The Importance of Community Participation in Urban Planning

Many large urban planning projects the world over are delivered almost exclusively by the private sector, influenced, in large part, by a market-driven planning system.

As a direct result of this market-driven planning, at times, development projects can cause clashes with local community interests - often leading to legal battles between private developers and external stakeholders, with planning authorities often playing the role of mediator.

In many cases, issues arise due to the perceived negative impact of urban development decisions on the value of homes, or the standard of living in the local community, in turn possibly leading to so-called ‘NIMBY’ (Not in My Back Yard) campaigns – a term gradually falling out of favour.

More often than not, it’s actually the fear of low-quality planning and developments, rather than the rejection of growth, that causes potential problems. However, this perceived negative impact can usually be easily mitigated by involving community stakeholders from the outset of any project.

The Scope of Urban Planning

Urban Planning - the art of giving shape, design, and structure to cities and towns - involves numerous processes, sometimes also even posing equally numerous potential challenges.

Usually, processes include the overall design of the urban environment itself, inclusive of air quality, water, and other necessary infrastructure passing into and out of urban areas such as transportation, communications, and distribution networks.

Given such a wide scope, as well as the potential effects certain projects could have on public welfare, overcoming the challenges in appeasing both social and economic activities have become pivotal in the completion of successful urban developments.

Sustainable Development

When the detrimental economic and environmental impacts of previous models of planning became apparent in the late 20th century, ‘Sustainable Development’ was subsequently accepted in the industry as one of the main goals for all future planning endeavours. This meant taking resident experiences and needs into broader consideration during the planning phases.

Contemporary planning theories now acknowledge the value of community participation in the development processes of the ‘built’ environment, suggesting that community involvement has the direct potential to achieve this more sustainable outcome.

Studies conducted by planning scholars have also highlighted how local stakeholder participation during the planning stage and implementation of policies can in fact generate more trust, credibility, and commitment when compared to alternative approaches.

One of the obvious main benefits of this local stakeholder participation is that conflicts are usually resolved during the planning process, rather than delaying the implementation of completed plans.

Community Acceptance – An Overview

Community acceptance at key planning stages can make or break a proposal. By having the support of community stakeholders during the planning and development phase of urban developments, a ‘win-win’ solution is possible for all involved.

This act of working together cooperatively - rather than becoming locked in a destructive win-lose or lose-lose pattern - means that relationships between planners, politicians, and local stakeholders are strengthened, that communication barriers are breached, and that mutual trust increases.

Overall, this way, communities get what they want - they gain the sense of ownership over the resulting proposals and are more inclined to engage in their implementation – and developers and local authorities end up with a solution that is acceptable to local stakeholders, often completed in a shorter time than through ‘traditional’ consultation.

If you’d like to know more about interactions between urban infrastructure developments and local communities, or about local stakeholder dispute resolution in general, why not have a look at our own internationally recognised Global CPD course?


Internationally Recognised Global CPD Course