Planning in a sustainable direction - the art of CONSCIOUS CHOICES

University dissertation from Stockholm : Infrastruktur

Abstract: A main challenge facing spatial planning today issustainable development, in official documents defined asecological, social and economic sustainability. In a powerperspective these three dimensions can be characterised ascompeting discourses. Another challenge facing local authorityplanners is how to work in open processes with a growing numberof actors and stakeholders, in addition often as parties inchanging organisations. Altogether this provides a very complexcontext for local authority spatial planning and itsprofessional planners.This report is based on an investigation of how politicaland societal activities on European, national and local levelsare influencing the local authority spatial planning processes.The focus is on how planning is being administrated, and howplanning officers can manage planning processes in complexcontexts. The main research questions are how political visionsand objectives regarding sustainable development are managed inlocal authority spatial planning? And how can the growingnumber of actors and stakeholders with a wide range ofknowledge, interests and values be managed in such complexplanning contexts?Two case studies in Sweden have provided the empiricalmaterial. The first is a study of planners in local authoritiesof various sizes and spread geographic locations. The second isa detailed study of the planning organisation in a medium-sizedlocal authority with two major on-going planning processes.Qualitative research methods have been used in theinvestigation, direct interviews with the main actors, documentstudies and observations.The result of this study is an understanding of some theelements and connections in the complex situation facing thelocal authority planning administrations. These are describedin terms of competing policy discourses, each of which isrelated to and managed in different local planning directions.Why some discourses are stronger than others is discussed. Alsoidentified in the study are the problems involved in how thelocal planning administrations and the planners manage thiscomplexity. These problems are interpreted and formulated asdifferent types of dilemmas related to wider planning issues.Also problematised is how the planning organisation andplanners are managing these dilemmas.The findings from the study are relevant for those involvedin spatial planning education, making students conscious aboutthe complex contexts in planning practice. The study is alsorelevant for professional planners in order to fosterself-reflection and discussion about the problems they areinvolved in their daily work and how these can be managed inthe complex arena of spatial planning today.

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