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Public Participation Planning

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The purpose of this Literature Review is to establish a theoretical framework for my research proposal, specifically the theoretical aspects associated with public participation and collaborative planning. It aims to analyse and assess the various articles books and journals published and researched to date, while also identifying potential gaps in the research, which could be addressed by my research proposal. The literature review will take the form of an assessment of the emergence of public participation, the different types of participation and decision making models, followed by an analysis of the merits of collaborative planning as a tool for facilitating public participation within a development plan process.

2.2What is meant by participation?

Although the merits of public participation have only begun to gain credence in recent times, the idea itself has been around for quite a while and literature on the subject can be found spanning back a number of decades. Public Participation has been defined as citizen involvement in making service delivery and management decisions (Langton, 1978). More recently it has been defined as ‘the process through which stakeholders influence and share control over priority setting, policy-making, resource allocations and access to public goods and services' (Kende-Robb, 2005). Sanoff argues that it is advocated to reduce citizen cynicism toward government, build stakeholder consensus in government and enhance administrative decision-making.

There remains a strong sense that the proper objective of participation is to ensure the ‘transformation' of existing development practice, and more radically, the social relations, institutional practices and capacity gaps which cause social exclusion. This was central to many of the approaches to participation over the years including the community development approach from the 1940's to 1960's; political participation in the 1960's and 1970's; alternative development from the 1970's to the 1990's; social capital from the mid 1990's to the present and participatory governance and citizen participation from the late 1990's to the present day (Hickey & Mohan, 2004). Other traditional participation mechanisms include public hearings, citizen forums, community or neighbourhood meetings, citizen advisory groups, individual citizen representation and focus groups (Wang, 2001).

The focus on increasing public participation and citizen involvement in policy making has only begun to have a visible effect in recent times. It has been stated that direct, active citizen involvement in policy making has not always been a goal of civilised societies (Putnam, 1995). The reason is, to some extent a result of the enlarged role in society played by government bureaucracies (Davidoff, 1965). Habermas however states that individuals should be able to freely share their views with one another in a process, which closely resembles true participatory democracy. He states that the public sphere is “a discursive arena that is home to citizen debate, deliberation, agreement and action” (Habermas, 1981). By allowing every person the same opportunity to participate in discourse, Habermas hopes to eradicate the prejudices which limit marginalized groups from fully attaining their rights in a democratic society.

The difficulty with recent models of participation is that citizens are more often reacting to plans rather than proposing what they see as appropriate goals for future action. This is certainly the case in Ireland, where participation is almost always reactive in nature. However, in the last decade this has begun to change and public participation is becoming an established part of planning and policy decision-making practice (Cameron & Grant-Smith, 2005).

  • Participation Versus Consultation

Even though the term ‘participation' is used to describe public involvement in policy and decision making, it must be recognised that there are various levels at which a person may participate and in many cases what is referred to as public ‘participation' is not in fact participation at all. In the late 1960's, Sherry Arnstein developed an 8 rung ‘Ladder of Citizen Participation' with each rung corresponding to the extent of the citizen's power in influencing a final outcome (Arnstein, 1969). Arnstein developed this Ladder while involved in developing processes for citizen participation in planning and renewal projects in America (see figure 1). At the bottom of the ladder are rungs 1 (Manipulation)and 2 (Therapy). Both are non participative and the aim is to cure or educate the participants. The proposed plan is deemed best and the job of participation is to achieve public support by public relations. Rungs 3 (Informing), 4 (Consultation) and 5 (Placation) demonstrate slightly higher levels of tokenistic participation, however too frequently the emphasis is on a one-way flow of information with no channel for feedback. Rung 6 (Partnership) can be described as meaningful participation, as power is in fact redistributed through negotiation between citizens and power holders. Planning and decision-making responsibilities are shared e.g. through joint committees. It is at this partnership level that the collaborative planning model aims to operate. Rungs 7 (Delegated Power) and 8 (Citizen Control) affords ‘have-not' citizens the majority of decision making seats or full power and is the holy grail in terms of citizen participation.

Figure 1:

If participation is to be real and effective there must be dialogue between the different stakeholders and between those who have power (those at the top of the ladder) and between those who have little or no power (those at the bottom of the ladder). There must be a two way flow of information between the parties involved. However there is no dialogue in consultation - which is what has traditionally been considered ‘participation' in a development plan process in Ireland. The planning authority consults the public normally after a plan has been prepared by seeking feedback through public meetings and public comment. ‘Participation' in Ireland essentially consists of proposal and response - the planning authority proposes a plan for a community and members of the public respond through making a submission. This submission is often made without any direct contact with officials in the planning authority so in effect there is no dialogue of any form, thereby illustrating that what is refered to as ‘participation' in a development plan process in Ireland is in fact consultation.

