The role of Participatory Planning methods in the development of public spaces: A systematic case studies review on Sustainable Urban Governance

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Urban Design and Planning worldwide have long been criticized for their lack of meaningful public consultation and participation in the process of shaping our built environment. Currently, the existing practices of consultation and participation are within the confines of council meetings, complex form filling and survey reports that often carry little weight towards the decisions made by the planning authorities; the latter are increasingly seeking for ways to encourage meaningful public participation in urban development decisions. This paper presents a systematic literature review on sustainable urban governance vis-a-vis participatory planning, in an effort to consolidate, evaluate and critique the various approaches on involving the public in decision-making process in relation to urban form in general and public space in particular. The literature/case studies presented are referenced across a scale of degrees of participation, referring to a range of influence that participants have in the decision-making. In its two extremes it can be viewed as no participation, where designers make assumptions of users’ needs and requirements, and full participation, based on user-defined criteria of quality. The evaluation of many participatory research practices is somewhere in between the two extremes, focusing more on design with the users. However, the given theoretical process, might provide an insufficient degree of realism that designers need to cope with, due to time and budget constraints. If it is to remain grounded to the practice of design, literature should be able to cope with barriers, and seek understanding beyond its conceptual approaches.
participatory planning, urban development, sustainable urban governance, public participation