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presentation to UK Ireland planning research conference 12-14 September
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presentation to UK Ireland planning research conference 12-14 September


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  • Talk focusses on the opportunity spaces within what we call the RUF. This is a interdisciplinary team project funded by the RELU programme . I am leading this presentation today
  • Use of the word fuzzy signifies soft and fluid boundaries of the RUF Important addition to many definitions by looking at the people who shape the area. See RUF defined by nature/interests of people who live there as much as land uses. This brings into RUF zone commuter areas in what might have been seen as previously rural
  • Range of terms that characterise the fringe. Positive and Negative but reflecting its important status as the key zone of land use change and contestation. Key role of GB tends to dominate debates.
  • The Academic literature has been notably silent on the URF and RUF but these snapshots seeing some important contributions that reinforce the negative and positive aspects conveying both potential and urgency in sound planning and policy responses.
  • Today the RUF is at the heart of a media frenzy associated with the Coalition governments ideas for planning reform with a presumption in favour of development. Fears of a free for all by the national trust RSPB and others reflect the lack of strategic planning in such areas with all too often an urban focus for such spaces. Yet there are alternative views based on more localised solutions involving environmental solutions from rural traditions Ultimately there are many contested ideas of what these areas should be used for ; hence the need for proactive responses.
  • Our research project tries to address this by taking an interdisciplinary perspective using mixed methods to the RUF problem/opportunity , Today I will focus on emerging results from the visioning exercises we have been doing in north Worcestershire. But first briefly a quick synopsis of our research and conceptual approach as revealed in this diagram. At the heart of the research lies the idea of fusing spatial planning and ecosystem approaches to capitalise on their synergies. Through reflective pieces by members of the team together with state of the art reviews of literature we have identified 3 main themes to build our intelligence on. Time Connections Values So when we look at the RUF we put on a different glasses; new lenses to appreciate ruf potential
  • So in fusing SP and EA we start to see the way a traditional masterplan approach with various sectoral landuses can identify the environmental/cultural goods and services that can be maximised. Here multifunctionality becomes a key goal set within multi scalar and temporal dependencies The example here Hampton in Peterborough, one of our visioning sites shows how a 25 year masterplan project has realised important outcomes within which this small scene forms but a small part. Seen within the context of a 5600 settlement with associated infrastructure and greenspace and Special Area of Conservation. A historical brickworks site the new development was a blank brownfield canvas
  • Connections: assess how RUF landscape, people, communities, institutions, ecosystem services are connected (scale). Temporal : look at how time affects the shape and evolution of the RUF. Values : look at predominant values in decision-making and drivers of change that shape RUF. Decisions: look at the key decisions on RUF Learn from good, bad or controversial situations. Who influences decisions and planning processes?
  • Focus on the North Worcestershire visioning exercise. 16 representatives across business, community and environmental sectors. Aim to assess the RUF personality past present and future. As a group to share their experiences within a facilitated exchange.
  • We developed the idea of a RUF transect. This reflects a gradient of change within the RUF along which we could sample the fringe. Using the work from the Worcestershire Green Infrastructure partnership we were able to select a transect that maximised the environmental character areas that had been defined from a large scale GIS exercise across a range of environmental data sets Resource and time constraints for the exercise restricted us to 3 areas.
  • Site 1 was the new town of Redditch some 78000 people. Formed in the 60s as a solution to the growth of Birmingham. Subsequent development has pushed Redditch to the edge of its boundaries and it shares service functions with Bromsgrove district. Site 2 overlooks Alvechurch and is in the heart of green belt territory in Bromsgrove District. Site 3 is the local landscape designation of Lickey Hills with views out to the Birmingham edge (North) and Malvern Hills (South)
  • These are photos of the viewpoints. Vp 1 was on level 5 of Grosvenor House in Redditch with fantastic views out the Western edge of Redditch Bromsgove boundary.
  • The method built on work that i did in 2004 for the Welsh Assembly (what kind of countryside do we want) At each viewpoint we split the group up into 3 and led separate discussions about the RUF past, present and future. The talks were taped and transcribed and also each member was given a notebook to put down their views including those voiced and unvoiced. Each view was on a separate page of paper so as you can see we had a debreif session at the end where everybody could see the range of resposnes at each site across all groups. (also had a nice cream tea!)
  • So I want to present the emerging results under our key themes to give you flavour of the insights.
