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urban and regional planning

  At a purely technical level the meaning of urban and regional planning is quite straightforward. Peter Hall (1974) considers planning first as \'a general activity … the making of an orderly sequence of action that will lead to the achievement of a stated goal or goals\'. In this view, planning is an ahistoric, universal process common to all thinking beings and it is essentially technical: its \'main techniques\', Hall goes on, \'will be written statements, supplemented as appropriate by statistical projections, mathematical representations, quantified evaluations and diagrams illustrating relationships between different parts of the plan. It may, but need not necessarily, include exact physical blueprints of objects\'.

From this perspective, urban and regional planning is simply \'a special case of general planning\' which incorporates \'spatial representation\' (Hall, 1974). But this is a tenuous distinction. City planning \'immediately embraces regional economic planning, which is logically inseparable from national economic planning\' (Hall, 1996, p. 6). Peter Hall\'s \'more-or-less arbitrary boundary line\' between economic and urban and regional planning has a substantive foundation in the geography that is so often omitted from economics of \'places\' like nations (but which actually cannot be omitted see economic geography) and is not omitted from urban and regional planning which deals with the geographies through which human, animal and plant life is constructed.

Thus urban and regional planning may be understood as a rational process of forethought set in motion by the need to resolve urban and regional problems. Hall (1996, p. 7), for example, finds \'that twentieth-century city planning, as an intellectual and professional movement, essentially represents a reaction to the evils of the nineteenth-century city\'. It was first carried out by \'practical men dealing with practical matters\' who were, nevertheless, influenced by \'thinkers about the urban problem\'. Similarly, regional planning arose, according to Hall, in the regional economic problem of the 1930s. Post-war planning was quite different, being dominated by the creation of the \'post war planning system\' which was strongly influenced in its formation by follow-up studies to the Barlow Report of 1940 which \'brought together the urban and regional economic elements as two aspects of a single problem\'.

But this view of urban and regional planning as a set of ideas, procedures and responses — albeit under dramatically transformed institutional conditions — a transformation which itself reflects prevailing understandings of the dynamics of society — fails to address the relationship between planning and the society being planned nor does it address the nature of the relationships between planning and power. Urban and regional planning are seen in technical terms as a rational response to a set of self-evident problems. The objectives or goals of planning — the definition of what is \'rational\' seem to be unproblematic, as does the definition of the nature of the problems themselves. Even the power relations of the institutions carrying out urban and regional planning are left largely unexplored.

Allen Scott\'s (1980, p. 238) comments on this state of affairs coming at the end of his own attempt to connect the dynamics of capitalist production, the urban land nexus and the state in a critique of planning and planning theory, are especially pertinent:

Mainstream planning theory presents itself to the world as a system of ideas that is no doubt internally coherent and logical. However, it fails dramatic ally to reflect and explain an underlying historical reality. On the contrary, it interposes identifiable barriers to a global understand ing of the real universe of urbanization and urban planning. It is, in the fullest sense of the term, an ideology .Planning law is introduced by the state and agencies of the state are primarily responsible for its implementation. But the state is an integral part of the wider society (see Held, 1983) and planning both grows out of and contributes towards socially distinctive processes of social production and reproduction (see society). Looked at in this way, urban and regional planning becomes a material, political and economic process rather than a mere technical exercise (Ambrose, 1986). It is, according to Cooke (1983), part of the \'civilizing process, performed by the state through the medium of the law … not only to rationalise the external physical configuration of production, but to sustain the … forms of social relations that have developed\' (see capitalism; social reproduction). It is, in short, an exercise in power and in social reproduction.

But, insofar as the objectives are made explicit, it is an exercise which may be contested both by those who suffer the consequences (e.g. Rose, 1992) and it is an exercise of imagination by those who set up the suffering. Whilst it is \'a statement of the blindingly obvious\' that (planning)

ideas do not suddenly emerge, by some kind of immaculate conception, without benefit of worldly agency. … Equally, human beings … are almost infinitely quirksy and creative and surprising; therefore the real interest in history … lies in the complexity and variability of the human reaction. The anarchist fathers (of planning) had a magnificent vision of the possibilities of urban civilization which deserves to be remembered and celebrated : Le Corbusier, in contrast represents the counter-tradition of authoritarian planning, the evil consequences of which are ever with us. (Hall, 1996, pp. 4-5.)Thus, urban and regional planning cannot be understood merely on the basis of their content. Rather, they must connect with the processes of physical, social and economic development characteristic of the particular societies in which planning is being carried out (Ambrose, 1986; Murdoch and Marsden, 1995; Short, 1996) and the imaginations of those who try to frame the carrying out. As the significance of church and state as formative institutions within contemporary society shifts to that of business and capital, a move away from the autonomy of the plan towards the complex processes of urban change involves an understanding of the intersections of economics, culture, power and aesthetics in understanding urban and regional transformations. Susan Fainstein (1994, p. x), for example, stresses \'the factors influencing the dynamic of real-estate development and, in turn, the influence of that dynamic on the prosperity and attractiveness of urban areas\' in her study of \'city builders\'.

