Planning for a Sustainable Future

By Fischer, Thomas B. | The Town Planning Review, December 2002 | Go to article overview
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Planning for a Sustainable Future


Fischer, Thomas B., The Town Planning Review


Planning for a Sustainable Future, Antonia Layard, Simm Davoudi and Susan Batty (eds), London, E&FN Spon, 2001, 326 pp., £18.99 (p/b)

`The earth has enough for everyone's needs but not for some people's greed'-Gandhi (p. 23)

This book is written by 17 researchers and practitioners connected with the Bartlett School of Planning, University College London. It provides a multi-disciplinary overview of the widespread activities of this distinguished planning school in relation to sustainability issues in the land use context and is aimed at students and practitioners. The book comprises 17 chapters and is divided into three parts:

(1) sustainable development: principles and practice;

(2) the challenge of sustainable development: exploring the complexities;

(3) sustainable development in practice.

The first part of the book deals with political, legal and institutional aspects of the concept that some authors dub the `post-modern equivalent to [. . .] the modernist [. . .] narrative of progress' (p. 14). The following aspects are addressed:

* the process of inspiring consensus rather than merely identifying causes;

* the importance of emphasising administrative and institutional frameworks rather than control over what is decided;

* the need for institutions to look at internal capabilities and external environments.

Local Agenda 21 activities are discussed in terms of their promises and failures. In this context, it is noted that while they `give a new air of legitimisation to planners [. . .] those in charge of LA21 activities often [lead] a frustrated life in the "portacabin"' (p. 57). Practical implications of the concept of sustainable development are portrayed, taking two main discourses as examples: ecological modernisation-marked by a belief that `the concern for environmental degradation no longer endangers the profit margins of businesses and industry'-and risk society, which suggests that there is an `irreconcilable conflict between the contemporary mode of production and ecological needs' (p. 87).

Part 2 of the book revolves around the current debates on how to implement sustainable development in connection with land use planning. The di culties that might arise when attempting to reconcile individual lifestyles and life choices with the need for collective action are indicated. Furthermore, the link between local actions and global impacts and the right of developing countries to modernise versus their responsibilities for environmental protection are highlighted. An overview of the current debate on urban form and design is provided, which to date has remained rather inconclusive. The current organisation of property development is suggested not to be in support of transforming our built environment into a much more sustainable one. Furthermore, inconsistencies in terms of dimensions-environmental, social, economic, political, cultural-characteristics- policy durability, Pexibility and choice-and objectives-policy compromise, community balance, environmental protection-currently seem to be in the way of more sustainable housing. While the different options for making transport more sustainable are largely known, there is currently neither the political will nor su.

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