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Relational complexity and the imaginative power of strategic spatial planning

Lookup NU author(s): Emeritus Professor Patsy Healey OBE


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This paper explores the imaginations of place and spatial organization and of governance mobilized in recent experiences of strategic spatial planning for urban regions in Europe. Drawing on examples of such experiences, it examines how far these imaginations reflect a relational understanding of spatial dynamics and of governance processes. Spatial imaginations are assessed in terms of the nature of the spatial consciousness expressed in a strategy, the way the multiple scales of the social relations of a place are conceived, and the extent to which relational complexity is understood and reflected in a strategy. Governance imaginations are assessed in terms of how the relation between government and society is imagined, how the tensions between functional/sectoral and territorial principles of policy organization are addressed, and what assumptions are made about the nature and trajectory of transformative processes in governance dynamics. The paper concludes that signs of a recognition of the "relational complexity" of urban and regional dynamics and of territorially-focused governance processes can be found in these experiences, but a relational understanding is weakly-developed and often displaced by more traditional ways of seeing place/space and governance process. The paper concludes with some comments on the challenge of developing a stronger understanding of "relational complexity" within strategic spatial planning endeavours. © 2006 Taylor & Francis.

Publication metadata

Author(s): Healey P

Publication type: Article

Publication status: Published

Journal: European Planning Studies

Year: 2006

Volume: 14

Issue: 4

Pages: 525-546

ISSN (print): 0965-4313

ISSN (electronic): 1469-5944

Publisher: Routledge


DOI: 10.1080/09654310500421196


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