Academic journal article The Town Planning Review

The Three PS of Place Making for Climate Change

Academic journal article The Town Planning Review

The Three PS of Place Making for Climate Change

Article excerpt

This state-of-the-art review compares recent literature coverage of principles, practice and procedures - the three Ps - of place making for climate change. Procedural thinking dominates, with extensive work on theoretical models of decision-making, policy processes, and development of human resources and skills. Coverage of practice is also extensive, although the medium of descriptive case studies poses issues of replicability and transferability. Work on the principles of place making attracts less attention and is more ambiguous, with environmental architecture and green infrastructure principles apparently at variance with conventional principles of urban design. The requirements of environmental and social sustainability seem to be pulling in opposite directions. The paper discusses promising lines of work, concluding that tried-and-tested urban design typologies may have a new lease of life in addressing climate change mitigation and adaptation.

This state-of-the-art review compares the coverage of principles, practice and procedures - the three Ps - in the extensive and fast-growing literature on place making for climate change. Procedural theory approaches the sustainability agenda as a decision-making exercise, a policy arena, a challenge for human resources and skills. Practice coverage offers a means of learning from empirical experience of actually existing realities, typically through the vehicle of case studies. Principles imply higher-order reflection on the elements of place and space, and their fitness for many purposes of which climate change mitigation and adaptation are the latest in a long list. Traditionally, the place-making agenda has been framed in terms of aesthetics, civic values, public health, human liveability and economic performance, as in the celebrated template provided 50 years ago by Lord Reith's Committee on New Towns (Reith, 1946). Today, environmental values have a central although not exclusive role in the agenda. Their insertion into urban design is a work in progress.

The knowledge base for place making necessarily involves all three Ps. Basic principles lay the template, knowledge of practice demonstrates feasibility and sets benchmarks, procedures make the trajectory to implementation. Seeking to test the balance of the three-legged stool as well as the robustness of its legs, the paper takes the three Ps in reverse order, ending with principles and beginning with procedures.


The process of place making is a well-researched topic. The literature is remarkably comprehensive, containing a wide range of decision tools, as well as approaches to the human resource dimension, and a purpose-made apparatus of law and policy.

To speak only of the English government system, as set out in the supplementary statement Planning and Climate Change (DCLG, 2007), the policy apparatus comprises a hierarchy of norms. At the top is central government's own Planning Policy Statement (PPS) with its list of seven Key Planning Objectives (KPO). Next are Regional Spatial Strategies (RSS) which must set targets to demonstrate how KPOs are to be acheived: no easy task given the breadth of those objectives, as set out verbatim in Table 1. Next are the Development Plan Documents (DPD) of local planning authorities, which may supplement the RSS requirements 'where local circumstances would allow further progress to be made in achieving the Key Planning Objectives set out in this PPS' (§18). When drawing up the DPD, planning authorities should undertake a Sustainability Appraisal (SA) incorporating a Strategic Environmental Assessment (SEA) in order 'to shape planning strategies and policies that support the Key Planning Objectives' (§10). The innermost part of this nested Russian doll system is the development control case file, which may have an Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) and must have a Design and Access statement containing 'the information necessary to show how their proposed development will contribute to the Key Planning Objectives set out in this PPS and relevant PPS and DPD policies consistent with this PPS' (§41). …

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