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Industry body recognises research excellence

17 September 2018

Dr Richard Gale from the School of Geography and Planning at Cardiff University, and Dr Andrew Rogers, from the University of Roehampton, were shortlisted for the Sir Peter Hall Award for Wider Engagement.

The shortlisting recognised Dr Gale and Dr Rogers’ exploration of the implications of planning policy and practice for faith groups in the UK.

Research impact

The research investigated how planning impacts upon post-migrant faith groups seeking to establish religious sites and revealed persistent patterns of disadvantage for Muslims and African Christians. These two groups are met with unusually high rates of planning refusal. Dr Gale and Dr Rogers identified three broad ways in which planning affects the establishment and development of new religious sites:

  1. Control over the location of religious facilities often impedes attempts to establish religious sites close to residential communities which results in locations distanced from their congregations in industrial zones and retail complexes
  2. Planning exerts influence over the architectural designs of new religious buildings, often inhibiting the ability to incorporate stylistic references to religious architectural traditions.
  3. Restricting patterns of use, planning constrains religious buildings’ ritual and practical functions, such as placing conditions on hours of use which conflict with Muslim prayer times.

According to Dr Gale: “The persistence of these issues has necessitated greater engagement and activity between faith groups and the planning profession.

“However, this relationship can be frustrated by an absence of understanding or knowledge. For example, planners’ lack of awareness of the cultural practices, ritual commitments and residential geographies of faith groups, and faith groups’ need for greater understanding of the principles and requirements of planning.

He continued: “Our work has included establishing the AHRC-funded Faith and Place Network (FPN) in 2014. Through this network, we have organised a series of dialogues between local authority planners, faith groups and academics, aimed at generating shared understandings of how planning can more effectively meet the challenges of religious diversity.”

The FPN published the Faith Groups and the Planning System Policy Briefing, with recommendations and principles for planners and faith groups to adopt, at the House of Commons in 2015. This was distributed to all local planning authorities in England before being extended to Wales, with the endorsement of the Archbishop of Wales. Dr Gale and Dr Rogers also collaborated with CAG Planning Consultants, members of the FPN, in a successful bid to the London Borough of Barking and Dagenham, to comprehensively review the Borough’s faith and planning needs.

Dr Richard Gale has secured European Social and Research Council funding to enhance the reach of this work in Wales and to support a series of faith and planning dialogues in Cardiff, Newport and Swansea.

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