However, with public participation now becoming central to National, European and International policy, as well as being an important aspect of the sustainable development discourse, such tokenistic participation is no longer adequate. The introduction of the Planning and Development Act 2000 has resulted in a requirement on planning authorities to produce their statutory plans through a process that involves greater public input at the earlier stages. They are now required to develop a somewhat more participatory approach to planning than was previously the case. The Aarhus Convention, which took place in 1998, and the 2003 Public Participation Directive which followed on from the convention, also provide members of the public with opportunities for early and effective participation on plans or programmes relating to the environment. The increase in emphasis on public participation has meant that alternative models of planning need to emerge to facilitate and respond to this increase and the collaborative planning model is one such response.

2.4Participation in Physical Planning & Decision Making

There has been much debate about the most effective methods of facilitating citizen involvement in policy formulation and decision-making. A useful approach that provides a basis for analysing processes of decision-making in planning is that developed by Innes and Booher (2000) and this will be discussed first, followed by an analysis of other participatory models of decision making that have emerged in recent times.

The Innes and Booher approach identifies four different models of decision making - technical/bureaucratic, political influence, social movement and the collaborative model as well as identifying when and where each model works best, which ultimately depends on the levels of diversity and interdependence present (see diagram).

Source: (Innes and Booher, 2000)

The technical/bureaucratic model works best where there is neither diversity nor interdependence among interests. A bureaucratic system is set up to implement known policy and the technical analyst is associated with rationality and bureaucracy. Technicians and bureaucracies essentially respond to a single set of goals and decision maker, and the typical practice is one where analyses are not focussed on interdependencies. Within this model, the focus of planning is on the achievement of the most efficient mechanism for reaching easily defined and identified needs. The political influence model works best where there is a high diversity of interests, however there is normally a low interdependence of interests, as each individual is focussed on their maximising their own interest only. In this model there tends to be a political bargaining approach that seeks to get an adequate number of interests to agree to a particular course of action in order for it to work. The social movement model recognises the importance of high levels of interdependence among a coalition of interests and individuals, but which does not deal with the full diversity of interests. Collaboration therefore is seen as the model that deals best with both diversity and interdependence ‘but is typically the least-used and least-institutionalised of the four models' (Innes and Booher, 2000).

Both the technical/bureaucratic model and the political influence models of planning and decision making, as proposed by Innes and Booher, reflect the lower levels of participation as identified by Arnstein, with the ‘convincing' nature of the technical/bureaucratic model comparing significantly with need to ‘educate' and ‘cure participants on Arnsteins tokenism rungs. The technocratic approach to planning which was the dominant planning model for much of the twentieth century has been severely criticised for its failure to adequately incorporate the values and interests of stakeholders into the decision making process. This criticism of technocratic planning was fuelled by the growing protests of stakeholders over expert-formulated plans in areas such as natural resource management, environmental regulation, transportation, and urban renewal, that were clearly contrary to the interests of large segments of society (Gunton and Day 2003). Planning theory responded to the criticism and limitations of the technocratic approach by acknowledging the role of goals and objectives identified through democratic political processes (political influence model) to set the framework in which plans were prepared (Davidoff 1965). Planners, previously experts under the technocratic umbrella were relegated to determining optimal means to achieve politically set goals within this new participatory environment. The unresolved question in this new goals-based planning theory was how the goals should be determined. The initial and somewhat vague response was that goals should be determined by citizen participation in the planning process, however it was not clear how this was to be achieved (Gunton and Day 2003).

Dahl suggested that pluralism was another vehicle that would allow individual citizens to have their concerns voiced in government, a concept developed by Davidoff in the 1960's interlinked with the idea of the planner as an advocate for the under-represented (Dahl, 1989). Unlike the ‘advocacy planning' that Davidoff proposes (different planners acting as advocates for different interests), most city and town planning is performed by a single planning authority which develops plans, which it feels will best serve the welfare of the whole community, not of individual interest groups (LeGates and Stout, 2000). Davidoff argues that different groups in society have different interests, which would result in fundamentally different plans if such interests were incorporated into these plans. The articulate, wealthy and powerful groups have the skills and resources to influence plans to take account of their own interests while the poor and powerless do not. Advocacy Planning introduces the idea of planners acting as advocates, articulating the needs of the poor and powerless, the same way as a lawyer represents a client (Davidoff, 1965). The problem with advocacy planning, however, is that it did not provide a framework for resolving disputes among competing interest groups and therefore cannot be seen as an adequate method for dealing with the various conflicts that are emerging in modern day planning.

