Planning and urban policies

Planning and urban policies

Cities 1994 11 (4) 271-273 Bookwatch Planning and urban policies Among the wide range of UK planning policies, green belts are the most popular, tang...

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Cities 1994 11 (4) 271-273

Bookwatch Planning and urban policies Among the wide range of UK planning policies, green belts are the most popular, tangible, and effective (nearly one-seventh of England is covered by formal green belts). The foremost analyst of this area of policy is Professor Martin Elson (author of Green

Belts: Conflict Mediation in the Urban Fringe, Heinemann, London, 1986). He was the natural choice to lead a study of The Effectiveness of Green Belts, commissioned by the Department of the Environment, and now published by HMSO (1993, 267 pp, £19 paperback). The study is on a large scale, covering all aspects of green belt policy in both England and Scotland (Wales has no formal green belts and was therefore excluded). The green belts are seen to be pivotal to planning policy, and the study found "no dissenters to the view that green belts are successfully being used to check unrestricted sprawl and prevent towns from merging'. But there are some worrying features of the impact of green belts which raise questions on which the answers are quite unclear. For example, can a green belt policy lead to undesirable 'urban intensification'? Elson poses the question neatly: Little is known on a systematic basis about land use changes in the suburbs, and their effect on movement, open space, pollution and other quality of life indicators . . . There may be areas of green space in towns and cities which, if developed, would adversely affect living conditions for more people than if equiwflent land of lower amenity and ecological quality in green belts was developed. This leads to the recommendation that green belts should be used as a policy instrument at subregional and regional scales. Outside the terms of reference of this study is the question of the adequacy of the governmental organization to achieve this. Given a better political and administrative framework, much improvement to the planning system could be effected by the implementation of the numerous s e n -

ible recommendations contained in this study. If 'urban intensification' is a problem in the UK, the opposite is the case in the USA, though paradoxically the desirable institutional response (regional government) may be the same. A spirited short book by David Rusk, former mayor of Albuquerque, argues the case for metropolitan area governments, or Cities without Suburbs as he calls them. This is the title of his book, written while he was a Guest Scholar at the W o o d r o w Wilson C e n t e r (Woodrow Wilson Center Press, 1993, 147 pp, $29 hardback, $13.95 paperback; distributed by the Johns Hopkins University Press, Baltimore). A detailed study of census data supports Rusk's argument that cities without metropolitan government have suffered severe racial segregation and the emergence of an urban underclass. By contrast, in politically integrated metropolitan areas (even when they are poorer) "poverty, dependency, and crime have not reached critical mass, and their cities are succeeding'. These latter cities - termed "elastic' by Rusk - have realized area-wide development. On the other hand 'inelastic' cities with a high density population locked within existing boundaries have lost their middle-class tax base to areas outside the city limits and have suffered acute segregation by race and economic class. Critics will not find it difficult to fault Rusk on some of his specific points, but the broad sweep of his argument carries conviction. Increasing urban sprawl has led many US states to devise innovative policies for growth management. It has to be said that these have faced great obstacles - from developers, land owners, and others concerned with protecting property rights and the freedom to make profits from land. Nevertheless, some progress has been made, and this is chronicled in John DeGrove's The New Frontier for Land

Policy. Planning and Growth Manage-

0264-2751/94/04/0271-03 © 1994 Butterworth-Heincmann Ltd

ment in the States (Lincoln Institute of Land Policy, 113 Brattle Street, Cambridge, MA 02138-3400, USA, 1992, 176 pp, US18.95 paperback). DeGrove wrote the classic text on growth management (Land Growth and Politics, Planners Press, Chicago, 1984), and is currently working on a full up-date of this. The present book is 'an interim status report' on the handful of systems which have been introduced. Despite the deep recession of the early 1990s, growth management programmes have largely survived, though many have had a difficult time. DeGrove is optimistic that 'growth management systems are here to stay, and that other states will adopt such systems over the rest of the 1990s and beyond'. Another book on the subject edited by Jay M. Stein, Growth Man-

agement: The Planning Challenge of the 1990s (Sage, Newbury, Park, CA, 1993, 238 pp, US$46 h a r d b a c k , US$23.95 paperback) goes over much of the same ground, but has a wider focus. It includes papers on 'housing e l e m e n t s ' in growth m a n a g e m e n t plans, transportation, and other infrastructure issues. Again a note of cautious optimism is sounded. It will be interesting to see what DeGrove's later book has to report. (It is expected to be published by the Lincoln Institute in 1995.) US urban problems are more acute than those in Europe, though it is more than possible that European experience will come to mirror that of the USA. It is therefore useful to establish which of the many policies that have been tried in the USA have had an impact on the problems to which they are addressed. A most useful survey of precisely this issue is provided by a Rand report edited by James B. Steinberg, David W. Lyon and Mary E. Vaiana: Urban America:

Policy Choices for Los Angeles and the Nation (Rand Corporation, 1700 Main Street, Santa Monica, CA 90407-2138, 1992, 3 6 8 p p , US$20 paperback).


