The Geographies of Viability Planning

London, Planning

In a recent new publication Whig researchers Jess Ferm and Mike Raco explore the geographies of viability-driven planning reform in England.

Drawing on interviews and fieldwork in London and the North East region, the paper reflects on the variable outcomes and challenges in places with different development markets, political cultures, development histories and capacities for action. It finds that viability-driven planning is further entrenching already existing spatial disparities and inequalities and draws conclusions about the state of English urban policy in the context of a broader shift towards the marketisation of planning.

The paper also calls for more research on the variables that shape urban planning patterns and questions widely-held international perceptions that see English urban policy as a relatively well-established and influential field of policy – or an example for other countries to learn from or follow.  Whilst the focus of such attention tends to be on high-profile examples, such as the London Docklands or Salford Quays, the reality is of a policy environment that is becoming increasingly fragmented in terms of ownership, resources, and control. The capacity to undertake major urban renewal and estate-led regeneration projects in the future is eroding, just as the need for such interventions is expanding.

The paper is also coming out a time of further market-led reform in England, with the publication of a major consultation, Planning for the Future, that promises the most radical shake-up in the planning system since the 1940s.  The analysis points to the lack of attention to geographical variations and differences within existing policies and their failure to systematically and strategically think-through the spatial development implications of increased reliance on the market. The new proposals are likely to increase and reproduce existing inequalities and uneven patterns of spatial development.

You can read more at: Ferm, J. and Raco, M. (2020) Viability Planning, Value Capture and the Geographies of Market-Led Planning Reform in England, Planning Theory and Practice, Vol 21, Issue 2, pp. 218-235.

Image: Salford Quays Brandon Mellors via unsplash.

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