Development Control as agonistic planning practice FINAL.doc - Revitalising the political Development Control and agonism in planning practice Author Dr

Development Control as agonistic planning practice...

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Revitalising the political: Development Control and agonism in planning practice Author: Dr Katie McClymont Correspondence address: Department of Planning and Architecture University of the West of England, Frenchay Campus, Coldharbour Lane, Bristol. BS16 1QY [email protected] 1
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Revitalising the political: Development Control and agonism in planning practice This paper argues for a new way of valuing development control planning practices in a democratic society: as agonistic political engagement. It counters claims that collaborative and consensus seeking approaches are of higher value than conflicts over site specific developments, by use of Chantal Mouffe’s idea of the political. In this, the idea of true consensus is an impossibility as some viewpoint has to be excluded from any agreement. Moreover, for democracy to exist, different opinions need to have legitimate arenas in which to be expressed, without the endpoint of discussion being resolution and agreement. Drawing on discussion from a public inquiry, examples are given of how meanings assigned to planning policy and the built environment can be part of this agonistic debate. They form the elements which build up contradictory arguments about what is ‘appropriate’ or ‘good’ for a specific place. The mechanisms of development control provide a legitimate forum for these to be articulated, without consensus or agreement as a goal . Keywords: development management, dissensus, agonism, Mouffe, consensus Introduction The status of development control, or development management as it has become known more recently, in the British Planning system is well- rehearsed as second class, unimaginatively technocratic and trapped within the worst excesses of managerialist bureaucracy (Booth, 2003). 2
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Commentators and government strategists hoping to revitalise the image and practice of planning generally focus on forward based and plan making initiatives (CLG, 2007, RTPI, 2007) and the desirability of achieving consensus through engaging more people in strategic planning issues. Conversely, improvement of development control has centred on the need for speed, streamlining and efficiency; the tone of recommendations being largely the same today as in the 1973 Dobry report (see Booth, 2003, p123). Development control is viewed as a bureaucratic process, rather than something concerning (non-monetary) values, desires and aspirations. This paper aims to unsettle these preconceived notions, and present development control as instead an important part of democratic engagement by diverse publics within spatial planning and the built environment. This is done by application of Chantal Mouffe’s theory of the political, grounded in a rejection of liberal notions of consensus (Mouffe 1993, 2005). She argues that to make democracy viable there is a need for adversaries to be engaged in agonistic conflict. Agonism is irresolvable disagreement over political meanings and actions, in which each party does not deny the legitimacy of the other to have an opinion. It is a form
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