Town Planning Review

Pelham, Thomas G., "State Land-Use Planning and Regulation: Florida, The Model Code and Beyond" (Book Review)

Town Planning Review (1981), 52, (2), 231

Abstract

240 BOOK REVIEWS 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 idealist. 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 this system. PATSY HEALEY Oxford Polytechnic 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., £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 • Castells, M., 'Towards a Political Sociology' in Harloe, M., Captive Cities, London, Wiley, 1977. Copyright © 2010 ProQuest LLC. All rights reserved. Copyright © Liverpool University Press.

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Davies, H. W. E.