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Planning in the 'New Reality': Strategic Elements and Approaches in Swedish Municipalities
KTH, School of Architecture and the Built Environment (ABE), Urban Planning and Environment, Urban and Regional Studies.
2011 (English)Doctoral thesis, monograph (Other academic)
Abstract [en]

Central to this dissertation is a discourse in contemporary Swedish planning practice referred to as the ‘new reality’. The name of this discourse reflects the notion that planning practice interprets the conditions of today as differing from those which occurred previously. The urban landscape is perceived as increasingly complex, dynamic, and competitive, where strategic alliances must be built between municipalities and private and public actors at different levels. Both the influence of private actors and such factors as climate effects contribute to that much of what may happen in the future being experienced as uncertain and unpredictable. In this context of complexity, uncertainty, and governance, municipalities must find a way to manage planning tasks connected to the social, environmental, and economic dimensions of sustainability, tasks that may be at the same time interdependent and contradictory. The social and environmental dimensions of sustainability provide the municipality with a spectrum of tasks that range from local welfare tasks to national and global environmental and climate concerns, the time span ranges between short-term and long-term, and the degree of concreteness ranges from the specific to the vague. Furthermore, tasks connected to the wellbeing and safety concern not only the own citizens but also humankind in general, and both today and in the future. Tasks of economic sustainability are, in the ‘new reality’ discourse, closely connected to growth. As growth is regarded as desirable, the assumed situation of competition between cities, municipalities, regions and nations means that it is considered important to find ways to be attractive to both the market and to new potential citizens. That notwithstanding, municipalities must also handle the effects from growth.

The starting point of the dissertation is that it is easier to make good decisions (short-term, emergent) based on previous decisions (long-term, structure), in order to make gains in terms of social, environmental and economic sustainability, but also to bring efficiency gains in development decisions. Legislation assumes that the comprehensive plan serves such a function – it should both constitute political decisions for future development, and a planning data that allows holistic assessments. However, today, in many municipalities, it does not function as such. With reference to recently revised planning legislation’s intention to strengthen the strategic role of the comprehensive plan, this dissertation elaborates upon a development of the comprehensive plan based on a strategic perspective.

The dissertation contributes to knowledge by outlining a way in which comprehensive planning could be developed based on a strategic perspective, that could provide municipalities with a possibility for an active role in development within the conditions of the ‘new reality’ discourse. It does so by visualising the use of strategic elements and approaches in Swedish municipalities’ work with planning and development; the application of elements such as strategic contextual awareness, strategic selectiveness, strategic responsiveness, and strategic governance. Furthermore, as the design of the comprehensive planning process is discussed from the perspective of forums-arenas-courts (Healey, 1997; Bryson 2004), the view of what in fact is planning is expanded, thereby including formal as well as informal, visible as well as invisible, processes and decisions on different levels and with difference degrees of concreteness, that influence development. Comprehensive planning concerns a variety of processes that take place not in the planning game, but in the development game.

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
Stockholm: KTH Royal Institute of Technology , 2011. , 246 p.
Trita-SOM , ISSN 1653-6126 ; 2011-13
Keyword [en]
planning theory, planning practice, municipality, region, comprehensive planning, strategic planning, forum-arena-court, case study
Keyword [sv]
planeringsteori, planeringens praktik, kommun, region, översiktsplanering, strategisk planering, forum-arena-court, fallstudie
National Category
Social Sciences
URN: urn:nbn:se:kth:diva-44072ISBN: 978-91-7501-110-3OAI: diva2:450243
Public defence
2011-11-14, F3, KTH, Lindstedtsvägen 26, KTH, Stockholm, 13:00 (English)
QC 20111020Available from: 2011-10-20 Created: 2011-10-20 Last updated: 2011-10-20Bibliographically approved

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