The project is running from April 2021 to August 2023 and has been organised into three main stages as set out on the diagram below:

Phase 1: Reflecting on past practice and theory 

During this stage of the project we collected background information on the hidden histories of community-led planning (CLP) across the four UK nations since the 1960s. This involved:

  • Calling for evidence from those involved in community campaigns, groups or movements from the 1960s onwards, across various media. We have had 31 responses plus contact through social media, which has given us a better understanding of how communities have forwarded their own plans and proposals for how local places, neighbourhoods or land have been developed, controlled and changed
  • Bringing together a Steering Group of around ten CLP practitioners, experts and academics from across the four UK nations to discuss, advise and share their views on the project with the research team
  • Conducting and analysing in-depth interviews with 24 people across the UK who have had a long involvement in community-led planning and represent a range of institutional and personal positions in both urban and rural contexts from the 1960s
  • Collecting and analysing archival data in the form of: community and campaign publications and documents (such as leaflets, correspondence, reports and proposals related to CLP), which have been accessed from CLP participants, the interviewees and the uncatalogued archive of the Town and Country Planning Association’s (TCPA, our research partner). We have also accessed newsletters, articles, reports, pamphlets and journals published by the TCPA, the Council for Urban Studies Centres, Planning Aid, the Centre for Technical Aid, the Environmental Education Unit and Community Action journal; plus government documents on the Skeffington Committee and Report from the National Archives
  • Holding a Storytelling Event with around 35 participants to hear their experiences and histories of community-led planning 
  • Producing extensive timelines and records of CLP case studies and key policies, legislation, events and historical moments relevant to and shaping CLP’s histories from the 1950s
  • Reviewing a range of literature on CLP, from academic, public sector, campaign, voluntary and NGO sources

Phase 2: Revealing hidden histories

In the second stage of the research we narrowed our focus down to look in more depth at a series of case studies of CLP from across the UK. After scoping out a number of possible cases we have focused on the following episodes:

  • Birmingham, looking into various episodes across the city from the 1970s-1990s, this case study focuses on some of the community voices that are often hidden within CLP, including the experience of BAME communities and women’s planning initiatives. This case study has also been supported by knowledge exchange funding from Oxford Brookes University
  • London Docklands, this case study revisits a widely celebrated CLP episode, the People’s Plan for the Royal Docks, to question what gets remembered and what gets forgotten about community struggles
  • Gwynedd, looking at the emergence of a thriving ecology of community and cooperative enterprises and the role of Welsh language and culture in building and sustaining community action
  • Divis, Belfast: looking into the community campaign to have the Divis Flats in Belfast demolished and the role of the Town and Country Planning Association’s Planning Aid service in supporting their efforts
  • South Sheffield: considering the role of community action groups in the neighbourhoods of Sharrow, Heeley and Broomhall from the early 1970s onwards, this case study explores the grassroots of municipal socialism in Sheffield and the role of faith groups and radical community workers working in and against the state
  • Dundee Inner-City Neighbourhood Action Centre: this case study explores a relatively short lived attempt to create a neighbourhood centre in Hilltown that grew out of frustration with more limited forms of planning aid in the late 1970s
  • Laird Enterprise Trust, Birkenhead: examining the work of Tony Gibson to establish a hub for community enterprise in the former Birkenhead School of Art in the early 1980s. Part of the TPCA’s New Communities initiative, the project won a RIBA award but fell apart after the discovery of dry rot in the building.
  • Thanks to support from the Faculty of Social Sciences at the University of Sheffield and the ESRC Festival of Social Science we have also managed to  create a digital archive of the influential magazine Community Action that was published from 1972-1991 

    Phase 3: Enlivening Debates

    The final stage of the project will involve a series of dissemination events, locally and nationally that will be designed to bring the stories from our case studies into conversation with contemporary activists, campaigners and community-led planners. We will be announcing further details of these events in Summer 2023. During this time we will also be finalising our project website and beginning to produce a series of academic and non-academic publications.