  • Role of green belt shaping development and its fitness for purpose versus more environmental shaped boundaries approaches Role of farming and long term management for landscape to be so valued and multifuctional . Notion that if we want this type of landscape we will have to pay for it.
  • Discourse between compact city and more extensive development. Group favoured a more extensive development combining environmental liveability.; green space, quality development and positive landscape impact. In viewpoint 3 this argument metamorphosed into the questioning of whether there was a more sustainable pattern using development corridors; challenging much of conventional planning policy. Looking at green belt important to have sensitive recreational development using environmental assets as part of LT rural development. Longbridge is still there but it was a car plant which defined it now it is something waiting for development to happen. Issue about whether the plan for its eco dream is contrived or real.
  • Issue of multiple fringes at different scales. Redditch with its own RUF but part of Birmingham’s RUF thru road and rail links. Important ot look at the big and local pictures. Issue of M42 as key connection across RUF defining RUF and p laying key role in making connections within and without region. Issue of multifunctionality within the green Belt ruf but you have to fight planning battles (marina) as policy is very restrictive.
  • Issue of understanding connections of places thru pattern of landownership and power and influence Importance of connecting people, greenspace, community and environment not restricting (eg Hampton) Scale of connections across the RUF eg Redditch as commuterbelt for Worcestershire and Brum and Wales for water and two river basins
  • Values inherent in the new town putting car secondary to needs of PT. Discourse in viewpoint 2 challenging conventional economic paradigm of growth and power of supermarkets and big business in favour of more community-based, needs based values and local solutions
  • Value attached to secure a rural home and resist change NIMBY Environmental values force rethink as low carbon economy but raises issues of public acceptability
  • So we come to the so what Drawing these threads together we can start to think about implications for policy The RUF is a place not a passive agent it has its own needs that are place, people specific. The focus on housing and industry as development is one way urban traffic; we need to look carefully at rural focussed solutions with new concepts of development that include farming and recreation and tourism. We need to recognise the multiscalar nature of the RUF and look at the big picture rather than focus on areas in isolation. We need to recognise dependencies and connections from within and without. Finally we need to see and experience the RUF through different lenses and hear the stories. Learn lessons from the past to build the best future.
  • Transcript

    • 1. relu Rural Economy and Land Use Programme From URF (urban rural fringe) to RUF (rural urban fringe; Whose opportunity space? Alister Scott Claudia Carter, Mark Reed, Peter Larkham, Nicki Schiessel, Karen Leach, Nick Morton, Rachel Curzon David Jarvis, Andrew Hearle, Mark Middleton, Bob Forster, Keith Budden, Ruth Waters, David Collier, Chris Crean, Miriam Kennet, Richard Coles and Ben Stonyer
    • 2. Plan
      • RUF in context
      • The RUF research opportunity
      • Visioning using a RUF transect
      • Discussion: Realising new opportunity spaces within the RUF
      Building interdisciplinarity across the rural domain
    • 3. Unpacking jargon 1 Defining the rural urban fringe
      • it is the fuzzy and dynamic space where town and countryside uses, interests, ideas meet.
      • Directly adjacent to town/city or in countryside where it is dominated by urban interests
      Building interdisciplinarity across the rural domain
    • 4. Multiple Faces of the Fringe
      • Innovative
      • Edgelands
      • Transitional
      • Fuzzy
      • Messy
      • Reactionary
      • Ad-hoc
      • Diverse
      • Dynamic
      • Neglected
      • Valued
      • Contested
      Building interdisciplinarity across the rural domain
    • 5. Academics on the fringe
      • Dominant space of 20C
      • (Mckenzie, 1996)
      • Collection of dynamic and productive environments (Spedding 2004)
      • Misunderstood space (Gallent et al 2006)
      • Fringe as a ‘weed’ (Cresswell 1997)
      • Battleground for urban and rural uses (Hough, 1990)
      • Landscape out of order (Qvistrom 2007)
      Building interdisciplinarity across the rural domain
    • 6. The RUF problem/opportunity
        • At the heart of current planning debate in England (NPPF)
        • Urban-centric space shaped by macro-economic drivers and planning policy
        • Contested stakeholder views
        • Environmental change agenda offers rethink
      Building interdisciplinarity across the rural domain
    • 7. Managing Environmental Change at the rural urban fringe Building interdisciplinarity across the rural domain
    • 8. Unpacking jargon 2
      • Spatial Planning
      • (sectors and scales)
      • Ecosystem approach
      • (Env goods and services)
      Building interdisciplinarity across the rural domain Housing Wildlife Flood control Green space Biodiversity Walking Corridor Play space School extension SUDS 25 year masterplan Road access Tree planting Corridor Air filters
    • 9. Converging, wicked problems Building interdisciplinarity across the rural domain
    • 10.
