Planners Network UK – People’s Plans

[This document was formerly on the PNUK.org.uk wikispaces site which has now lapsed. Fortunately Robin Brown of Just Space had saved a copy, so here it is. August 2015 ] With later additions up to January 2021..

Compilation from various authors.

Planning is usually seen as the domain of governments, private consultancies and even developers. It tends to wrap itself up in claims about expertise, technical competence and professionalism. Yet planning is a potentially far more democratic, radically democratic, activity than this. And that’s because it offers all of us, as citizens of our neighbourhoods, the opportunity to think and act creatively about the future of the places we live in, to creative alternative visions.

Episodes / people’s plans

There are many examples of community-led plans and campaigns which have succeeded in stopping public and private sector development proposals and/ or  realising alternative community-inspired visions in their place. They are small in scale, but have significantly shaped the function and form of London and other British cities, and even the approach of planning itself. Movements such as the Homes Before Roads campaign in the early 1970s contributed to the eventual revolution of transport planning, particularly as it was being practiced in London. More contemporary campaigns such as Homes Under Threat are bringing people together to fight demolitions in housing market renewal areas in the north, and Estate Watch is doing so in London. And recent efforts by local campaigners on the London Plan are also helping identify alternative visions, including a complete alternative community plan.

The Planners Network UK (PNUK) put this collection together a few years ago and wrote “This section of our website is about just those kinds of planning activities – by ordinary people creating alternatives to those being foisted on them by governments and developers. So we’ve called it ‘People’s Plans’.”

There are also many locally-based, sometimes small but always significant projects, campaigns, plans and activities going on all around the UK. Where we know a bit about the story, we’ve provided that here, where we don’t we can just provide some contact details and links for you to find out more.

Calthorpe Community Garden – a small plot of land on London’s Grays Inn Road near King’s Cross which originated through sustained agitation by local residents of this very dense dstrict, who finally in 1983 persuaded the local authority owners to let it be used as a community centre for chidren and young people, gardening and other services. It’s now a self-governing charity.   http://www.calthorpeproject.org.uk/

Covent Garden Community Association – without the local community-based action since the 1970s that this group has been doing, Covent Garden would today be just another anonymous urban motorway surrounded by drab office blocks and segregated functions, probably ripe for redevelopment! Find out more about how their strange coalition overturned a GLC plan, doubled the population and was the making of a much-loved London district  http://www.coventgarden.org.uk/id1.html and Judy Hillman’s 1986 book for the GLC, now a PDF: http://sevendials.com/resources/Hillman_Book.pdf

Coin Street – perhaps the most-cited contemporary example of community building in London. Located on London’s South Bank, Coin Street redevelopment began from the local people, who mounted a campaign to purchase some land and regenerate their local neighbourhood. See here for more information http://www.coinstreet.org/  Added 2019: a long and carefully-referenced critical history by Will Jennings appeared in Medium at https://medium.com/@willjennings80/coin-street-community-builders-e2bc940c4d81

In Liverpool, the Eldonians successfully battled against demolition of their homes, leading not only to the retention and refurbishment of Eldon Street tenements and surrounding area but through the grant of over £1 million to their Association by Mrs Thatcher (to spite Derek Hatton et al), and the eventual redevelopmet of the old Tate and Lyle factory site. Since then, Eldonians Community Based Housing Association are still going strong and they have developed hundreds of affordable homes, health sports and other social  and cultural infrastructure. For more information visit their website here: www.eldonians.org.uk  They have also published a book on their experiences called ‘The Rebirth of Liverpool -The Eldonian Way’ – see some images & details in their 2007 annual report at this link.

Stonebridge Estate in Brent –In the 1980s, communities used Planning for Real (assisted by CLAWS and PAL) and the Stonebrige Tenants Advancement Committee to establish a Housing Action Trust and the redevelopment of the estate into mainly high density medium rise terraced housing.

King’s Cross Railway Lands Group was an umbrella group-of-groups, gathering a very diverse network of formal and informal organisations demanding to inflence the development on and around the railway lands at King’s Cross and St Pancras from the late 1980s until about 2010. It came into existence in response to plans from British Rail for a London station for the Channel Tunnel Rail Link (CTRL, now called HS1). The state railway was under government pressure to make money from its land and air rights and teamed up with developers to try and do so. The Railway Lands Group campaigned to influence the local authorities, produced its own community plans with PAL support and did delay planning permission for a massive office-led development scheme long enough for the property crash of the early 90s to drive the developers into administration. The Group was later instrumental in the campaigns at the House of Lords which led to a completely different route for the railway and remained active in trying to pressure Camden and Islington councils to demand social housing and community benefits in a subsequent scheme which eventually got built as King’s Cross Central. KXRLG disbanded itself in 2013 and its web site is archived at the British Library.

Greater Carpenters Neighbourhood Forum  Just Space (with support from London Tenants Federation) has continued to assist the GCNF including in the prepartion and submission of a Neighbourhood Plan.  A very good result was achieved with the examination of the London Legacy Developemnt Corporation (LLDC) Local Plan: the Inspector fully backing the residents’ wishes to retain their community and avoid demolition and dense development.  However, alongside this the examination of the neighbourhood plan recommended the deletion of essential policies opposing demolition and identifying housing sites that would provide sensitive infill. Most of the land in this estate is owned by Newham Council although the planning authority is the LLDC. Newham has a long history of targetting this estate for demolition and this community has had a long struggle to survive.

