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Communicative Spatial Planning from a Relational Perspective

The basis of spatial planning is an activity of distribution of our territorial assets. Spatial planning deals with local physical structures, affecting local people and other local interests and is as well an arena for implementing global, national and regional policy. The European Spatial Development Perspective, ESDP, recognises the relations between modifications in communities and the impact on the common European spatial pattern .

However, societal development is no longer perceived as linear with simple relations between cause and effect or between scales. Rather, it is increasingly complex and the effects of actions and events are often hard to predict, making it increasingly difficult solve spatial issues and to allocate assets accordingly. Spatial complexity also increases by the fact that the constituents of a problem often changes giving rise to wicked problems.

Planning therefore has to cope with growing complexity and to find ways of dealing with it. As a response to this development, the process of spatial planning is becoming less rational, increasingly strategic and deliberative using communication as the central planning instrument.  This line of development in planning theory and practice turns focus away from factual analysis of physical reality, moving from technical rationality towards communicative rationality. The role of the researcher as well as the planner has consequently begun to shift from planning result towards planning process and how to optimize interaction and participation..

Communicative spatial planning, as ideal, fulfils several “needs” to be met in building a more sustainable society. First of all it provides a source of information concerning a vast range of detailed issues, which might prove to be crucial in order to manage complexity and constant change. Second, a communicative process can also be used as a learning opportunity where participants gain a more diverse view on the planning project in relation to the individual relation to the local site and everyday way of living.  As the communicative process proceeds, social networks are likely to form. The process as such therefore also provides a basis for building or enhancing social capital, turning the process itself into a part of the development process, in turn making the community more resilient and adaptive to change.

In an attempt to bring the relational perspective closer to practice, the main aim with tmy research is to contribute to the function of communicative planning through an increased understanding of the interplay between communicative spatial planning and the surrounding social and environmental structure of society.