Town Planning Review

Booth, Philip, "Controlling Development: Certainty and Discretion in Europe, the USA and Hong Kong" (Book Review)

Town Planning Review (1997), 68, (2), 279


TPR, 68(2) 1997 Book reviews Controlling Development: Certainty and Discretion in Europe, the USA and Hong Kong, Philip Booth, London, UCL Press, 1996, viii + 168 pp., £50.00 (Jz/b), £17.95 (p/b) ~hilip Booth's book Controlling Development is an ltnportant contribution to our understanding about ~lanning and the control of development. It is a SIgnificant addition to the small but growing literature o~ comparative planning. More importantly, it is a highly original and thought-provoking contribution to the literature on development control. The only comrable book was written nearly 20 years ago, Patrick cAuslan's The Ideologies of Planning Law. . Booth's book is in two parts. Chapter One introduces the origins and evolution of the concept of development COntrol from its origins in the seventeenth century when Charles I in London and Henry IV in Paris set ~OUt creating Covent Garden and Place Royale (now e Place des Vosges). Indeed, it could be argued that despite some remaining superficial similarities in archi!ectural treatment, the appearance of these two piazzas In 1996 sums up the differences between the two S~bsequent systems of control and their relationship ~1th development processes: the discretionary system In Britain, relying on case law and pragmatism, and the regulatory system in France, based in administrative aw and constitutionality. Booth makes the point that COntrol of development preceded by a very long time any connection with the control of land use and the Preparation of development plans. I The next three chapters are largely descriptive. Two ~ng chapters deal with the origins, aims and practice ~ development control in Britain and France. The a.eatment is historical and analytical, examining the wltnS, .laws and regulations of control. But the desk d or~ IS then exposed to a critical analysis based on his ~tudies of development control in pracSce, chIefly In and around Lyon in France and a h~ffield in Britain. As Booth has said in a previous kirt.i~le (1993) it is only through detailed analysis of this wn. ' backed by the fluency in English and French hleh he has in such large measure, that understand- t 279 Copyright © 2010 ProQuest LLC. All rights reserved. Copyright © Liverpool University Press. ing can be gained about the realities of control in practice as opposed to relying solely on the laws, plans, and regulations. A shorter chapter then refers to control in the USA and Hong Kong, with a brief glance at some other European countries. This was to help clarify his understanding of the complexity and variety of zoning and regulatory systems, but the strength of this first part is the review of control in Britain and France. The second part of the book is a sustained and critical analysis of the aims, nature and meaning of developmentcontrol, drawing on the material is the first part. It starts with adiscussion about 'certainty' in planning and control, and the differing kinds sought by the various actors in a control system, ranging from substantive certainty about the outcome of a proposal for development to the procedural questions of delay. This leads to an exploration of the need for 'flexibility' and the forms of 'discretion' with which the problems of uncertainty may be addressed. This chapter draws heavily on a wider literature about the nature of discretion in government, contrasting agency and officer forms of discretion. That in turn raises the question of 'accountability', whether it be to the courts, the electorate, administrative hierarchy or professional codes. The conclusion emphasises that any apparent signs of convergence between regulatory and discretionary systems are fallacious and misleading as they are founded in differing attitudes and understanding about the role of the state and the nature of laws and constitutionality. Yes, both systems are seeking to grapple with the problems of uncertainty and rigidity; both systems are drawn towards using bargaining and negotiation in their exercise of control; but the starting points are different and are likely to remain so. This divergence in the meaning of control could have future problems for attempts at planning at a European scale within the European Union. However, Booth concludes by noting that the problem for the immediate future could be in the changes which in France and even more so in the UK are affecting localgovernment and its ability to prepare and implement policy. Meanwhile, Controlling Development with its wealth of case studies, is essential reading for advanced students, practising planners and developers, planning lawyers, and those in government who would seek to legislate for planning. References BOOTH, P. (1993) 'The cultural dimension in comparative research: making sense of development control in France', European Planning Studies, 1, 217-29. McAUSLAN, P. (1980), The Ideologies of Planning Law, Oxford, Pergamon. H. W. E. DAVIES University of Reading

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Author details

Davies, H. W. E.