Recently in Editor Category
In previous blogs for the Birmingham Post I have been critical of the way that current planning policy is 'disintegrated' leading to unnecessary conflict and poor policy outcomes which could be addressed by the use of more positive strategic planning processes. This blog reflects on an innovative process of spatial strategy formation that has been going on in the Greater Birmingham and Solihull Local Enterprise Partnership (GBSLEP) as it finds its way in the messy institutional landscape in the West Midlands. On the 25th April at St Andrews I attended a planning summit to critically discuss progress and where I am pleased to say neither the goalposts nor the playing field were changed!
Eric Pickle's recent amendments to permitted development proposals to allow 'monster' domestic extensions up to eight metres without planning permission, now with the support of neighbours is to be presented to the House of Lords this week as they debate the Growth and Infrastructure Bill. This blog argues that this is a costly distraction from the growth agenda where the core issues of availability of finance and a clear coherent plan and institutional response for recovery are conveniently being bypassed. The Growth and Infrastructure Bill has a mishmash of proposals that together create uncertainty and confusion. Furthermore, it represents a government desperate for headline-grabbing initiatives rather than confronting the more powerful and financial interests that hold the key to unlocking the growth agenda.
Congratulations to the NPPF as it celebrates its one year birthday on the 27th March 2013. In what has been a challenging year for those dealing with shaping and implementing planning policy, it is opportune to examine its impact thus far. This blog post focusses on the Good, the Bad and the Nonsensical.
I walk down the high street of Rufopolis and note the run down, intimidating and decaying feel of boarded up shops amidst a scene of rubbish and dirt; a legacy from last nights turn out from the soup kitchens and food banks that now dominate this high street landscape. Here you can also find the many charity shops supporting an increasingly desperate and poor population; marginalised by society and unable to secure full time employment and access to social housing. Here is a high street that has failed to secure the necessary investment in regeneration which has fuelled a vicious cycle of decline and neglect.
Hark the Coalition Government does sing
Economic growth seems the priority for everything
We have no time for those who protest and complain
Lets dismiss their negativity with contempt and disdain
I am not a great fan of history; I had an uninspiring secondary school teacher! However, as an environmental and spatial planner I am increasingly drawn into historical nooks and crannies in order to better understand contemporary planning dilemmas. Thus, through looking back we can move forward more confidently having "learnt the lessons". Given the current state of 'omni-shambles' in the economic growth debate and policy response, as highlighted in my previous blogs here, this blog draws inspiration from a recent lecture I gave to my postgraduate students on rural history which bears uncanny parallels with today's debates.
On Monday November 5th 2012 some parliamentary fireworks were in evidence in the second reading of the Growth and Infrastructure Bill. Following my recent blog arguing that the Bill is in urgent need of replanting, I offer the following reflections on the debate and its wider implications for the current government agenda on planning and growth.
On the 18th October 2012 a new Bill was launched to help put growth firmly back on the agenda. This Bill represents a missed opportunity to help develop planning as a core component of the growth agenda ensuring a focus towards sustainable development. Instead we see a well-rehearsed fix set within more top down control of development matters which raises more questions than it answers. Today there are likely to be some fireworks as the Bill receives its second reading in Parliament.
As a planner I am very concerned at how political short termism is hijacking the planning system and ignoring the excellent examples out there in the real world of growth and development. Such interventions are dangerous distractions and have the ability to derail some real progress that is being made.
This blog is based on a talk I gave to the Planning and Development Association Meeting University of Birmingham 19th October 2012.
As this government embarks on a series of further ad-hoc iterations and changes to planning policy it is timely to present two simple stories that together offer an important critique for the way planning is currently carried out and the way that uncertainty is becoming the real enemy of enterprise.
In my view good policy is made when there is robust questioning and open debate about the merits or otherwise of particular interventions. Naturally any policy or decision will lead to winners and losers and it is important to understand who these are and how these vary across time and space. As part of this process we see many organisations arguing how the perceived impact of proposed policies or plans will/have affect them. These "champions" are numerous and diverse and form part of a wider governance agenda that is both complex and messy, but reflects the political arena in which policy is now fashioned.
Three experts in the built and natural environment at Birmingham School of the Built Environment write openly to the government asking for a policy pause to halt the ill-thought out direction of recent planning reforms.
Barely is the ink dry on the long awaited planning reforms of the Coalition government with the National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF), when this week the Chancellor instigated further changes in order to boost economic growth. Supported by Cameron and Clegg et al., we also witnessed a concerted attack on the planning profession with, seemingly, a renewed appetite to make planners the scapegoat for the economy's woes. At Birmingham School of the Built Environment at Birmingham City University we pride ourselves on training the next generation of built and natural environment professionals, equipping them with the skills to mediate between the competing demands of people, place and environment. One module I manage is called Policies and Plans. This uses theory and practice to identify what constitutes a 'good' plan or policy. The recent package of anti-planning reforms announced this week provide an interesting example for this blog
The recent talks at Rio+20 on sustainable developments have been criticised by many for achieving very little in terms of tackling the crisis facing the planet. In my view the reasons for this are clear and embedded in the way we communicate science and policy to public demanding critical self-examination and reflection.
