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"Participation without insight leads to pronouncements without prospects"
2004-08-30

Taking the poor off the streets and encouraging their participation in the planning process is not always empowering them but it might be robbing them of their power, said Prof Das Steyn, of the Department of Urban and Regional Planning at the University of the Free State (UFS).

Speaking on public participation in the planning process during his inaugural lecture, Prof Steyn said this meant that people in the streets sometimes have more power than people in the system.

“Public participation is an overgeneralization that is often defined as providing citizens with opportunities to take part in governmental decisions and planning processes. But there must be a balance between power and responsibility,” he said.

According to Prof. Steyn, public participation in town planning plays a vital role and can be both deliberation and participation.

After 1994 there was a widespread insistence on democracy, and legislation passed since then was based on the belief that the community must be involved in the planning process.

He said the experience of the Department of Urban and Regional Planning at the UFS was that in some cases people showed lack of interest in public participation.

He believed that the aim of public participation is to improve the effectiveness of planning and that public participation democratises project planning.

“Public participation can help us know how the public feels about certain issues. It has the potential of resolving a conflict, but this is not guaranteed,” Prof Steyn said.

 

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