BY PLANNING DEMOCRACY
Many of the topics that are covered in Glasgow SANE’s People’s Plan housing, transport, city planning, equality, sustainability, health and economy are intertwined and all have roots in our land system. It seems that the cause of many of society’s problems lies in our broken land system.
The land use planning system impacts fundamentally on many aspects of people’s lives. The environment we live in impacts our health and well-being, economic opportunities and the services we have available to us. How land is developed, where development is located, who owns it and crucially who benefits from the value of land is a root cause of many underlying inequalities in society. The way our places, towns and cities are currently designed too often prioritises the interests of the market and profit maximisation at the expense of wider societal interests. The public interest is privately captured and monopolised.
The planning system regulates the development of land, and yet it is not widely understood and the causal links between land, planning and inequality are not fully appreciated. Its apparent complexity and opaqueness allows the problems to persist, to the benefit of those with power and vested interests.
Our land market is widely acknowledged as having failed those in greatest need of housing. There is a growing inequality between those who own houses and who benefit from house price rises, and an increasing number who struggle to pay rent to private landlords, living with constant insecurity and the threat of homelessness. Houses are often poorly constructed creating fuel poverty and health problems. Public green spaces are increasingly privatised, which has many impacts including denying children spaces for informal free play. Badly planned places can be unnavigable for those with disabilities or feel unsafe for women. The way streets are designed for cars, but not for those who can only afford to walk. All these are symptoms of the problem of a system that essentially puts profit before people and the list goes on!
Planning Democracy believe that we need systemic, transformative change that challenges and reforms the enduring power structures that create inequality, exclusion and oppression. The community voice is marginalised in the planning system but it particularly marginalises already marginalised groups and communities because it requires significant amounts of time, knowledge and expertise to navigate and influence. There’s a clear need for these communities to be supported to demand the changes they need and to ensure that new development meets their needs, not just those wanting to make a profit.
We know that engaging in the current system leaves people feeling alienated, isolated and disempowered. In some cases it leads to depression and anxiety states as people feel so powerless to affect a system that is designed against them. But our experience shows us that those we support are better able to become part of a movement of people calling for more fundamental change as they feel more confident and empowered to call for wider system change.
This is why we support the People’s Plan process, it recognises the cross cutting issues and the need to address them through a better more democratic planning process that gives people real control over the ways their places change.
For more information about Planning Democracy go to our website www.planningdemocracy.org.uk