Academic journal article The Town Planning Review

Shaping, Making and Managing Places: Creating and Maintaining Sustainable Communities through the Delivery of Enhanced Skills and Knowledge

Academic journal article The Town Planning Review

Shaping, Making and Managing Places: Creating and Maintaining Sustainable Communities through the Delivery of Enhanced Skills and Knowledge

Article excerpt

The role of planners in the shaping, making and management of place is frequently misunderstood and often contested by other professionals. These difficulties reflect problems of definition and practice, and also represent weaknesses in the education, training and continuing professional development of planners and associated professionals. This article first explores the origins, evolution and content of the place shaping, making and management debate, with particular reference to the implications for skills and knowledge development. Following this initial discussion, attention turns to the emergence and various dimensions of sustainable communities policy and practice; specific attention is paid here to the skills required in order to create and maintain such places. The final section of the paper offers conclusions on the nature and content of the education and training of planners and other professionals, and presents some thoughts on the likely future development of policy and practice.

Although the majority of planners in the UK would claim to play an important role in the shaping, making and management of individual places, their role is frequently misunderstood - often by their fellow planners - and is also heavily contested by other professionals and the many non-professional actors involved in this crucial area of activity. This situation of confusion and contestation is nothing new. Indeed, it can be considered to represent the current manifestation of the long-standing difficulties encountered by spatial planning in the UK in seeking to establish a common sense of purpose and responsibility with regard to the inter-linked processes of planning, changing and improving places (Morphet, 2007).

What can be gleaned from even the most superficial assessment of the performance of the UK planning system over the past 60 years is an overall impression of planning - with notable exceptions - having failed to match the hopes and expectations of those responsible for the 1947 Town and Country Planning Act, with the most severe period of under-performance occurring during the 1980s (Cherry, 1993). Although it can be argued that much of this under-performance can be explained by reference to undue and often unjustified political interference in the structure and operation of the planning system, along with the restricted nature of the ability of public authorities and agencies to fully implement approved plans, it is also possible to point to the failure of the planning profession itself to address fundamental matters of purpose and practice. This latter source of failure can be seen to have contributed both to the difficulties encountered and to a loss of confidence in the ability of planning and planners to tackle such difficulties. Compounding the problems encountered by planning itself, it is also possible to identify a further source of weakness which results from the progressive fragmentation of responsibility for the shaping, making and management of place. In essence, the move to an aspatial turn in much public policy and practice from the late 1970s onwards led to the reinforcement of separate 'silo' working, and this separation of intent and function acted to undermine the very purpose of planning during the 1980s and early 1990s.

The difficulties noted above have also been exacerbated by weaknesses in the education, training and continuing professional development of planners and associated professionals. While these weaknesses in part reflect problems associated with the changing role of planning and its incomplete mandate, especially with regard to the provision of powers to ensure effective implementation, they also represent an important outcome of the preponderance of 'silo' thinking and behaviours. Compounding these difficulties has been the failure to consider place shaping, making and management as a set of inter-linked activities best undertaken through a common philosophy and approach, joint working between professionals, and the development and application of shared generic skills and knowledge (Egan, 2004). …

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