The RTPI is a supporter of the Arts Humanities Research Council’s Faith and Place Network led by Dr Andrew Rogers (Faith and Place network Principle Investigator; Principal Lecturer in Practical Theology, University of Roehampton) and Dr Richard Gale (Lecturer in Human Geography, University of Cardiff).
“To be human is to be placed" was the opening line by Dr Joe Aldred (Pentecostal and Multicultural Relations, University of Roehampton, pictured) as he began his session on Pentecostal and Multicultural Relations on Thursday 19 March at their first conference of the year in Birmingham.
The conference raised questions aboug multiculturalism given that it is a feature of 21st century Britain, asking - how then do we best ‘place faith’? The event was designed to address some of the issues that local authorities, politicians and the planning system as a whole face in our diverse society. Discussions about best practice, the flexibility of the planning system (often referring to Use Class D) and how much planners can create a ‘moral landscape’ led to an overall consensus that faith-place related issues need to be strategically addressed at both a local and high level. Faith communities enrich places and provide social capital and networks that, if well integrated into neighbourhood plans, can be a resource used to tackle wider, more complex issues.
Professor John Eade (Sociology and Anthropology, University of Roehampton) discussed the role of religious migration and transnationalism in establishing “new” religious presences in British cities. Demographic change and neighbourhood transition can be experienced as socially unsettling, both for the religious community involved and the wider population. As a result, a local politics of resistance and antipathy can be voiced in the context of planning disputes. Discussions followed about how religion presents both an opportunity and challenge to existing social, spatial and institutional arrangements. Huw Thomas (Planning & Geography, University of Cardiff) spoke about planning and places of worship. At the heart of these issues were questions about the need for greater religious literacy for planners and greater planning literacy for faith groups, the possibilities around sharing religious space, the suitability or otherwise of planning policy (e.g. D1 use class) and whether revisions are needed in relation to faith groups, and the need for national and local guidance for planners on faith, place and planning, which may well include the sharing of good practice. Dr Linda Monckton (English Heritage) noted the importance of built heritage of different communities. An international contribution was made by Dr Bianca Dümling (Director of German based Intercultural Ministries) as she discussed ‘sense of place’ and heritage in Berlin. The outcome of the plenary session identified the need for more sensitive and innovate policy development to allow settled minority groups to seek a ‘sense of place’ and identity that is linked to their faith.
The next confernce is to be held in June 2015.