Fora, Networks and Public Examinations

Building a Sustainable Development for South East England
  • Joe DoakEmail author

Ever since Sherry Arnstein's simple and effective1 typology of the levels of public participation (Arnstein, 1969), planning theorists have been trying to conceptualise the nature of public involvement. At the same time planning practitioners have been grappling with the realities of trying to engage in a meaningful and ‘democratic’ way with the local communities and stakeholder groups in whose name the plans and strategies are prepared and in whose interests places and spaces are supposed to be developed. Both ventures have been fraught with uncritical conceptualisation, simplistic analysis, unexpected findings, and frustrated encounters. They have also been characterised by a slow maturing of understanding and the development of realistic and sensitive approaches and conceptual frameworks. Many contemporary writers and practitioners now see public participation in planning as a constrained but potentially socially progressive vehicle for ‘opening-up’ decision-making processes to a wider range of interests, particular the citizens who have to use the environment which is planned and produced. They realise that this process, like the society within which planning is embedded, is complex and needs a reflective approach which builds dialogue over time.

Much of the participation literature has concentrated on local planning practice and the involvement of local community groups in these planning exercises. Some (e.g. Cawson, 1982; Healey, McNamara, Elson, & Doak, 1988; Low, 1991; Saunders, 1979) have emphasised the fragmentation of planning regimes and the (imperfect) hierarchical power relations which are one of the major constraints on the freedom of local planning. Often these studies stress the inequality in access to the higher levels of governmental decision-making and different ‘modes of operation’ apparent at the various levels of state policy-making and implementation.


Regional Strategy Public Participation Regional Planning Public Examination Strategic Environmental Assessment 
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© Springer Science + Business Media B.V 2009

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.The University of ReadingWhiteknightsREADINGUK

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