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Sustainability: a new vision for the British planning system

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This paper aims to explore the potential new directions in the British planning system by reviewing and linking together the current debates in three areas: the twin purposes of the post-war planning system, the twin discourses of sustainability and the implications for planning education. There is a general consensus that the sustainability agenda has provided the overdue and much needed 'vision' for planning. However, this paper argues that the different discourses of sustainability provide fundamentally distinctive development paths for the future of the planning system. Whilst the 'ecological modernization' approach to sustainability reinforces the technical and regulatory face of the system, the 'risk society' approach calls for a resurgence of its ideological and pro-active face. The former promotes a continuing role of planning as an apolitical, non-spatial, criteria-based corporatist activity. The latter provides the opportunity for a return to the planners' traditional concepts, emphasizing strategic thinking, a holistic approach, social responsiveness, political commitment, participative processes and reflexive institutions. As regards planning education, the paper argues that while the skills provided through a technically orientated professional training can fulfil the requirements of the ecological modernization path, research-orientated planning education based on critical social science can develop the students' intellectual and reflective capacities and the skills required for pursuing the risk society approach.

Document Type: Research Article


Publication date: 2000-04-01

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