Public participation in planning: a case study of Canberra, A.C.T.

  • Mohammed Kamal Uddin

Student thesis: Doctoral Thesis

Abstract

Traditional models of public participation in planning have been criticized as 'top-down' segregating planners from ordinary citizens; thus, there has been a quest for greater public involvement in planning decisions and policy-making. The public demands a greater voice in planning and development affairs. To provide public input into the planning process, planning agencies often establish Citizen Advisory Committees (CAC) to involve the public in planning decisions. The increasing redevelopment pressure in inner city suburbs in most Australian cities has led to the creation of many advisory groups for advising planning agencies and Ministers for Planning on planning and development matters. These advisory committees usually consist of people of diverse backgrounds elected, selected and/or appointed by the planning agency to provide community input into planning policy making. However, little is known about the context and operational process in the consultation processes of advisory committees. Much of the existing literature on public participation lacks widely applicable evaluation approaches for determining whether the existing context and process is fair and effective in the participation process. As complex social phenomena, public participation processes are influenced by contextual factors. This thesis examines the Terms of Reference and the operational process of planning advisory committees, and evaluates them through two proposed meta-criteria: fairness and effectiveness. LAPACs in Canberra have been selected for the evaluation of the participation process, providing a basis to develop a conceptual model for its improvement. The analysis is based on a theoretical framework, which focuses on the criteria of fairness and effectiveness in the public participation process. This study uses a qualitative approach to data analysis using multi-method techniques such as focus interviews, document analysis and participant observation. The interviews were conducted with LAPAC members and other planning community who were directly or indirectly involved in the ACT's consultation process, and aware of its planning decisions. They are development proponents, the enthusiastic wider public, planning staff, the Minister for Planning, and planning spokespersons of political parties. The data provide insight into the details of the proposed criteria to evaluate the fairness and effectiveness of a participation process. The results suggest that improving the participation process in a planning advisory committee requires changes in committee protocols, operational processes and planner roles in conducting the participation processes. Specifically, there needs to be a move away from static processes toward more strategic, active and accountable processes. This thesis suggests some practical steps, in order to ensure greater fairness and effectiveness in the participation process of a planning advisory committee, and recommends the proposed evaluative criteria as a new framework for evaluating planning advisory committees.
Date of Award2004
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • University of Canberra
SupervisorGeorge Cho (Supervisor) & Ken Taylor (Supervisor)

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