What drives technological innovation in planning systems: Simplified development control or enhanced community engagment?
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In recent years, a growing use of computer applications has significantly changed how planning tasks are approached. Technologies are now available that can enhance the capacity of routine planning tasks, and plan-making, and that can be used for connecting together various players/ stakeholders via convenient access and communication. To ensure that the ends set up by the planning profession remain independent of the available technological means of delivery, however, we must understand the purpose of adopting technology. Is it to facilitate the implementation of planning regulation and controls or, is it to facilitate planners’ engagement with the community? This paper will assess the situation in Australia with regard to the adoption of computer / ICT in public planning. It will explore the way technology, such as ‘ePlanning’, is being incorporated by looking at the nature of the techniques promoted/adopted.Focusing on the situation prevalent in NSW and WA, the paper argues that the type of technologies that are promoted over and above others reflect the aim of the proponents. NSW is selected because of its on-going reforms of past several years, against widespread criticism that planning in that state is being reduced to a development-facilitating activity. WA is selected for this study as a state where a fresh planning approach was heralded in with a large-scale ‘Dialogue with the City’ exercise that relied on state-of the-art ICT a few years ago. The two cases should, in theory, provide a contrast in approaches towards the adoption of technology in planning. The paper carries out a brief review of recent planning system reforms in NSW and WA by scrutinizing some key planning policy documents, It then focuses on the types of computer/ ICT technology promoted in each state against the approach towards planning in each of the two states as reflected in their recent reforms. The paper concludes with recommendations for a balanced adoption of technology, reflecting both development facilitation and participatory strategic Planning.
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