Town Planning Review

'Broken' public spaces in theory and in practice

Town Planning Review (2009), 80, (4-5), 371–392.

Abstract

This examination of recent UK 'liveability' discourse identifies five distinct policy areas which this discourse seeks to embrace. It critiques liveability's strong emphasis on visual order, its problematic sense of the public interest, and its limited aspirations for the planning of the public realm. It analyses the philosophy of governance underpinning the UK government's liveability agenda, in its attempts to adopt two specific areas of ideology and policy from the USA: for cities, the urban entrepreneurialism of place marketing, government-facilitated gentrification and Business Improvement Districts; and for individuals, personal responsibility, the criminalisation of poverty and difference, and zero-tolerance 'law and order' policing. The paper suggests how public realm planning might engage in more nuanced and socially inclusive ways with the concept of liveability, by highlighting the few proactive, strategic, socially inclusive dimensions of the liveability agenda, and drawing on previous studies of unregulated, non-commercial social behaviour in public spaces.

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Stevens, Quentin