Monday, 18 January 2010

Urban angst - partnerships for the future?

In the last weeks, I have been somewhat critical of planners in Wolverhampton, Walsall and Banbury. A few months ago, I dissed those of Daventry and Sandwell. I am also getting a fair number of page-hits from the council offices of these very places.

I know I am not being totally fair on the planners and officials. Much of their world is determined by four groups who are - in the short-term - rather unchallengable: national politicians, European politicians, local politicians and the civil service nationally. This overlay of plans, rules, regulations and protocols is what creates the plethora of Biodiversity Action Plans, local development frameworks, demands for creating extra this and extra that even when it may not be needed.

But all the politicians simply reflect the lowest common denominator of national (and supra-national) politics: bland policies lead to bland cities. It is clear that charismatic cities tend to have charismatic leaders and mayors, whether it's London, Caracas, New York, Berlin, Mexico City, Wolverhampton or Daventry.

Decision-making for the city of cities, and probably even small towns, needs to be made by politicians who are truly only beholden to local interests, not national party politics. Some form of Partnership for Wolverhampton would seem to be an ideal new "development agenda".

We need vision and leadership, not political in-fighting with one group of politicians simply blocking or attacking the plans of other politicians simply because ofg the colour of their rosettes.

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