Environment and Planning

If we want society to develop in such a way that our cities can sustain a good life for their citizens without depleting nature, then we face unparalleled challenges. In any highly urbanized country, extensive city transformation proves imperative. Which planning processes and which urban structures enable transformation? How can planners avoid path dependency? Which new skills and abilities do planners need?

Within a framework of planning at municipal, city, regional or national level, there is a need for environmental planners to develop policies into scenarios or plans, assess the contributions of policies, plans and programmes to urban sustainable development, and to manage the collaboration of actors within the planning process.

Scope

Planning for urban sustainable development calls for an interdisciplinary approach. Today’s practice is enriched with a solid theoretical basis and also incorporates elements from new research methods.

This means:

  • merging elements of governing and governance from planning theory and political science into a methodological approach (“How to practice governance”);
  • merging elements of planning theory and political science with theory and methodology from futures studies (“How to integrate scenarios, visions and images of the future into plans”);
  • applying discourse oriented theory and methodology for text analysis and writing (“Who are the actors and what are their diverse interests behind the documents”);
  • applying social science theory and methodology for qualitative and quantitative assessments of the contributions of policies, plans and programmes to urban sustainable development (“To what aspects of urban sustainable development do the proposed measures contribute”);
  • applying natural science theory and methodology for qualitative and quantitative assessments of the contributions of policies, plans and programmes to urban sustainable development (“To what extent do the proposed measures contribute to urban sustainable development”);
  • using a systems approach to define multi-dimensional planning and environmental problems whilst retaining complexity and a holistic perspective (“How to simplify without loosing essentials”), and
  • applying actor-structure theory for understanding the relationship between citizens’/residents’ freedom of action and the structural influence of culture, society and, more specifically, of planning (“What are planning’s possible and necessary contributions to urban sustainable development”).

Professional Roles

The environmental planner of the future has a threefold role to play:

  1. Turn urban sustainable development aims and policies into planning documents. These documents should:
    • take the form of images of the future, scenarios etc;
    • indicate what can be addressed through planning with a wide definition;
    • identify the measures to be taken and the actors to be involved
  2. Assess and evaluate the contributions of policies, plans and programmes to urban sustainable development, using existing and newly developed, quantitative and qualitative tools and methodologies. Give feedback to relevant actors.
  3. Identify stakeholders and actors needed to develop and realise policies and plans. Mediate and facilitate collaboration, identify and resolve potential conflicts, formalise collaboration to the extent needed.

Skills and abilities

Long-term: The ability to produce planning documents in the form of images of the future and scenarios, that “filter” long-term urban sustainable development aims through the field of influence of planning and planners, and use natural and social science theory and methodology to ensure that the images and scenarios, if realised, would contribute to urban sustainable development. Thus, being able to produce more action-oriented and relevant documents as basis for continued planning.

Short-medium term: The ability to identify, manage and use relevant social and natural science based tools for assessing and evaluating the expected outcomes of policies, plans and programmes in relation to long term urban sustainable development objectives. In addition, to give assessment-based feedback to the relevant actors.

Short-medium term: The ability to identify the relevant and necessary actors of a governance network or project-type organisation that is needed to realise a plan. Secondly, to organise, manage or co-ordinate such a team once its members are identified. Thirdly, to be able to identify and utilise tensions and potential conflicts beyond quick consensus.