Planning in theory and practice
The British planning system evolved as a result of various social, economic and political events that took place in the last two centuries. Initially, town planners had the sole responsibility for making decisions about the development and redevelopment of towns and cities. It was only after the post-war period that the importance and relevance of public participation was realized and taken into consideration. This apportion of decision-making power to the public brought about a change in the role of planners in society, from being sole controllers to advocates. Planning theories were developed with a view to provide a firm base for the planning practitioners. The relationship between planning theory and planning practice has always been under constant deliberation and is still evolving.
In earlier days, planners worked in a professional and politically controlled system. The discussions and plans were presented in a professional way which consisted of technical jargon that the public could not be expected to understand (Glass, 1959 cited in Cullingworth and Nadin, 2006). At the time, however, planners were perceived as acting in the general public interest, and hence the lack of public participation and political debate was not recognized as a problem.
During the post-war period, the need for urban and rural development became a necessity. Housing estates were being constructed with few amenities and urban centres rebuilt along with motorways to take in increasing traffic. Development in the villages was neglected and they suffered from a lack of proper infrastructure (Cullingworth and Nadin, 2006). This led to the destruction of social and physical fabric of the place and put planners in a difficult situation. Planners were seen as hostile figures and planning was conceived as bad (Allmendinger, 2009). Public participation was then introduced by Town and Country Planning Act in 1968 (Williams, 1984). Planning authorities created informal mechanisms which encouraged participation of local communities and interest groups to play a part in formulating and implementing planning policy.