“It is commonly observed”, said Samuel Johnson, “that when two Englishmen meet, their first talk is of the weather; they are in haste to tell each other, what each must already know, that it is hot or cold, bright or cloudy, windy or calm.”
One could make a case that when two English planners meet, their first talk is of planning reform.
In the former case, it is perhaps that, whilst the weather is changeable, the English temperament is not, and passing the time with such platitudinous pleasantries avoids, heaven forbid, the need to have a conversation about anything important.
In the latter case, constant talk of reform seems almost like a similar communal comfort blanket. It relegates responsibility for meaningful change to a higher power to enact at some point in the future, absolving the individual, be that an individual political or an individual planner, of responsibility for change in the here and now.
And what would Dr Johnson make of the language of reform? ‘Fixing’ or ‘solving’ something are absolutist terms being applied to something that is not only manifestly subjective, but also, in the case, of housing and the built environment, a function of an entire culture rather than a single regulatory regime. One supposes though that there is not many votes in ‘improving’ the planning system or ‘alleviating’ the housing crisis.
We need to talk about reform, but not for what it might mean in the future. Sam is joined by:
- Shelly Rouse, Principal Consultant, Planning Advisory Service
- Vicky Payne, planner and urban designer, URBED
- Paul Smith, Managing Director at Strategic Land Group
BECG proudly supports the 50 Shades of Planning Podcast from Samuel Stafford, Regional Strategic Land Director at Barratt Developments.
If you’d like to take part in the podcast or want help managing or launching your own podcast then please get in touch on 0161 359 4100 or email Kevin Whitmore.