Network co-leader, Dr Richard Gale, contributed to a forum by the Berley Center for Religion, Peace and World Affairs, responding to the theme of Religion and Urban Planning: Challenges and Possibilities. Writing on the theme of ‘In Search of Common Ground‘, Richard stressed the need for building relationships in the field of religion and planning, pointing to the work of the Faith and Place network as an example.
Network leaders Richard Gale and Andrew Rogers have been leading a series of Faith and Place Dialogues in the Welsh context, with support from RTPI Cymru and Planning Aid Wales. The background to these events is that religious diversity has been increased substantially in Wales in recent decades, leading to a growing need among some groups for designated spaces in which to congregate and worship. Although crude, data from recent censuses give some indication of the scale of this change. For example, in the decade between the 2001 and 2011 Censuses, all non-Christian religious groups grew in Wales, with Buddhists increasing by 69 percent (from 5,407 to 9,117), Hindus by 92 percent (from 5,439 to 10,434), Muslims by 111 percent (from 21,739 to 45,950), Sikhs by 47 percent (from 2,015 to 2,962) and ‘Other non-Christian’ groups by 84 percent (from 6,909 to 12,705). In addition, while the Christian population fell overall by 16 percent (from 2.09 million to 1.8 million), this masks significant growth in the presence of Black Christian groups, with African Caribbean Christians growing by 39 percent (from 1,810 to 2,513) and African Christians growing by 346 percent (from 1,662 to 7,406). Currently, non-Christian faith groups make up 2.7 percent of the Welsh population, an increase from 1.5 percent in 2001.
These trends are likely to continue for some while into the future, and present important challenges for planners. As such there is a growing need to explore how relationships between planners and faith groups play out in the Welsh context. Funded by the Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC), these events are drawing together Welsh Government officers, local government planners, faith group representatives, interfaith organisations and academics. The events seek to promote knowledge exchange, networking and ongoing dialogue between key stakeholders and to embed the Welsh version of the FPN Policy Briefing, ‘Faith Groups and the Planning System’.
Three events are taking place in total, in Cardiff, Newport and Swansea, which between them accounted for 64 percent of the overall growth in the non-Christian religious presence in Wales between 2001 and 2011. The final event takes place in Cardiff on Thursday 24th January. A final report on the project will be submitted to event participants and the Welsh Government in Spring 2019.
Dr Richard Gale, network co-leader, has recently been awarded impact funds by the ESRC for a project entitled “Planning for Religious Diversity in Wales: Towards a Faith and Place Knowledge Exchange Network”. The project will run three public engagement events called Faith and Place dialogues in Cardiff, Newport and Swansea during 2018. These events will be draw on the Faith and Place network policy briefing recommendations (see Downloads), to promote networking, knowlege exchange and an ongoing dialogue between Welsh Government, local authority planners and faith group representatives around the faith, place and planning nexus. The project is partnered by RTPI Cymru and Planning Aid Wales.
RTPI Scotland have recently published a guest blog post about Faith Groups and the Planning System in Scotland. Paul Ede, a Planning Advisory Service (PAS) volunteer, writes about Clay Community Church in Glasgow and how faith groups can play an active role in place making.
Engaging with our network policy briefing, Paul writes “At their best, faith groups like the planning system steward their energies for the the common good. The concerns of planning are important to faith groups, and the concerns of faith groups are important to planning”. Take a look here.
Somewhat belatedly, Faith and Place network members may be interested in the Religion and the Public Sphere blog from the London School of Economics. As part of the Pentecostalism in Britain series, network co-leader, Dr Andrew Rogers, and network member, Bishop Dr Joe Aldred, have both published pieces on this blog in recent months.
Take a look at “How are black majority churches growing in the UK?” which includes discussion of the network and policy briefing. See also “Pentecostalism in Britain today” which profiles the diversity that exists in British Pentecostalism today.
The Faith and Place network is delighted to announce the publication of our Wales policy briefing this month. You can download an electronic version in English or Welsh here. Dual language print versions are being sent out to local planning authorities and religious organisations in Wales over the next few weeks. The Archbishop of Wales, Barry Morgan, had this to say about the July 2016 Wales policy briefing:
Bydd y canllaw hwn yn cael ei groesawu’n fawr, a’i werthfawrogi’n arbennig gan grwpiau ffydd nad ydynt yn ddigon ffodus i gael cefnogaeth adrannau eiddo sefydliadol, yn ogystal â chynllunwyr sy’n ceisio cael dealltwriaeth well o’r anghenion a’r posibiliadau o fewn eu cymunedau.
This guide is very welcome, and will be particularly appreciated by faith groups who are not fortunate enough to be backed up by organisational property departments, and by planners seeking a better understanding of the needs and possibilities within their communities.
For the full message from the Archbishop, click here.
Faith and Place network member, Richard Blyth, head of policy and practice at the Royal Town Planning Institute, recently talked to the Public Sector Executive magazine about the Faith and Place network and our policy briefing. As a result the publication contacted FPN network leaders to explain the briefing recommendations further and how these were being followed up. The article was published on the 16th December 2015 – read it here.
The report of the Commission on Religion and Belief in British Public Life, Living with Difference: Community, Diversity and the Common Good, was published on 7th December 2015. One of its key recommendations was as follows:
Much greater religion and belief literacy is needed in every section of society, and at all levels. The potential for misunderstanding, stereotyping and oversimplication based on ignorance is huge. The commission therefore calls on educational and professional bodies to draw up religion and belief literacy programmes and projects, including an annual awards scheme to recognise and celebrate best practice in the media.
This resonates strongly with the Faith and Place network’s policy briefing, especially the first core theme of ‘Understanding One Another’. In it we identify the need for ‘greater understanding and dialogue between local planning authorities and faith groups’, specifically recommendation 1 and 5 as follows:
1. Local planning authorities need to develop greater understanding of how faith groups use space, which includes recognition of the differences between and within faith groups themselves. To facilitate this, specific guidance on how faith groups use space needs to be made available, for example, through supplementary planning documents that reflect the contemporary religious landscape. Generating such guidance may benefit from collaboration with the relevant professional bodies and faith groups.
5. Faith groups also need to have greater understanding of the planning system. This might be facilitated by guides produced by local planning authorities, in collaboration with faith groups and other civil society organisations. These guides should clarify the practicalities of the planning system and also outline how planning policies can be applied to accommodate the needs of faith groups. Such collaboration, as recommended by the RTPI over 30 years ago, should not be a one-way process.
We are now working to see how the network might facilitate greater mutual understanding between faith groups and local planning authorities.
A very happy new year to all our website visitors! Just to let you know that videos of the Faith and Place Futures speakers from July 2015 are now on the website here. Videos of the policy briefing launch at the House of Commons in October 2015 are now also available on the website here. The above samples are of Stephen Timms MP speaking at the House of Commons launch and secondly of participants at the very warm Futures symposium.
The other news is that our funding council have agreed to extend the Faith and Place network until February 2016, largely to enable the network leaders to complete remaining network tasks, in particular disseminating the briefing to all local planning authorities in England and further developing our European connections.
The Faith and Place network policy briefing was featured in the Church Times on 30th October 2015, under the headline ‘Council planners “should embrace faith groups”‘. See the article here.