Sustainable Development and Sustainable Rural Communities – Who Gains and Who Loses? Professor Mark Shucksmith firstname.lastname@example.org Housing Studies Association annual conference, York, 2007
Outline • Discursive power: social construction of ‘sustainable communities’ in the interests of powerful elites has led to social injustice and spatial exclusion. • The planning system is a crucial arena for the exercise of this form of ‘symbolic violence’ (Bourdieu). • Mixed communities, but only in poor areas? • Affordability and opportunity for future generations? • The Affordable Rural Housing Commission.
“Sustainable Communities” • Dominant discourses of ‘sustainable communities’. • Sustainability concept developed by Brundtland in terms of equity, between and within generations. • sustainability tends now to be equated with environmental goals, and specifically with reducing CO2 emissions and car use. • ‘Sustainable Communities’ defined by DCLG principally in terms of presence of services and access to public transport, so discouraging new investment in rural settlements. • Dualism created of sustainable and unsustainable communities, distinguished by crude checklists….
DCLG: Sustainable Communities “A sustainable community is a place where people want to live and work now and in the future... For communities to be sustainable, they must offer: • Decent homes at prices people can afford • Good public transport • Schools • Hospitals • Shops • A clean, safe environment” (DCLG Website, April 2007) Across the country, investment and housing are prohibited in places without such attributes – all in the name of sustainable development. Urban is good and rural is bad.
Urban containment revisited • ARHC, JRF and CRC have all found, since Rogers Report: • Regional Spatial Strategies: every region is seeking to reduce rural house building in the name of urban regeneration. Sequential test – brownfield first, etc; in addition to brownfield targets. • Sustainable Communities policies: many LAs apply crude sustainability checklists which redline most rural settlements as unsustainable, instead of seeking to promote sustainability of all communities. • Emphasis has shifted from housing land availability to urban containment. • Prof Sir Peter Hall, in ‘The Containment of Urban England’ (1973), foresaw that urban containment policies would act to exclude poorer groups systematically from the British countryside. “Unholy alliance” of urban districts and rural elites?
The role of CPRE Murdoch and Lowe (2003) studied the role of CPRE in the emergence of this dominant discourse, from the 1940s construction of a rural/urban divide and through their subsequent lobbying and campaigning. They found: • CPRE switched from a preservationist discourse to ‘ecologise’ the rural/urban division and so capture the dominant discourse of sustainable development. • Key arenas for CPRE have been the Rogers Report, Sustainable Communities white paper, the writing of PPG3, Regional Spatial Strategies….
Symbolic Violence • Appropriation of the term ‘sustainable communities’ is an instance of symbolic violence (Bourdieu) • ‘Symbolic violence’ : meaning is appropriated by a dominant class in its own interest in ways which obscure the power relations involved. • Bourdieu argued that intelligence is defined by the middle classes in such a way that middle-class children appear naturally gifted. Not only do they thereby gain advantage, but everyone believes that this is fair. • Sustainable communities similarly…
Mixed Communities- but only in poor areas? • ‘Mixed’ or ‘balanced’ communities is another aim of governments seeking sustainability. • DCLG: “They meet the diverse needs of existing and future residents, are sensitive to their environment, and contribute to a high quality of life. They are safe and inclusive, well planned, built and run, and offer equality of opportunity and good services for all.” • But do these objectives address only poor urban neighbourhoods or rural villages and hamlets too?
Rural Housing and this Vision ? • CRC’s State of the Countryside reports, the JRF report and the ARHC report all show: • Worsening problems of affordability, especially in the south, and especially in smaller settlements and landward areas. • Concentrations of second homes, but to a different pattern. • Lack of social housing in smaller settlements, with HA provision far outweighed by RTB sales. • Rural settlements not receiving their fair share of HC funds. • House building at its lowest level for 60 years, and declining further in rural settlements while growing in towns and cities. • Social exclusion becoming spatial exclusion as increasingly only richer people can afford to live in the English countryside.
Housebuilding Completions • House building in rural areas is falling. But not in urban… • A smaller proportion of units built are social housing. • Housing Corporation proposes 3,166pa affordable houses in rural settlements in 2006/08 – 10% for 19% of population in areas of worst affordability. • CRC estimate 30,800pa newly forming and existing households unable to buy in rural England.
ARHC: Main Recommendations • A minimum of 11,000 affordable homes pa should be provided in settlements <10,000 population. • Generate more cross-subsidy from open market schemes. More market housing to generate this and to address affordability. • Government commit to seeking sustainable development in rural communities as well as in urban ones. PPS3 accepts this. • Changes to RTB and RTA in more rural areas to retain affordable rural housing for future generations. • A substantial increase in public funding, as part of a fairer distribution of resources for rural housing. • 10% of funds for 19% of population in settlements with worst affordability and least social housing is not just. • Leadership to make it happen, and proper funding for RHEs.
In Conclusion • DCLG has accepted that rural settlements are not inherently unsustainable, and that sustainable rural communities do need housing. “Where rural affordability is an issue, regions and local authorities should consider the need to secure growth, in both the affordable and market housing sectors, in rural areas as well as urban ones.” (Response to Barker) • Rural Housing Advisory Group established. • Comprehensive Spending Review outcomes awaited. • Discursive power and symbolic violence must be challenged through engaging in deliberative processes at all levels of governance.