Blowers attempts to provide more than the case
studies. 'A major issue in this book is to determine
how much power politicians and professional
planners possess and how that power is
distributed among them' (p.9). In an introductory
chapter, he reviews the literature on the exercise
of power in local government. The case studies
concern the determination of a major minerals
application, alternative proposals for transport
investment in Bedford, the land development
activities of a Charitable Trust and the
production of the County Structure Plan. From
these cases, the author concludes 'that planning is
a bureaucratic activity basically reflecting and
serving the prevailing system of values and the
most powerful interests' (p.194). The tone of
these conclusions leaves one with the impression
that the author is now a somewhat dejected
The case studies are of considerable interest in
themselves, providing insights into the way
various interests impinge on decisions about land
use and development and on the role of 'experts'
(both in-house-planning officers-and consultants) in influencing the agenda of debate. The
structure plan case illustrates how the initial clear
direction created by a working group of
councillors and officers was progressively
modified as other interests became involved.
Blowers describes the process in terms of the
production of 'consensus', the end result
sounding rather like Castells' 'question mark'
plans, reflecting 'indecisive political situations.'.
However, in drawing conclusions from this
material, Blowers treats the reader to
generalisations which are irritating in their
blandness and superficiality. The analytical
intentions of the introduction are reiterated
rather than developed as the chapters proceed.
Although the reader gets some ideas about how
the roles of county and district councillors,
developers, planning officials and central
government departments vary with the type of
case being considered, no adequate answer is
provided to the initial question about who
exercises how much power, except that 'planning'
is weak compared to 'the market.' The specific
characteristics of government intervention which
are weak in relation to the particular nature of
land and development markets in Bedfordshire
are barely explored. Similarly, little attention is
given to the distinctive nature of county planning
(as opposed to that by shire districts or metro-
politan districts) or the nature of inter- and intraorganisational politics in Bedfordshire. The
current literature on local government indicates
the existence of sufficient variety between
authorities to require more careful and qualified
generalisation than Blowers provides.
Perhaps Blowers felt constrained in offering us
too much of the detail of his own experience,
although this would have made the case studies
even more valuable for the reader attempting to
impose a more substantial analysis on the
material. However, enough of this carping
because Blowers' account does not contain the
depth this reviewer would appreciate. Most
readers interested in the detailed operation of the
British town and country planning system will
find something to interest them in this book and
none will be able to forget the political nature of
State Land- Use Planning and Regulation: Florida,
The Model Code, and Beyond by Thomas G.
Pelham, Lexington, Mass., Lexington Books
(UK: Farnborough, Hants., Gower), 1980, xii
+ 212 pp., Â£14.50
British planners occasionally suggest that the
salvation of planning could be in bringing it closer
to land management. They should read Mr.
Pelham, who alleges that, in America
'historically, planning has been the unwanted
stepchild of land management'. This means
understanding the sequence of decisions about
land use typically found in most states in the
Union, remembering that each has its own, often
unique, system. Broadly, since 1922, when the
Standard State Zoning Enabling Act was issued
by the US Department of Commerce, most states
have adopted legislation based on federal
guidelines under which the key land use decision
is that of subdivision, concerned with establishing
title in land. Subdivision has to be in accord with
zoning regulations and ordinances. And usually,
but by no means universally, zoning regulations
have to comply with a local comprehensive plan
prepared by the municipality or county. ThuS
â€¢ Castells, M., 'Towards a Political Sociology' in Harloe, M., Captive Cities, London, Wiley, 1977.
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