Theory and practice at Poundbury.
The last decade has witnessed a proliferation of calls for a more inclusionary, communicative participatory planning practice. That call has not been lost on urbanist movements such as the Urban Villages Forum (now the Urban Network) and the Congress for the New Urbanism. These two influential groups have developed a significant discourse on participatory processes for the early planning, and long-term management, of their preferred types of communities. The present paper critically examines the outworking of the urbanist participatory discourse, using the case study of Poundbury in the UK. Poundbury is one of the early urbanist projects hailed as first-rate by the Urban Villages Forum and the Congress for the New Urbanism (amongst others), and it has involved noteworthy contribution by founding members of both groups. Now that it is ten years into its construction process, it is timely to reflect upon Poundbury’s planning process. Based primarily on twenty key informant interviews, the paper explains and appraises the participatory exercise used to involve the community during the initial stages of Poundbury’s planning. The paper concludes that urbanist groups offer a weak understanding of participation, and that in practice, the participatory mechanisms used do not truly engender the enlivened local democracy that the urbanists' exhort.
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