Dahl sees pluralism as a situation where individuals join interests groups that represent their needs and wants. These interests groups then come together to debate their competing viewpoints and create a collective public policy that should reflect the common good. The more interest groups that exist, the greater the conflict, and the greater the likelihood that decision making will reflect that common good (Dahl, 1989). However, Lowi on the other hand argues that pluralism often fails to represent the collective good, and instead represents the needs and wants of special interest groups (Lowi, 1979). Davidoff's idea of pluralism is slightly different from Dahl's, in that citizen's or interest groups should go one step further and produce an alternative plan to what he sees as the ‘unitary plan' prepared by the planning authority, and the advocate planner can be central to the process by representing certain interest groups.

A final model, often referred to as alternative dispute resolution, also emerged as a way of engaging stakeholders in the development of plans by allowing stakeholders to negotiate a consensus agreement to resolve the dispute (Susskind and Cruikshank 1987). However the alternative dispute resolution does not appear to provide a satisfactory model either, as it is reactive in responding to disputes that have already arisen instead of proactive. In essence, this limits its effectiveness as a planning tool. It is evident therefore that to date, the existing models of decision making have had limited success with regard to facilitating public participation. However as our societies and communities are now becoming more diverse and less homogenous than ever before it would seem an alternative model is required to facilitate and acknowledge these changes.

2.5The Collaborative Planning Model

Innes and Booher (2000) note that in situations where there is a clear interdependence between stakeholders' interests and there exists a high diversity of such interests that a different model of planning and policy making is needed. This model is known as collaborative planning. It emerged as a distinct planning paradigm in the 1990s and is a logical extension of alternative dispute resolution (Gunton and Day 2003).

‘The collaborative model is about stakeholders co-evolving to a common understanding, direction and set of heuristics…. It is only the collaborative model that deals both with diversity and interdependence because it tries to be inclusive and to explore interdependence in the search for solutions. It does not ignore or override interests, but seeks solutions that satisfy multiple interests. For complex and controversial issues in rapidly changing and uncertain contexts - issues that there is public pressure to address - collaboration among stakeholders is likely to be the best approach - indeed the only approach that can produce a satisfactory result'. (Innes and Booher, 2000, p21)

This model is a new framework for planning which proposes that spatial planning activity move from the traditional narrow, technical and procedural focus towards a communicative and collaborative model for achieving common purposes in the shared spaces of our societies (Healy, 1997). For Healy, collaborative planning seems not to be an end in itself, but a path to “co-existence in shared spaces.” Like Innes and Booher, Healy also believes that a collaborative approach can be successful only where there is a variety of stakeholders interests, because if all the interests are the same then no dialogue is required. Healy's version of collaborative planning emerged after she analysed the shortcomings of conventional forms of governance and styles of planning, namely economic planning, physical development, public administration and policy analysis, advocacy planning, neo liberalism and utilitarianism.

The conceptual base for collaborative planning as Healy sees it, consists of two theoretical strands, an ‘institutionalist sociology' and ‘communicative dialogue'. The institutionalist theory states that spatial planning processes need to be judged by the quality of the process, i.e. the way the decision is made is just as important as the actual decision. It also seeks to identify and analyze forms and relations of power between people, beyond that of class and categories. The communicative approach offers a way forward in the design of governance processes for a ‘shared world' and takes an ethical commitment to enabling all stakeholders have a voice. It deals with the design of governance systems and practices, focusing on ways of fostering collaborative, consensus building processes.

This approach outlines a number of necessary components for a collaborative model to be successful.

