Planning has never been so contentious. Protests about the third runway at Heathrow - or even against the Three Gorges Dam in China - are only the most high-profile.
Tens of thousands signed a petition against the eco-town in Sussex; Redcar and Cleveland Council received 6500 objections to a proposed off-shore windfarm. Campaigners against a proposed development near Stratford-upon-Avon, including Dame Judi Dench, allege an 'undemocratic short-listing process'.
Some allege the town councillors who give planning permission are dancing to the tune of property developers or central government.
Some feel we should have a veto in urban planning that affects us, and that consultation is the best way to ensure people have a stake in today’s grand projects. Crossrail may have been in consultation for twenty years, but it will probably still be built. So is the right decision worth the wait? Kings Cross' redevelopment took only five years of community discussion and managed to answer most local criticisms.
So is consultation so onerous? Critics argue that consultation privileges NIMBYish concerns over expert opinion and the national interest. What happens if elected 'people's politicians' go against architectural expertise? Mayor of London Boris Johnson says he will personally handle all major development decisions in London, but will he get them right?
From the Eiffel Tower to the Empire State Building to Canary Wharf; from Haussmann in Paris to Robert Moses in New York, visionary urban designs have regularly been driven through by ambitious politicians, architects and masterplanners, without public consultation. Are today’s great architectural visions being thwarted by interfering politicians?
Are designers and planners overburdened by the need to consult and win approval? What gives us the best buildings - masterplanning or public consultations? Should we celebrate the 'making things happen' mentality, or should we respect public opinion?- Institute of Ideas
Richard Brown is a freelance consultant and writer on urban policy. His work covers urban governance, urban regeneration and planning, with a focus on developing partnerships and strategies for complex urban change programmes.
His clients and collaborators include the UK Government, Greater London Authority and London School of Economics. Before establishing his own practice in 2006, Brownset up and worked at London's Olympic Delivery Authority and Greater London Authority.
At the Greater London Authority, Brown worked as private secretary to London Mayor Ken Livingstone and set up the Architecture and Urbanism Unit, as well as leading the GLA's work on the London 2012 bid and Thames Gateway development programmes. Brown has also undertaken research and published reports on urban regeneration and local political governance. He has degrees from the universities of Oxford and London.
Donald is an urban designer, researcher and writer. As an urban planning consultant he has worked within the private and public sectors including latterly as an advisor in masterplanning for the Commission for Architecture and the Built Environment.
Currently a PhD Candidate at the Martin Centre for Architectural and Urban Studies at University of Cambridge, Donald has been developing a critique of localism through an investigation into the trends towards greater integration of contemporary metropolitan regions.
He is a regular contributor to Urban Design, and has written for a number of other architecture and urbanism publications including Blueprint and Building Design. Donald is a founding member of ManTowNHuman which published the Manifesto: Towards a New Humanism in Architecture in July 2008.
Steve McAdam is a founder and director of Fluid, a multidisciplinary practice specialising in architecture and urban design. He is an architect with extensive experience in urban regeneration, masterplanning and participatory design and has led major urban regeneration projects in both the public and private sectors across the UK.
He was appointed to the London Olympic masterplanning team by the London Development Agency in August, 2003, to direct all aspects of stakeholder consultation, public sector engagement and responsive masterplanning.
Fluid played a similar role for the Kings Cross Central project for developer Argent plc, for which they received an award for innovation from the Commission for Architecture and the Built Environment (CABE).
McAdam coordinates the activities and research of Fluid's Think Tank and its academic associations. These equate to all scales of regeneration from large masterplans to one-off architectural projects. He designed the ODPM award-winning sports, leisure and community Gateway Centre in Derby with co-director Christina Norton, which has drawn critical acclaim from academics, critics and local people.
McAdam is a consultant to the Council of Europe, and a visiting lecturer at London Metropolitan University where he was instrumental in setting up the Cities Research Institute and for the launch of a new MA course focusing on multidisciplinary approaches to urban regeneration. His work has been published and exhibited internationally.
Tony McGuirk is an architect and urban designer, and chairman of BDP. McGuirk 's work spans projects which look to interlink learning with living to create new communities.
From 1992 to 2004 he masterplanned the St Peter's Campus at the University of Sunderland on a disused shipyard on the River Wear. This new place of learning forms the centrepiece of a new city quarter and has been key to Sunderland's regeneration following the closure of the shipbuilding industry in 1990.
The design creates a new piece of the city with streets and urban spaces linking down to the city's riverside. All faculty buildings are open to the public and the University library, cafes and restaurants are also open for use by the local people. The project has won 2 RIBA Awards, 2 Civic Trust Awards and a Sunday Times/Royal Fine Arts Commission Building of the Year Award in 1995.
McGuirk led the design team that won the competition for the central area housing for a new sustainable living quarter in the city of Den Bosch in Eastern Holland. Realised between 2003-2006 and named 'Armada', the project won the prize for the people's favourite building, 'Publiekspri', in Holland in 2004. The design creates a new model for mid-rise city living with vertical wintergarden access, affording dual and triple aspect dwellings and multi level social spaces for neighbours and families. The housing utilises ground water, rejected heat from contiguous buildings and solar power as sources of energy for dwellings and communal spaces.
Owens is a senior urban regeneration expert, specialising in Strategic Planning, Development Policy, Urban Regeneration, and Economic Development.
As Head of Development Policy at the London Development Agency, he played a leading role in developing London's Thames Gateway strategy and chaired the client group for the Lower Lea Regeneration Framework. His previous experience includes Head of Regeneration and Leisure at London Borough of Merton and Chief Executive of Leaside Regeneration Ltd.
Owens has delivered complex regeneration programmes though public/private partnerships with experience gained in East London, Park Royal, and North West England. Owens understands how place-based strategies can deliver long tem economic advantages.