This is my last blog before the summer break. It feels like we reached peak madness with last week’s ‘250,000 houses’ announcement by central government, and the spectrum of responses ranging variously from bemused to outraged from the leaders of the City Council, South Cambs District Council, the Combined Authority, plus the – Conservative – MP for South Cambs. To put that number in context, it would require building 40 houses a day, every day, till 2040. It is a literally incredible proposal.
We shall see what further detail emerges over the next few weeks, assuming there is some detail behind the newspaper headline, but it’s no way to run a city. Or a government for that matter. And how it is in any way consistent with the missions in 2022’s Levelling Up White Paper, with its references to ‘engaged’ local communities and ’empowered’ local leaders is a mystery: “The UK Government will begin work with partners in local government and civil society on a programme to put in place a bold new approach to community empowerment” (p215). A year is indeed a long time in politics!
So it feels like it’s the right time to take a breather. But to tide you over the summer, I’ve got some suggestions of reading materials you might find interesting:
- the State of the City report commissioned by the City Council, a statistical ‘dashboard’ which sits alongside the qualitative Conversations with Residents report. Together these are supposed to underpin the council’s Transformation programme. See what you think.
- this article by Samuel Watling is a long but fascinating history of planning in the UK and how we’ve ended up with today’s arrangements, widely regarded as unsatisfactory by NIMBYs (Not in My Back Yard) and YIMBYs (Yes in My Back Yard) alike
- a paper from the RTPI on community engagement and what best practice might look like, which highlights the valuable work done by Planning Aid England
plus I’m going to repeat the links I signposted last summer because they seem more relevant than ever:
- Greg Fell, Director of Public Health at Sheffield Council, has written a short article entitled ‘How health is created, why does that matter – and so what?’ This goes far beyond the normal platitudes about social prescribing, tree planting and bike lanes, instead issuing a challenge to the damage caused by current economic and commercial norms.
- The Spirit Level (how we are all worse off as a result of growing social and economic inequalities) and Less is More (examining ecological breakdown and the system that’s causing it).
- Deborah Potts’ presentation on the reasons why we simply can’t build our way out of Cambridge’s housing affordability crisis.
Food for thought.