The meaning and method of urban capacity and urban capacity studies
This thesis focuses on the question 'What is meant by "urban capacity"?' This is an increasingly important question as the government claims that the concept, through its technical study -the urban capacity study- is central to the planning for housing process, with this new technical study forming the foundation on which local authorities and regional authorities will increasingly develop their housing policy. However, the concept of 'urban capacity' is relatively new, and is still evolving. Therefore the meaning of urban capacity is important for processes of planning; but it is also a key idea driving development policy, ultimately determining where houses are built, the form they are likely to take, and the way that people in the future are likely to live. The urban capacity literature suggested that the concept had moved from being linked primarily to environmental capacity to being linked primarily to planning for housing provision, establishing the need to investigate the concept's evolution in meaning. To investigate this evolution, two descriptive concept-models were developed, and the research identified three windows that gave insight into the construction of the concept of urban capacity and its usage. These three windows were: firstly, government texts to explore how urban capacity was argued; secondly, a survey of urban capacity studies to investigate how urban capacity was assessed and the implications of the methods on the meaning of the concept; thirdly, a case study of South Tyneside Metropolitan Borough Council, the co-sponsor to this research, to investigate how the concept and urban capacity studies were used at the local level. This thesis concludes that the concept of urban capacity has indeed evolved; but that this evolution is more complicated than it may at first appear, and that this is likely to have implications for future policy-makers.