Forcing the empties back to work? : ruinphobia and the bluntness of law and policy

BENNETT, Luke and DICKINSON, Jill (2015). Forcing the empties back to work? : ruinphobia and the bluntness of law and policy. In: Transience and Permanence in Urban Development International Research Workshop,, University of Sheffield, Town & Regional Planning Dept, 14-15 January 2015.

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Since at least the mid Nineteenth century (but having important antecedents far back in feudalism’s concern for the proper utilisation of land – the law of waste) many pages of the statute book have been dedicated to the creation of measures to encourage or force property back into productive use, or at least occupancy. This paper will critically examine the ‘challenge’ of the city’s empty, unproductive and/or dilapidated places:

First, by questioning the unstated assumption that emptiness and dis-use are problematic. This requires an analysis of the latent ruinphobia that lies at the heart of the policy agenda and finds iits expression in the policy’s links to the social sciences (e.g. Wilson & Kelling's ‘broken window theory’ of crime caused by urban dereliction), in community governance measures such as the Clean Neighbourhood & Environment Act 2005, and the embers of slum clearance (Housing Market Renewal). This fear of emptiness (and its related Protestant ethic of full utilisation) is palpable (and unquestioned) in The Portas Review, in the 2007 abolition of empty premises rate relief, in the ‘bedroom tax’, in the proliferation of charity shop and other ‘meanwhile’ occupancies.

Secondly, by exploring the bluntness of ‘temporality’ within the planning law and policy system and its implications for use-forcing. Here ‘temporality’ is used in two senses – both as an awareness of the passage of time, and more specifically in acknowledgement that law attaches to familiar-sized moments – phases of use. Our contention is that for all its talk of planning (which implies a command of the future) planning law and policy has only limited effective reach across time (for it cannot force development to occur, merely channel the development aspirations of other stakeholders) and that it also rests upon a specific time horizon – that of the ‘medium term’. Consents are granted without time limit (but implicitly anchored to the 20 years or so likely life of a building) or are restricted to a handful of years. The planning system is not set up to act or think in terms months – its notion of temporary being confined to 28 days (a nod back to pre-industrial fairs, hunting seasons and the like).

Item Type: Conference or Workshop Item (Paper)
Additional Information: This work was revised and published as :Forcing the empties back to work? Ruinphobia and the bluntness of law and policy. In: HENNEBERRY, John, (ed.) Transience and permanence in urban development. Real estate issues . Hoboken, NJ, Wiley, 17-30.
Research Institute, Centre or Group - Does NOT include content added after October 2018: Built Environment Division Research Group
Depositing User: Luke Bennett
Date Deposited: 23 Sep 2015 09:12
Last Modified: 18 Mar 2021 16:08

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