Friday, 26 March 2010

"...public squalor" Time to take stock?

Economist John Kenneth Galbraith famously claimed an inverse relationship between the public good and the growth of private wealth.

"The Affluent Society
(1958), John Kenneth Galbraith’s most broadly influential book, stands out among works of economic analysis for its accessible writing style, which makes complex economic concepts and arguments understandable to the popular reader. Galbraith’s phrase ‘‘conventional wisdom,’’ a key concept introduced in The Affluent Society, has entered common parlance so pervasively that it is now used to describe a variety of concepts not necessarily related to economic theory." More here

If the individual’s wants are to be urgent,” he wrote, “they must be original with himself. They cannot be urgent if they must be contrived for him. And above all, they must not be contrived by the process of production by which they are satisfied. ... One cannot defend production as satisfying wants if that production creates the wants” More information here

Professor Greg Lloyd, who very kindly spoke at our first APT AGM, makes reference to JK Galbraith in his Sir Patrick Geddes Commemorative Lecture 2006, 'Planning and the public interest in the modern world'. Professor Lloyd stated:

"J K Galbraith (who died recently) also offers insights into contemporary land use planning practice. In perhaps his most famous work, The Affluent Society, he demonstrated the importance of investment in infrastructure to support development in the public interest, and the development of the public interest. He argued that private business "creates" consumer wants (through advertising) and artificial affluence through the production of commercial goods and services. As a consequence leading to the “private wealth – public squalor” duality. Systematic attention to the infrastructure resource then becomes important for the public interest at large. Again lessons for today. "

More details here

Some of J K Galbraith quotes can be found here

Thursday, 25 March 2010

Councillors + Decisions = ?

The Standards Commission for Scotland - in co-operation with the Chief Investigating Officer - is responsible for the enforcement of, amongst other codes, the Code of Conduct for Councillors. The Code sets out the standards of behaviour expected of Councillors in Scotland. The Code can be found here Section 7 of this code relates to taking decisions on individual planning applications.

The Commission has issued guidance to councillors and local authorities to assist their understanding of the Councillors' Code of Conduct. This Guidance and Dispensations note can be found here Paragraphs 48-62 of the guidance relates to taking decisions on planning applications.

Both the code and the guidance notes are very readable and well worth a look, particularly since the 'Gurn' has reported an item from the P and J concerning two of our local councillors being advised by the local authority not to play a part in planning debate on windfarms because of their public opposition to the technology.

It seems to me after reading para 51-53 of the guidance - see below - that the guidance does not preclude any councillors holding rational, well evidenced views and bringing these to the attention of the debate. In terms of the consideration of an application:

If an applicant feels that they have provided all the relevant information to support their case; the planning officer is satisfied that sufficient detail has been provided by the applicant for the application to be fully considered and the councillors then have regard to the development plan and all the other material considerations, then there should be no issue. There clearly seems to be and this requires further clarification.


51. The provisions in section 7 are intended to deal with the handling of individual applications and should not be seen as limiting councillors from discussing or debating matters of policy or strategy, notwithstanding that these may provide the framework within which individual applications will in due course be decided.

52. As already indicated, section 7 of the Code deals in particular with planning matters. Councillors have a key role in establishing planning policies for their area and they are fully entitled to express their views or advocate proposals on the making, approval or amendment of the development plan.

53. When it comes to dealing with planning applications, different considerations apply. The Code emphasises the key importance of ensuring that all applications are dealt with fairly and - equally importantly - are seen to be dealt with fairly. In dealing with a particular application councillors must have regard to the provisions of the development plan, so far as material to the application, and to any other material considerations. They must disregard considerations that are immaterial for planning purposes and be careful to avoid giving any impression of bias.

Tuesday, 23 March 2010

You nimby you!

The acronym NIMBY is often used but what exactly can it mean? Here are a few quotes*

In plain language...the motivation of residents who want to protect their turf. More formally, NIMBY refers to the protectionist attitudes of and oppositional tactics adopted by community groups facing an unwelcome development in their neighbourhood... residents usually concede that these 'noxious' facilities are necessary, but not near their homes, hence the term 'not in my back yard'. (Dear 1992:288)

‘The problem with the use of NIMBY is that rarely is it defined the same way by different researchers. In fact, it is sometime used as a catchall term to label the opposition – or worse, to imply that citizens have illegitimate or irrational selfish (or narrow) reasons for opposing facilities’(Hunter and Leyden 1995:602)

‘any citizen, who tries to defend their home and their neighbourhood from plans which would destroy the view, pollute the environment, overload the transport network, upset the ecosystem and knock £50,000 off the value of their house. When it comes to our own back yard, we are all nimbys, every nimby deserves respect for standing up to corporate and government giants’ (2005:1) Frontispiece to Anthony Jay’s ‘Not in Our Backyard: How to run a protest campaign and save the neighbourhood’ (2005)

‘developers and other industry proponents need to place more emphasis on addressing the concerns that citizens actually express, and less emphasis on the assumption that those who oppose their projects are part of a overarching NIMBY syndrome’(Hunter & Leyden 1995: 601)

APTSec recommends that you read the full paper (as noted below) from which these quotes are taken click here. A section of the paper describes other 'related' acronyms and states:

"We conclude that all of these acronyms are over-simplifications of complex responses to land use decisions. Their use obfuscates understanding of the contexts, processes and motivations at stake and threatens to exacerbate conflict and misunderstanding between the parties involved. Our position is that researchers should avoid using the use of such acronyms in favour of exploring how they are used by actors involved in such disputes, and with what consequences."

[Extracts* from: A working paper of the research project “Beyond Nimbyism: a multidisciplinary investigation of public engagement with renewable energy technologies” funded by the ESRC under the ‘Towards a Sustainable Energy Economy’ Programme Kate Burningham, Julie Barnett & Diana Thrush University of Surrey August 2006]

Further research can be found at

Public money + provate investment

APTSec's electronically delivered 'Economic Development Weekly' has an interesting item on renewal strategies:

In a report published today, the Audit Commission warned that the Government’s regeneration and growth area strategies both assume that public spending can bring in private investment at an individual and company level, with some of the private sector investment expected to subsidise the infrastructure needed to make new developments work for communities.

The Audit Commission report finds that some councils, particularly district councils, have been hit hard by falls in income due to a decline in the number of planning applications – down 22 per cent on pre-credit crunch levels – and investment income, which fell by 43 per cent in 2008/09.

For full item click here

Sunday, 21 March 2010

Comparing the response

As promised here is a quick stats check with respect to the level of response to previous consultations for the area:

  • Inverness Local Plan (ILP); consultative draft, THC June 2001 – representations received over a 12 week period with 800 individual responses on 2000 issues, then in
  • April 2002 Inverness Area Committee had 3rd of three advisory meetings with respect to the responses to the ILP - as noted above. Cannot now locate the minutes of these specific meetings on THC web pages. (I made notes of these meetings a few years back)
  • Just over 50 written representations to the PDET committee for their consideration on 17/08/05, but the focus was on the conclusions reached by the consultants regarding the centre of the A96 Corridor rather than East Inverness or Nairn.
  • Appendix 2 (click here) of the report to committee on 14/03/07 shows the degree of response to the A96 Corridor consultation with 158 representations listed.