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  • 2019Yuillephd

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Knowing and caring: performing legitimacy in neighbourhood planning

Research output: ThesisDoctoral Thesis

Publication date2019
Number of pages361
Awarding Institution
  • Lancaster University
<mark>Original language</mark>English


Neighbourhood Planning is a form of small-scale, community-led land-use planning, introduced to England by the Localism Act 2011. It constitutes a radical shift for UK planning and a striking example of the participatory and localist turns in governance, allowing ‘laypeople’ to write their own statutory planning policies. Its promoters portray it as a straightforward transfer of power from state to community which prioritises local experiential knowledge and care for place. However, drawing on theoretical and methodological resources from Science and Technology Studies and four years of ethnographic fieldwork at two sites in the North West of England, my research suggests a more complex picture. I show how the practices of Neighbourhood Planning reproduce the category of the expert and the expert-agency coupling by producing a new subset of lay-experts. However, they occupy a precarious position, being reliant on established expertise to stabilise their expert identity, but also subject to displacement by that expertise. They must also perform other identities alongside that of the expert to establish and maintain their legitimacy, and powerful tensions arise between these identities. Successfully enacting this composite of identities enables them to draw on complex, hybrid forms of representative, participatory, and epistemological authority. This constrains their ability to represent the neighbourhood as experienced and forces them to reframe the issues that they want to address, but also enables them to make real differences to the ways in which the neighbourhood will change. Framing the production and evaluation of evidence in terms of ‘matters of concern’ (Latour) and ‘matters of care’ (Puig de la Bellacasa), situated in a narrative context, would enable the diversity of things that matter to these groups to be addressed more directly, and allow better critical consideration of both those knowledge claims labelled as ‘objective’ and those labelled as ‘subjective’.