Julian Dobson

Writer and commentator on cities, towns and social policy

Julian is a writer and researcher with a particular interest in how towns and cities can be better to live in and fairer for everyone. He is the author of How to Save Our Town Centres (Policy Press, 2015) and director of the research consultancy Urban Pollinators Ltd.

It's Green Up North

If that action includes bringing people together around food, supporting local food-based businesses and helping people to learn how to grow, cook and share food in ways that preserve resources for future generations, it can open up the conversations we need to have about land: who owns it, who can use it, how it can be used sustainably and who benefits from its use.
30/08/2016 11:12 BST

Is It Time to Stop Talking About Transformation?

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'.
18/07/2014 13:31 BST

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

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.
03/04/2014 11:22 BST

The Kettle Box: The New Symbol of Britain

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. This is Britain today. Staff at the Trussell Trust, which coordinates a network of food banks, have come up with the idea of kettle boxes and cold boxes because they're seeing people who cannot afford to heat their food, or simply don't have what's required to do so. Morecambe Bay food bank is giving out a couple of each of these every week to its clients.
28/01/2014 17:27 GMT

The High Street Predators of Food Bank Britain

On the fifth anniversary of Woolworths' closure, it fell to the Pope to offer an alternative to these more-of-the-same mumblings and to the Gordon Gecko philosophy of Boris Johnson. His speech is worth reading for its contrast to the prevailing economic wisdom...
29/11/2013 11:22 GMT

Why Is Chard Too Hard for Tesco?

Why is it so hard for Tesco to stock chard? After all, their website sings the praises of 'real food', telling us that 'whether you're a shopper, a farmer, a master chef or an everyday cook, it's time to show food a little love'.
26/07/2013 11:50 BST

Simple Steps Towards Local Prosperity

One of the biggest future challenges for Totnes and similar towns is the rising cost of social care as the population ages and public services continue to shrink. Community-based approaches could reduce costs for local people and create jobs and opportunities at the same time.
28/03/2013 16:13 GMT

When Good Neighbours Become Good Policy

Secure and affordable housing is the first building block. By developing intelligently, with a view to long-term support for communities rather than short-term housebuilding targets, housing providers can lay the foundations for well-functioning neighbourhoods.
06/03/2013 13:27 GMT

From 'Me' Towns to 'We' Towns

What's happening is that 'me' towns are starting to become 'we' towns. The narrative handed down by political and business leaders that says we are all consumers and that success is a matter of competing better for consumers' spending is being challenged.
23/11/2012 11:46 GMT

When Protest Is a Public Nuisance, the Public Should Worry

A healthy democracy champions the right to dissent, and to do so visibly and publicly. If protests cause harm, then judges have all the artillery of criminal law at their disposal; if no harm is done, they should leave well alone.
11/10/2012 00:44 BST

In Praise of Planners

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?
21/09/2012 18:08 BST

The End of All Our Exploring

If the moon landings were awesome, we know we have more computing power now in our mobile phones. If the speed of Apollo 11 was stupendous, in the blink of an eye we can now send pictures around the world of a prince behaving like a plonker.
28/08/2012 00:13 BST

The Hidden Potential of the Corner Shop

The humble corner shop may not be much to look at, but it's at the centre of local social networks - usually for good, sometimes for ill. Reinventing the corner shop should be a process of building on those networks and adding new ones to them that support people who are investing their lives in the locality.
10/08/2012 16:21 BST