Working paper

Metropolitan planning in Australia: urban management

URP Working Paper No. 42

15 Jul 1994

A long-standing debate over the nature and merits of 'rational comprehensive' versus 'incrementalist' models of public decision-making is continued in the papers on their application to planning by Max Neutze and John Mant. Neutze reviews the post-war optomistic rise of comprehensive planning, and its subsequent replacement by more modest 'urban management' strategies in the wake of its apparent failure to 'deliver the goods'. During the 1960s and 1970s, there was a growing perception of the planning process as inherently political, of end-state planning as inflexible and bureaucratic, of collective action as less beneficial socially and economically than individual, and of the inability of planning to substantially affect the lot of the poor. This perception led to the development of minimalist and prophylactic planning strategies and a retreat from bold and visionary planning approaches which require sufficient determination to allow long-term decision-making. Master planning assumes the lead should be taken by a planning authority with a comprehensive view of all parts of the system. Incrementalist approaches implicitly accept the leading role of the private sector despite possible detriments, especially in the area of service provision efficiency. The shift to urban management allows flexible responses to individual decisions, a characteristic particularly useful in the area of environmental and amenity protection, but it sacrifices the benefits of continuing commitments to a choosen alternative. The gains inflexibility which come with the kind of urban management which is less oriented to a long-term vision will necessarily be accompanied by losses in efficiency through less effective coordination between different investment decisions, and an inability to consider large scale alternatives in patterns of development. Mant argues that urban management is not an instrument of planning. Plan-making is an instrument of urban management. Plans are needed from time to time for particular purposes. It is a mistake to conceive of 'planning' as a simple lineal progression from plan to implementation. Further, 'planning' and 'urban management' should not be conceived as competing approaches to urban public poliq. The making of plans should be seen as a public policy tool for the achievement of del{berate and, at times, quite limited objectives. This paper discusses the role and limitations of plan-making as an urban management tool. The traditional comprehensive end-state planning exercise suffers from the same deficiencies as a public policy tool as other rational comprehensive policy activities.

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