  • Consensus building practices are important, as they help to ensure that no stakeholder finds a particular outcome intolerable.
  • It is important that an individual's position at the top of the ladder is not maximized at the expense of the individual at the bottom; there should be equality.
  • It recognizes three forms of reasoning - instrumental/technical (the mechanisms for public decision making), moral and emotive/aesthetic. It argues that there has been a predominance of the first, at the expense of the other two. Within the public sphere, moral and emotive reasoning must be afforded an equivalent status, to achieve balance.
  • There is also a need for recognition of the growing cultural differences that there now is. She also points out that polices and processes need to be designed to relate to the experience of globalization and multi-cultural societies, as older planning practices do not take these into account.
  • Leadership is not about bringing stakeholders around to a particular planning content but in getting people to agree and ensuring that, whatever the position of the participants within the socio-economic hierarchy, no group's interests will dominate (Healy, 1997)

Another approach to collaborative planning is that which emerges from the work of John Forester, an American planning theorist, who focuses on the communicative role of the planning analyst. His view is that planners within organizations do not work instrumentally towards the achievement of clearly distinguishable ends. Instead he sees the role of the planner to: ‘…work instead toward the correction of needless distortions, some systematic and some not, which disable, mystify, distract and mislead others: to work towards a political democratization of daily communications.' (Forester, 1989, p.21) Forester also states that:

‘…problems will be solved not only by technical experts, but also by pooling expertise and non-professional contributions too; not just by formal procedure but by informal consultation and involvement; not mainly through formally rational management procedures, but through internal and external politics and the development of a working consensus; not by solving an engineering equation but by complimenting technical performance with political sophistication, support building, and liaison work (p. 152)

Forester therefore recognizes the communication and negotiating elements of planning, as well as its technical elements. He also recognizes the political nature of planning and the extent to which the planner is engaged in value laden political action.

2.6Strengths and Weaknesses of Collaborative Planning

Advocates of collaborative planning cite many advantages of the collaborative model relative to other models of planning. Firstly, the chances of reaching a decision on a plan are a lot higher, because stakeholders are incorporated in the process from the outset to help reach a solution, rather than remaining as critics outside the process (Gunton and Day 2003, Susskind et al. 2000). Secondly the dynamic interaction of the stakeholders is likely to produce a plan that is in the public interest as more alternatives are generated and the consensus decision rule ensures that the mutual interests of all parties are at least partially catered for in the plan (Frame et al, 2004). Thirdly, the plan produced at the end of the process has a greater chance of being implemented, because stakeholders who might otherwise attempt to block the implementation have developed the plan and will help implement it because they have a stake in the outcome. Finally, collaborative planning helps to create ‘social capital' among the stakeholders, improving their skills, knowledge and stakeholder relationships which last beyond the process of creating a plan (Gunton and Day, 2003).

However, the collaborative planning model also has its critics and a number of weaknesses and challenges to the approach have been identified. Firstly, collaborative planning is founded on the principle of stakeholders negotiating with one another to agree on an outcome. In some cases, more influential and powerful stakeholders will avoid or undermine the process by using delaying tactics, or pursuing alternative means to achieve their objectives if they do not like the outcome of collaboration (Frame et al, 2003). Secondly, the need to achieve consensus may encourage stakeholders to seek second best or vague solutions when they cannot reach the best possible agreement (Gunton and Day, 2003). Cooper and Mckenna (2006) and Fainstein (2000) also state that the need to achieve consensus has meant that participatory exercises often concentrate on issues where agreement is more likely to be achieved and avoids those which are likely to cause difficulties. Thirdly, the time and resources required to organise a process around large group of diverse stakeholders is quite substantial. This is compounded by the potential lack of support or interest from planning officials who are unwilling to delegate the decision-making responsibilities to outside stakeholders (Wondolleck and Yaffee, 2000, Fainstein, 2000). Also, established statutory fora comprising of local elected representatives are relatively neglected, while project staff must spend huge amounts of time, energy and money organising and servicing local public meetings, stakeholder meetings, public surveys and follow up consultation exercises. This often leads to a situation where projects become characterised by ‘consultation paralysis', a condition where nothing can be done because yet someone else must be consulted or re-consulted (Cooper and McKenna, 2006). Finally, relying on stakeholders that have little or no specialised training may lead to the exclusion of important scientific information in the decision making process, thus resulting in poor decisions being made.

Fainstein (2000) also cites what she sees as a number of other weaknesses with the collaborative planning approach including:

  • Action/implementation is often a problem, because parties in the process are not honest about their intentions and purposes
  • It ignores the role of the powerful and their capacity to impede the implementation of agreed actions
  • The process is usually too drawn out and resource hungry
  • If the planner/expert acts as facilitator only, new and creative thinking can be stifled and only those that are incrementalist in nature will emerge
  • There is evidence that experts acting on their own often come up with better solutions than stakeholders operating in a collaborative process

It is evident from the above that collaborative planning approaches have many strengths and weaknesses, however it would appear that the potential benefits to the community from using such an approach outweigh potential negatives.

