We all have an opinion on planning. Whether we get frustrated at how far the nursery is from the residential home, feel smug at knowing a hidden cut-through which doesn’t appear on the maps, or have regular arguments with the local Starbucks about why we have to use their bathrooms because the local council shut down all the public toilets. And once you notice how bad some planning decisions are for women, you start seeing them everywhere.
This episode of On the Engender focuses on planning, and features Monica Lennon MSP and Young Planner of the Year 2018 Heather Claridge, alongside Engender’s Executive Director Emma Ritch. It was a really interesting discussion and we hope you enjoy the episode.
I was first introduced to some of the themes around gender and planning through the Urbanista’s network of women in planning, who have done some brilliant work on gender and urban design. Since then, issues around gender and planning seem to keep cropping up, through our CEDAW workshops across Scotland where we discussed how women navigate their environments, to reading about feminist journalist and planning activist Jane Jacobs. And now I can fairly regularly be found at parties chatting about public space and feminism (after I’ve told people about the Falkirk Wheel).
One thing that struck me during the recording was the importance of a clear purpose for planning decisions and strategies. None of the seven Scottish Government documents on planning strategy mention gender, or even women. Where equality is (fleetingly) mentioned it is in the context of housing inequality and doesn’t address other areas of inequality which planning can have a key role in reducing, or entrenching. Without a clear purpose, it becomes difficult to argue for or against certain planning decisions.
In the podcast, Heather makes the point that even when you have the perfect plan which has taken gender, disability, and all of the different ways space needs to be used into account, these are not always represented in the finished product. The decimation of local planning budgets often mean that ambitious plans are reduced for cheaper options, and often the people making these decisions are not convinced of the need to create space which is accessible by all. For me, it’s a really clear example of the need for women to be included at all levels of planning decisions – from the initial designs, to community consultation, to the politicians approving plans, to the industry professionals carrying out the construction.
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