Academic journal article The Town Planning Review

Mainstreaming Gender Equality: An Examination of the Gender Sensitivity of Strategic Planning in Great Britain

Academic journal article The Town Planning Review

Mainstreaming Gender Equality: An Examination of the Gender Sensitivity of Strategic Planning in Great Britain

Article excerpt

Spatial planning at the strategic level is an area of public policy in which issues of gender equality have previously not been researched in detail. This paper presents the first research in the environmental planning field to explore whether and how strategic agencies in Great Britain take a gendered approach to spatial planning policy. The findings of the author's survey of British strategic planning agencies undertaken in the summer of 1998 reveal particular gaps in understanding and knowledge and confirm the complex nature of the barriers to implementing an approach to planning that considers the needs of women and men. The results demonstrate the current capacity of strategic planning authorities to `mainstream' gender issues into the principles, strategies and practices of the public policy arena of planning.

Spatial planning at the strategic level is an area of public policy in which issues of gender equality have previously not been widely researched. Equality exists when disparities between women and men have been removed; it means achieving equality of rights, representation, opportunities and outcomes between women and men. A gender perspective acknowledges that the position of women can be improved through changes in the respective roles of women and men. This paper presents the first research in the environmental planning field to explore whether and how strategic planning authorities in Great Britain take a gendered approach to spatial planning policy. It begins by setting out the context for structure planning in Great Britain, before discussing the development of `mainstreaming' and outlining and discussing the key findings of a survey of structure plan authorities.

Background

The terminology of equality has evolved over time; new terms have come to the fore and many have been reinterpreted-`equality' may be said to exist when disparities between women and men have been removed. In this discussion, `equality' means achieving equality of rights, representation, opportunities and outcome between women and men. A gender perspective acknowledges that the position of women can only be improved through changes in the roles of women and men. It contrasts with a `women only' focus, which has resulted in interventions geared to rectifying specific disadvantage. Legislation and case law have tended to focus on equal opportunities (EO) in the employment field; however, positive action has shifted the emphasis to creating conditions more likely to result in equality of outcome.

Within the Reld of spatial planning in Britain, strategic policies address issues that have a regional or sub-regional significance. These include the location of large employment, housing, shopping and recreational areas, infrastructure projects, roads, communications and energy networks targeting particular towns and cities. The structure plan is the main statutory tool of strategic spatial planning in Great Britain outside Greater London and the English metropolitan areas and is produced either by counties, unitary authorities or, in some instances, by joint committees of adjoining planning authorities. A key weakness of the traditional structure plan has been that issues have been dealt with as discrete topics. Hence structure plans tend to have separate chapters on housing, the economy and transport with poorly developed linkages between the several issues and topics (Healey, 1989;Morris, 1995).Wong et al. (2000) have recently reiterated this deficiency in their recent study of the need for national spatial planning in Britain. Plans have not taken into account the way in which different groups of people live their everyday lives (Horelli, 1996). Central government's non-binding national and regional planning guidance provides the context for strategic land use development plans (DETR, various). In terms of equality, this guidance has been very non-specific. At the time this research was undertaken, local planning authorities (LPAs) must have regard to social considerations when developing policy and this clearly does not preclude authorities from considering equality and the needs of women and men. …

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