Citizen Input in Urban Heritage Management and Planning: A Quantitative Approach to Citizen Participation

By Olsson, K. | The Town Planning Review, July 1, 2008 | Go to article overview

Citizen Input in Urban Heritage Management and Planning: A Quantitative Approach to Citizen Participation


Olsson, K., The Town Planning Review


This article discusses why and how to take local citizens, and their values, into account in urban heritage management and planning. It includes an analysis of the relation between a traditional instrumental rational view on planning and a communicative planning ideal. With a starting point in economic theory, urban heritage is analysed as an infrastructure and a public good. Mail surveys directed to inhabitants in two Swedish municipalities further illustrate how urban heritage can be discussed as a public good, and what implications that has for involving citizens in heritage management and planning. Citizen participation as traditionally conceived includes active citizens taking part in a direct way in planning discussions, i.e. by means of qualitative approaches. However, direct participation is especially difficult to accomplish concerning public goods and infrastructures. The article concludes that there are good reasons to increase and develop citizens' input in heritage management, and that the public good characteristics of urban heritage beg for quantitative analysis. Thus, a quantitative approach to citizen participation has the potential to complement qualitative ways of involving citizens in planning.

In the city, time becomes visible: buildings and monuments and public ways, more open than the written record, more subject to the gaze of many men than the scattered artefacts of the countryside, leave an imprint upon the minds even of the ignorant or the indifferent. Through the material fact of preservation, time challenges time, time clashes with time: habits and values carry over beyond the living group, streaking with different strata of time the character of any single generation. Layer upon layer, past times preserve themselves in the city until life itself is finally threatened with suffocation: then, in sheer defense, modern man invents the museum. (Mumford, 1970 [1938], 4)

The quotation above, from Lewis Mumford's classic book The Cultures of Cities, can be regarded as a starting point for this article. There is an inherent conflict between preservation of urban cultural built heritage and efforts to adjust cities to contemporary demands and needs. At least, this has for a long time been a prevalent view in urban development planning, as well as in heritage management. Consequently, public heritage management has been much occupied with adding parts of the urban environment to 'the museum' that Mumford writes about. Heritage management has by tradition been seen as an expert and public sector responsibility, and mainly as an issue for archaeologists, art historians and architects. It has been organised, and included a way of working, that primarily applies to the management of specific monuments and well-defined areas with designated historical value.

In essence, contemporary heritage management is rooted in reasoning from the industrial society and, thus, based on a notion about a strong public sector and an instrumental rational planning and heritage management, i.e. an expert activity based on apolitical, neutral and scientific judgements. However, the transformation from an industrial society to a knowledge society substantially altered the conditions for urban development planning and heritage management. The last few decades have witnessed a societal development increasingly structured by economic and cultural globalisation - leading to competition between cities for external markets (i.e. investments, visitors and new inhabitants), and a transition in policy and decision-making and implementation from government to governance (Hall, 1993; Kooiman, 1993).

The competitive situation has placed a focus on built heritage as a resource for urban development. It is often argued in, for example, public policy documents and reports, that culture and heritage resources attract and create values for tourists and new inhabitants, but also that it is of great importance for identity and well-being for local populations (see e. …

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Citizen Input in Urban Heritage Management and Planning: A Quantitative Approach to Citizen Participation
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