Sam Stafford started writing the 50 Shades of Planning blog in 2012 and in 2019 turned it into a podcast. 50 Shades of Planning is about the foibles of the English planning system and it's aim is to cover the breadth of the sector both in terms of topics of conversation and in terms of guests with different experiences and perspectives. Why Fifty Shades? Well, planning is not a black and white endeavor. There are at least fifty shades in between...
Sam is on Twitter (@samuel_stafford) and his blogs can be found here: http://samuelstafford.blogspot.com. The 50 Shades of Planning Podcast is produced in association with BECG - the Built Environment Communications Group. BECG are on Twitter at @BECGUK and online at www.becg.com.
Can the British plan?
'Can the British plan? Sometimes it seems unlikely. Across the world we see grand designs and visionary projects: new airport terminals, nuclear power stations, high-speed railways, and glittering buildings. It all seems an unattainable goal on Britain's small and crowded island; and yet perhaps this is too pessimistic. For the British have always planned, and much of what we have today is the result of past plans, successfully implemented...'
This is the synopsis of 'Great British Plans' by Ian Wray that Sam Stafford cannily pilfers for the introduction to this episode in which Sam discusses the book with both Ian and his daughter, and past 50 Shades contributor, Katie Wray (@kluw).
The book takes in London's squares, Milton Keynes, 'HS1', the motorways and the secret first electronic computers. Sam, Ian and Katie's conversation takes in the glorious revolution, black swans, lawyers, lobbyists and mavericks.
'Great British Plans' can be heartily recommended to students of history and as well as students of town planning. The relationship between planning and politics is a path well-trodden, but perhaps less well appreciated is the relationship between planning and the culture, the institutions and, indeed, the institutional culture of this scepted isle. It is easy to see how electoral priorities drive short-term political decision-making, but the book explores the factors at play, or more often in fact not at play, in longer-term political decision making, which will be of interest to anybody interested in why change happens, or more often in fact, why change does not happen.
Great British Plans.
Some accompanying listening.
Ian's band’s lockdown version of Blue Skies.
Reflections on 2020 - Part 2
Is it right that old times be forgotten, asks Robert Burns in the opening line of Auld Lang Syne. Instinctively one might want to say yes to that insofar as 2020 is concerned. Much has been lost, but it’s also right to say that much has been gained too. We are at home more, a trend that might have happened at a much slower pace if at all in some places, and we are perhaps working more patiently and emphatically with each other, which is a trend that probably would not have happened at all. It has made us appreciate more the old times before 2020. The simple joy of just being with people, which we have learnt not to take for granted again. We can also take heart from the simple fact that, having faced down the challenges that this year has presented, we can be a little less fearful of whatever else is around the corner.
You will have spotted, all being well, the ‘Part 2’ in the title of this episode and so have already listened to Part 1, but if not, and it is by no means mandatory to have done so, this is the second of two episodes that feature reflections on an extraordinary year from past contributors to the 50 Shades of Planning Podcast. Sam Stafford's only editorial stipulation was that recordings were about five minutes in length. Whatever people wanted to talk about was completely up to them.
You will hear in this episode erudite and insightful observations from:
Lisa McFarlane;David Rudlin;Greg Dickson;Andrew Taylor;Stanzie Bell;Claire Petricca-Riding;Vanessa Eggleston; andMark Parkinson.
Lisa (@lmcfarlane01) is a Director and RIBA Specialist Conservation Architect at Seven Architecture and featured on Episode 31.
David (@Davidurbedcoop1) is a Director at URBED and featured on Episode 12.
Greg (@GregDickson1) is a Director at Barton Willmore and a regular contributor to the podcast.
Andrew (@AndrewJTaylor3) is Group Planning Director at Countryside and featured on Episode 17.
Stanzie is a Barrister at Kings Chambers (@KCPlanningTeam) and featured on Episode 32.
