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Peter Murray

For the second year, the London Society ran a series of five interconnected talks on Saturday mornings in a ‘Planning School’. This year’s were held in association with The Sir John Cass Faculty of Art, Architecture & Design (CASS), London Metropolitan University (‘The Cass’), to whom many thanks.

Darryl Chen, who leads the urban design studio at Hawkins\Brown, and who worked on the structure of this year’s school, reports on the five sessions.

‘Planning-tainment’ is too trivial a way of describing why fifty keen people spent a series of Saturday mornings in a windowless lecture theatre at the end of a long summer. But prove it did beyond a shadow of doubt that 1) planning is actually a popular topic and 2) a stellar cast of practitioners could engage audiences with information and wit.

This was the conceit of 2018’s Planning School: A series of mini lectures that challenged a wide audience of interested people, concerned citizens, architects and planners alike. Each week featured two speakers giving a double act of different perspectives on the same topic. Fewer than half the speakers were actually professional planners, but all actively engage with the planning system to shape our city’s places. Perhaps that is an apt description of the breadth of characters who are involved in this beautiful lumpen beast we call planning.

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Peter Murray

 

The third of this year’s Planning School looked at the always relevant subject of housing – if we need to house more people, surely the city needs to become more dense and therefore taller? Joanna Day listened to Claire Bennie and Lorraine Hughes.

There is, according to Claire Bennie, a lot of ‘fake news’ about density. It is a slippery concept that is hard to relate to on a human level. How many of us know what density we live at? Not many can define their own experience of home and environment in terms of a ‘per hectare’ measurement – the chosen unit used when we talk about density. And this unit neglects grain. Are we talking about my flat, my estate, my borough, my city or country? Each will give a different figure. And yet, the whole issue is about people, and this was Claire Bennie’s central point.

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Peter Murray

 

The final talk in this year’s Planning School was given by Euan Mills (Future Cities) and Professor Mark Brearley (London Metropolitan University). Barry Coidan reports.

Euan Mills is the Urban Planning and Design lead in charge of Future Cities Catapult’s Future of Planning Programme. Euan talked quickly: he had to he had a lot to get in a very short space of time. Technology is changing us, it’s changing how we live, work and interact. It’s changing businesses and how we do business. Where we do business, where we live is more and more in cities. But our cities are analogue, tied down with analogue planning systems. The city environment is changing rapidly driven by digitalisation and big data, but looking at the planning system you’d think the last 20 years hadn’t happened.

Not so long ago the most valuable companies by share capital were those involved in energy, metal bashing and heavy industry. Now those companies have surrendered their place to the data companies. The companies that have grown up in the last 20 years – Google, Facebook, Amazon etc – as we enter the fourth industrial revolution.

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Peter Murray

 

After the success of the 2017 series, we are very pleased to announce five further talks in our ‘Planning School’. Book for all five for the price of just four – and non-members who book for the whole series will be given 12 months individual membership of the Society.

To find out more and to book, click here

The planning system is a complex world of jargon-filled regulations, inscrutable maps and emotionally charged meetings. It is inhabited by an unseemly mixture of politicians, developers and consultants, with ordinary local people often bearing the brunt of their deals in the high streets and neighbourhood roads where we live. It is often blamed for blighting our beloved places with ugly buildings, and yet is similarly accused of holding back the development we need to meet pentup housing demand.

Planning is one of the most visible and potent outworkings of our democracy. It is the forum that safeguards by law our rights as citizens to influence the places we live and work in the city.

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Peter Murray

The last in the Planning School series of lectures – The Future of Planning – was held on 18 November at the Building Centre in Store Street with Zoe Green – Strategic Urban Planner at PriceWaterhouseCooper. Jo East was present.

Zoe Green advises cities across the globe on how to prepare for “4IR” – The Fourth Industrial Revolution that many believe we are entering right now. Promising to tackle broad themes, Zoe did just that taking in all the new technologies from synthetic biology, through 3D printing to the “Internet of things” (machines communicating directly with each other) unpacking these buzzwords as she went. The good news is that by looking at various indicators her recent report believes that London is 59% ready in preparedness to implement these technologies – Only Singapore scores higher although this drops to 42% on a Matrix of Social Readiness.

