The English planning system used to have a strong focus on social justice – its purpose was to create places in which people of all backgrounds could thrive. In recent years, however, in both policy and practice, this has been lost. Now, with the housing crisis high on the agenda for the 2015 election, the link between the planning system and social justice is once again being made. How can planners ensure that the decisions they made do not have adverse outcomes for people in deprived areas? Have recent changes to the planning system meant that local authorities are losing their powers to prevent poor quality housing being built?
The conference will bring together a range of local government and community representatives, as well as policy-makers; planners, regeneration officers; tenants’ groups; and academics to explore the assertion that the fundamental purpose of the planning system is to increase people’s wellbeing by creating healthier, fairer places.
TCPA Head of Policy Hugh Ellis said:
“The planning system can and should play a significant role in addressing social inequalities, enhancing the general well-being of local communities and ensuring that all have access to high quality environments. However in recent years, this has not been the case. National planning prioritises economic viability above social justice and quality, and we are now left with numerous examples of how poor planning decisions can have hugely detrimental effects on communities and lead directly to increased poverty. This conference will address how we can work together to ensure that social justice is once again placed at the core of planning system, and how we can use planning to address issues such as poverty, deprivation and social exclusion. While we must of course address the current crisis and increase housing supply, it is vital that we avoid simply building the slums of the future and instead ensure that quality and social justice are at the heart of the new communities that we are creating.”
In 2014 the TCPA published a groundbreaking report, Planning out Poverty, which looked at the impact that planning decisions have had on the lives of people in deprived areas in England. Commissioned by the Webb Memorial Trust, the report highlighted the way in which a range of planning decisions led, cumulatively, to increasingly difficult situations for communities that were already struggling.