      • Worcestershire 19 th July 16 participants (community and agency reps)
      • To experience/assess the different ‘personalities’ within the RUF
      • To share knowledge, experience and expertise looking at the RUF past, present and future
      Field based Visioning exercise Building interdisciplinarity across the rural domain
    • 11. The RUF transect
      • Idea of a transition and gradient thru RUF
      • Environmental character areas
      • Data led (GIS) via Worcestershire GIP
      • Transect maximised number of environmental character areas
      • 3 Area selected for exercise
      Building interdisciplinarity across the rural domain
    • 12. Birmingham Redditch Viewpoint 3 Lickey Hills Viewpoint 2 Coopers Hill Viewpoint 1 Redditch
    • 13. Viewpoints Building interdisciplinarity across the rural domain Viewpoint 1 Viewpoint 2 Viewpoint 3
    • 14. Building interdisciplinarity across the rural domain
    • 15. Results
      • Long Termism
      • Values and Decision Making
      • Connectivity
      Building interdisciplinarity across the rural domain
    • 16.
      • “ Seems to be a local authority that has restricted itself by greenbelt designation in how we can develop and build” (Viewpoint 1)
      • “ Look at environmental boundaries, (and) make them more fluid” (Viewpoint 1 (3))
      • “ (Farming) and for the long term people are going to have to pay to keep that landscape looking as it is” (Viewpoint 2)
      Long Termism 1 Building interdisciplinarity across the rural domain
    • 17.
      • “ ... whether to have more compact high density development versus more spread out development “(Viewpoint 1).
      • “ ..develop along our linear routes and have corridors of development reflecting a more sustainable finger approach (Viewpoint 3)
      • “ look at recreational development using canal, countryside (prow) & M42” (Viewpoint 2)
      • “ ..This place had a personality when Longbridge was there, .(now) ambiguous...” (Viewpoint 3)
      Long Termism 2 Building interdisciplinarity across the rural domain
    • 18.
      • “ (Not Redditch per se) its more about looking towards Birmingham and (its) influence on North Worcestershire.” (Viewpoint1)
      • “ lot of traffic (M42).. making use of the ruf around the city... Planning has provided connections to get people where they want to be (Viewpoint 2)
      • “ The canal/footpaths used for leisure … so you got a lot things happening in the same space” (Viewpoint 2)
      Connectivity 1 Building interdisciplinarity across the rural domain
    • 19.
      • “ (That green space) owned by BVT and NT and …Cadbury it would have run together and coalesced with Bromsgrove and Redditch
      • “ I like my green space with houses and life and people, all the trees” (Viewpoints 3 (1))
      • (Redditch) has been commuter land especially with train (cheapest area in Worcestershire to live)
      • “ That’s Birmingham's water, comes 72 miles from Elan valley in Wales” (Viewpoint 3)
      Connectivity 2 Building interdisciplinarity across the rural domain
    • 20.
      • “ Redditch built to be accessible by public transport; hence prioritisation of bus routes /pedestrian underpasses” (Viewpoint 1)
      • “ Why do you always need growth” (Viewpoint 2)
      • “ This is what the transition groups are setting up across the UK..where farmers let strips of land for local food production” (Viewpoint 2)
      • “ For me its sense of community. We help each other volunteering for the community” (Viewpoint 2)
      Values 1 Building interdisciplinarity across the rural domain
    • 21.
      • “ We have been here 18 years in that time we have seen not a lot of changes which is wonderful” (viewpoint 2)
      • “ Wind, solar, methane as part of a new mix..for economic development” (viewpoint 2)
      • “ reducing urban heat island by planting trees is going to become so much more important (Viewpoint 3)
      Values 2 Building interdisciplinarity across the rural domain
    • 22. Opportunity Spaces in RUF
      • CHAMPION : to articulate the RUF as a place in its own right with distinct needs
      • ADAPT : highlight different thinking and ideas to change institutional values and planning processes eg urban agriculture ; green belt ; development
      • SCALE : Work on the problem and opportunity at/across the right scale(s)
      • RECONSTRUCT: improve lens to view, tell and change the RUF story
      Building interdisciplinarity across the rural domain
    • 23.
      • Alister Scott [email_address]
      Questions ? Building interdisciplinarity across the rural domain