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Infrastructure and spatial planning – general recommendations. November 2010. General issues about major infrastructure. These are important as planning is often far from the main issue. Handing over to the global market has been fundamentally problematic.

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Infrastructure and spatial planning – general recommendations

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Infrastructure and spatial planning general recommendations l.jpg

Infrastructure and spatial planning – general recommendations

November 2010


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General issues about major infrastructure

  • These are important as planning is often far from the main issue.

  • Handing over to the global market has been fundamentally problematic.

  • Dexter Whitfield book and work of PSIRU chronicle this.

  • Whitfield lays out programme for reassertion of public control.


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Whitfield proposals

  • Not simply arguing infrastructure deficits. Analysis should comprehensively take account of low carbon, sustainability, social priorities and financial realities, all for the long term.

  • Scope for creativity - new taxes, transparency of finance, harnessing pension funds, independent reviewing of forecasts and options.


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Need for new language

  • Main source is green thinking – the long term, the global, the holistic (not just economic values).

  • But has powerful opposition, so most recent policy is framed within neoliberalism, not beyond it (carbon credits etc).

  • Change needed may be too radical for easy new language invention.


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Planning specific guidelines 1

  • Long term and spatialised national strategies would help...

  • Articulation with the regional, well above local levels, also critical in some sectors – much of energy and intercity transport (in some sectors, good local policy could slowly phase out the need for such higher level articulating).

  • NPF Scotland certainly a start, NPSs less hopeful.


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Planning specific guidelines 2

  • Project speed up or “easier” consenting rarely the issue.

  • More adroit state action desirable, e.g. on consenting, but this can be separated from the substance of decision making.

  • Latter should allow maximum of time and deliberation, and be linked to the formation of general societal consensus. Failure of state and politics to create these consensuses in recent years (back to 1970s) at base of project resistance phenomena.


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Planning specific guidelines 3

  • Unlikely in present deep societal divisions, that societal consensuses will be created. So planning caught in a very difficult place.

  • Still, CNDP type and democratised public inquiry system remains the best path, even if this will not necessarily deliver for either “good” or “bad” projects.

  • Major infrastructure project decision making as a process of long term societal learning – will need years and significant state funding to build this up.

  • An articulated democratic governing system – proper regions, proper local authorities - is crucial to make this work, even though is partly “cultural”, that is, not all in the institutions.


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Example – nuclear power stations versus high speed rail

  • HSR2 may be do-able, because there is something more like a national consensus – so any planning tool set can probably achieve this, if led with political intelligence.

  • Energy consensus not made, so unlikely nuclear, or say tidal barrage, options will be at all easily done, under any possible planning tool set.


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Conclusions

  • Perhaps nothing at all surprising in the practical recommendations.

  • Comes back to planning wisdom of the past, enlivened by democratic commitments, illuminated from other countries.

  • But working out of 2008 UK-England and 2006 Scottish systems should be interesting – and might surprise us.


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