Bookwatch Though focused on Los Angeles, this study has a far wider import. It deals with three main areas where the Rand Corporation has developed special expertise: children, youth, and families; crime and criminal justice; and public services and welfare. The conclusions warn against easy solutions to complex problems: the most that can be claimed is that 'in a number of cases, policy can be targeted to produce a beneficial outcome, even if it does not completely eliminate the problem'. Preventive policies are appealing, although our understanding of prevention is seriously limited. More generally, government policies can have only limited effects, especially if they 'swim against broad social and economic currents'. However, the message is not one of despair; rather is it of the importance of realistic expectations and the need to devise policies which work with, rather than against, underlying social forces. Economic prosperity can help, though even if it is sustained it is not sufficient: 'the most vulnerable are the ones who need most help and are the last to benefit from a rising tide'. Adequate diagnosis is extremely important: ~misdiagnosis' leads to wasteful, inept (and perhaps counterproductive) policies of which there are unfortunately far too many examples. (The most striking of these is the simple belief that "get tough' policies will reduce crimes. On this, the report concludes that 'instead of calling for tougher crime control measures, policymakers should have used the opportunity of Los Angeles's recent civil disturbance to educate public opinion about the limited role that criminal justice agencies play in crime control'.) This report is sobering and disturbing: it is essential reading for anyone concerned with urban policy. Despite the value of the Rand report, it is obvious that policies are not easily exportable, even when the problems look similar. This issue is directly addressed in Robin Hambleton and Marilyn Taylor's edited collection of essays, People in Cities: A Transatlantic Exchange (School for Advanced Urban Studies, University of Bristol, Rodney Lodge, Grange Road, Bristol BS8 4EA, 1993, 257 pp,


£12.95 paperback). This reiterates the theme that 'there is no quick fix' but, drawing on US experience, it seems clear that a significant lesson is that local action is of great importance. In this, local government can play a leading role - one which is very different from its traditional function of providing services. This is in harmony with currently conventional wisdom on local government as an 'enabling' agent. Before this can work, however, 'The ideological gulf that separates the civic and business cultures needs to be bridged'. The essays in this volume demonstrate both the importance and the difficulty of this. A more detailed discussion of one area in which local government could act in an 'enabling' way is given by Robina Goodlad in a volume in the Longman/Institute of Housing series: The Housing Authority as Enabler (Longman, Harlow, 1993, 211 pp, £14.95 paperback). This highlights some of the difficulties that beset local authorities as 'enablers'. In addition to their possible reluctance to take on this role in place of the direct provision of housing, there are difficulties of powers and resources. The last in particular can be very restrictive. Additionally, there is the question of how far central government might impose restraints on a local authority which, in seeking to fulfil its enabling role might go further than central government considers desirable. Posing the question in this way, of course, leads to wider issues concerning the future of local government. These are examined in another Longman series, Local Economic" and Social Strategies, which will be discussed in the next Bookwatch. Much of the debate on planning and environmental policy is unproductive since there is disagreement not only about the solutions but also about the nature of the problems. Frames of reference, values, political beliefs, and assumptions differ. Arguments are often about arguments - or, to use the title of a new book edited by Frank Fischer and John Forester - about The Argumentative Turn in Policy Analysis and Planning (UCL Press, London, 1993, 3 3 6 p p , £14.95 paperback). Building on the work of previous

theorists, the contributors to this volume bring recent work on language and argumentation to bear on practical concerns of policy analysis and planning. European and US authors examine the interplay of language, action and power in terms of both applied and theoretical debates. This is an important book which throws new light on the nature of the policy making and planning process. It is not always easy to comprehend, but the effort is well worthwhile. Try starting with the chapter by Martin Rein and Donald Schon, which opens with these words: Stubborn policy controversies tend to bc enduring, relatively immune to resolution by reference to evidence, and seldom finally resolved. There is a great deal in this book which is of interest and value to policy makers as well as to students of policy making. An example of the problems of policy choices in one particular area is given by George Fallis in a monograph entitled On Choosing Policy Instruments: The Case o f Non-profit Housing, Housing Allowances, or Income Assistance (Pergamon, Oxford, Progress in Planning, 1992, 88 pp, £31 paperback). This is a technical analysis of the policy choice between the three named instruments. It deftly shows that, although much of the debate on housing is couched in the specific terms of housing policy, "the central issue in adequate consumption of all necessities. But this is an income problem, not a housing problem'. The problems ought to be considered t o g e t h e r - not separately. Common Ground is a small organization which deserves to be better known. It aims 'to encourage new ways of looking at the world to excite people into remembering the richness of the commonplace and the value of the everyday'. A volume of conference papers epitomises its work: Local Distinctiveness: Place, Particularity and Identity, edited by Sue Clifford and Angela King, (Common Ground, 41 Shelton Street, London WC2H 9HJ, 1993, 85 pp, £5.95). This is delightful and evocative little book. A valuable series of Readers in

