Challenges of Participation and Representation in Urban Development – Sarah Sackman, Barrister at Francis Taylor Building | Lent Term Seminar

On Monday March 19th, Sarah Sackman, barrister at Francis Taylor Building, talked about participation and representation in urban development. She gave an insight into how the law positions the role of public participation in the planning system. Click here to download the PPT presentation.

Addressing the question: “How does the promise of public participation play in reality?”, she presented four claims:

  1. The ideal of participation is a disappointment;
  2. Public participation is profoundly unequal;
  3. The client and lawyer relationship can create an imbalance of the point of views exposed;
  4. The formalization of conflict can create unpredictable spaces for mobilization and resistance.

She presented the case of Barnet’s proposed regeneration of the Granville Road Estate, a planning case in which she was involved. Three objections were voiced by the residents: lack of open space in the new project, not enough social housing and not enough community space.

Providing an ethnographic account of this case Sarah described how two different community groups came together to fight a loss of open space. She noted that while outside planning experts could draw on a technical terminology to dismiss the space as underused, residents had a strong attachment to the space which it was not easy to acknowledge this in terms valid to the planning system. Despite the residents’ main concern for the loss of open space, Sarah encouraged them to oppose the proposal based on the lack of social housing. She reflected on the significance of this in her role as a legal expert seeking to support the community but where the best legal option required her to advise a different emphasis from that closest to the community’s concerns. The imbalance between what the most compelling argument for residents and the most compelling argument within the planning system was used to illustrate the gap between the promise of participation and the lived experience.

Sarah Sackman has a wide-ranging practice in public law. Sarah’s practice encompasses planning, environmental, education, social welfare law, housing, EU law, discrimination/equality and regulatory judicial review. Sarah acts for claimants and respondents alike and has advised a range of public authorities, NGOs, charities and private clients. She has appeared as junior in the Supreme Court and unled in the High Court and Court of Appeal. 

Sarah is on the Attorney General’s C Panel and is regularly instructed by the Government. Sarah is committed to publicly funded work, as well as privately funded and public interest litigation. In appropriate cases, Sarah acts pro bono.

Sarah holds an LLM from Harvard Law School and is a visiting lecturer at the London School of Economics Cities Programme where she teaches public law and urban politics.

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