Academic journal article The Town Planning Review

The Application of the European Spatial Development Perspective: Introduction to the Special Issue

Academic journal article The Town Planning Review

The Application of the European Spatial Development Perspective: Introduction to the Special Issue

Article excerpt

Naturally, the planners from the member states and the Commission involved in making the European Spatial Development Perspective (ESDP) were keen on seeing it followed through. Much as its predecessors, the 1997 'First Official Draft' and the 1998 'Complete Draft', the final ESDP contains a chapter specifically devoted to what should happen in future. However, whereas the 'First Official Draft' talks about 'Carrying out the ESDP' and even about its 'implementation', the relevant chapter in the final ESDP document refers to 'application' instead. The claim about the ESDP is that, in '. . . its aims and guidelines it provides a general source of reference for actions with a spatial impact, taken by public and private decision-makers', (CEC, 1999, 11).

This introduction makes three points about 'application' generally and the application of the ESDP in particular:

1. When discussing strategic planning documents like the ESDP, it is indeed more fitting to describe their follow-up as the 'application' of ideas contained therein rather than as the 'implementation' of plan proposals.

2. To facilitate their application, so conceived, strategic planning documents often need to undergo further elaboration, entailing among others the making of new institutional arrangements.

3. As a concept, application relates to ideas in the literature about evaluating strategic planning documents by their 'performance' in shaping ongoing action, rather than by the 'conformance' of outcomes to intentions stated therein.

The common thread in all this is the recognition that strategic planning documents are far different from masterplans, or blueprints for action.

In elucidating these points, this introduction to the special issue on the application of the ESDP builds on earlier work on the evaluation of strategic planning and on the ESDP and its application (Faludi, 2000; 2001; Faludi and Waterhout, 2002). It begins with a reminder of what the ESDP itself says about its application.

About the application of the ESDP

Although the Commission has given essential support, the ESDP has been prepared in a unique form of voluntary member-state cooperation. This relates to the 'competency issue' concerning the Community's role in spatial planning or, as the Reld is increasingly being described, spatial development policy. As the final paper explains, so far member states have been of the opinion that, although Community policies have spatial impacts, the overall direction of spatial development is not a matter for the Community but rather for member states and/or (depending on their constitutional set-up) their regions. This is why planners from one member state holding the EU Presidency after another took the lead in the ESDP process, putting their stamp on the proceedings and handing the draft over to the next one, until under the German Presidency of 1999 everybody agreed on the final version.

What did the actors involved aim to achieve? As indicated, the makers of the ESDP wanted to provide a 'frame of reference' or 'framework' for those involved in spatial development to take account of. For some time now, as part of what is called the 'argumentative turn' in policy analysis and planning (Fischer and Forester, 1993) the literature talks about the concept of 'framing' (Rein and SchoE n, 1993; SchoE n and Rein, 1994). 'Framing' is what frameworks doD injecting ideas into the proceedings, ordering thoughts and thereby, albeit indirectly, giving direction to action. In so doing, the power of frameworks must not be underestimated. However, frameworks do not impose themselves. Rather, they work on the minds of those who take its messages into consideration. This, then, is what 'application' meansDideas stimulating future action to take a particular course, but without pre-empting the decisions of those involved.

As regards the type of actions that it wants to inPuence, the ESDP points in various directions. …

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