Politics of Planning
The British planning system has evolved as a result of various social, economic and political events that took place in the last two centuries. The planning system is constantly evolving and now the emphasis is being given to ensure that the planning system is flexible so that it could cope with diverse requirements and keep up with the pace of changing nature of problems. Planners were regarded as experts who were given the liberty of modelling and predicting the future of cities. The local council took decision when an area was to be redeveloped. In 1972, an area called Millfield in Sunderland in the north east of England was taken under clearance and redevelopment by the local council. They decided to rehouse the residents. They were nineteenth century single storey terraces to house the factory workers.
Local council secured money from the Central government for the redevelopment of the area. Inspite of Millfield having a powerful residents association, it seemed as though they were only to defend the decisions of the planners and announced their plans. Planners paid little or no attention to the views of the public. To add to this, the chairman of the planning committee requested the residents association to address all correspondence to the planners and not him and he explained to them that the planning committee followed the recommendations of the planners. The planners remained adamant regarding the issue of public addressing the planners directly instead of the Chairman.
There was a huge consultation gap. Planners did not consider it necessary to consult the public on the planning matters. This led to a number of factual inaccuracies because Council failed to look get adequately involved with the matters concerning the public. Although there were some meetings between the planners and the residents association in which the planners only announced their plans and took no notes of the opinion of the people in the residents association.
The Millfield case demonstrates the use and misuse of the powers of the planners, the lack of rationality that reflected from the attitudes of the planners. There are some darker questions concerning the attitudes, ethics and responsibilities of the planners when it came to executing the plans. The unpopular proposals were executed for areas that affected many thousands of people.
Planners misused their position of power and carried out forced implementation of the proposals for an area without the consent of the public. They believed that they were taking decisions for public good and that residents were acting irrationally without considering the fact that planners were trained professionals and only took decisions based on factual data and the soundness of technical research. However, this attitude of planners did have implications. Anything that went wrong with planning, the planners were to blame. Although a lot of emphasis is being given to the consultation, the planners are always held responsible if anything ever went wrong with planning decisions.