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Framing People and Planning: 50 Years of Debate

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The last 50 years have not only seen major changes in the forms and practices of participation but also in the ways in which it has been characterized and understood. Alongside the report of the Skeffi ngton Committ ee on public participation in planning, 1969 saw the publication of Sherry Arnstein’s ‘ladder of participation’ which famously typifi ed participation from tokenism to citizen control. Since then the ladder has been replaced by the networks of collaborative planning and both have been challenged by the focus on planning’s ‘dark side’ where participation is associated with coercive forms of governmentality and governance through community. This article discusses the evolution of these ideas, not to provide a historiography per se, but to highlight the themes, issues and contradictions they suggest lie behind participation. These include debates about the extent to which power can ever be devolved to the people; clashes between the diff erent modes of governance inherent in planning (representative, legal/bureaucratic, participatory); the signifi cance of action outside the formal participation apparatus (insurgent planning); and the ways in which the publics of planning have been made and remade within diff erent planning regimes, often with profound implications for the inclusion and exclusion of diff erent social groups and concerns. The article concludes that as a result public participation in planning can be seen as a shifting terrain of underlying tensions and contradictions, which presents both openings and closures for citizens seeking to infl uence the use and development of land.

Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: April 1, 2019

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  • Built Environment is published quarterly in March, June, September and December. With an emphasis on crossing disciplinary boundaries and providing global perspective, each issue focuses on a single subject of contemporary interest to practitioners, academics and students working in a wide range of disciplines. Issues are guest-edited by established international experts who not only commission contributions, but also oversee the peer-reviewing process in collaboration with the Editors.

    Subject areas include: architecture; conservation; economic development; environmental planning; health; housing; regeneration; social issues; spatial planning; sustainability; urban design; and transport. All issues include reviews of recent publications.

    The journal is abstracted in Geo Abstracts, Sage Urban Studies Abstracts, and Journal of Planning Literature, and is indexed in the Avery Index to Architectural Publications.

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