NEGATIVE ASPECTS OF PARTICIPATORY PLANNING

Even those who are most sympathetic towards participatory planning have pointed out some shortcomings of the process. High degree of citizen mobilization will heighten political conflicts rather than consensus (Grant, 1994).
As stated by Day (1997) there is the problem that the outcomes of participatory processes will not truly reflect the aggregate of citizen preferences as few people take the advantages of the opportunities for participation that do exist. Also Grant (1994) explains that participation is a luxury in modern societies because it requires skills, resources, money and, time that many citizen do not have. People tend to become involved in planning issues only when they perceive that the issue is in their immediate and tangible interest (Cataneseet al, 1984). Sometimes, objectives of participation are those of experts and being possessive of their ideas often planners and policy makers are unwilling to admit nonprofessional interference in decision making.Some of the shortcomings of the participatory planning can be enlisted as follows:
a.    The participative approach has not been yet validated in real case studies, therefore its actual application is still unknown
b.    To start each of the steps, a set of technical and non-technical requirements need to be met, which in many cases might not be in the hands of the planner and the sanitation team. This situation could discourage the team, and the process could be stopped
c.    In order to carry out such a process, it is necessary to train the community workers in participatory techniques
d.    To carry out a participatory decision making process, it is necessary to continuously involve the stakeholders and organize meetings for discussion. This will need the availability of sufficient funds and time
e.    There is the risk of concentrating the decision making process only on those stakeholders who have a technical background (such as sanitation experts) and the authorities, leaving the end users out of the process
Thus, we can see that participatory process is not a fool proof mechanism for planning. It can be seen that the need of public participation arises due to two main reasons so far as I can perceive and they are either the plan/planning is inadequate to serve the purpose of the general public or we want to share responsibility or to counter the bureaucracy and political stalemate. This also reflects that planners’ expertise in interest articulations fails and then the need for greater participation arises. In society, there exist far greater differences than assumed equality of resources, access to information, capacity to articulate and present issues, capacity to organize into groups that forms the conceptual foundation upon which participatory methods and processes are built (Beatley, 1994 et al). Participation is often skewed in the interest of the influential classes or some powerful groups active in decision making. If few groups participate then it is sure to get skewed plans and if many groups participate then it become unmanageable and sometimes it take a lot of time in arriving at consensus or common agenda.

Shashikant Nishant Sharma
Urban Planner
{Courtesy: Sharma, S.N. (2012), Participatory Planning in Plan Preparation: A Case of Delhi, Graduate Thesis, Department of Physical Planning, School of Planning and Architecture, New Delhi}

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