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Your views: Moving Parliament

Our understanding of cities and regions is far more complex than the call to move Parliament suggests

Your journalist James Dunnett promotes the moving of the UK capital city northward, perhaps to near Birmingham, in summary based on the justification of social inclusivism, relevance to the other parts of the UK, and the opportunity to plan with order afforded by ‘light, space, greenery …’ and so on.

I would counter that architects are not planners, because planners, even in the heady do-anything heyday of 1950s rationalism, sought to understand all of the issues and hear from experts before proposing costly and irreversible change. Today, planners, who have the task of professionally advising bodies such as parliament and the UK populace of their location options and their costs and benefits, including externalities such as the energy, natural resources and social disruption resulting from a move of the capital, have moved beyond a simplistic view of ‘clarity and rationality’, to a much more polyglot and complex understanding of how cities and regions work geographically (space), structurally (the ecology of organisational relationships), and functionally (effect and efficiency of organisational work). This understanding has thankfully come about also from both the scars of project boondoggles and from simply listening to stakeholders, using techniques in physical planning such as ‘action research’ and the critical elicitation of stakeholder knowledge. All of which seem to be missing in Dunnett’s article.   

The UK has very deep and broad resources and talent for this sort of planning work. The work of good planners/educators such as Tony Gibson, Nick Wates, and designers such as Gordon Cullen, not to mention more recent stars of the planning field, and bodies such as the TCPA, could actually collaborate with architects and engineers to find sustainable and socially relevant solutions to the problems of London, especially if all parties enter into some discussion with a sincerely open mind and as few as possible, emotionally charged preconceived design solutions. 

Yours etc

David N Benjamin



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