New group to reform UK planning system

Mark Brown mark at
Fri Dec 8 12:50:05 GMT 2006

New group radicalising UK planning system

Planners Network UK (pnuk) is a fledgling organisation seeking to establish a network to support critical thinking about the current state of planning in the UK. We hope that the network can appeal to a broad range of practitioners, academics and activists interested in rearticulating the progressive purpose of planning. Most importantly we hope to establish the basis for connecting all those concerned about the current climate of debate.

For more information about pnuk or to subscribe to our mailing list please contact either:
Libby Porter: E.J.Porter at
Andy Inch: ainch at

see also:
Radical planner's blog:
International Network for Urban Research and Action (INURA):
Planners Network North America:

The conference included a main session on 'How can British planning fulfil its progressive potential?', featuring Panel Members:
" Heather Campbell (Sheffield University)
" Michael Edwards (UCL)
" Hugh Ellis (FoE)
" Huw Morris (Editor of Planning)
" Drew Stevenson (GLA)

They are already drawing up an official response to the Barker report.
In a workshop on the Barker Review of Land Use Planning Report and it's implications, participants drew attention to the apparant pro-business agenda, but noted that the perceived intention within the report to streamline the planning system is a legitimate concern, and there was agreement that the UK planning system needs to have a better process of decision making with regards to strategic matters of regional and national importance. However, it was felt that conformity with properly-approved plans has served us well as a source of
legitimacy and will continue to do so and that there is a danger in taking any class of decisions out of these decision frameworks -  that legitimacy will be undermined.

Uniting both these conflicting concerns was not helped by the rejection of the regional assembly in the North East of England 2 years ago - although one suggestion could be that such a new system of assembly could be installed with the specific role of scrutinising proposals put forward by an independent commission that the barker report has called for. Systems of democratic audit would be an interesting addition to this. 

The pro-business agenda in the report is perceived from the emphasis on economic growth, yet is was felt that the issue of Global warming and other environmental issues as being so urgent (now acknowledged by HMG) that they need to inform all branches and actions of government.  It is quite inadequate for the report to say (if it does) that these matters will be dealt with by international agreements, carbon credits, fiscal measures etc and thus dismiss these issues from the discussion of planning.  The UK settlement pattern and the way we use it are major factors in our profligate use of energy and, if not reorganised, will greatly impede the new patterns of economic and social life which we shall have to adopt in any sustainable future. While Economic Growth itself is not a bad objective, there needs to be acknowledgement that we live within a reality of 'limits to growth', and that these limits exist in specific areas (eg. roads, energy consumption, housing in the SE). There are many kinds of growth and the Treasury is pursuing the wrong definition, based on profligate use of energy consumption.

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