Local government structure and management around the world owe a great deal to historic military models. For urban planning though, this great truism of Eisenhower is generally forgotten. To keep with the military theme Colin Powell is attributed with the line “No battle plan ever survives the first encounter with the enemy”.
The necessity to constantly review assumptions, projections, impact and strategic decisions is at the heart of lean-business planning. To quote Tim Berry (The Plan As You Go Business Plan) “If you don’t review your plan regularly, you’re wasting your time”.
How does this relate to town planning and the Development Plan? Well once adopted, after torturous process, the plan is effectively handed over for others to do something with. And if there is an economic depression (lets just say!) a plan that presume rapid growth, and property development as an economic engine becomes passive and impotent.
The key to dealing with a rigid slow development plan system, is the same as with a business plan; planning is management; a daily activity, where the objectives are measured and reviewed and tested, goals are simplified and scaled to focus on what is achievable. Rather than sitting back and waiting for development proposals to arrive, all partners in planning come together to review what is blocking progress, and what steps can be taken by the partner organisations (within their powers and influencing outside powers) to drive the changes necessary.
Urban planning tends to get locked into single-scenario tunnel. Experienced planners know that a plan is never realised in the way it was originally conceived. Different players, uses and ideas always emerge over the life of significant projects. Mature urban areas evolve and change continuously. The Alternatives Process that is a statutory requirement of EU Strategic Environmental Assessment Regulations is good stress-test for plan-making. But in the mean-time objective driven area management is planning can be.