Forms of urban planning

Following its inception, formal land use planning was based on the modernist rational comprehensive model (Naess, 2001; Rakodi, 2001; Campbell and Fainstein, 2003; Thompson, 2007). The rational comprehensive planning model fundamentally operates from the standpoint that planning is essentially a technocratic activity and the professional planner is presumed to be an objective expert (Heikkila, 2000; Rakodi, 2001). It proceeds with a situation analysis based on which a problem is identified and planning goals are set. This is then followed by the determination and evaluation of alternative courses of action for addressing the identified problem. Next is the selection and implementation of an appropriate course of action. The final stage is monitoring the implementation of the course of action to ascertain whether the planning goals set at the outset are being achieved; if not, the whole process repeats itself. The operation of the rational comprehensive planning model is therefore cast in a cyclical mode (Ratcliffe, 1983; Egbu, 2007). This planning model is also based on the land use segregation concept, which is underpinned by unifunctional land use, discrete zoning, regulation and consensus, and the use of master plans (Afrane, 1993; Njoh, 2009). Further, governments often fund such planning projects, and it is assumed that their decisions are always in the best interest of society (Rakodi, 2001).

The rational comprehensive planning model is often criticised as being too technocratic and fails to consider the socio-economic, cultural, and political context within which planning is conceived and practised (Naess, 2001; Campbell and Fainstein, 2003; Thompson, 2007). Over the years, especially since the 1980s, there has been a proliferation of works on planning theory. These works have sought to examine planning from several disciplines such as economics, political economy, and sociology (Allmendinger, 2002). Emerging out of these works have been several planning theories and models like multi-culturalist, the just city, new urbanism, and collaborative planning models (Allmendinger, 2002; Watson, 2002; Campbell and Fainstein, 2003; Harrison, 2006). These planning theories and models predominantly attempt to introduce democracy into planning practice through larger stakeholder participation in the planning process. However, the one which has comparatively gained acceptance and seems to be driving planning practice across the globe is the collaborative planning model (Naess, 2001; Agger and Lofgren, 2008; Allmendinger and Haughton, 2012).

2.4.1 The collaborative planning model

The collaborative planning model, also known as the communicative planning model, hinges on American pragmatism developed by John Dewey and Richard Rorty and on Jurgen Habermas’s communication rationality idea (Watson, 2002; Campbell and Fainstein, 2003). This planning paradigm posits the adoption of democracy in planning through citizens, interest groups, and other stakeholders’ participation in the planning process. It subscribes to creating a medium for these players to form arguments, debate differences, exchange ideas towards understanding and negotiating proposals to arrive at a consensus on goal(s) and course of action(s). The planner’s role in this process is more of a facilitator, negotiator, and experiential learner to contribute to building consensus instead of determining goals and framing blueprint(s) or plan(s) (Harley, 1996, 2003; Agger and Lofgren, 2008). Although this planning model attempts to bring on board diverse interests as well as place an emphasis on the value of local experience, it has not gone without criticism (Huxley and Yiftachel, 2000; Naess, 2001; Agger and Lofgren, 2008; Lovering, 2009; Purcell, 2009). For example, Agger and Lofgren (2008) point out that this planning model does not provide a basis for the determination of how deliberative a planning process is. Further, it increases the likelihood that sub-standard planning projects will be delivered without express decisions from experts in certain cases (Naess, 2001) as was the case with several community projects in India (Friedmann, 2005). Most importantly, in a world full of unbalanced power relationships, it is debatable whether this planning model will not rather advance the interest of the powerful in society to the detriment of marginalised groups. In developing regions like SSA Home (2012, p. 42) observes that the marginalised and poor communities are generally pre-occupied with day-to-day existence, rather than engaged with time-consuming non-essential activities, such as a deliberative planning process, while outside elites may manipulate the process to their own advantage. Nonetheless, unlike the rational comprehensive planning model, where a government and its agents set planning goals and prescribe the form and procedure for planning practice, these issues are supposed to be determined by wider stakeholder interests in society through deliberation and negotiations under a collaborative planning model.


An important aspect of planning practice is the lens through which it is conceptualised and practised. This hinges on planning theory, which fundamentally addresses the justification and form of urban planning. The justification and form of urban planning have been examined from several theoretical standpoints relying on insights from different disciplines. This chapter discussed some of the justifications and forms of urban planning. The chapter notes that due to numerous justifications and forms of urban planning, which are based on insights from several disciplines, it remains unclear what the standard justifications and forms of urban planning are. However, collaborative or communicative planning as a form or model of urban planning is increasingly gaining popularity as a required planning model for the twenty-first century. Having discussed some of the theoretical justifications and forms of urban planning, the next chapter examines the role of urban planning.

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