21st Century Slums? In conversation with the TCPA


This month, the TCPA launched its new report ‘Planning 2020, 21st Century Slums’ at U+I’s head office. The report follows the Raynsford Review and its findings reveal some disturbing truths about the state of the British planning system. 

“If you don’t feel a sense of shame from what the system is producing you are in the wrong space”. Those were the words of Dr Hugh Ellis, Policy Director at the TCPA, at the launch of its latest report.  

It’s one year on from the Raynsford Review and the authors of this new follow-on report came together with the President of the TCPA, Nick Raynsford, and U+I’s Chief Development Officer, Richard Upton, to discuss what has been achieved over the last 12 months.

The panel agreed that the Government has failed to act on the Review’s findings in any meaningful way. Instead, a combined lack of understanding, inertia and uncertain political future has resulted in a series of policies that are confusing, contradictory and further erode public trust.

The panel made it strikingly clear that there are challenges ahead and many have pointed to the public sector to find solutions. Would a more muscular and interventionist public sector deliver better quality housing faster? Perhaps Homes England could act as a ‘master developer’ overseeing major projects much in the same way as the post-war New Town movement did. The issue with this, argued Richard Upton, is that it encourages us to ying and yang from public to private – expecting one to find solutions from the failings of the other. In fact, true solutions can only be generated when public and private sectors work in partnership.

Projects such as 8 Albert Embankment should serve as an example of what we can achieve when working in this way. Not only does U+I’s redevelopment of the former London Fire Brigade headquarters provide much needed housing, of which 40% is affordable, but it provides a significant receipt for a public body through providing a new museum, allowing the fire service to educate and inspire future generations.

And of course, the planning process should encourage participation. But this needs to be done in the right way. “When public consultation is done badly it really can drive divisions in communities”, Dr Hugh Ellis told the room when taking questions from the floor. One way to prevent this is through providing Worthwhile Use spaces that engage and serve local communities. At 8 Albert Embankment, this included creating a temporary home for the Migration Museum and the Institute of Imagination whilst the scheme was in planning. In total, over 30,000 people came through the doors, which in turn encouraged widespread interaction and understanding of the vision behind the project.

The Government is promising an accelerated green paper on planning this year. Closing the evening’s event, Nick Raynsford outlined his hope that this will be the moment we set out a clear way forward to rebuild confidence and trust.

The road ahead is a long one. But coming together at events like this show why we need to stop, listen and seek inspiration; only then can we engage and respond.

You can read the full report here -