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why we need to better integrate land-use and community planning in Scotland

peopleThis article first appeared in RTPI Scotland‘s journal The Scottish Planner (June 2016 edition).

Better integration of spatial planning and Community Planning has been a hot topic in national and local government for the last year couple of years. There’s been lots of high-level talk about improving integration, including in the Planning Review report published in May. RTPI Scotland has been helping with action research. But there are still precious few good examples of how to go about it.

Surely it doesn’t need to be so difficult? At its most basic, integration of land-use and Community Planning is simply planners and planning working more closely with other public services and spending bodies, and vice versa.

Planners used to do that 50-60 years ago in the celebrated post-war consensus to rebuild Britain. Central and local government had bigger budgets and more ability to deliver development on the ground themselves. The planning profession was closely involved. New towns, peripheral housing estates, schools, hospitals, urban motorways and Comprehensive Redevelopment Areas were all products of this approach, all of them facilitated by the state. Some of the results may have been more successful than others, of course – but that’s a separate discussion.

All of those examples of comprehensive redevelopment relied on the planner being involved in urban management. That, surely, is where we’re trying to get back to with today’s holy grail of integrating Community Planning and spatial planning. It’s about managing transport infrastructure, education facilities, health care facilities, cleansing, community safety and all the other public services that contribute to good urban environments. Good placemaking (to use the current term) should be about co-ordinating all these public services, not just urban design in the narrow sense of how streets and spaces are physically designed.

How did we ever allow ourselves to get channelled into such a narrow area of interest, and lose our ability to be at the heart of good urban management?

Integrating spatial planning and Community Planning should really be very simple for us. Policymakers are looking for someone to step into the vacuum, and we’re ideally placed to do it. No-one should be better equipped than us planners to work out how our communities should change and develop in the future. We are uniquely positioned to rise above single agendas like jobs, movement, sustainability, culture and health, and to co-ordinate and integrate them for the greater public good.

Here’s an idea. Maybe we should put more effort into supporting and co-ordinating what our partners in the public, private and community sectors do – balanced 50/50 with the time and effort we put into using the statutory tools of our trade to shape the physical environment?

Sure, in these days of austerity that might feel impossible if you work in the public sector. But if each of us put an extra 10% into supporting and co-ordinating others, that could have a transformative effect on creating better places and better lives. Isn’t that what integrating land-use and Community Planning is all about?


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