On the 15th November 2011 both houses of the Great British parliament passed the Localism Act. The Bill, sponsored by Eric Pickles and Baroness Hanham, aims to ‘devolve greater powers to councils and neighbourhoods and give local communities more control over housing and planning decisions.’ This Bill fosters the decentralisation of power to a greater emphasis on the actions of local authorities and the desires of the local communities.
This introduction of the Localism Bill can be analysed alongside the evolution of urban planning as discussed by Graham and Marvin in Splintering Urbanism (2001). Transitioning from an integrated system of top-down management, that may have ignored certain complexities of people’s lives, there was a collapse in this infrastructural ideal that allowed for the differential development of various sectors and input from multiple non-standardised positions.
‘…urban planning now tends to centre on projects rather than comprehensive and
strategic plans; on getting other agencies to deliver required urban services or infrastructures; and on pragmatic attempts to address perceived local problems rather than utopian or visionary frameworks for re-engineering metropolitan regions according to idealised blueprints or desired urban forms.’ (Graham & Marvin 2001:103)
In the same way, the Localism Bill has brought about the abolition of the Infrastructure Planning Commission as the decision-making body for proposed nationally significant infrastructure projects (NSIPs) in England and Wales. This has been replaced with the fairer and faster system managed by the Planning Inspectorate.
One area that has embraced the Localism Bill and especially one of the Act’s propositions; ‘to make provision about regeneration in London’ (Localism Act 2011 p.1), is the planning and development of land within urban settings. The consultancy Land Use Consultants (LUC) focusses its work on independent planning and on assessing the impact of ecological and environmental schemes within the UK and internationally. Specifically within London, LUC have been involved in 15 Business Improvement Districts that were audited to benefit businesses and local residents by improving the local area. They are also involved in other green infrastructure projects in conjunction with the council and have some influence in emerging local plans. This could be in the form of trees planted in the streets, green roofs or altogether bigger schemes such as their local food initiatives, which assesses the possibility of urban food growing as well as brings the management of food production into the hands of the community. This provides a different perspective from which to view these changing infrastructures regarding making planning decisions as more and more people can get involved and have a ‘right to infrastructure’ (as explored by Jiménez 2014). Through these decentralised infrastructural projects such as urban food gardens, is there a certain type of citizen being made that is involved in these infrastructures? The individual joined with the community now has much a more active role in making the city in infrastructural ways and can work towards ways of recovering their own agency within their own local environment.
Graham, Stephen & Marvin, Simon (2001) Splintering Urbanism: Networked Infrastructures, Technological Mobilities and the Urban Condition, Routledge Ltd.
Jiménez, Alberto Corsín (2014) “The Right to Infrastructure: a Prototype for Open Source Urbanism”. Environment and Planning D: Society and Space 32 (2): 342-362.
Localism Act 2011 c.20. Available at http://www.legislation.gov.uk/ukpga/2011/20/pdfs/ukpga_20110020_en.pdf (Accessed 5 March 2017)
Land Use Consultants website. http://landuse.co.uk/ (Accessed 5 March 2017)
LUC Urban Food: The role of planning and green infrastructure presentation, Emma Deen and Andrew Tempany, July 2011. Available at https://www.sustainweb.org/resources/files/presentations/LUC_GI_Planning_localfood.pdf [Accessed 5 March 2017]
Parliament website, information about the Localism Bill http://services.parliament.uk/bills/2010-11/localism.html [Accessed 5 March 2017]
Header image from http://www.independent.co.uk/environment/47-per-cent-of-london-is-green-space-is-it-time-for-our-capital-to-become-a-national-park-9756470.html