A Community-Led Plan for London: the case of JustSpace

A Community-Led Plan for London: the case of JustSpace

According to the website, JustSpace is a community-led network of voluntary and action groups influencing plan making and planning policy to ensure public debate on crucial issues of social justice and economic and environmental sustainability. They are active at three levels: neighbourhood, borough and London-wide levels. Because traditional planning system is considered unfit in terms of economic, social and environmental benefits, JustSpace network has worked for collecting a huge amount of experience and know-how from London’s diverse community organisations.

In August 2016, JustSpace has released a very interesting paper called “Towards a Community-Led Plan for London. Policy directions and proposals”. This paper is the outcome of more discussion by working teams of JustSpace network and other conferences.

In their opinion, participation and sustainable development should be central in the planning of London: JustSpace has developed five key themes:

  • A fair, green, localised and diverse economy, where the social and economic diversity are a strength and a driver of the city’s future well-being.
  • Maintain and refurbish existing homes, with home energy efficiency as infrastructure priority.
  • Make London a Blue Green City, placing value on the connection and interaction between London’s blue and green assets.
  • Support for well-functioning suburbs, providing many key amenities and job opportunities locally, thus reducing the need for costly and polluting travel.
  • Delivery models for regeneration that prioritise social sustainability and social infrastructure, respecting and supporting Londoners’ attachment to place and sense of belonging.

Another central issue is about community participation and facilitation of the localism agenda for ensuring public support and the credibility of the process. For effective participation, communities should be involved from the very beginning and they should be an active role in design and production of the plan.

 

AN ECONOMY FOR LONDON

The London Plan needs to support an economy that delivers human wellbeing and tackles growing inequalities, all within environmental limits. JustSpace has identified three strategies to achieving a fair, green, localised and diverse economy:

  • A Fair City, Among others, the London Fairness Commission lists a number of issues that are important to address growing inequality: such as reducing the cost of living, setting a higher London Minimum Wage, ensuring better opportunities for young people, etc. JustSpace has identified some policy proposals such as ensuring that in major new developments secure jobs are created, increasing the productivity of low pay occupations through access to different services (i.e. affordable workspace, business support, etc.), securing the provision of new facilities as part of new developments and exploring innovative models of community-led economic development to enable low and middle income people to participate in local business ownership and investment.
  • A Green and Localised Economy. The principles of a green, circular and a more dispersed patter of activities are fundamental. JustSpace proposes some polices: encourage change to achieve a circular economy, raise the environmental performance of the buildings and re-configure settlement and urban patterns to reduce the need for travel and the reliance on non-renewable energy sources, protect London poly-centric economy, support development which fosters Lifetime Neighbourhood principles, recognize and protect street and covered markets.
  • Diverse Economies. Diverse industrial economy is returning to growth after many decades of decline. In this sector it’s important to recognise and promote the diversity of London’s economic activities through different contributions. JustSpace proposes to work to increase capacity suitable for a diverse range of economic activities, foster innovations in the design, finance and management of development schemes so industrial and residential uses can co-exist, plan for the long-term infrastructure needs of industry, protect clusters of small and independent businesses and support capacity building in London’s diverse business communities to encourage business-led solutions to redevelopment and change.

 

HOUSING, HEALTH AND WELLBEING

In London, another problem concerns housing, health and wellbeing. In terms of maintain existing homes, it’s fundamental that the Mayor and the boroughs support maintenance and enhancement of the condition of London’s homes (energy efficiency, first of all) and environmental impact should be reduced. Proposed regeneration of council or housing association estates should require comprehensive, independent analysis of social, environmental and economic benefits of all options.

In the case of quality of New Homes, it is crucial to focus on longevity and duration (they should last for at least 125 years) and the attendance of communal meeting spaces and green and play space with natural light. Then, in terms of “Not-for-Profit Rented Homes”, the London Plan should set a separate target for social rented homes that reflects evidence of need.

A participation in London Wide Housing Policy is also a key factor to be inclusive and connect private renters with the community-led housing schemes that include housing co-operatives, community land trusts, community self-build, co-housing, tenant management organisations and community-led housing associations (right to transfer).

 

MAKING LONDON A BLUE GREEN CITY

The aim of this initiative is to bringing together the Boroughs, the voluntary and community sector and the private sector to protect the environment (nature, sustainable use of water resources, climate change, air pollution and citizen participation in the planning and implementation of these kind of policies).

After the Paris agreement December 2015 changes are required for energy generation and efficiency and targets for renewable energy (zero carbon new homes standard, solar panels, …). Next, London’s energy infrastructure needs a change to move away from fossils fuels and fuel poverty to renewables. Air pollution in London is dramatic: the city suffers under illegal level of NO2. To solve the problem of road traffic, a holistic approach is needed: for example, new schools and hospitals should be built in healthy areas but people should have less need to travel. Besides, policies that protect and enhance green spaces in quantity, quality and accessibility are also important: green spaces make a contribution to reducing air pollution and increase standard of living.

In the end, JustSpace talks about a food system that allows everyone access to good food and food growing spaces. The proposal is to promote food growing space in all new housing developments to shorten the food mileage and food chain.

 

TRANSPORT

Although London’s population is steadily increasing, London Plan has the aim to reduce the need for people to travel and maximise spread of walking and cycling. The Plan provide several solutions to achieve this goal:

  • Transport Objective A: providing services and job opportunities locally will reduce need to travel.
  • Transport Objective B: investing in walking, cycling and affordable public transport services throughout London is the alternative by choice to car dependency.
  • Transport Objective C: strengthened low emission requirements, strong road traffic reduction targets are the way to improve the environment and tackle congestion and pollution.
  • Transport Objective D: promote an integrated approach to freight with a network of consolidation hubs and managed distribution.

 

IMPLEMENTATION

According to the paper, in order to achieve strong and sustainable communities, the social dimension must be added to the economic one. Key factors are:

  • Opportunity Areas because they have not functioned as expected. They should be more democratic.
  • Lifetime neighbourhoods and community assets and spaces for fostering a sense of belonging, building networks of community organisations and enabling communities to thrive together.
  • Social impact assessment is fundamental because it allows the consideration of alternative proposals and gives a high value to social sustainability.
  • Monitoring indicators for measuring London’s economic success. For example, % of deaths avoidable through good quality health care / public health interventions or % of the labour force that has a secure job that pays at least the living wage.

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“A new and bold vision is needed to rethink London’s economy and enhance its multiple strengths, ensure it benefits all those who live and work in the city and provide the means for future generations to thrive”.