The way in which such processes operate is profoundly political (Brindley, Rydin and Stoker, 1989; Thornley, 1990). Planning involves the attempt to shape prevailing social and economic dynamics to achieve particular developmental ends. And those ends may well include the discourse of development as well as development itself. A planning system which emphasizes the power of the market and so aims to remove restrictions on the allocation of investment or aims to enhance the rewards flowing from urban and regional development presents a quite different discourse on the nature of society than one which replaces the market with expert systems or state bureaucracies (see Beck, 1992).

These points may be illustrated by a brief consideration of the history of planning controls on retail development in the UK over the 20 years or so from 1979. This history demonstrates:

{img src=show_image.php?name=2022.gif } the significance of discourse in shaping planning policy (here of individualism and the place of consumption and of property investment and the wisdom of a deregulated market for investment); {img src=show_image.php?name=2022.gif } the effect that particular policies may have on the structure and location of investment (large-scale, decentralized locations which tie in with prevailing economic geographies of retailing and the use of the car as a means of consumption); and {img src=show_image.php?name=2022.gif } the consequences that flow from such investments (such as the retail evacuation of town centres) for urban and regional systems.The re-regulation of development from the middle of the 1990s with controls aimed at recolonizing brown-field sites in or near existing shopping centres, reflects concerns both about the over-use of cars and the social pathologies associated with urban abandonment.

This example demonstrates the complex influences on the urban and regional planning process emanating not merely from straightforward state control but reflecting a reading of the economic geographies involved (e.g. Lee, 1992) as well as prevailing views on appropriate urban and regional landscapes. Debates around the notion of the sustainability of cities (e.g. Breheny, 1995; Owens/Breheny, 1995) and the significance of environmental influences on the production of urban and regional landscapes tell a similar story of the inseparability of planning from prevailing discourses of and the material relations involved in social reproduction (see, e.g. Harrison and Burgess, 1994; Healey and Shaw, 1994; Owens, 1994; Breheny, 1995; Owens/Breheny, 1995).

The existence and activities of urban and regional planning asks some profoundly geographical questions about the nature of the discourses and dynamics of society, the significance of uneven development and the relations, central and local, between the political and the economic. It poses some crucial issues concerned not merely with the acceptability or otherwise of the techniques of implementation of planning (which for the people affected by them are of signal importance) but with the role and potential of state and of planning in developing alternatives in urban and regional development within the constraints posed by the practicalities of social reproduction and the discourses of power which shape such practicalities. (See also regional policy.) (RL)

References Ambrose, P. 1986: Whatever happened to planning? London and New York: Methuen. Beck, U. 1992: Risk society: towards a new modernity. London and Newbury Park: Sage. Breheny, M. 1995: The compact city and transport energy consumption. Transactions, Institute of British Geographers 20: 81-101. Brindley, T., Rydin, Y. and Stoker, G., eds, 1989: Remaking planning: the politics of urban change in the Thatcher years. New York and London: HarperCollins. Cooke, P. 1983: Theories of planning and spatial development. London: Hutchinson. Fainstein, S. 1994: The city builders Property, politics and planning in London and New York. Cambridge, MA and Oxford: Blackwell. Hall, P. 1974: Urban and regional planning. Harmondsworth: Penguin. Hall, P. 1996: Cities of tomorrow. Oxford and Cambridge, MA: Blackwell. Harrison, C.M. and Burgess, J. 1994: Social constructions of nature: a case study of conflicts over the development of Rainham Marshes. Transactions, Institute of British Geographers 19: 291-310. Healey, P. and Shaw, T. 1994: Changing meanings of the \'environment\' in the British Planning system. Transactions, Institute of British Geographers 19: 425-38. Held, D. 1983: Central perspectives on the modern state. In D. Held et al., eds, States and societies. Oxford: Martin Robertson. Lee, R. 1992: \'London Docklands: the exceptional place\' ? An economic geography of inter-urban competition. In P.E. Ogden, ed., London Docklands: the challenge of change. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. Murdoch, J. and Marsden, T. 1995: The spatialization of politics: local and national actor spaces in environmental conflict. Transactions, Institute of British Geographers 20: 368-8 0. Owens, S. 1994: Land limits and sustainability: a conceptual framework and some dilemmas for the planning system. Transactions, Institute of British Geographers 19: 439-5 8. Owens, S. and Breheny, M. 1995: Exchange: The compact city and transport energy consumption. Transactions, Institute of British Geographers 20: 381-86. Rose, G. 1992: Local resistance to the LDDC: community attitudes and action. In P. Ogden, ed., London docklands: The challenge of development, ch. 5. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 32-42. Scott, A.J. 1980: The urban land nexus and the state. London: Pion. Short, J.R. 1996: The urban order. An introduction to cities, culture and power. Cambridge, MA and Oxford: Blackwell. Thornley, A. 1990: Urban planning under Thatcherism: the challenge of the market. New York and London: Routledge.

Suggested Reading Ambrose (1986). Hall (1996). Owens (1995). Wannop, U. 1995: The regional imperative. Regional planning and governance in Britain, Europe and the United States. London: Jessica Kingsley .



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