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International Institute for Innovation in Governance

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spatial planning

Landscape governance, environmental policy, spatial planning and place branding

Place branding strategies are increasingly used to promote cities, regions and national parks. In this paper we analyse the evolution of landscape governance in three Flemish regions to discern the virtues of these place branding strategies in relation to other forms of environmental policy and spatial planning. In all three regions state led policies and comprehensive planning efforts were gradually complemented and replaced by more participatory planning approaches and place branding strategies that use the landscape as a frame for coordinating land use activities and development. The study shows that place branding strategies can be a useful addition to other policy instruments and strategies. A focus on place identity and value creation can help in reconciling the various environmental, social, and economic interests. The study also shows that policies, plans and place brands that are developed outside a political context that is experienced as legitimate and inclusive by the different stakeholders are more difficult to implement and might in the long run undermine landscape governance.

Download the paper via Researchgate or Academia

Witchcraft, oracle, and magic in the kingdom of planning: A reflection on planning theory and practice

“This paper offers a response to a claim in Planning Theory that “there is no planning—only planning practices“.

“When a highly esteemed colleague as Prof Alexander looks back at his distinguished career and observes a stockpile of problems in the planning discipline, to the extent that both planning and planning theory seem to lose their unity and validity (Alexander, 2016), there is ample reason to listen”.

What exactly then is the problem? Is planning facing a deep crisis, and might it be on the verge of vanishing, as philosophy has left us, as the novel has been declared dead, together with God? Well, for many, God, philosophy and the novel are very much alive, and the proclamations of existential threat are usually marks of a transitional stage, not the end. Even the boogeyman of neo- liberalism did not kill planning, nor did the competition with other expert groups. What seems at stake here is the soul of planning in a very modernist understanding of the field; a field where modernist philosophies lingered on much longer than in neighboring disciplines and fields (Van Assche et al.,2014).

What, indeed, looks highly unlikely at the moment is a degree of cohesion in theory and practice which can only exist in a modernist phantasy of planners assisting governments to optimize spatial organization in a scientific, that is, unambiguous manner. In this myth the plan is endowed with magical powers of coordination, leading to its own implementation, and where power/knowledge dynamics suddenly stops after the planner enters the room.

This enduring bewitching by modernism one can easily discern in planning theory and praxis. One can see it in the continuous confusion of analytic and normative statements within and beyond academia, in the general lack of reflection on normativity, in the overly high expectations of theory, as somehow able to tell practitioners what to do. It is present in the courses on planning ethics, which pretend to know what correct behavior is, without even trying to engage with the variety of ethical theories. The witchcraft is at work among the adepts of collaborative planning, where many still expect to find a magical formula which reveals the ultimate balance between participation and representation, in procedures enabling the perfectability of space and society…..”

The full article can be downloaded here

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