Planning and the public : actor-networks and the plan-making process
This study explores the development plan-making process in two local authorities, and focuses on the role different groups, including 'the public', play in this. This research aims to uncover the ways in which the practices of plan making are constructed through the work of actors and texts, and to trace how these actions reflect and constitute relations of power. Plans have been viewed as modernist tools. However this conception has been criticised in work drawing on the writings of Habermas and Foucault, which will be critically assessed. Problems associated with these theories and a need to trace how actions and structures might be constituted led to adopting a theoretical framework drawing on actor-network theory. This theory has a radical view of structure, agency and power and forces attention onto how stabilities are constructed. The theoretical framework adopted draws on these concerns to trace how actors, entities and networks emerge through social actions. The research questions focus these concerns onto understanding how plans are written, who is important in this and how entities such as 'local authorities' and 'the public' are constructed. Qualitative research was carried out in two cases, examining how the plans were written and focusing on how techniques of involving 'the public' were constructed. Case study descriptions trace how networks were built and how were important in mediating actions. In particular, the ways in which 'councils' 'officers', 'members', 'the public' and 'central government' are defined, form a focus. Analysis of the two cases revealed significant similarities attributed to a 'central government' network. Differences arose in the ways in which 'council' networks composed different practices of plan-writing and how officers and members were defined. This study shows how texts and actors shape plan-making, and how certain practices of governance are constructed.