RGS-IBG Annual International Conference 2019

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310 Communities and the trouble with house-building: citizen engagement in planning for new homes
Affiliation Planning and Environment Research Group
Postgraduate Forum
Convenor(s) Quintin Bradley (Leeds Beckett University, UK)
Charles Goode (University of Birmingham, UK)
Chair(s) Quintin Bradley (Leeds Beckett University, UK)
Timetable Friday 30 August 2019, Session 1 (09:00 - 10:40)
Room Huxley Building, Room 308
Session abstract The aim of this themed session is to draw together the latest international research on citizen engagement in planning for housing development with a particular focus on public objections to house-building.

Policy makers have become increasingly attentive to the motivations of citizens opposing housing development. In economies predicated on financialised housing markets, public objections to new house-building challenge policy makers to resolve conflict without disturbing the prevailing liberalised development model (Inch 2012). Their responses have included the introduction of third-party rights of appeal, and the devolution of statutory development planning to local communities (Brownill & Bradley, 2017; Ellis, 2000; Willey 2006).

Set against a crisis of housing affordability, and the widening gulf between housing as a public good and a private gain, this session asks how we should understand citizen objections to house-building (Gallent, Durrant & Stirling 2018). The planning objections of publics are still routinely delegitimised on the grounds that they act as self-interested NIMBYs who express their private interests and not societal concerns (Dear & Taylor, 1982; DeVerteuil, 2013). Studies of public opposition to new house building, however, show that objectors frame their challenge on environmental, ecological and heritage grounds in the context of democratic rights to be included in decisions over neighbourhood change (Cook, Taylor & Hurley, 2013; Matthews, Bramley, & Hastings 2015; Ruming, Houston & Amati, 2012; Wolsink, 2006).

In this themed session, we welcome papers that broadly reflect these issues and in particular that address the following themes:

• The motives for citizen objections to house-building and case studies of conflict and/or resolution
• Third party rights of appeal; neighbourhood planning and other institutional responses to citizen engagement in planning
• Community-led models of housing development
• Green Belt, heritage, conservation, and environmental concerns affected by housing development
• Questions of spatial knowledge, and the role of place and place attachment in community responses to housing development.
Contact the conference organisers to request a change to session or paper details: ac2019@rgs.org
Public good and private interests in planning for housing
Quintin Bradley (Leeds Beckett University, UK)
The prime characteristic of financialised housing markets is the elision of private commercial interests with the public good. In the development of new homes, the pursuit of increased ground rent by land owners and house-builders determines the provision of housing supply. A crisis of affordability and unequal distribution is subsumed into a hegemonic narrative of increased housing numbers. Deregulated planning systems are tasked with ensuring a constant supply of land to unbounded market demand from capital flows turning homes into assets. Long-held planning principles of environmental protection and place-making now appear less important than the requirement to allocate land to house-builders.
Democratic participation in planning operates a distinction between public good and private interests that serves to delegitimise and exclude objections to this privatised model of housing production and the financialisation of its consumption. The derogatory epithet NIMBY signals the boundary of intelligibility in democratic debate over housing supply with its assumption that public opposition to house-building is motivated by private homeowner interests in property values. Long-since emptied of any analytic content, this epithet of exclusion relegates public knowledge claims to a private sphere, dismissing concerns with the material impact of housing markets as lacking in objectivity and detachment. In this way, a privatised model of housing supply shaped by the financial interests of developers and landowners may be portrayed as a public good, while residents objecting to it are excluded as representing only private concerns.

This paper introduces the themed session ‘Troubled by Housebuilding’ and provides the context for the selection of papers that address the issue of community engagement in planning and the boundary between public and private interests in questions of housing supply.
Troubled by House-building: The Green Belt, England’s Housing Crisis and Local Communities
Charles Goode (University of Birmingham, UK)
England has a serious housing crisis, especially in terms of affordability, but the question of where new housing should be built is still extremely contentious. The Green Belt, in particular, has been blamed as a key factor in causing the housing crisis by academics, think tanks and commentators (e.g. Cheshire et al, 2014; Papworth, 2015; Wolf, 2015). In response, groups like CPRE and campaigners, often take a defensive position arguing that the housing crisis can be mostly met by brownfield development or that (most) new housing is unaffordable so does not meet local ‘need’ (CPRE 2015a, b).

This paper seeks to move the debate beyond these two polarised perspectives. Arguably much of the debate has been focused on London and the South East (Mace, 2018) whereas this paper is focused more on regional Green Belts, in particular the West Midlands Green Belt. Moreover, the Green Belt debate is often framed in economic terms but this project is seeking to engage extensively with planning practitioners to examine the Green Belt more from a planning perspective.