Isledon Road in Finsbury Park  – Also in the 1980s, the Finsbury Park Action Group, assisted by CLAWS and PAL, successfully opposed a developer-led initiative for a ‘fashion centre’ in a sea of car parking on redundant land north of the Harvist Estate and east of Isledon Road. Eventually, they produced a Community Plan comprising in the main affordable housing, a Garden  Centre, a re-sited and refurbished park, health centre, some shops and some local employment space. The Community Plan was then taken up by Hunt Thompson and initially a Community Development Trust and eventually by a number of Housing Associations.

New Wortly Residents Action Group in Leeds – Some years ago, Leeds City Council was proposing, without much consultation, to demolish a lot of homes, mainly Council housing but a few owner-occupiers were affected, in the New Wortley estate. Together, the residents organised and  took on the local planning process.  Eventually, with help from Planning Aid Yorkshire, they  produced a community plan for how they wanted any demolitions to be done, managed to get to the proposed Local Statutory Plan thrown out and agreed a new one with the Council. From nothing, the proposal to demolish inspired huge community organisation and bottom-up control, and they are now looking at taking more control and powers to run their estate.

People’s Plan for the Royal Docks was produced in 1983/4 as an alternative to what is now London City Airport. Done with support of GLC (so a little question mark over whether it was purely a ‘people’s’ plan). There is an article about it by Sue Brownhill in the journal Planning Practice and Research in 1988 (Vol 2 no 4) but it’s paywalled. An interview with her is at https://www.ucl.ac.uk/bartlett/development/peoples-royal-docks-1984-2014

Oxford, Cowley Road Matters was a local response to a redisign of a local high street, again lots of compromises along the way but there’s material at on https://www.participatorymethods.org/resource/cowley-road-matters-community-transport-and-road-design

Wards Corner Coalition – this is a grassroots organisation working to stop the demolition of the homes, businesses and indoor market above Seven Sisters tube station in London and fighting the attempts of Grainger PLC to force out the local community. They have had lots of successes along the way but still face opposition from Haringey Council, TfL and the GLA. See their FB https://www.facebook.com/wardscornercommunity

Portland Works, Sheffield – this industrial building in Sheffield, now housing a range of small arts and craft-based industries, was mooted for conversion into flats, but tenants and local people have mounted a campaign to hold onto this important space for small enterprises. The community-led action group has set up a social enterprise (you can buy a share in it). See their website for more details at: http://www.portlandworks.co.uk/

Yiewsley Community Involvement Group –  an organisation of local retailers who finance a fortnightly news-sheet and have successfully challenged plans for inappropriate development in Yiewsley.  The group regularly holds street surgeries where people can sign up to petitions for or against development plans, including getting six inappropriate local applications turned down in two years and against a huge out of town superstore (Tesco) appeal (which was later granted, allegedly illegally).  The group has asked local opinion on the planned town enhancement and put forward their views.   At present they are fighting the closure of a local pool.

Portland Oregon Green Street/MainStreet plan – from outside the UK this excellent example of using very localised planning to regenerate and rezone a local corridor using sustainable methods. This was a joint venture between the planning authority and local groups, but was community-led. See their website at  http://www.portlandonline.com/bps/index.cfm?c=41524

Urban “regeneration” schemes, often demolishing council estates and decimating the remaining stock of social housing, have become a key issue  in London politics in the new century. Someone should try to come up with some good examples of how it should be done (comment added May 2018). When asked, people in Just Space often refer to the Walterton and Elgin Coop  http://www.farnearer.org/2017/02/walterton-and-elgin-community-homes-jonathan-rosenberg.  Now, with the London Tenants Federation and Prof Loretta Lees, Just Space has set up Estate Watch to support tenants facing these threats and to monitor events.

Joe Penny adds this link to a Paris scheme for refurbishing a tower block without displacement. It looks good but the participatory aspects are not mentioned in the article. Does anyone know more? https://www.dezeen.com/2013/04/16/tour-bois-le-pretre-by-frederic-druot-anne-lacaton-and-jean-philippe-vassal  October 2018

June 2019: thoughtful retrospect on the Packington Street estate regeneration in Islington, widely regarded as a model scheme – by Peter Apps of Inside Housing  https://www.insidehousing.co.uk/insight/61670 

Resources, Tools and Links

Community Development Trusts : http://www.dta.org.uk/

Community Planning website:
http://www.communityplanning.net/methods/design_game.php

This Land is Ours have a planning section called ‘Chapter 7’ which has a useful planning handbook and runs all sorts of campaign for a fairer planning system. See their website here:
http://www.tlio.org.uk/chapter7/

Crowd-sourced bibliography on neighbourhood planning, mainly UK, and with a lot on public participation http://bit.ly/1nXDXqS

Reply to Dave Hill

Only on saturday did I come across a monday article by Dave Hill, the Guardian‘s London correspondent/columnist whose work is often good and frequently the only attention given by the entire mainstream media to radical politics in the Capital. I never agree with him entirely and he tends to ‘balance’ his articles as though he were the (former) BBC in one person, but I avoid being aggressive with him when I disagree. He’s precious.

However this article Love to hate luxury property in London? This is why you’re wrong makes me fume and I would have commented in situ it had I not come so late to the piece that comments were already closed. So here is a comment. Continue reading “Reply to Dave Hill”