In three weeks' time, the last daily edition of the printed version of the
Birmingham Post will roll off our presses in Erdington, marking the end of
a publishing tradition that stretches back more than 150 years.
But it also marks a rebirth, as the Post starts a new chapter in its
evolution as a multimedia brand and its new life as a must-read weekly
I have just announced to my staff that Trinity Mirror was starting a consultation process with them over the future of the Birmingham Post, the title I have edited for more than three years.
There are two options for change on the table - each a response to the fact that the Midlands region of Trinity Mirror will lose ÃÂ£6 million next year unless some radical action is taken now. The Post as a key title must play its part in plugging that profit gap, and I'll get to the two options later.
This consultation process is unique in my experience in that as well as seeking the views of staff - who are of course the people most directly affected by any changes - we also want the views of readers and advertisers. Launches and relaunches of newspapers always involve market research and testing, of course, but rarely do publishers open up the decision making process as early - and as transparently - as we are doing with the Post.
When I returned to Birmingham three years ago, I couldn't believe what I saw.
No, it wasn't the shiny new city centre that amazed me, but the occupants of the seats of power. When I'd last paid my council tax to the city, it was well into the long, seemingly unstoppable reign of the Labour party, with the venerable Dick Knowles entering his eighth year in power.
This is the raw copy of my second piece filed from Mumbai today, Tuesday March 24. It's here because Birminghampost.net is currently experiencing technical problems.
The consequences of continued government inaction over Jaguar Land Rover were spelled out by Tata chairman Ratan Tata in his interview with the Birmingham Post.
When Tata bought Jaguar Land Rover exactly one year ago tomorrow, crucial to its wooing of the UK government and its new workforce was the promise to maintain the company's three main UK plants.
This is my raw copy filed to the Birmingham Post from India today, Tuesday, March 24. It can't be published on the Post's website because it's broken. Normal service will be resumed soon.
An exasperated Ratan Tata, boss of the multi-billion Indian giant that owns Jaguar Land Rover, has broken his silence in the UK media to accuse the government of failing to value the manufacturing sector.
He also highlighted the potential cost to the company and its employees if the government does not come forward with the requested loan guarantees. He raised the prospect of JLR's development projects being wound down, halting progress on a new sports roadster and leading to layoffs amongst development staff.
In my speech at the Post's 150th Anniversary Gala, I rather pompously declared that what tied the 21st century title to its 19th century origins was the role of the Post as a 'place for ideas'.
What I meant was that it is the paper's job to represent and reflect upon current politicial, social and scientific thought in the Midlands, and by doing so encourage informed argument out of which comes progress. Through the Chamberlain revolution of the late 19th century, that was certainly the case, and I make no apologies for firmly believing that our move into the online world - particularly blogging - provides an opportunity to fulfil this ambition even more so.
Do you Twitter? I do. (and so do Hillary and Barack)
Occasionally I go whole days without Twittering, but then I need to get a fix and I just can't stop myself.
Sometimes I get such a severe dose of Twittorrhoea that I sit at my computer for what seems like hours, and only leave when I've got nothing left to Twitter.
What's this twit going on about now? you may ask.
I write this on the eve of The Birmingham Post's 150th Anniversary Gala Dinner, an event that celebrates exactly what it says on the tin.
We'll be celebrating the newspaper's history with just a little nostalgia, and perhaps a forgiveable amount of back-slapping, but moreover, the night sees the launch of the very website you are now reading.
Even as we look back and celebrate, the attention of my editorial colleagues, advertising staff and others is firmly focused on a future in which The Birmingham Post will be as vibrant a force online as it currently is in print.
The amazing hard work of everyone on the paper has resulted - I believe - in a truly historical advance for The Post. From now on, all the insight, news and analysis you have rightly come to expect from us is just a click away every minute of the day. We'll be breaking news and bringing you information on your sector of interest that you just can't get anywhere else - and even more than you can get in the newspaper.
Have a look around the site - our roster of knowlegeable and provocative bloggers will ensure The Post's reputation as a home for argument and debate live on into the digital age, and you can sign up for email alerts of your choosing. Even Post People has gone online, for heaven's sake!
As with any new project, sending one's new baby off into the world fills one with trepidation. Will it fulfill your expectiations? What are the services we don't currently have that you want to see? Tell me what you like and what you don't like.
I can't wait to hear from you.