Town Planning Review

Beyond tokenism? Community-led planning and rational choices: findings from participants in local agenda-setting at the neighbourhood scale in England

Town Planning Review (2012), 83, (1), 1–28.

Abstract

The article confronts some key issues raised in the literature on public participation via a series of interrogatory questions drawn from rational choice theory. These are considered in relation to the design and process of public participation opportunities in planning and wider processes of local governance at the neighbourhood scale. In doing this, the article draws on recent research that has looked in some depth at a form of community-led planning (CLP) in England. The motives and expectations of participants, the abilities of participants, as well as the conditions in which participation takes place are seen as important factors. It is contended that the issues raised by rational choice theory are pertinent to emerging efforts to engage communities. As such, the article concludes that advocates of public participation or community engagement should not be afraid of responding to the challenges posed by questions of motive and reward of participants if lasting and worthwhile participation is to be established. Indeed, questions such as 'what's in it for me?' should be regarded as legitimate, necessary and indeed standard, in order to co-devise meaningful and durable participation opportunities and appropriate institutional environments. However, it is also maintained that wider considerations and capacity questions will also need to be confronted if participation is to become embedded as part of participatory neighbourhood-scale planning.

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Parker, Gavin

Murray, Claudia