Whatever happened to planning?

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<ul><li><p>Bookwatch Whatever happened to planning? There is an abundance of texts on planning law and on planning policy, but they are generally expository, rather than analytical and critical. Those who write critical books tend to be poles apart from the planning practitioner: they employ a different conceptual framework and often raise issues which 'orthodox' planners find uncomfortable if not baffling. Peter Ambrose, in asking the question Whatever Happened to Planning? (Methuen, 1986), steers a middle course. The discussion is pitched at speci f ic comprehens ib le pol i t ico- planning issues (which is by no means typical of rico-Marxist writers). The writing is clear and free from jargon. The clarity is evident from the first page, where he explains the reason for the book: </p><p>the main reason for writing is to assess how a set of basically generous and rational intentions, the product of a postwar period of collective idealism, is making out in an increasingly cynical and individualistic poli- tical climate. More specifically the inten- tion is to see hove the set of regulatory devices built into the 1947 planning system. which was devised in the context of the 1930s era of land development, is coping with the forces now at work in the develop- ment industry - an industry advanced in its use of management techniques and politic- al lobbying and increasingly international in its structure, organization and access to funds. </p><p>The argument neatly unfolds. The first chapter outlines 'the particular ways in which money is made under capitalist forms of land development, [and] identifies the interests involved prior to 1939'. This is followed by an account of the social and political background to the emergence of post- war planning, and of its unhappy history. Instead of a major interven- tion in the land development process, planning has become preoccupied with the documentation of trends ( 'trend planning'), and with process rather than substance. The demise of planning was accelerated by the ad- vent of the Thatcher Government and </p><p>"a rash of measures" which have re- duced public control over land de- velopment. </p><p>The central part of the book ex- amines the forces which operate to change the built environment: people, finance, the state (local and central government), and the construction in- dustry. Two key 'arenas" of land de- velopment in the 1980s are then ex- amined - the urban fringe and the London Docklands. Finally, there is a succinct evaluation of achievements and shortcomings, and some discus- sion of 'the way forward" - taking into account the fact that 'we live in a largely capitalist economy and it is pointless to write as if truly socialist solutions were possible'. </p><p>Throughout the volume, Ambrose demonstrates the importance of power relationships to planning. He argues eloquently that the forces which really control land development are 'often seriously underva lued ' . Fol lowing Cooke (Theories of Planning and Spa- tial Development, Hutchinson, 1983), he writes: </p><p>Planning emphasises technical expertise and rationality. The constant process of negotiation between planner and develop- er is normally carried out on the safe, technically complicated, terrain provided by current, use-dominated, planning leg- islation. This suits the developer very well. He cannot be asked at a public inquiry such simple, but crucial, questions as 'whose money are you using'?' or 'how much profit do you expect to make?" These would normally be held to be "not relevant plan- ning matters'. Yet they arc the very mat- ters of legitimate concern to the planners and residents of the area in which the developer is working. Without open discus- sion it is impossible to make a realistic assessment of the distribution of benefits and costs arising from a development or to insist on alternative schemes. The discus- sion, in other words, is safely confined to matters technical rather than political. </p><p>This is not, of course, an original idea (nor is it claimed to be); but what makes Ambrose's exposition so telling is his supporting analysis of the opera- tion of the planning system in such </p><p>places as the London Dockhmds. The problems have been greatly exacer- bated by the rise of the multinationals and the new global economy. </p><p>Ambrose has no simple solution. He makes a number of proposals, sometimes very broad (better environ- mental education for the young, and the inclusion of "the distr ibutive effects of planning" in the professional training of planners), sometimes very specific (as with the proposal for the removal of subsidies to house purchas- ers). His most interesting proposal, however, is to stabilize the flow of land on lines suggested by Swedish practice. This looks like a variant of the Community Land Scheme, and is hardly likely to commend itself politi- cally. All in all, 'the way forward" does not look promising. Ambrose himself is clearly pessimistic. Nevertheless, he