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Enhancing local democracy is a major aim within European Urban Development Programmes dealing with ‘disadvantaged’ neighbourhoods. But local democracy is extremely difficult to reach in practice and this paper analyses the obstacles and the strategies for overcoming these barriers. Questions of citizenship and social class are essential. Empowerment of residents is a key issue. The analytical distinction between ‘top down’ and ‘bottom up’ participation processes is essential in the implementation of democratic planning, together with professional commitment in the form of mediation and translation. The conclusion addresses Habermas’ conceptualisation of democracy. We argue that he is correct in legitimating citizens’ intervention within the deliberative process but that he pays insufficient attention to conflict between actors.

Keywords: Urban development; disadvantaged neighbourhoods; empowerment; local democracy; qualitative assessment; urban governance

Document Type: Research Article


Affiliations: 1: Institut d’Urbanisme, Universit√© Marc Bloch, 22, Rue Descartes, F – 67084 Strasbourg, France., Email: 2: Urban and Regional Studies Institute, Faculty of Spatial Sciences, University of Groningen, PO Box 800, 9700 AV Groningen, the Netherlands., Email:

Publication date: 2005-09-01

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