The impact of localism on sustainable communities
13/08/2011 5:06 pm
This seems to be such a quickly evolving debate -however, I'd like to be able to talk about the impact of localism on the creation of sustainable communities from a housing perspective.
I have scoured the web- but have yet to find anything that throws any light on the matter.
I'm writing a university assignment on sustainable communities and am keen to be as up to date as possible, so any view, or references I could follow up would be very much appreciated,
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15/08/2011 9:36 am
You may want to research the origins of social housing, and also look for background in news archives for the many campaigns at planning stage against social housing being built in the areas concerned.
In very general terms, the existing community object to the proposal of new housing, sometimes more violently than other times. Planning gets approved and the housing is built. Some of the objecters children gain housing in the new scheme. The area becomes part of the community fabric, and if you proposed its removal the community would fight for its retention as hard as they did its inception.
My point is that taking the emotional consideration out of planning means communities gain resources and assets that they find in the longer term that the want and value. Putting emotional knee-jerking and nimbyism at the heart of planning risks only those most exclusive or largesse backed schemes going forward. The person with the biggest voice or biggest purse will dictate the policy over everyone else, including those future people who have no current voice.
Perhaps you could get yourself along to a Parish Council Meeting and hear for yourself the protectionism of conserving the current expressed, and then in the same meeting, or later by the same people, the bemoaning of lack of opportunity for housing for the community's young people, and the drain of young people to distant parts slowly making the area unsustainable. Localism, as prescribed, risks amplifying these negatives.
To make Localism positive people need to take control of the agenda, which currently would require the overthrow of Ministerial Powers.
18/08/2011 10:33 am
The principles of localism in terms of devolving power closer to communities is clearly consistent with the development of sustainable communities. However this assumes that community capacity is available to engage with these activities, in our experience this is very patchy and particularly in disadvantaged communities needs significant support to rebalance the relationships so that local people can have an effective voice.
This of course similarly relates to the 'Big Society' concept, however with the difficulties being experienced in the voluntary and community sector of maintaining their capacity, there are real issues of the degree to which they can support communities to respond to localism.
The Housing sector has a tradition of involving and working closely with its customers. Increasingly we see the need to direct more activity in working with communities in building capacity and we have established a programme of developing neighbourhood plans at Aspire, working closely with communities to shape priorities within their neighbourhoods based on improving social, economic and environmental outcomes.
In terms of resources to support your research, the HCA website and their learning resources are very useful, similarly organisations such as Joseph Rowntree Foundation and other public think tanks produce some interesting and contrasting perspectives. However given the newness of some of this policy agenda and its evolving nature there are some gaps at present. Best wishes in your studies.
18/08/2011 4:55 pm
Many thanks to you both for taking the trouble to respond.
Will, you raise an interesting point about about capacity issues. Having done some further digging around (there has been some interesting press coverage on localism) it strikes me that investment is needed in some places to equip communities and individuals with the skills they need to fully participate. Otherwise, there is a risk of established, articulate and well-resourced interest groups dominating the agenda.
Whether this support is likely to be forthcoming in the current age of austerity however, is open to debate..
18/08/2011 5:46 pm
The Localism concept fits well with some thinking about the role of some types of housing associations.
Smaller associations, rightly or wrongly, are perhaps regarded by those more comfortable with a Localism perspective, as closely associated
with a localism role.
The kind of organisation that has local roots,involves local people in delivery and perhaps governance, has devolved decision
making and so on.
However it is primararliy larger (developing) associations who have an active, and more widely recognised role in building
and supporting sustainable comunities. Critics sometimes regard localism as an excuse to withdraw funding from those organisations that are
supporting sustainable communities.
But sustainability in communities is now a hugely important question following the recent riots. So I suppose I would suggest a good approach
might be to look at might be the tensions between the two concepts.Dont forget the role of local authorities here either.
Perhaps also check out the Housemark site for info.on sustainability. Mike.
19/08/2011 3:18 am
Thank you Mike. You make a good - and very contemporary - point about the recent riots. Interestingly, when speaking to the CEO of a large HA in London around 18 months ago, they told me that they saw their core business as social housing provision, and that in the face of funding challenges, they were pruning their property-plus activities. I wonder if, once the furore settles down, this area will become the focus for renewed attention.
26/08/2011 1:33 am
Despite all this talk of localism, it seems to mean little in reality. Power is being devolved to local authorities, LAs are apparently not obliged to recognise local groups other than perhaps one amenity society per local area, thus excluding many communities, and planning changes actually disempower ordinary local people. I am a tenant of a large HA that does quite a bit of capacity building in terms of work skills, but when it comes to tenant involvement they seem to be very adept at controlling it so as to get the outcomes they want. I really don't see why capacity building for so-called localism should be the business of landlords. Many of them are patriarchal enough as it is, and there is nothing worse from a tenants point of view than being defined as incapable and in need of being upgraded by the superior landlord. The whole language around this subject reeks of Victorian do-goodery, and only serves to lower self-esteem even more.