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11/05/2016

Government efforts to tackle poverty won’t succeed if it neglects ‘place poverty’ – RTPI

Words: Laura Edgar
Golspie Street

The RTPI is warning today that many national and local policies are failing to reduce poverty because they ignore how well-planned local environments with good services and transport can help lift people out of poverty.

Poverty, place and inequality: Why place-based approaches are key to tackling poverty and inequality sets out the problems the UK, and especially England, is facing.

First, national welfare policies have put “too much emphasis” on addressing individual factors behind poverty, including low skills and poor education, and not enough attention has been paid to improving places.

Secondly, local policies don’t tackle physical and social deprivation enough as an “integral part of housing and growth initiatives”.

According to a recent RTPI survey of 100 local plans across the UK, conducted in February 2016, 40 per cent do not make any specific reference to issues of poverty, social exclusion and inequality, while many devolution deals don’t reference these issues either.

The institute said the government’s “sink estate” regeneration programme acknowledges the link between local environments and life chances, but it does not yet tackle wider issues such as transport and community needs, “and it is not funded properly”.

Trudi Elliott, RTPI chief executive, explained that many of the root causes of deprivation and social inequality are bound up in the poor quality of neighbourhoods – “places that have no employment and lack community amenities, are poorly connected or simply run down”.

“Good planning,” Elliott said, “is the one tool in our hands that can make places increase people’s opportunities and help lift them from poverty.”

She said devolution in the UK is giving local authorities, as well as new mayors, the opportunity to adopt a “more holistic approach” to planning and improve the places that people live in.

“From putting housing in the right location to designing better bus services, we’d like to see planning at city, county and regional levels tackle physical and social deprivation more directly as a core part of housing delivery and growth deals, supported by social services that address local needs.”

Minimum place standards tools, such as the Place Standard tool adopted in Scotland, which aims to “support the delivery of high-quality places by providing a framework for the assessment and improvement of new and existing places”, can help to address environmental poverty.

Introducing poverty reduction targets into local plans could also help – the report refers to the Gorbals and the Central Govan Plan in Glasgow, among others, as having “notable success”.

Poverty, place and inequality: Why place-based approaches are key to tackling poverty and inequality can be found here (pdf).

Image credit | John Lord, Flickr

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