An Experiment in Civic Activism Aims to Transform Planning

A pioneering architect in Newcastle, U.K. tries to open planning to the people with a new "urban room" for community engagement.

June 10, 2021, 7:00 AM PDT

By James Brasuell @CasualBrasuell


River Tyne

Milosz Maslanka / Shutterstock

"What if negotiating the planning system were as easy as popping to the shops?"

That's the question posed by Oliver Wainwright to open an article about an innovative new planning approach underway in Newcastle, in the U.K., where architect Terry Farrell is leading a "crusade" to give the public more control over the development outcomes in the city.

Sir Terry Farrell faults the opaque nature of the planning system for creating needless complications for the public. "To that end, his government-commissioned Farrell review of architecture and the built environment, published in 2014, advocated the idea of 'urban rooms': places on the high street where people could go to view and discuss the latest development proposals," report Wainwright.

To generate some proof of the concept, Farrell is donating the funds to Newcastle University to create just such a place by converting "an old department store into a centre to debate the future of the Tyneside city."

The article includes a history of planning in Newcastle (the 'Brasilia of the North,' according to Farrell), and discusses the potential for the outcomes of this experiment in civic activism.

Monday, June 7, 2021 in The Guardian

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