Collective decision making in Western societies increasingly involves a wide range of actors with diverse powers and interests. The role of the state has been diminished while market actors have gained influence. With reference to a case study of residential development policy and outcomes in Melbourne, Australia, this paper examines an apparent democratic deficit in public administration and urban planning. While acknowledging the many benefits of communicative rationalities for the practice of urban planning, the article focuses on the conceptual differences between two possible manifestations of a communicative approach: the rhetorical promise of communicative planning and the observed practice of an urban regime. In Melbourne, state policies of a representative democracy in the form of strategic metropolitan plans seems increasingly sidelined by forms of networked governance that promise inclusion and consultation but, instead, often privilege coalitions of powerful actors with skills and resources. As a result, residential development outcomes tend to favour the vested interests of market players rather than comprehensive, integrated policies for the collective good. This has a range of impacts. First, democracy is weakened. Second, outcomes in residential development fail to meet the evolving household demand from a growing and diverse population. Third, the urban form continues to sprawl with adverse consequences for economic, social and environmental sustainability.
|Keywords:||Urban Governance, Democracy, Residential Development, Communicative Rationality, Urban Regime, Metropolitan Spatial Planning|
Doctoral Candidate, Faculty of Architecture, Building and Planning, University of Melbourne, Melbourne, VIC, Australia