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Peter Murray

 

The fourth of the Society’s Saturday Morning Planning School talks was on Saturday 11th November 2017 with Rachel Fisher (Head of Infrastructure in the Cities and Local Growth Unit at DCLG) explloring the flip side of local growth – can places become too successful? Drawing on international and UK examples, the talk explored the relationship between planning policy and what happens in reality. Barry Coidan reports.

On Saturday we were treated to Rachel Fisher’s enlivening personal view on how growth happens on the ground in towns and cities here and around the world.

Rachel began with the general and took us down to the particular – Harlow, a planned town in Essex, and Haringey, a not so planned borough of London. On the way we visited New York, Bologna and Bilbao.

In general terms the conditions for growth (and prosperity) are: good jobs, homes (affordable and market priced) and connectivity – be that broadband or transport links. We’re all urban now. The 21st century is the century of cities and London takes its place as a global city – with a huge population vying for limited space. Imagine the functions of New York, Washington and Los Angeles in one place – that’s London. Its size, economy and status means it has a disproportionate impact on the rest of the UK. Scaling a map based on population, the UK looks grotesquely distorted – with London bloating out much of England south of the Wash.

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Peter Murray

 

The third of the Society’s Saturday Morning Planning School talks was on Saturday 4th November 2017 with Dr Paul Watt of Birkbeck College University of London discussing regeneration projects: what is meant by ‘urban regeneration’ and an examination of  what is referred to as ‘sports-led regeneration’ with particular analysis of the 2012 London Olympic Games. Barry Coidan reports.

Dr Watt’s talk – “London 2012 and the post – Olympics city – a hollow legacy?” began with an overview of urban policy, and regeneration in the UK and Europe. We then looked at recent Olympic Games and their raison d’être besides being sporting spectacles, before focusing on the London 2012 Olympics and its stated aims, the geographical area it was to impact on and its outcomes.

Urban Policy is broad brush: focused on area or territorial impact, not geared to a specific clientele, service provision or benefits. Regeneration seeks to bring about physical renewal as well as social and economic improvement to the area affected. This change is to be sustainable and achieved through a mix of private, public and voluntary sector involvement.

There was, however, little evidence that government decision making recognised that urban regeneration affected different people differently. This lack of recognition in developing a regeneration strategy – asking who it was for, who are to be the real beneficiaries – would impact on the desired outcomes.  

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Peter Murray

 

The second in our series of ‘Planning School’ talks was held on 28 October at the Building Centre in Store Street (in association with the Building Environment Trust), with Dr Paul Watt of Birkbeck talking about Social/Affordable Housing in London. Ian R Morrison was in the audience.

A fascinating talk on social housing in London with research that Dr Watt has been doing on estates, illustrated with slides and statistics.

Social housing is allocated on the basis of need, rather than demand and price (market forces). Its alternatives are the private rented sector and owner occupation. Provision varies between countries. At around 20%, the UK is higher than in the U.S., but not as high as other countries in Europe. Its prevalence is determined by political choices, for example social democrat traditions in parts of Europe.

Affordable housing is promoted to help solve the ‘housing crisis’, particularly in London. But affordable can take a number of forms, from being based on local incomes to being tied to a percentage of market rent. But how affordable is affordable? A limit of 80% of market rent in East Village Stratford (the Olympics site) is still out of reach of many local people. The Mayor’s new strategy of ‘genuinely affordable’ will aim to address this.

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Peter Murray

Want to distinguish your Garden City from your City Garden? Want to learn how we went from Green Belt to Green Growth? The London Society’s Saturday Morning City Planning School is for you! Following on from this spring’s immensely successful Architecture School, this new series of talks seeks to provide an overview of how and why our cities have grown in the way they have, with a focus on London.

To find out more and to book for the whole series click here. To book individual talks, go to the events page.

We’ll explore the history of London’s development over the past 2000 years and its urban revival in the past quarter of a century. We’ll explain how decisions are made and how the idea of “affordable” housing, which dominates the media, has emerged over two centuries of debate to the viability-driven decision-making of today. Leading the course will be an expert line-up of speakers, from academia and practice, sharing their experience with an overview of how our city (and cities) have been managed over time and what the future holds.

Details of the five classes, which will be held in the Building Centre in Store Street, WC1 (in association with the Building Environment Trust), can be found here here. If you book the whole series of five, you’ll pay for just four, and non-members who book the whole series will receive a free 12-month membership of the Society.

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