Metropolitan Governance and Spatial Planning: Comparative Case Studies of European City Regions

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Metropolitan Governance and Spatial Planning: Comparative Case Studies of European City Regions, Willem Salet, Andy Thornley and Anton Kreukels (eds), London and New York, Spon Press, 2003, 406 pp., £65.00 (h/b), £24.99 (p/b)

This book captured my interest simply due to the fact that I am currently working on a similar topic. In times of globalisation with its complex and turbulent environment and in a situation of increasing multi-level government combined with a further move from government to governance, actors in cities and city regions-at least when they are smart-are constantly in search of new strategies to give their respective metropolitan areas a favourable position. Authors have called it 'organising capacity' (Van den Berg et al.), response capacity (my terminology), or 'organising connectivity' as the editors of the current book do. This organising capacity is a three-dimensional coordination activity, with a spatial (macro through to micro), functional (land uses and activities) and sector dimension (public, private, voluntary sectors). The success is bound, in the view of the authors, to a maximisation of the coherence of strategies, but why? This is the question I am asking myself. Is it again the everlasting dream of 'superplanners' and in the end probably unnecessary, particularly because of a basic problem-who knows what will happen next; and how can one respond to this situation spontaneously?

The editors of Metropolitan Governance and Spatial Planning are a good combination of European scholars in the planning field-Willem Salet is the Scientific Director of the Amsterdam Study Centre for the Metropolitan Environment, Andy Thornley is Director of Planning Studies at the London School of Economics, and Anton Kreukels is Professor of Urban and Regional Planning at the University of Utrecht. All three brought together an extensive network of other European scholars, including established academics such as Jeremy Alden (Cardiff), Hartmut Häusserman (Berlin), Christian Lefevre (Paris) and Alain Motte (Marseille).

The bulk of Metropolitan Governance and Spatial Planning consists of a set of 19 case studies (quite a large number rarely met in a single book). All try to follow the same structure, including spatial development patterns and the definition of the 'emerging metropolitan configurations', the existing set of formulated spatial policies and, finally, the actual strategies of metropolitan governance. …

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