Information systems and policy processes in planning.
This thesis examines the use of information, particularly that of a technical kind, in decisions
and policies in land use planning, and reports on empirical analysis on the making of
development plan policies by local authority planning departments.
The research examines the role of technical information in planning processes and starts by
identifying different ideas put forward about the potential contribution of computerised
systems to the provision of such information. It is concluded that the literature on decision
processes in planning has a number of weaknesses in relation to how the use of information
is understood. Research on the use of information in planning has found a complex picture
which is at odds with many normative theories of planning. However, an empirically based
theory of the use of technical information in planning, including that from computerised
sources, is poorly developed.
The thesis argues that the idea of a set of policy processes - structuring access, mode of
debate and decision criteria in planning decisions - is a powerful analytical tool in
understanding planning practice. Using this as a base, a conceptual framework relating
these processes to information use is developed from the available literature and the findings
from exploratory interviews. Through a set of six case studies oflocal authority planning
departments the explanatory power of this framework is assessed. On the basis of this a
refined framework is put forward and a final assessment made of it using a detailed analysis
of the evolution and adoption of the policies in two development plans, the Wakefield
Unitary Development Plan and the Lancashire Structure Plan.
The research concludes that the use of technical information is heavily influenced by the
regulatory nature of the British planning system, which places a focus on the justification of
policies and gives greater importance to technical analysis in some situations than others. In
development plan making the semi-judicial arena of the inquiry or examination in public is
central. Information from computerised sources can playa distinctive role in planning but
this is dependent on how it is incorporated into the policy processes through which
decisions are made. Technical information and computerised analysis can play an important
role in legitimating planning decision and shaping the evolution ofpolicies, but this can only
be understood within a wider context of social and political processes.