Life has been busy, what with capitalism melting in Europe, the Occupation in London and elsewhere, plus domestic life and UCL. I seem to be more active on Twitter these days, where there is more interaction and immediacy. And 140 characters suits me. Immediacy is gripping at the moment and I had some cheering (actual) visits to the Occupation.
We had a useful meeting of Just Space Network, though unless we can get some more money it does not look as though many organisations will have time / energy to participate very actively in our proposed seminars in the new year. We may thin it down to fewer events.
Went on 9th to a conference on Neighbourhood Planning organised by Action for Market Towns – which most of my allies had refused to attend because they charge entry fees even to community groups. It was an all-white and – like it sounds – rather middle-class gathering, enlivened by a fine fellow from County Durham (Transition Towns) who was quite radical about GDP as the growth target and referred to Tim Jackson. Otherwise I found it all rather compliant with government thinking, notably the opening talk by Gareth Bradford, a planner from the government’s department of Communities and Local Government who had gone native and really spoke for his masters. Not a lot for us to learn, though he stressed that the new Neighbourhood Plans would have to satisfy rather few conditions:
• conformity with national policy
• conformity with the ‘strategic policies in’ local plans
• conformity with EU, Human Rights and Sustainable Development.
Very little awareness of the threat posed by changes proposed to the General Development Order – to enable employment land to be switched to housing. (I asked a question about that but with little response.) Quite a lot of alarm about the presumption in favour of development and the weak defences in many areas, but muted. The presentations and notes are all online so look for yourself.
My job was to run a workshop on widening participation. My notes on their web site. Low key discussion including someone from Sainsbury’s and a consultant or two. [A lot of firms are looking for business in this field.] Some solidarity between locations about displacement of local people by (?gentrfication ?second homes ?lack of development).
A speaker from Renaisi, Kirby Swales, did a better talk than I would have expected, mainly about a South Islington plan which they have recently completed. Darren Richards (chief planner) of Sutton LB talking about the Hackbridge NP, a very positive community initiative, though with very strong push from Sutton council.
Meanwhile reading Compass’s Plan B document which is a pretty good – not revolutionary – alternative strategy for the UK economy. A synthesis of Keynesian and left-central thinking about the economy but with some more radical bits too. We all have to read it and get to grips with it – and develop it, I think. There’s a good start from a scottish green, Rupert Read who begins to elaborate a greener Plan C. It should be possible to build a wide consensus around this set of arguments as soon as the failure of global austerity programmes becomes more widely apparent, and that does seem to be happening. Continuing good publicity in normal media for the Occupy movement, yesterday’s student demonstration….
Well-attended meeting of the King’s Cross Development Forum on Friday but I can’t get very excited just now about the design of paving in the station forecourt. Lots of silo thinking by all the agencies involved as they try to cope with the flood (tsunami almost) of pedestrians forced to walk around the whole station because of the paranoid insistence of the railways on sealing the station with one entrance (through the shops of course – this is Britain), one exit. Robert Milne is running a good web site for it all.
Lots of writing to do now: lecture for next week’s class / land section for PNUK manifesto / talk for a Birkbeck housing seminar next Friday.
Finally I’m reminded of a meeting recently, one of two at which Camden Council were ‘consulting’ on the second draft of a document about “Placeshaping” around King’s Cross. This is an impressive project in one sense: it reaches beyond the engrained limits of Town and Country Planning laws and powers and could, in principle, cover all social and public services, budgeting and so on. It doesn’t, but it could. They seem to have spent a lot of time on it: I’d guess £100-200,000 in salaries etc. We have all been very critical because it covers only about a third of the locality round King’s Cross, stopping at the Euston Road and omitting everything in Islington. We are also critical because, in an area urgently needing better coordination of implementation, it does not go into any details about who is paying for anything, who would carry it out, when it would be done. It’s a lavishly illustrated 56 pages. Do look at it here.
Here is the consultation meeting, filling the Camden Centre in the Town Hall. There were 3 council officers, two consultant facilitators, one elected councillor and four members of the ‘public’: me, Nick Falk, Esther Caplin and Hugh Lake. Wow.