Building on the work to create a Digital record of the plotland movement in the UK, I have been working on digitising aspects of the maps produced by J.A. Steers between 1942 to 1946.
As noted in his 1944 presentation to the Royal Geographical Society (Steers, J.A., 1944. Coastal Preservation and Planning. The Geographical Journal 104, 7. doi:10.2307/1790025), Steers’ geophysical explorations of the coastline during the Second World War sought to graphically describe the ‘quality’ of the coastal scenery. These observations of scenic quality are underwritten by his observations of various elements that damage the coastal scenery including industrial areas, derelict mining areas, built up residential areas, and ‘areas of bad scattered development’.
Noted by Steers as X marks clinging to the coastline the location of these scattered developments almost directly relate to plotland sites around the coastline. By mapping these locations against the later work of Hardy and Ward we can begin to gain a wider picture of the extent of plotland sites across the UK at different points in recent history.
These new locations have all been added to the updated Plotland 2.0 map.
Following a long hiatus I have finally found time to resume work on the mapping of UK plotlander sites and have now published an interactive map of all currently known locations.
What is immediately apparent is Hardy and Ward’s focus on London and the South East in the mapping for their book ‘Arcadia For All’. Yet in beginning to map the location of plotland sites from other research and archive resources a wider picture extending beyond London begins to be suggested.
This has long been my suspicion: that the London-centric mapping of plotlanders perhaps only represents a part of the full UK picture.
If the extent of plotlander communities surrounding London can be seen as a response to the problems of industirlasition, poverty, and bomb damage faced by people (and in particular the working classes) living in cities between the late 1800s and post World War II, then it would suggest that all industrial cities would likely have experienced a similar process. This supposition begins makes sense of the sites in similar proximity to Manchester and Liverpool in the North West and the hint of sites around Newcastle in the North East.
It is hoped that many more such sites will be found in the future. To aid in the project of locating lost, forgotten, and previously unknown plotland sites I have now created an online google form by which people can submit the location of unknown plotland site locations so that the full extent of UK plotlanders can be mapped.
Hot on the heels of this weeks release of ‘Architecture and Space Re-imagined’, today sees the publication of ‘Forgotten Plotlanders’ in the Housing, Theory and Society journal.
This paper marks the first journal publication relating to my post-doctoral research into informal space and housing in the UK. Whilst it builds upon themes of alterneity and informal space theory drawn from ‘Architecture and Space Re-imagined’ it reflects the first translation of these ideas into a UK context.
This trajectory of research supports and frames an upcoming AHRC funding application for ECR’s. Titled ‘Subsistent Places; Productive Lives’, this project will analyse the history of other plotlander sites in order to document the formalisation of space in the UK. This line of inquiry will support a critique of the UK model of speculative neoliberal mass-housing with the ultimate intention of proposing an alternative model of non-speculative development and positive anarchistic informality in UK space.
Once again, if anyone wishes to discuss the ideas raised in the book then please get in touch.
Colin Ward’s discourses on the Arcadian landscape of “plotlander” housing are unique documentations of the anarchistic birth, life, and death of the last informal housing communities in the UK. Today, the forgotten history of plotlander housing documented by Ward can be re-read in the context of both the apparently never-ending “housing crisis” in the UK and the increasing awareness of the potential value of learning from comparable informal housing from the Global South. This paper’s observations of a previously unknown and forgotten plotlander site offer a chance to begin a new conversation regarding the positive potential of informal and alternative housing models in the UK and wider Westernized world.
This is the outline for an ongoing and long-term research project that I will be pursuing in the coming years. It is currently being prepared for UK research funding applications and pilot funding from my host university.
A critical analysis of the loss of informal space in the UK as a counter-narrative to the UK’s contemporary housing crisis.
This research project will pursue a critical enquiry into the relationships of informal space, land ownership, and housing practices against a framework of theoretical discourses concerning the political policy, ideology, and domination of the social production of space.
Using a GIS mapping methodology, the research will critically analyse a broad narrative of housing and land ownership in the UK, from the 18th and 19th Century Inclosures Acts, the Tithe Commutation Act of 1836, through the Allotments Acts of 1908 and 1922, and finally on to the Town and country Planning Act of 1947. This mapping process will analyse a specific range of case studies to produce a critical analysis of key informal spaces in the UK. The intersections of this mapping analysis against a framework of critical theory will be explored in order to highlight the social, cultural, economic, and spatial impacts of these successive acts on the UK’s collective social understanding of land ownership, home, and life.
This research process will conclude by posing critical challenges to the contemporary housing situation facing the UK and wider Westernised space: What are the social and political consequences of the loss of informal space and housing in the UK? What can we learn from the historical successes and failures of informal space in the UK? What political and planning policy changes are necessary to afford a change to this un-sustainable production of spaces and lives? How can we use the principles of informal space to create subsistent spaces to afford people to have productive lives?
Informal space, housing, plotlanders, allotments, anarchism, mapping