  • COLLABORATIVE PLANNING IN IRELAND

In the past number of years, there have been many attempts to develop models for community development and planning that aim to achieve higher levels of participation than previous models. Such models include the ADOPT model, the Bantry Bay Charter and Integrated Area Planning (IAP) to name but a few, while the Village Design Statement (VDS) could also be considered as an attempt at achieving higher levels of participation through a more collaborative approach.

The ADOPT model, which was pioneered by Ballyhoura Development Ltd, is aimed at providing local area-based communities with a framework for participation in community development at a local level. The model also aims to tackle the lack of co-operation within the community sector, and weak research and planning by communities who are participating and contributing to local planning and development activities. It seeks to develop a strong community representative structure, an umbrella group that brings together representatives of the various bodies and groups within the community to ensure that activities are not being duplicated and that real needs are being addressed. This umbrella structure, along with the training and capacity building that the model promotes, supports communities and their representatives to play a meaningful role in partnership functions with Stage agencies and other bodies (Pobal, 2003).

The Bantry Bay Charter was a project initiated by Cork County Council with the main objective being to develop a model and strategy for successful coastal zone management. By developing a stakeholders' charter it was possible to develop an agreed approach to the management and development of the Bantry Bay area. In doing so, the process brought together the different stakeholders and interest groups of the area, as well as the agencies involved in regulating and developing the area. The Charter is based on the understanding that the regulatory agencies need to work in partnership with the local community for the successful management and development of the area. It explored the use of consensus, where all those who are stakeholders work together, to develop a single agreed approach to its development.

Similar to these models is a model of collaborative planning developed by Tipperary Institute (TI), a third level education institution specialising in the area of Sustainable Rural Development called Integrated Area Planning. Integrated Area Planning is a concept that first emerged through the 1999 Urban Renewal Scheme, introduced by the Irish Government and which involved a more targeted approach to the award of urban renewal incentives. This model is multi-focused and is based on the premise that development of an area should emerge from a broadly based not take place in isolation but should emerge from a broadly based Integrated Area Plan (IAP), taking into account the social, environmental, economic and cultural needs of a community. Integrated Area Planning has been defined by TI as an empowering, practical and participatory process to collect, analyse, and compile information while developing the skills and structures needed to prepare and implement an inclusive and multifaceted plan for a defined geographical area'. The development of the IAP model was influenced to a great extent by planning theorist Patsy Healy and central to the model is the requirement for consensus to be reached on all issues before the process can be moved forward. The IAP model contains many key steps, which must be carried out including:

  • Contracting Phase
  • Pre-Development Phase
  • Data Collection
  • Establishment of a Steering Group
  • Capacity Building of the Steering Group
  • Establishment of Visions and Objectives
  • Establishment of task groups
  • Drafting Stage
  • Validation
  • Approval
  • Implementation

Using the IAP model, TI became involved in a number of community planning projects in Ireland including: Crusheen Co. Clare, Kinvara and Eyercourt Co. Galway, Ferbane Co. Offaly, Hacketstown Co. Carlow and Kilmacthomas in Co. Waterford. In each of these cases, the communities, in partnership with the relevant authorities prepared plans for their areas. Two of the key stages in the process are establishing the steering group and task groups. The steering group is elected by the community and it is contains a representative from the various different stakeholders in the process. The steering group plays an important role in the whole IAP process as they are responsible for driving the process forward. The task groups on the other hand are smaller groups, which are made up of members from the community and statutory agencies. The task groups are responsible for carrying out research on particular topics, such as the environment, infrastructure etc and they then report back their findings to the steering group. The IAP process is quite resource demanding and generally takes over 12 months to complete.

  • CONCLUSION

It is clear from the above that the issue of participation and the models, which attempt to facilitate it, are central to the planning and environmental fields in both Ireland and abroad. Some of the collaborative planning models that have been developed in Ireland have multiple aims, one of which is to impact on the statutory Local Area Plan process and outcomes, including those implemented in Kinvara, Ferbane, Hacketstown and Kilmacthomas. However having reviewed the literature it is evident that there has been a clear lack of research focussing on the assessment of such collaborative planning models in Ireland. In order to assess the extent to which the IAP model in Kinvara was successful, an examination of the entire process is required. To this end, the examination required will entail more than just the IAP process itself, but also its impact on the LAP process as well as an assessment of the level of implementation that has taken place to date.

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