Cities 1994 Volume 11 Number 4

Book watch History is being published by Longman. Previous volumes have dealt with the medieval, the Tudor and Stuart, and the 18th century periods. The fourth and final volume is The

Victorian City: A Reader in British Urban History 1820-1924 edited by R.J. Morris and R. Rodger (Longman, H a r l o w , 1993, 382 pp, £1l paperback). Published in association with the Centre for Urban History at Leicester University, the series provides an introduction to recent literature on British urban history. The blurb states that the book "brings together twelve of the most innovative articles on Victorian urban history to have appeared in recent years'. With a highly informative introduction by the editors, this collection will be not only of great interest to historians but also of wide general appeal. Good books often provide material for good newspaper articles. Although the reverse is seldom true, Simon Jenkins proves its possibility brilliantly with 7he Selling of Mary Davies and Other Writings (John Murray, London, 1993, 180 pp, £17.99 hardback). This collection of essays (some based on newspaper articles, some published for the first time, others from a variety of sources) will be of fascination to lovers of stories about London. The title is taken from the story of the baby girl who inherited the Manor of Ebury in Westminster at the time when it began to grow after the great Fire of 1666. In Jenkins's words, Mary Davies 'swiftly became one of Britain's most desirable matrimonial properties'. It was the Grosvenors of Cheshire who bought her, though not before Lord Berkeley tried and failed - to raise the purchase price. This is only one of the score of stories which Jenkins deftly narrates in this most attractive volume. The British new towns are given a sympathetic review in Colin Ward's New Town, Home Town (Calouste Gulbenkian Foundation; distributed by Turnabout Distribution, 27 Horsell

Cities 1994 Volume ll Number 4

Road, London N5 1XL, 1993, 159 pp, £10 paperback). This is a personal interpretation of 'the lessons of experience' (to quote the subtitle). Ward provides a much-needed corrective to the critical press which the new towns have often received. He writes persuasively, and with conviction. This is an excellent, very readable introduction to the origins, history, and achievements of the new towns. Buildings and Power is the magnum opus of Thomas A. Markus, Emeritus Professor of Building Science at the University of Strathclyde (published by Routledge, London, 1993, 343 pp, £75 hardback, £25 paperback). Subtitled Freedom and Control in the Origin of Modern Building Types, this substantial work sets out to explore comprehensively the social meaning of buildings. 'Meaning in buildings" is shown to be about a range of different r e l a t i o n s h i p s - 'between people, between people and knowledge, and between people and things'. In essence, 'these relations are expressions of power'. This theme is analysed, with numerous illustrations, for several building types including those for 'the sad, the bad, and the mad': hospitals, prisons and asylums. Markus shows how the design of these and other buildings such as workhouses, libraries, factories, and markets 'materially separates the sexes, classes, and races to maintain the status quo and reflect strong social trends. This thoughtful and stimulating book makes accessible a huge area of research. It will be of interest well beyond the design professions to whom it will particularly appeal.

Shorter notices Arguably, employment policy should be at the centre of coordinated urban policies, but employment presents its own organizational problems as is illustrated in Welfare System Reform edited by Edward T. Jennings and Neal S. Z a n k ( G r e e n w o o d Press,

Westport, CT, 1993, 249 pp). This study emanates from the work of the National Committee for Employment Policy which reported to President Bush in 1991. It is essentially concerned with improved coordination of US employment and training programmes. Telling's Planning Law and Practice has now been revised by R.M.C. Duxbury (Butterworths, London, 9th edition, 1993, 395 pp, £18.95 paperback). The revision is substantial, but the nice blend of statutory provisions and case law continues to characterise this indispensable short account of planning law. A comprehensive account of housing options for the elderly in the US is given in Stephen M. Goland, Housing America's Elderly (Sage, Newbury Park, CA, 1992, 354pp, US$41.95 hardback, US$19.95 paperback). Two further volumes in the Aspects of Britain series are Broadcasting (HMSO, London, 1993, 91 pp, £5 paperback) and History and Functions of Government Departments" (HMSO, London, 1993, 131 pp, £5.50 paperback). The latter is particularly useful in tracing the changing patterns of central government organisation of housing, urban and planning policies. An extensively revised new edition of A.H. Birch, The British System of Government (Routledge, London, 9th edition, 1993, 295 pp, £12.99 paperback) includes an additional chapter on the European Community. The importance of cycling as a healthy, cheap and efficient means of transport is made well demonstrated in Cycle Policies in Britain: The 1993 CTC Survey (Cyclists' Touring Club, 69 Meadrow, Godalming, Surrey GU7 3HS, 1993, 72 pp, £5 paperback).

J Barry Cullingworth Department of Land Economy University of Cambridge Cambridge CB3 9EP, UK