SPATIAL PLANNING: WHAT DOES IT ALL ADD UP TO?
Spatial planning in England has, until recently, provided an opportunity for integrated delivery to change places. Planning has only been able to identify what needs to be done but then has had to rely on others to exercise the power of initiative. It has not had a leadership role in developing and delivering systematic programmes of change in places over periods of time. It has often not been engaged in proactive approaches to regeneration, location of major new facilities such as community hubs or extended schools. Spatial planning reasserts this delivery role again. Spatial planning has the powers and the tools now to achieve these changes in ways that work through the use of evidence, consultation and with partners. The provision of additional housing remains an important focus of spatial planning but we now see this within the context of existing communities, facilities and wider infrastructure. Strategic sites are new pieces of townscape that need to integrate with existing areas, add quality to them and secure their futures. The introduction of spatial planning provides both opportunities and challenges. The opportunities for place shaping, coordination and enhancement of communities are considerable and the power of place as a leading narrative for our times cannot be underestimated. Spatial planning also provides a way of bringing together discussion between organisations about plans, to break down silos of difference and the competitive approaches that they sometimes bring. It presents ways of working within the ambit of the LSP and to deliver social, green and physical requirements for any area. Spatial planning is mainstream not peripheral. It is concerned with the investment budgets that are spent locally. These can frequently be hundreds of millions of pounds in a local authority area. The investment of two new schools, a health clinic and some flood defences can be considerable. Planning has moved from having a marginal, although important role in generating additional resources through developers’ contributions to a central role in the whole budget. As Table 12.1 demonstrates, spatial planning now has an integrated role which is horizontal and vertical, it is at the heart of delivery and supporting the economy. This is very different from land-use planning and demonstrates the shift that spatial planning represents in practice. This also provides some challenges. Planners need to extend their informal, negotiating and networking skills in order to ensure that they are effective in
operating the spatial planning system. This has presented some initial tensions as understanding has been developing. However, once the opportunities of spatial planning are recognised, planners report that they find this ‘exciting’, ‘what they came into planning to do’, ‘fascinating’ and ‘enthusing’. Communicating this more widely will also take time but partners and infrastructure providers recognise the strength of working together and some have said ‘at last! This is the final piece of the jigsaw for working together’. English spatial planning has developed at the local scale and can contribute this experience to others. It can also learn from others at different spatial scales whether in Europe, Australia, South Africa or North America.