and future. There is an urgent need to change the public perceptions of planning and development. While mechanisms such as Neighbourhood Planning and the consultation process get the public involved in the planning process at the local level – I feel we need a macro level mechanism to get the public excited about the future of our built form.

Public opinion matters because it dictates the attitudes our politician’s take towards development and influences planning decisions and national legislation. With the UK facing an unprecedented housing crisis, following a historic undersupply and resulting in the need to develop approximately 250,000 to 300,000 homes a year, it is crucial that we build a consensus around the need for a level of delivery not seen since the post war rebuilding of Britain.

Despite the existence of a housing crisis being largely undisputed, when it comes to building enough homes in areas of demand there is often fierce public response in the form of NIMBYism (Not in my back yard). According to the research from national estate agent Jackson-Stops, 74% of home owners feel first time buyers are having a hard time, yet 51% of them do not want a new housing development to be built in their area, with 45% of respondents actively identifying as a NIMBY.

Similar to the public perception towards climate change and environmental issues such as plastics in our oceans, there needs to be an improved collective understanding and acceptability of the demand for housing, and the impacts its undersupply is causing. To achieve this, we need an ambitious plan-led approach which utilises technological advances in the construction industry to create places which add value and enhance existing communities. China are proposing ‘Sponge Cities’ to address ecological considerations and it’s time to build on the legacy of Sir Ebenezer Howard’s Garden Cities movement and the 1939 World Fair’s Futurama exhibit to demonstrate the future capabilities of our settlements and to reignite public interest and aspirations.

There is no single solution to the housing crisis. Fixing the problem will require a co-ordinated response across a range of central and local government departments. However, planning and development sector needs to shape public understanding of the development process and how development can be acceptable for existing communities and be commercially viable. Planning can produce significant benefits for communities – economically, environmentally and socially; and its time our planning system promoted these benefits, in order to achieve our common goal of creating great places in a future of contested resource and space.

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