25 May 2019
In recent weeks we have been exposed to a whole series of reports and actions on the climate emergency we face , rapid and unprecedented declines in global biodiversity and the hidden killer of air pollution that is responsible for some 4.2 million deaths annually . Individually these issues are alarming but collectively they signal the need for important actions globally, nationally and locally. In my view it fundamentally demands change in how we view and use nature as a society. For too many it is seen as a luxury that can be dealt with once economic growth and other political imperatives have been achieved. Rarely has it been, or is it, seen as critical infrastructure in the kind of places we seek to create. At the heart of this blog is the need to mainstream nature into policy and decision- making
It is here that the ‘mainstreaming’ concept needs to be brought into sharp focus. All too often it is a term that is loosely used and falsely claimed. Mainstreaming is about taking a concept, accepted and used in one policy area and embedding it across other policy domains within their daily priorities. For nature, this means securing improved traction and subsequent adoption in the business, housing, growth, health and community sectors associated with urban expansion wh…
13 Sep 2018
Mainstreaming green infrastructure in policy and decision making: unlocking the potential of the planning system
Special issue : Guest Editor Prof Alister Scott
The Town and Country Planning Association's landmark journal Town and Country Planning is published monthly and provides a synthesis of thought provoking debate and astute analysis with feature articles written by expert practitioners, decision makers and academics. This current call for papers is for a special issue on mainstreaming green infrastructure in the planning system of 2000-2500 words. Contributions are desired from academics, policy and practice to share their experiences, lessons and solutions.
Anybody with an interest should set out a 200 word proposal following the guidelines below. The proposal should be a word skeleton outlining your paper and how it meets the criteria below
The key criteria for acceptance are
1. That the paper is looking at a key aspect(s) of the planning and development process and the way that GI is/isnt integrated within it.
2. That the paper is critical and reflective highlighting the lessons learnt from the experience rather than feature on an exemplar alone.
3. That the paper does explicitly consider the concept of mainstreaming moving beyond its use and application in the environmental sector.
4. A strict word limit of 2500 words is applied.
09 Aug 2018
Making the Green Belt more productive An interview for RT news channel
08 Aug 2018
Should Britain build on its green belt to solve the housing crisis? (First published in February 2017)
Back in the 1930s, English planners came up with a novel idea to prevent urban sprawl: a ring of countryside surrounding the city, protected from development by law. This “green belt” would preserve the unique characters of historic towns, safeguard the countryside from development and encourage the regeneration and reuse of urban land. It was adopted nationally in 1955, and around 13% of England is now zoned as green belt land.
But today, the UK is experiencing a housing crisis. The nation requires nearly 300,000 new homes each year to keep up with demand – not to mention making up for the undersupply from previous years. In the year to September 2016, only 141,000 were built. This deficit has sparked renew…
27 Jul 2018
Mainstreaming nature in planning policy: Finding the hooks and crooks in the new NPPF
There has been much comment and hype over the long awaited NPPF released on the last day before summer recess (24th July 2018). This blog uses a green infrastructure lens set within the wider umbrella of spatial planning to pass comment on the NPPF’s environmental credentials. In a previous output from a research project on mainstreaming green infrastructure, a collective response from the Green Infrastructure Partnership was made under my editorship highlighting our concerns over the draft NPPF. This may provide useful reading to put this blog in context.
I have framed this piece looking at the NPPF in its entirety and then drilling into specific sections. It forms a starting point for further discussions and comment.
Overall purpose and vision.
The NPPF is currently being framed as a set of planning rules by both government and press in its external communications. This is not what the NPPF is or should be. In many ways this reflects the lack of vision within the NPPF itself. Good planning is much more than applying a set of rules. At its heart is the concept of designing and building better places and environments within a placemaking agenda. Here planners have a set of skills and tools to do this and have undergone years of professional trainin…
23 Jul 2018
Hopes for the new National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF) 2018
Following an extensive consultation with members of the Green Infrastructure Partnership, a response to the draft NPPF 2018 was published and sent to the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government (MHCLG). This forms a key output of my Natural Environment Research Council Knowledge Exchange fellowship, which seeks to improve the way that nature is mainstreamed in planning policy and decision making. As the new NPPF 2018 is expected to be published tomorrow here are the key aspirations from that document.
First and foremost, nature is not a bolt-on or secondary issue to economic development and housing. It is the bedrock upon which a successful economic development strategy and delivery can be built and thus should be built in from the outset. However, the silos and institutional myopia within national and local government are hindering more effective planning policy and delivery. Current normal weather in the UK (based on extreme wet/dry/windy/hot/cold conditions) highlights this interdependence quite graphically.
That the NPPF formally adopts the United Nations sustainable development goals as the primary purpose…
04 Mar 2018
What Kind of National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF) do we Need
On Monday 5th March 2018 the revised and much changed NPPF will be released for consultation. Its predecessor started off life in 2012 amidst much ministerial acclaim that it was reducing 1000s of pages of planning guidance to 55. Yet, since 2012 there have been reviews of the NPPF and its impact on the built environment which have identified significant failings with the way it was been operating. First the CLG Select Committee report into the operation of the NPPF in 2014 exposed a number of shortcomings related to the sustainable development credentials it was championing. In particular, the impact of viability on housing schemes; the impact on town centres and the impact on communities. A year later the House of Lords Built Environment Committee released Building Better Places which echoed these concerns. In the summary it stated : “ More fundamentally, however, we are concerned that the overall emphasis on speed and quantity of housing supply appears to threaten place-making itself, along with sustainable planning for the long-term and the delivery of high quality and design standards”. However, both these …
17 Jan 2018
The publication of the 25 year environment plan is very much welcome albeit long overdue. It does represent a significant positive step forward with a myriad of opportunity spaces for those wanting better environmental outcomes to exploit. However, as many commentators have already highlighted it is strong on rhetoric and good intentions but rather lacks the regulatory teeth and delivery mechanisms to achieve many of the proposed actions. Whilst this lack of regulation may please some it does mean that the plan relies on other strategies and frameworks across government to operationalise them. This brings with it a risk that other economic and housing priorities which currently have a statutory footing may continue to trump such good intentions. Under austerity and limited staff resources such as those facing our local authorities and planning departments this does become a significant factor when prioritising actions.
Nevertheless, this plan is not a Defra publication. Crucially, it is a HM Government publication which means that all government departments have signed up to the provisions within it and thus hopefully we will see other Secretaries of State also endorsing that value of our natural environment rather than it being seen as a Defra or Michael Gove strategy. Whilst the document explicitly names the clean growth strategy and the industrial strategy, it is quite light on other key strategies such as the National Planning Policy Frame…
29 Nov 2017
I recently attended a workshop hosted by Main Street Consulting as part of a contract they were undertaking for Scottish Natural Heritage to look at the opportunities for green infrastructure mainstreaming in social housing https://scotlandsnature.wordpress.com/2017/09/07/social-housing-green-infrastructure/
This in itself was a bold move by a government agency charged with championing the natural environment set within wider social and environmental justice agendas and certainly an area where limited NERC science exists to draw upon.
The workshop was transformational for me in several ways and I think offers valuable lessons for those people trying to mainstream any concept into practice or to maximise social learning and knowledge exchange. It also challenges the way many workshops or conferences focus on particular sectoral audiences with their supporting congregations where in effect they are often preaching to the converted.
The Edinburgh workshop I found myself in had some 20 participants including social housing providers (4), tenants (2), tenant association (1), Scottish Government (1), SNH (2), academics (1), green partnership managers (2) , &nbs…