Injustice in planning in Europe
Land is a natural resource. The way it is used is important for us all. Decisions over its use impact on all aspects of society, locally, regionally, nationally and internationally. Moreover these impacts affect future as well as present generations. Those holding power over land-use decisions, those able to direct and control its use, those able to convert its nature by changing it from one use to another and those who develop or withhold it from development, exert great influence over society. They carry heavy responsibility for shaping places, for influencing economic activity, for the quality of life and for caring for our environment at every scale and across every dimension. In so doing they should exercise a duty of care, consideration and competence to the rest of creation. Addressing one small aspect of this task, for centuries governments have been concerned to balance a variety of interests in land and to ensure that land-use decisions were equitable between these. More particularly, since around the middle of the last century a range of instruments to 'plan' land-use and to direct its development equitably have been devised and implemented. Specifically, in what may have been varying notions of 'the public interest', they have attempted to constrain presumptions of unrestricted land-use conveyed by constitutionally held rights to land ownership, however limited. Embodying liberal-democratic principles, the regulations which emerged provided for certainty in land and related rights to be protected by local plans. On the continent these were often given legal status along with other codified 'rules' but, from roughly the middle of this century, the United Kingdom departed from this model. Architect and Engineer planners were joined by lawyers, economists, geographers, sociologists, demographers and the like in creating a new, distinctive, 'planning' profession. Rather than planning for 'conformance', they now planned for 'performance'. What mattered was not the plan, per se, but development outputs and how they impacted on society. 'Equity' became a matter not for pre-determined certainty, but for the exercise of professional judgement and discretion through the control of development on a case by case basis. Such changes did not seem to occur in the mainland European countries considered here and, with the advent of the European Union, UK land and property development professionals increasingly looked to the continent for ideas and inspiration. Many admired, even longed for, the well ordered, clearly planned, certainty which they thought they saw there. But, how certain was this planning and, if it did exist, to what extent were mainland systems able to deliver 'equity' in their outputs? Testing the hypothesis that Continental planning and development control is influenced more by politics and markets than formal 'rules', this thesis considers the proposition that decisions to permit major private developments in continental countries are neither transparent nor equitable. To do so it reviews the theory of both planning and development processes as the background for a series of 21 case study investigations of mainland application and permit decision practices. These are compared with 11 English cases, obtained from a pilot study used to test and improve the research method and objectives. Summarising each case study to illustrate discussion of the research findings, these are sieved through 4 stages of analysis as in-depth detail is converted to knowledge. With field assumptions being verified by the testimony of expert witnesses, cross case and cross country comparisons are used to validate findings. These are then consolidated to enable further analysis and theorisation to address various of the needs for an improved understanding of mainland practices and other questions raised in the Introduction. The thesis concludes that European Development Control practices are converging, but at the expense of the due process and protections theoretically embodied within regulatory systems. Seized upon by contemporary politicians to further the aims of economic competition, it suggests that these 'rules' are now managed with an inherent disregard for the principles of due process. This obfuscates both practices and intent, overrides concerns for justice, faimess and impartiality at the level of local, historic interests in place, and threatens wider problems for society. Relating these conclusions to the current literature, emergent theory is compared with the research results and several potential areas for further research identified which might help clarify planning philosophy, principles, professionalism and practices for service in the 21" Century.