Sustainable development in English metropolitan authorities : an investigation using unitary development plans
Sustainable development can be approached from many different perspectives. Whilst short, 'punchy' definitions have successfully communicated and popularised sustainable development, a detailed and meaningful application of the concept is much more problematic. In order to address the situation, this thesis investigates the potential of unitary development plans (UDPs) to operationalise sustainable development in the current political and economic context. The study utilises a combination of qualitative techniques over two distinct stages to meet three research aims. Stage I consists of a broad survey of 36 UDPs to assess their strengths and weaknesses in terms of sustainable development. It uses the work of the UK Local Agenda 21 Campaign to define sustainable development as 29 'Policy Directions for Sustainable Development'. This definition is then applied to the UDPs using the methods of content analysis. The survey reveals that all UDPs are currently promoting sustainable development in terms of the built and natural physical environment. Other areas of sustainable development, however, such as energy and land, air and water quality, are currently outside the remit of most UDP policies. Using the results of this survey, Stage 111 of the research selects two UDPs for a case study investigation. This stage utilises documentary analysis and in-depth interviews with local actors to explore the dynamics of each UDP process. It reveals that the policy remit of both plans were largely researched, defined and then written by the professional planners in each authority; whereas inputs from locally elected councillors, the general public or other local organisations are generally limited to narrower, site specific issues. These characteristics can be explained by the perceptions of the planning profession held by local actors in both authorities. For example, many councillors have a narrow, procedural understanding of the planning system, believing that good land-use planning is largely equivalent to sustainable development. Planners, on the other hand, see sustainable development as a new legitimisation of their profession and are therefore keen to promote their own understanding of the concept. In order to realise the potential of UDPs to fully operationalise sustainable development, the thesis concludes with a number of recommendations for changing the current UDP process.