What is the Relevancy of Advocacy Town Planning?

The origin of advocacy town planning can be traced back to Paul Davidoff during the sixties. He is credited with the town planning theory in which town planners are focused on representing the planning interests of specific segments in a society. He believed that advocacy town planning was required to ensure that the interests of low-income groups could also be addressed, instead of just the planning requirements of large and powerful corporations and institutions.

He realised that the more powerful stakeholders were well represented in the planning processes of cities and regions. The lower income groups were vulnerable and their interests were put aside to ensure that the interests of public institutions and large private enterprises could be pushed. This left the lower income groups vulnerable and they had very little say in how the development of the cities and spaces they lived in should be done.

With advocacy town planning, the focus is on town planning with the interests of all stakeholders in mind, inclusive of the interests of all communities affected by the development plans.

What Does It Mean in Practice?

It simply means that there is more balance in the town planning. The communities affected by the plans are involved in the various planning processes. Advocacy town planning professionals as such represent vulnerable groups or segments of society to ensure that their interests are also taken into account in city planning endeavours. These professionals produce relevant plans and submit such to planning commissions to consider the advantages and disadvantages of all the plans produced by the various advocacy town planners.

Advocacy town planning also entails the development of public awareness and participation in plans. This provides the public with a means with which to decide on the future of the living and working spaces where they reside, and thus gives them more freedom of choice to decide on plans that affect their social and economic wellbeing.

Advocacy town planning provides a platform to express visions, plans, and objections. It seeks to address concerns from various segments and provides for open discussion. Instead of following a top-down approach regarding urban and town planning, it is about broader participation.

Davidoff believed that the approach would lead to greater public awareness and participation in the planning function. With such, more interest would be taken by members of the various communities regarding town planning that affected them. They would thus be empowered to help shape the world around them to their benefit.

He also believed that advocacy town planners would compete to put forward the best plans for the various communities, and that it would make it possible to review the benefits and disadvantages of the plans objectively. It would lead to a democratic process in town planning. This, in turn, would also lead to a higher standard of planning. People with objections to particular plans would be able to object and discuss alternatives.

Applicability in Modern Society

The advocacy town planning approach is now widely used in Europe and even in Africa in countries such as South Africa. It certainly holds the benefit that an ordinary citizen can have a say regarding urban planning matters. The ordinary citizens thus have representation for their plans, whether on a local or national level.

Disadvantaged groups especially benefit, since they are often not heard until they take to the streets to protest. Unfortunately, the development may already have taken place by the time they protest about issues, such as lack of service delivery, lack of infrastructure, or lack of housing. By involving them from the very early stages of town planning, the advocacy town planners give them a say, helping to prevent situations where developments cause problems, such as lack of transport infrastructure, schools, houses, and more. It makes it possible to create a balance in how the interests of society are represented.

The disadvantaged groups gain the benefit of having experts in town planning represent them and draft plans that envision the plans that the communities have. As such, where the communities would be ignored in the past, they now have advocacy town planners that present workable solutions in a professional manner.

Advocacy town planning can be on a national level, but it is mostly used on local and sometimes regional levels. There is not a specific structure in place for such. Instead, the advocacy planners inform communities about planning problems and provide them with recommendations. They work with the communities to bring about acceptable and sustainable development.

Call on us at The Practice Group for more information and assistance regarding advocacy town planning in South Africa.