Claire (@PetriccaRiding) is a Partner and National Head of Planning and Environmental Law at Irwin Mitchell and featured on Episode 25.
Vanessa is a Partner at i-Transport and featured on Episode 23.
Mark (@MarkA_Parkinson) is Chief Executive Officer at Stoke-on-Trent and Staffordshire Local Enterprise Partnership and featured on Episode 9.
Some accompanying reading.
The blog Sam wrote whilst on furlough leave in April.
Reflections on 2020 - Part 1
Little did Sam Stafford know when recording Episode 14 in Manchester at the end of February 2020 that every episode for the rest of the year, and who knows how far beyond, would need to be recorded remotely.
This is the first of two episodes that feature reflections on 2020 from past contributors to the 50 Shades of Planning Podcast. It is hoped that it serves two purposes. More immediately, it is hoped that in taking the time to listen you get chance to reflect on what you might have been through this year. It might help you realise what you have actually achieved and, on the other side of the coin, that you might not have been the only one to have struggled at times. Looking ahead, it is hoped that these episodes serve as a kind of time capsule. Something to listen back on in the future, however it pans out, and remember just what an extraordinary year it has been.
Sam's only editorial stipulation was that recordings were about five minutes in length. Whatever people wanted to talk about was completely up to them, but as you will here, the themes that emerge are quite similar.
So in this episode you will hear erudite and insightful observations from…
Sue Manley;Alistair Lomax;Vicky Payne;Hannah Hickman;Catriona Riddell;Mike Best; andKatie Wray.
Sue is a Director at Placemarque (@placemarque) and featured on Episode 28.
Alistair (@alistair_lomax) is a Director at the Arc Universities Group and featured on Episode 18.
Vicky (@Victoria_Payne) is a planner and urbanist at URBED and is a regularly contributor to the podcast.
Hannah is a Director at Hannah Hickman Consulting and a Senior Research Fellow at the University of the West of England. She featured on Episode 24.
Catriona (@CatrionaRiddel1) is a Director at Catriona Riddell Associate and featured on Episode 21.
Mike (@bestlaidplan) is a Senior Director at Turley and featured on Episode 9.
Katie (@kluw) is an Assistant Director at Deloitte and featured on Episode 28.
Some accompanying reading.
A blog Sam wrote whilst on furlough leave in April.
A plug for Sam's brother-in-law's audio visual business (in lieu of having to pay for some kit).
The nights have drawn in. It’s impossible as in previous years to nip out for a pint in order to escape Strictly or Celeb (at least it is in Tier 3). A long, inhospitable winter will have to be endured before there is any possibility of a springtime shot in the arm and a return to something approaching normal. Sprinkled on top of this bleakness for planners is that the handling of the White Paper arguably makes planning’s systemic challenges harder to tackle than should have been hoped for.
Yes it’s fair to say that good cheer is in short supply, but, fear not, the 50 Shades of Planning Podcast is here to spread some. Sam Stafford is joined in this episode by David Diggle (@Diggs16), Vicky Payne (@Victoria_Payne) and Shelly Rouse (@rouse_shelly) to share some of their funny career stories. There are contributions too from Jonathan Easton (@jonnye47) and Sam Smith (@SmithSam_).
As anybody familiar with the case of the Headington shark will know, any system of control must make some small place for the dynamic, the unexpected, the downright quirky. As anybody working within the planning system will attest, it certainly does make place for the dynamic, the unexpected, the downright quirky...
Planning law is a serious business. If the lawyers need calling in then typically something going very well needs safeguarding or something going very badly needs salvaging. If lawyers do get called in then matters also get very formal. A protocol for this and a correct way of doing that. Lawyers and the law are to be revered...
Planning law seems more important, more influential and more high-profile than ever. Planning lawyers themselves though seem more accessible, more engaging and more approachable. Are the protocols, processes and procedures for liaising with our learned friends becoming less stuffy? What though will still have a barrister looking down their nose at if you if you get it wrong? And what can barristers do that solicitors can’t?
