Julian Dobson
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Julian is a writer, speaker and commentator on regeneration, placemaking, civil society and social policy. He is also a trainer, adviser and facilitator, working with organisations on creative solutions to the problems of place.

He is director of Urban Pollinators, which helps make sense of regeneration, placemaking and social change by sharing and applying ideas through research, writing, editing, and face to face learning.

Julian was co-founder and editorial director of New Start, the national magazine for regeneration practitioners, and previously edited Inside Housing, the national weekly for social housing professionals.

Julian blogs at Living with Rats and writes for a range of think tanks and publications, including the Joseph Rowntree Foundation, the Centre for Local Economic Strategies and Res Publica. He tweets at @juliandobson

He is helping to create Our Society, a social action network, and Revive Our Town Centres, a network for people involved in rethinking local high streets. He is a Fellow of the RSA and on the editorial board of the journal Local Economy.

Entries by Julian Dobson

Is It Time to Stop Talking About Transformation?

(0) Comments | Posted 17 July 2014 | (22:41)

There are words that have all the impact of a car alarm going off in the middle of the night. They scream at you, but most of the time they mean nothing. One such word is 'transformation'.

I've lost count of the amount of transformation I've heard about. Housing estates...

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How Your High Street Can Be a Garden, a Promenade, and a Stage

(0) Comments | Posted 2 April 2014 | (12:04)

How can a town grow its own high street, with little or no help from outside? A century ago that would have been a strange question: every town's high street had grown more or less organically and was an expression of the industry and resources of the locality.

Today most...

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The Kettle Box: The New Symbol of Britain

(21) Comments | Posted 28 January 2014 | (23:00)

You might not have heard of 'kettle boxes' before. They sound innocuous enough; maybe, with the right kind of marketing, even a bit fashionable. Whole meals you can prepare with nothing more than a handy electric kettle.

What might you find in a kettle box? Dried soup. Instant...

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The High Street Predators of Food Bank Britain

(0) Comments | Posted 28 November 2013 | (14:08)

Five years ago this week Woolworths became the first high street victim of the recession when it went into administration. The closure of such a household name sent shock waves around the country, and not only from children distraught at the loss of their pick'n'mix treats.

As Leigh...

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Ten Brilliant Reasons Why You Should Plant Veg in Public Places

(2) Comments | Posted 18 November 2013 | (09:46)

One. They're urine-resistant, apparently. According to Mary Clear of Incredible Edible Todmorden, a drunk will pee on a petunia but not on a parsnip. People seem hard-wired to respect food.

Two. Instead of telling their patients to sort out their diet, doctors can just ask them to go...

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The Unnatural Disaster of the Bedroom Tax

(0) Comments | Posted 29 October 2013 | (12:29)

One of the most traumatising effects of natural disasters is the way they rip people out of their communities. It happens when the physical infrastructure of those communities is destroyed, and it happens when people are removed from family, friends and the social networks that support them.

The American psychiatrist...

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Why Is Chard Too Hard for Tesco?

(0) Comments | Posted 25 July 2013 | (19:04)

We've been enjoying our first harvest of rainbow chard this month. Grown in odd spots of a tiny back garden, it adds a blaze of colour to the flower beds and is a tasty addition to a meal.

It's not difficult to grow, which may be why it's a staple...

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Television Won't Save the High Street - But it Really Doesn't Matter

(1) Comments | Posted 8 May 2013 | (16:03)

Just over a year ago I met a charming woman who wanted to pick my brains about the TV show she was producing. Mary Queen of the High Street aired for the first time this evening, following the author of the Portas Review on her quest to inject...

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Simple Steps Towards Local Prosperity

(0) Comments | Posted 27 March 2013 | (16:59)

Travelling through the west country in 1720, Daniel Defoe was struck by the prosperity of the town of Totnes in Devon. He described how salmon would be trapped at the town's mill on the river Dart, and driven into a net by a dog, enabling the fisherman to...

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Forget Peppa Pig - It's Time to Take the Future of High Streets Seriously

(0) Comments | Posted 14 March 2013 | (15:42)

First there was Peppa Pig. Then there was Santa. Both were held up to ridicule in the pages of the Independent and elsewhere as ludicrous examples of waste and stupidity.

What Peppa and Santa had in common, apart from their excited following of small children, was...

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When Good Neighbours Become Good Policy

(0) Comments | Posted 5 March 2013 | (16:25)

Where will you find a policeman being given an affordable home among the community he serves? Or a housing association boss a tenant can have a chat with in the street?

Since 1992, several hundred homes in a corner of west London have been the standard-bearers of a remarkable experiment...

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Is There a Future for the North's Public Services?

(2) Comments | Posted 27 February 2013 | (14:16)

A child learning geography in the 1960s would quickly associate a map of Britain with the stuff that was produced in different places.

Here were the coal towns, in places like Barnsley, Easington in Durham or the south Wales Valleys. Here were the places that made steel, like Sheffield and...

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Worry About the Business Model, Not the Sales Figures

(1) Comments | Posted 9 January 2013 | (23:34)

The January hangover, apparently, is already here on our high streets. At a time when, traditionally, the sales are in full swing, retailers are already adjusting their mindsets to disappointment.

Latest figures from the British Retail Consortium show retail sales values up 0.3% year on year, below the...

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From 'Me' Towns to 'We' Towns

(0) Comments | Posted 22 November 2012 | (01:44)

Lou Reed famously sang that there was only one good use for a small town. When you grow up in a small town you 'grow down' - 'you hate it and you know you'll have to leave'.

But something interesting is happening in many of our small towns: something that...

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When Protest Is a Public Nuisance, the Public Should Worry

(6) Comments | Posted 11 October 2012 | (00:00)

Next week Trenton Oldfield, the campaigner who disrupted this year's Oxford and Cambridge boat race, will be sentenced for causing a public nuisance. This catch-all common law charge allows the courts to impose any sentence up to life imprisonment.

The original charge was under section five...

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In Praise of Planners

(0) Comments | Posted 20 September 2012 | (21:35)

Town planners, it seems, are the people everyone loves to hate. When was the last time you heard someone spontaneously eulogise their local planning department?

It's time to put in a good word for these oft-maligned bureaucrats. This week I was at the London Assembly, where I'd been asked to...

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The End of All Our Exploring

(1) Comments | Posted 28 August 2012 | (00:00)

As a kid I remember the excitement of the moon landings. They created a sense that everything was possible: that new worlds were waiting to be discovered, and we could be part of them.

The death of Neil Armstrong on Saturday brought back those memories. Technology was great,...

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The Hidden Potential of the Corner Shop

(3) Comments | Posted 11 August 2012 | (00:00)

When she was too frail to cross the road on her own, a neighbour used to take my aunt to the corner shop on her estate in Rotherham. There she'd sit for an hour or two and chat to friends and neighbours as they popped in for newspapers or groceries.

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Seeds of Hope

(0) Comments | Posted 6 July 2012 | (09:19)

At the beginning of this week I got to go to the Royal Horticultural Society's flower show at Hampton Court. For a newbie like me itwas an eye-opener: enough cut-glass accents to make me think I'd stepped into a BBC studio from the 1950s, designer gardens that were...

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What Kind of Support Do Our High Streets Need?

(4) Comments | Posted 25 June 2012 | (00:00)

As any team competing in the Euro 2012 championships knows, having the right support behind you can make all the difference. But sometimes supporters can be a liability: they make headlines for all the wrong reasons.

The town teams that have emerged from the Portas Review of the...

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