Data collection is still ongoing but three preliminary findings are emerging. Firstly, in relation to governance, there is widespread dissatisfaction throughout the profession with the current localist planning system and the way Green Belt is being released incrementally rather than as part of a strategic, regional planning approach. Secondly, opposition to Green Belt development is often driven by fear of change as much as, if not more than, material concerns about house prices. Thirdly, to address the current imbalance of power in the planning system, other non-property owning groups must be included in the Green Belt ‘conversation’. This includes potentially widening the debate about Green Belt to include the type of (new) housing built, the land market/ land assembly and the affordability of new housing.
The inclusion of local culture in a community-led model of housing development in Jakarta, Indonesia
Gina Hasibuan (University of Birmingham, UK)
Scholars maintain an increasing phenomenon of financialisation in the urban space has an interlink with the escalation of inequality in the urban space which has created more challenges for low-income citizens to secure affordable housing (Fields, 2015; Gotham, 2016). This results in the escalation of informal settlements in the urban area. The proliferation of informal settlements could not be separated from planning and from this viewpoint, the transition from a centralised to a decentralised system of governance has left a gap in the approaches to housing provision. The current approach still shows fragmentation and inequality between the stakeholders and the lack of community participation in informal settlement, and thus this research maintains to fill this gap. By using a qualitative approach in a case study in Jakarta, this research maintains a hypothesis that the combination of co-production with the support of local culture and collaborative governance will enable the delivery of affordable housing for low-income citizens. Findings indicated that gotong-royong which is practiced consistently by informal settlement residents as local culture should be integrated in community empowerment in order to strengthen residents’ potential to understand their power and to contribute their knowledge in housing planning. Gotong-royong should be harnessed in a way that inequality that occurs in the community either in the form of their lack of knowledge about housing planning mechanism or based on gender perspective, where women’s position is still unequal. The thesis argues that gotong-royong should be a foundation of an independent community organisation that works outside the government’s institution which expands co-production concept in the global south.
NIMBY neighbours? Planning for housing at the hyper-local level
Andy Yuille (Lancaster University, UK)
Neighbourhood planning was introduced to England in 2011 as part of a suite of planning reforms intended to increase housing supply. It aimed to reduce opposition to housebuilding by enabling local communities to write their own planning policies, thereby repositioning development as a benefit that meets community needs, rather than an externally imposed harm. However, it has also been criticised as a ‘NIMBY’s charter’, allowing unrepresentative, privileged actors to block much-needed development.

This paper analyses these claims using data from a four-year ethnographic study of two neighbourhood planning groups (NPGs), both of which arose primarily out of conflicts over housebuilding. After outlining the characteristics of so-called NIMBY opposition, I describe the different issues each NPG engaged with regarding housing, their approaches to them, and the outcomes. I draw out common themes across the case studies that illuminate their motivations, focused on (i) (rational) mistrust of the methods, assumptions, institutions, and alignments through which the state produces supposedly objective knowledge; and (ii) reliance on both use and non-use values to shape and justify their decisions.

I argue that this indicates they are motivated by both personal attachments and public goods, but that the ways of knowing and valuing underpinning this are marginalised in the planning system, allowing their dismissal. The NIMBY narrative requires the performance of a strong separation between actors that pursue the public good based on objective evidence, and those that pursue selfish interests based on subjective feelings, irrationality, and/or a failure to understand objective evidence. I argue that this binary opposition is misrepresentative. NPGs see both potential benefits and harms in new development. They attempt to mitigate these harms and meet community needs as they understand them, remaining broadly mistrustful of the ability of the state or the willingness of developers to do so.
Sites of Activism: The location of consensus in objections to housing development
Tom Morton (The Open University, UK)
The UK’s financialised housing market - where the growth incentive drives housebuilding (HCLG, 2018) - has failed to meet need, indicated by housing shortage and issues of affordability (Wilson & Barton; 2018). Commitment to this model, can create difficulties for communities to express their discontent through formal channels. This paper examines two cases where non-statutory citizen-actors oppose development in their area. These community-led design [CLD] initiatives are interventions steered by community organisations in London (Wards corner Community Coalition – WCC) and Edinburgh (Fountainbridge Canalside Initiative - FCI). The study considers how citizen-actors perceive the socio-technical relations in their communities to be configured, before looking at the principles underlying their use of CLD as an intervention. Data is derived from interviews with members of each initiatives’ steering group, followed by a workshop gathering members from each initiative, capturing their perspectives, the context in each case, and any actions taken.

Both cases frame their objections as against top down, liberalised development. Whilst both strive to build capacity to resist this form of development outside of statutory channels and through collective networks, the interactions of these networks with state actors indicate contrasting principles of engagement. From the workshop we learn that WCC’s opposition is directly framed as against the local authority, where any interactions between the two are seen as strategic and/or necessary. FCI on the other hand seek legitimacy in the eyes of the local authority in the early stages of their project, through a process of infrastructuring. This paper will argue that these initiatives rely on non-statutory collective power to resolve socio-spatial issues they perceive as arising from exploitative socio-technical relations and ineradicable conflicts of interest. Although the current policy can facilitate innovative community engagement, this engagement takes place within specific models of development that are not acceptable to certain communities.