BSP activity with student volunteers 2020/21

BSP (The Bartlett School of Planning) has a long tradition of engagement with and support for grassroots campaigns and social movements in London. At present this mainly takes the form of collaborations with Just Space, a big network of community organisations. This collaboration is mostly in research on issues prioritised by community groups and in teaching/learning —some within formal modules of degrees and some through the volunteer, extra-curricular, activity of individual students and small groups. This is intended to give students real life experiences of the issues faced by local communities in one of the world’s most unequal cities.

Recent years have seen students assisting the Grand Union Alliance, Old Oak Neighbourhood Forum, Thames Ward Community Project in Barking Riverside and Save Hackney Central Campaign – on various aspects of neighbourhood planning, community organising, and major site development analysis.

Volunteer activity 2020-21

The Covid-19 pandemic has totally disrupted much of London’s life including our plans for this work; for the foreseeable future it is not going to be safely feasible for community groups to have their normal physical meetings of members, nor for us (students and staff) to visit them or walk their neighbourhoods, learning and gathering data. So what we have in mind for students interested in individual volunteering is a number of online zoom sessions at each of which there will be some briefing about aspects of London planning and a discussion led by a community activist with whom we have been working and plan to do further work in the coming months.

At these sessions we’ll apply our minds to thinking what contributions we could make while lockdown continues (and afterwards, if there is an afterwards). Much of the property development industry and much of the government apparatus continues to function through the pandemic so the need for community alertness and action is as crucial as ever.

Town centre: Hackney Central MOPS

The first of these meetings is 1400h-1600h on Wednesday 2 December which will focus on one of the devices for the intensification of development in the new London Plan: replacing single storey supermarkets and their car parks at well-connected points on the transport network with dense mixed use schemes, mainly housing. An instance is a scheme in Hackney Central to redevelop Tescos on Morning Lane. We’ll be meeting with Heather Mendick and Adam Forman from the local group which has come into existence to channel and discover local needs and demands there: MOPS (MOrning lane People’s Space).

NB MOPS are having their own online meeting on Saturday 28th November to report the results of an extensive online and face-to-face interview survey they have just completed. Link here if you would like to attend that.

Opportunity Areas: Barking Riverside Thames ward

A second meeting will focus on the major ‘Opportunity Areas’ in the London Plan where most of the growth is to be concentrated, and with a representative from Barking Riverside where we collaborate with and support the Thames Ward Community Project. This will be on 9 December at 1500h UTC/GMT.

Recording of the session (NB a later version may follow with transcript alongside) You may need a code to view this: Passcode: *54zL6j% 

Please do communicate with Michael Edwards on your ideas arising from either of these meetings, or about how you would like these events to develop in 2021.

What does “affordable” mean?

At both meetings questions were raised about definitions and significance of the jargon surrounding affordable housing policy discussions in London. A good, and up-to-date explanation of the terminology has been prepared by the London Tenants Federation.


Further meetings in this series will be held in 2021. Do bear in mind that participation in any or all of these events, or in work arising from them, does not form an official part of your degree and carries no marks or credit. You may, though, focus a dissertation or other assignment on your experience. Questions and suggestions welcome. Email m.edwards [at]

Everyone planning to take part should first familiarise themselves with the short Protocol which we have developed with Just Space to help get the best from such collaborations and avoid pitfalls and disappointments.

A survey of the activities of Just Space up to July 2020 is to be found at

A report on UCL/JustSpace activity in recent years is at including a listing of publications arising from the work.

Collaboration in modules

Also involved in teaching with Just Space is Dr Pablo Sendra whose Civic Design CPD course and postgraduate module each year work with a Just Space group and whose research with Dr Daniel Fitzpatrick generated a handbook for social housing residents defending their estates [ free download ]. They are also starting a project developing an alternative plan with residents of the Alton Estate in Roehampton, challenging a ‘regeneration’ scheme proposed by Wandsworth Council..

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