Conference paper

There will always be 'winners' and 'losers': Understanding perceptions of procedural justice in a contested planning landscape

Cities and towns Urban planning Policy Regional planning Public consultation Governance Australia
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Abstract: Planning decisions often involve a range of stakeholders, each committed to ensuring their needs are recognised by other stakeholder groups. Considering this, questions of what is ‘ethical’ or the ‘best’ process for a decision is debated considerably within academic literature. These debates can be explored through the concept of ‘justice’ or what is fair in decision-making processes. Ultimately, the interpretation of ‘justice’ is very subjective and contestation between affected parties is probable, if not inevitable. This paper investigates the understanding and value of justice, specifically ‘procedural justice’ and its practical application within planning decisions. Procedural justice relates to the processes and administrative procedures relating to obtaining fair planning decisions.

Presenting a case study of South Australia’s Mount Barker Development Plan Amendment rezoning process in 2010, this paper teases out how stakeholders view ‘procedural justice’ within this highly contentious planning decision. This concept relates to and questions processes undertaken during major planning decisions, raising questions regarding ethical behaviour, politics and potential conflicts of interest. The case study of Mount Barker is an apt case study for exploring how issues of justice interrelate with a range of broader planning and sociological concepts. These include governance, politics and power. The findings demonstrate that justice is viewed in a variety of ways and that individuals stakeholders have differing and often conflicting visions for planning decisions, such as Mount Barker. This essentially sees justice as an ‘abstract noun’, or a seemingly elusive quality in an applied discipline

The papers presented at the 2015 State of Australian Cities National Conference (SOAC 7) were organised into seven broad themes but all shared, to varying degrees, a common focus on the ways in which high quality academic research can be used in the development and implementation of policy. The relationship between empirical evidence and theoretical developments that are presented as part of our scholarly endeavours and policy processes is rarely clear and straightforward. Sometimes, perhaps because of the fortuitous alignment of various factors, our research has a direct and positive impact on policy. Sometimes it takes longer to be noticed and have influence and, sometimes, there is no little or no evidence of impact beyond or even with the academy. And while there are things we can do to promote the existence of our work and to present it in more accessible formats to people we believe to be influential, ultimately the appreciation and application of our work lies in the hands of others.

This paper is one of 164 papers that have each been reviewed and refereed by our peers and revised accordingly. While they each will have been presented briefly at the SOAC conference, they can now be read or re-read at your leisure. We hope they will stimulate further debate and discussion and form a platform for further research.

Adapted from the SOAC 7 conference proceedings introduction by Paul Burton and Heather Shearer

The State of Australian Cities (SOAC) national conferences have been held biennially since 2003 to support interdisciplinary policy-related urban research.

SOAC 7 was held in the City of Gold Coast from 9-11 December 2015. The conference featured leading national and local politicians and policy makers who shared their views on some of the current challenges facing cities and how these might be overcome in the future.

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