We are nearing the end of the first stage of our research during which we collected background information on the hidden histories of community-led planning (CLP) across the four UK nations since the 1960s. By trawling through archives, analysing documents and interviewing people who have had a long involvement in community-led planning, we have gained a better understanding of the way that CLP has been practiced, talked about and understood in different places, by different people and at different times. We also held a storytelling event in November 2021, with around 35 people from across the UK sharing their own experiences of local CLP initiatives.
This work is guiding our selection of around eight in-depth case studies for the project’s next phase, starting in November 2021. The data we have collected so far has also kick-started the development of a digital archive as we are uncovering leaflets, newsletter, artefacts, personal testimonies and other materials related to CLP, from the mid 20th century onwards.
A more detailed summary of what we have done so far (April – October 2021):
- Called 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
- Brought 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
- Conducted and analysed 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
- Collected and analysed 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
- Held a Storytelling Event with around 35 participants to hear their experiences and histories of community-led planning
- Produced 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
- Reviewed a range of literature on CLP, from academic, public sector, campaign, voluntary and NGO sources
What we have found out so far is that CLP takes many forms, including alternative People’s Plans, fighting demolition and major infrastructure interventions, campaigns, educating communities about urban issues and planning, directly delivering change in the form of buildings and services and bringing a whole range of different actors togethers. There are also many views on what CLP is and what it is not, ranging from involvement in planning outside the formal planning system,to empowering local communities, and delivering different environmental outcomes for local areas. We have also been able to identify different ‘eras’ of CLP when wider social, political and cultural changes helped shape local movements and priorities. This has enabled us to synthesise and map the hundreds of different grassroots CLP actions within wider social change, providing a strong foundation for the rest of the project.