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Scotland poverty tsar: place matters in tackling poverty

13 June 2017

Naomi Eisenstadt, Independent Advisor to the Scottish Government on Poverty and Inequality, has reiterated the important role planning and planners have in tackling poverty.

Large differences in life expectancy between poor and wealthy wards in the same local authority and the fact that poverty exists within relatively well off areas, demonstrate the need for targeted, place-based approaches.

Speaking at the 14th Sir Patrick Geddes Commemorative Lecture organised by RTPI Scotland, Naomi explained why the quality of neighbourhoods is vital to reducing poverty, and why local authorities must be strengthened to deliver them alongside more traditional policies such as boosting employment.

Poverty within well-off areas shows the need for targeted policies 

Large differences in life expectancy between poor and wealthy wards in the same local authority (eg Milton Keynes: 9 years difference, Camden 11 years difference) and the fact that there are pockets of poverty in relatively well off areas, demonstrate the need for targeted, place-based approaches in tackling poverty and inequality, she said.

While admitting the causes of poverty are complex, Naomi said areas with ill-designed and badly-located housing are often areas with poor job prospects and lower attainment in schools, hindered by poor transport. The design of the physical environment also has a huge role in crime prevention and in promoting social cohesion and physical and mental well-being.

Regeneration, not gentrification

She said that market-driven housing stock has too often led to gentrification and suggested that we need to look more towards inclusive growth as the way forward.  This will require a shared mission and taking a more entrepreneurial ‘whole-place leadership’ approach, where everybody at every level – from the national to the street - has a role to play and is recognised as an important part of the solution.

RTPI Scotland Convenor, Stefano Smith, said: “Naomi’s presentation was incredibly thought-provoking and provides much food for thought.  It shows how planners are working with a range of partners to transform places across Scotland. We hope that the lecture will be the beginning of a fruitful relationship with her.”

Advancing Geddesian thinking

Patrick Geddes (1854-1932) is widely regarded as the founder of modern town planning. RTPI Scotland holds an Annual Commemorative Lecture to advance Geddesian thinking and to stimulate debate and discussion on key issues in planning. The lecture is supported by the Sir Patrick Geddes Memorial Trust and the Saltire Society.

Previous speakers including Jonathan Porritt;  Tina Saaby, City Architect, Copenhagen; Wulf Daseking, former Chief Planning Officer for the City of Freiburg; Professor Jan Gehl, Founding Partner of Gehl Architects in Copenhagen; and Carolyn Steel author of "Hungry City: How Food Shapes Our Lives". 

Read Naomi’s presentation here

Read RTPI's latest work on place and poverty here