Urban challenges

21st June 1996 at 01:00
URBAN PLANNING AND REGENERATION. Hobsons, Bateman Street. Cambridge CB2 1LZ. Pounds 4.99 USING PLANNING ISSUES. Royal Town Planning Institute. Available from the National Association of Environmental Education, University of Wolverhampton, Walsall Campus, Gorway Road, Walsall, West Midlands, WS1 3BD.Pounds 3.50.

PORTLAND - ISLAND OF DISCOVERY. Weymouth and Portland Borough Council, Planning Department, North Quay, Weymouth DT4 8TA. Pounds 15 plus Pounds 3 postage

The quality of support for schools on urban planning is likely to be most effective where planners come together with teachers to consult or collaborate, rather than simply respond to pupils' requests for information. These three recent publications show to varying degrees the benefits to be had when teaching and planning professions talk to each other about the nature of their work. The materials allow real issues to be studied using relevant sources, giving pupils insights into planning and how it may be influenced..

Urban Planning and Regeneration is targeted at GCSE geography and focuses on urban planning and economic development. Separate sections clarify the role of the planner and the conservation officer, and touch on a range of issues such as improvement and renewal strategies, patterns and processes in urban planning.

Some attention is given to planning within the European Union and planning matters at a national scale. This is a useful counterbalance to the small-scale local focus which predominates in geography lessons. The weakness is its brevity. The book is too slim to do justice to its content at a level appropriate for the readership. Two pages per aspect is inhibiting.

Sometimes the summary diagrams and tables work, as when describing the process of a public planning enquiry. Elsewhere, as in the table contrasting urban areas in relation to economic development, there is simplification to the point of distortion. Suggested activities are insufficiently supported by the text for pupils working towards GCSE. It is likely to be more useful as a first point of reference than a main resource for the syllabus.

Involvement of teachers is more evident in Using Planning Issues produced by the West Midlands Royal Town Planning Institute.

Planning issues are clearly placed in a national curriculum context, connecting with geography and other subjects and linking to cross-curricular themes. An enquiry approach is used to investigate planning issues, identify teaching strategies and develop activity sequences using case studies.

The examples used are well conceived and developed. They provide a model which could easily be adapted to local situations. Appendices which develop the planning process and explain planning terms are helpful, as is the list of sources typically available from planning departments. Schools seeking to use local planning issues as a vehicle for teaching environmental topics would be well served by this.

Portland - Island of Discovery is a substantial collection of resources to support fieldwork enquiries on the island of Portland. It is an initiative of Portland Borough Councils' Planning Departments and aims to attract geography field study visits to Portland, Weymouth and South Dorset.

Again there is an input from local teachers so that the impressive range of photos, maps, newspaper cuttings and statistical data are set within 10 case studies with guidance on how they may be used.

Case studies include options for the re-use of the Naval Base, urban issues in Weymouth, and local matters on shopping, housing development, and sea defence. Although the teacher's guide claims to cover the key stage 3, GCSE and A-level spectrum, the case studies, are not well targeted.

The guide should be of great interest to teachers in the area and those who use it for fieldwork. For others it provides glimpses of the kind of resources likely to underpin successful local investigations.

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