Town Planning Review

Going beyond planners' dependencies: An actor-relational approach to Mainport Rotterdam

Town Planning Review (2011), 82, (5), 547–572.

Abstract

Recent strategic planning interventions in the Netherlands look likely to turn into planning failures: the Betuwe freight line, the Amsterdam–Brussels high-speed rail line, the Green Heart of the Randstad, the intended Almere 'scale jump', Amsterdam's north–south light railway and so on. The same could happen with the planning of the second harbour extension of Rotterdam Seaport: the 'second Maasvlakte'. They are more than just failures in financial terms or in terms of social and economic welfare. They also qualify as strategic planning failures as they bypass the growing fragmentation, networking, destabilising and dynamic re-clustering processes of present post-industrial societies. In spite of the window-dressing associated with collaborative, discursive or development-oriented approaches, actual spatial planning objectives in such cases are still inclusionary and conceptualised from the inside out, based on a procedural, structuralist or, at best, a structurationalist view of planning. This paper argues that to become more effective these planning interventions have to refocus themselves using a radical outside-in approach. Instead of working against the growing uncertainties, fragmentations, pluralisation and complexities of present day society, structuring and fixing them in time and space, planners should work from and with them. This paper will describe how this could be done using an actor-relational approach (ARA) with respect to Mainport Rotterdam. This kind of planning needs to refocus on more open source associated planning strategies, interlinking proposals for spatial-institutional resetting, beyond traditional governmental structures, plans and the idea of comprehensive planning.

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Boelens, Luuk