has succeeded in one of his objectives: to demonstrate to aspiring planners and others who are concerned that a touching faith in the power of planners is not only misplaced; it is positively dangerous. There may be much in this provocative book to argue about, but there is no denying the importance of the issues, nor the skill with which they are presented. </p><p>Complexities It is interesting to pass to a US book which discusses some of the ways in which a different planning system is working. US planning is becoming increasingly sophisticated and com- plex in areas of development pressure or land-use conflicts. The complexities were initially viewed in terms of costly delays, and the perceived need was for ~regulatory simplification' ('streamlin- ing" in UK terminology). This, how- ever, failed to address the substantive problems that arise with conflicting land-use demands, particularly in areas of special resources or amenity. Experience with ad hoc initiatives has led to a growing interest in special management devices. Some of these are described and analysed in a very useful book of papers, Managing Land Use Conflicts: Case Studies in Special Area Management edited by David J. Brower and Daniel S. Carol (Duke University Press, 1987). "Spe- </p><p>372 CITIES November 1987 </p></li><li><p>cial Area Management" (inevitably dubbed SAM) is defined as the attempt to manage development in complex ecological and administrative settings. It is a generic process to: </p><p>1. resolve management conflicts: 2. provide greater predictability and </p><p>assurance for both conservation and development interests; </p><p>3. focus and streamline a set of management strategies; </p><p>4. provide varying outcomes de- pending on the nature of the special area, the available man- agement tools, and the partici- pants in the process. </p><p>The third point is especially impor- tant, "for while the particular manage- ment tools, actors, and legal author- ities may vary between areas, the attempt to focus management into a single setting is what distinguishes special area management from more traditional management forms'. The detailed case studies demonstrate that establishing a 'single setting', whether it be an ad hoc agency or a forum for the resolution of conflicts, is thwart with difficulties. Moreover, as Clark and McCreary stress in their study of estuarine reserves, throughout the lengthy processes involved in the for- mal steps of planning, 'the presence of local political support and active parti- cipation of the local scientific com- munity plays an important part in the success or failure of a proposed site'. </p><p>The point constantly arises in one guise or another. In the Adirondack Park, the ad hoc agency has had a hard time of working with the local governments; in the Upper Delaware Valley, the clumsy actions of the 'foreign' National Park Service cre- ated a political impasse; in the New Jersey Pinelands, a new ad hoc com- mission had to operate in a field already crowded with others agencies and programmes: the New Jersey Coastal Management Program, the Casino Control Commission (for Atlantic City), the State Development Guide Plan, the New Jersey Water Supply Master Plan, the Delaware Valley Regional Planning Commis- sion, the South Jersey Resource Con- servation and Development Council and so on, not to mention the 59 local </p><p>governments in the area who are typically more interested in develop- ment than in preservation. </p><p>The case studies provide a wealth of detail on these and other SAM initia- tives. A short final chapter sets out some conclusions. SAM tends to work well in areas where existing institu- tions have failed, and where there is agreement that new institutional arrangements are required. Given this, "an important attraction of spe- cial area management is that it offers the means to see the big picture that often may be lacking under the pre- vious management structure." But a SAM process is always in jeopardy of one or other of the participating agen- cies obtaining an advantageous posi- tion: "assurance must therefore be provided that all parties" views will have an equal or mutually acceptable weight'. </p><p>There is more in similar vein, illus- trated by the material in the case studies. Rather than attempt to summarize the summary, attention here is finally focused on a particularly interesting 'management tool fostered by the special area management pro- cess'. This is none other than the now familiar (in the USA) transfer of development rights (TDR). This is a technique which in essence shares out the costs and benefits of a manage- ment scheme. For example, in the Pinelands, 'development credits' are allocated by a formula to owners in preservation areas (the 'sending" areas), and sold on the open market for use in regional growth areas (the 'receiving' areas). Sellers of develop- ment credits have a deed restriction placed on their property which pre- cludes future development. Purchas- ers of credits become entitled to in- creases in density above the normal allowed by