In praise of planners

On Monday I gave evidence to MPs on the future of high streets and town centres. To my left was a portrait of a rather wild-looking Margaret Thatcher.  It was somehow appropriate that her ghost should grimace over the discussions. What the grocer’s daughter would make of a world where groceries are shipped from vast […]

Plants, cyborgs, and the future of nature

Does nature have a future? If so, what kind of future will it be and how will humans shape it? These huge questions dominated proceedings at a conference to mark 50 years of the Department of Landscape at the University of Sheffield. Drawing together renowned speakers from around the world, the agenda was ostensibly the […]

Why diggers are better than levellers

God, so the saying goes, helps those who helps themselves. If you’re not of a godly persuasion, you might say you make your own luck. Action brings its own rewards. These are truisms that have filtered their way into philosophy and social policy, but it’s worth stepping back and doing a bit of de-filtering. I […]

The right to the city is a right to the story

Change the story and you change the city. Marketing and PR people have always known that, from the famous ‘Glasgow’s Miles Better’ campaign of the 1980s to the unforgettable, but unfortunate, decision to brand Glasgow’s Prestwick Airport with the legend ‘pure dead brilliant’. The story of a city emerges not only from the story as told, […]

Greetings from Utopia

We can only answer the question of what we should do, the philosopher Alistair MacIntyre said, if we can answer the question of which stories we are part of. We aren’t authors of our own lives so much as weavers of tales that extend before and beyond us. This week I was at Chester’s new […]

The peculiar persistence of place

If you live in Barnsley, I was once told, you can be as rude about it as you like and nobody will bat an eyelid. But if you don’t and you suggest it’s anything less than God’s holiday home when the Almighty fancies a break, heaven help you. For Barnsley, read anywhere with a strong […]