Architect Ash Sakula held a really interesting event related to planning this week. Although it was billed as being about 'Grabbing the agenda before the dust settles' in fact what was most exciting was learning about the things had been achieved either in spite of or at least alongside the system.
Finn Williams, an architect turned planner who also works for Croydon Council, talked about a project to regenerate Arnold Circus, a space in the east end of London which had been the first internal garden surrounded by social housing. Despite its historic importance, it had become very overgrown, and hence threatening. Williams was one of a group which helped the local community reclaim the space, first through one-off events such as picnics, eventually turning it back into an appealing place which can not only serve as a local amenity but also be used for events organised by outside groups, generating revenue.
Jess Steele of Locality talked about the importance of creating 'self renovating neighbourhoods' and about allowing people to be the agents of change, based on collective self-interest. Kelvin Campbell expounded his idea of 'massive small' and Tim Stonor of Space Syntax described the fact that movement in itself is not a goal - it should only be in the service of transactions.
We are living in difficult times, but this meeting was a reminder that there are enough people committed to making things better to provide some grounds for hope.