the revised zoning code in the receiving areas. </p><p>In Montgomery County, Maryland, a TDR scheme operates in basically the same way (to protect agricultural land), except that in the 'sending' areas farmers have the option to de- velop at a 'base' density (of one dwelling per 25 acres). Thus they retain some of their development value, and have something of value against which to borrow for needed </p><p>Book watch </p><p>improvements. It is claimed that "this approach, unlike traditional zoning techniques, offers farmland owners an economic incentive to resist develop- ment pressure, a fact that helps pre- serve farming activity as well as the land itself." These are only illustra- tions of the many devices and approaches which are detailed in this commendable book. </p><p>Judicial review Challenging Decisions is the title of the twelfth in the series of the Journal of Planning and Environment Law Occasional Papers (Sweet and Max- well, 1986). It consists of papers given at a conference organized by the Bar Council, the Law Society and the Royal Institution of Chartered Sur- veyors. The conference set out to examine in depth 'all the alternative means of "'challenge" available, not only to land owners, developers, cen- tral and local government and other statutory authorities, but also to third parties'. Some very interesting ques- tions were raised, including that of whether there should be a limited right of appeal against the granting of a planning permission. Peter Boydell argues that the planning scene has changed since the early postwar years when the role of the local authority was 'not only to act reasonably but also to act, in effect, as umpire be- tween the applicant for planning per- mission and the wider public whose interest, as perceived by the local planning authority, called for protec- tion'. This is no longer the case: </p><p>Now, forty years on, the situation has changed in certain important respects. For example; (i) there has bccn a significant growth in the number of bodies which habitually articulate and pursue their opposition to (or occasionally support of) proposed development; and (ii) in many cases the applicant tor permission is one of two or more rival traders who respectively propose and oppose the contemplated de- velopment. Thus, increasingly there is a contest, umpired by the local authority, between those who propose the develop- ment and those who oppose it. Under the present law, however, only one party to the contest, namely the unsuccessful applicant, has a statutory right of appeal. The other party, if unsuccessful, has no such right. </p><p>Boydell submits that it is this which </p><p>CITIES November 1987 373 </p></li><li><p>Book watch </p><p>has led to the increase in applications for judicial review. But is judicial review an appropriate remedy for the correction of a faulty decision to grant planning permission? The High Court has three grounds on which it can exercise its discretion to quash a deci- sion: illegality, procedural improprie- ty and irrationality. It is the last which generates the greatest number of ap- plications for judicial review. The discussion here is too long and in- volved to summarize, but the major issue revolves around the so-called 'Wednesbury Principle', (the name comes from the 1948 case of Associ- ated Provincial Picture Houses v. Wed- nesbu O, Corporation). The principle was stated in a passage of the judg- ment of Lord Greene: </p><p>The court is entitled to investigate the action of the local authority with a view to seeing whether they have taken into account matters which they ought not to take into account or, conversely, have refused to take into account or neglected to take into account matters which they ought to take into account. Once that question is answered in favor of the local authority, it may still be possible to say that, although the local authority have kept within the four corners of the matters which they ought to consider, they have nevertheless come to a conclusion so unreasonable that no reasonable authority could ever have come to it. In such a case, again, I think that the court can interfere. The power of the court to interfere in each case is not as an appellate authority to override a deci- sion of the local authority, but as a judicial authority which is concerned, and con- cerned only, to see whether the local authority have contravened the law by acting in excess of the powers which Parliament had confided in them. </p><p>Boydell thinks that the courts are "moving towards the position in which they are prepared to quash a decision which, in all the circumstances, is unfair." Nevertheless, there is a lack of uniformity among judges (ranging from those who would quash a deci- sion which is 'outrageous" or where the decision-making body has "taken leave of its senses' to those who refer simply to 'the duty to act fairly'). He suggests that provision should be made for a limited right of appeal, on the facts and the merits, against a decision by a local planning authority to grant plann...</p></li></ul>