Failure for whom? Whose knowledge matters in consensus based planning in the UK?


In April 2018 Victoria Habermehl and Beth Perry presented in a series of sessions "Spaces of Struggle" at the American Association of Geographers Conference in New Orleans. Our session was focused on Geographies of planning failure, where we spoke on the idea of 'Failure for Whom'. Our presentation focused on asking Whose Knowledge Matters in planning, examining how do we constitute sucess of failure based on these assumptions. The following abstract explains the focus of our talk:

In theory collaborative planning focuses on consultation and consensus, yet in practice citizens can be excluded, disagreement managed out and dissensus masked (Haughton et al, 2016; Rancière, 2010). This raises the question, how do we create new approaches to planning when radical language and participatory approaches are being operationalised as rhetoric, co-opted by urban elites to support aspirational objectives of ‘inclusive growth’ or ‘inclusive governance’? In this paper we unpack the emerging case of the Greater Manchester Spatial Framework (GMSF), currently being rewritten after widespread criticism across political divides. In the context of Manchester devolution agenda and with the election of a new Mayor, Andy Burnham, there is commitment to rewrite the GMSF plan. This opens up possibility to discus and rethink the role of consensus based planning and governance. We wish to use the case of GMSF to address how we understand planning failure, and if radical planning is possible, for and by whom? We ask whose expertise are marginalised through planning, (from planning experts, developers to citizens) and at what spatial scales from neighborhood, city, and city regions? The paper traces the GMSF process, interviewing experts and working with community groups in one site in the Greater Manchester region, to highlight long histories of spatial planning exclusions. From Manchester’s mundane to mega projects we demonstrate multiple and repeated failures that the planning process, reproduces, obscures and silences. Learning from the historic and contemporary context to ask what we can learn from ‘near misses’ as well as failed solutions.