Sam Stafford is joined in this episode by Simon Ricketts, Constanze Bell (Stanzie to her friends), and Jerry Cahill QC to discuss these questions; the role of the lawyer in the planning system; and to answer the questions that Sam has always been too scared to ask.
Ubiquitous planning lawyer Simon (@sricketts1) is a partner at Town Legal LLP (@town_legal).
Stanzie is a barrister at Kings Chambers (@KCPlanningTeam) and one of the highest rated juniors according to Planning Resource.
Jerry retired in 2018 after over 40 years at the bar (35 with No.5 Chambers), but is keeping his eye in from south west Ireland with Lone Star Land.
Some accompanying reading.
Simon's Blog (which is definitely pronounced Simon-icity)
Some accompanying viewing.
Beauty is in the eye of the freeholder
‘We want to ensure that we have a system in place that enables the creation of beautiful places that will stand the test of time’ states the 'Planning for the future' White Paper. Not just well-designed places. Beautiful places.
The Building Better, Building Beautiful Commission, set up to advise government on how to promote and increase the use of high-quality design for new build homes and neighbourhoods, proposed that beautiful placemaking be a legally enshrined aim of the planning system.
There is a school of thought promulgating the idea that beauty will help make the public more accepting of new development. As then Secretary of State James Brokenshire wrote in a forward to Policy Exchange’s ‘Building Beautiful Places’ report: ‘to unlock the building of homes at the scale and rate where they are required, we need to overcome public opposition to new development. The promise of beautiful homes and places that add value and character to the area they are built, rather than take away from it, is an essential part of that.’
The public though, when asked about possible advantages that might increase support for more homes being built in their local area, rank higher quality design behind medical facilities, transport links, employment opportunities, affordable housing, green spaces, schools, leisure facilities and shops.
Is beauty in the built environment different to good design? Are beautiful, well-designed places and buildings being created because of, or in spite of, the planning system? Can the planning system better enable the creation of beautiful, well-designed places and, if so, how? And would that really overcome perceived public objections to the principle of development?
Sam Stafford puts these questions to Jaimie Ferguson, Director at Open (Optimised Environments Ltd); Lisa Mcfarlane, Director and RIBA Specialist Conservation Architect at Seven Architecture; and Paul Smith, Managing Director at The Strategic Land Group.
Thanks to Jaimie for the title of this episode.
Sam - @samuel_stafford
Jaimie - @jaimieferg
Lisa - @lmcfarlane01
Paul - @Paul_SLG
Some accompanying reading.
Public attitudes to house building: findings from the British Social Attitudes survey 2018.
Architects hope to tear down garden fences of England's future homes.
Strategic Land Group's Research Paper: Perceptions of the design quality of new build homes in England.
Place Alliance's Housing Design Audit for England.
Some accompanying viewing.
Homer is asked to design a car for the company run by his long-lost brother.
Customer ReviewsSee All
So glad I found a planning podcast!! Who knew there would be such a thing
I am so happy I have found this podcast, I am training to be a planner, I will be the only one in the company as I work for a financial wealth firm!I am currently studying towards my HnD in Environmental Studies to enable me to complete my degree in Urban and Rural planning. I listen to this podcast whilst at work to give me some exposure to planning specific topics and knowledge. It’s been so helpful and I have caught up to speed with the last way episode since first discovering it in November 2020. I’ve learnt a lot already and listening to you and the guest speakers really does encourage me to keep going and achieve my goal to be a planner, who knows maybe one day I’ll be a guest speaker! Thank you for creating this amazing podcast
The best planning podcast out there
If you’re interested in town planning and all its facets, you’re going to like this podcast. Sam and his revolving carousel of interesting guests always cover great subjects in some depth without ever losing you in technical jargon. One for your commute planning types.
Making Planning more interesting than it sounds
Great podcast and well worth a listen discussing some great environment topics at a really important time for cities, towns and all our places.