A majority of stakeholders. n the nineteenth century,

A professional
constraints and that most planners live to serve the pockets and interests of
bureaucracies and their clients. He then contradicts himself further by saying
that planners do in fact focus on things such as providing better social
housing and preserving green spaces, and he suggests perhaps that if their
focus wasn’t as narrow, it would be more effective in achieving sustainability.
“Fairness” and “equity” are both included in the Irish Planning Institute’s
definition of planning reminding us that the profession is strongly linked to
values and ethics so although planners in local governments can often be
constrained by finances, they make their judgements on the basis of the common
good, an ambitious notion which has its roots two thousand years ago in the
writings of philosophers such as Aristotle and Plato. The common good suggests
that planners work in a manner which is beneficial to the majority of
stakeholders.

n the nineteenth century, the Industrial Revolution was a
significant catalyst for utopian experimentation. The rapid urbanisation and
capitalism during this time, particularly across Europe and the United States
of America, came with unprecedented challenges such as the degradation in the
quality of life within communities due to longer working hours, insufficient
pay, overcrowding and poor living conditions. In response to this,
industrialists such as Charles Fourier, Titus Salt, and the Lever Brothers
identified the hardships of their employees and decided to create new
communities to reform their lives with better living conditions, access to services
and facilities and an overall better quality of life for all. As well as
improving the relations between society and the economy, other utopian
visionaries strived to improve the relations between humans and the
environment. (Kleniewski, 2006) One such visionary was Ebenezer Howard, whose
Garden City was one of the most influential planning models produced in the
twentieth century. Howard envisioned a better environment; a marriage of the
town and country. He thought by combining the best elements of each place, he
would create an ideal community. Howard’s Garden City had a dense, compact town
centre complete with all necessary amenities, civic spaces, and services
complemented by clusters of smaller polycentric suburban areas. Between these
urban areas would be greenbelt and areas of vast open space used for
agricultural activities, forestry and so on. The formality of this framework
allows for efficient infrastructure to be put in place. If parts of this
approach were applied to cities of today, it could help address many of the
sustainability issues they face. Ensuring town centres are dense, mixed-use and
used to their maximum potential is so important. Agricultural or passive
greenbelts are vital in hindering urban sprawl. Urban vertical gardens, rooftop
and community gardens, greening of the public realm, active green spaces – all
of these would help enhance the liveability of a community. Another influential
figure of the twentieth century in the discipline of planning was the architect
Le Corbusier. He proposed the idea of a ‘Radiant City’ whose signature was
skyscrapers surrounded by open, green space intersected by the highway. “Le
Corbusier argued that by increasing the number of people accommodated in a
building, the amount of land covered could be reduced and the amount of open
space maximised, thus giving the city its green ‘lungs'”. (Kleniewski, 2006) Le
Corbusier aimed to achieve efficient land-use by increasing the density of each
building and leaving an abundance of open space for recreational or agricultural
activities.  While none of these utopian
visions in itself was the cure to all of the city’s ills, they influenced some
of the practice of planners. In reality, however, urban growth and development was
the result of a market-driven process, proliferated by cheap energy and the
rapid growth of private cars as a symbol of wealth and an affordable means of
transport during the first half of the 20th century which lead to inefficient,
urban sprawl. (Kleniewski, 2006, p.365) Urban planning and design adjusted
quickly to the demand for car infrastructure required by suburban living and
unrestrained land acquisition from agricultural areas, forests and other open
spaces that became the norm as extensive road networks were constructed. The
availability of the car meant that land-use functions could be separated by
single-use zoning, precipitating even lower residential and job densities and
making the private car the only rational means of transportation. As a result
of this type of “free-enterprise construction”, cities were not only “ugly” but
had a damaging impact on public health and the environment. Planners responded
to this though, realising it was not a sustainability way of development. In an
American context, urban planners from England who were skilled in the
construction of sanitary sewers were imported. Planners also sought to address the
aesthetics of the city by thinking about architecture and design in a new way.
“The so-called City Beautiful movement endeavoured to raise the standards of
design in public spaces and to bring art into the consciousness of the ordinary
citizen”. (Kleniewski, 2006, p. 367) This movement was adopted by many cities
all over the world in the early 1900s. These same reformers also called on
planning to advocate for better living conditions particularly for the poor.
“The origins of urban planning, then, were prompted by a mix of practical
realities about public health and safety, desires for aesthetic surroundings,
and aspirations to improve social conditions”. (Kleniewski, 2006, p. 367)

In Davidoff’s (1965) Advocacy and Pluralism in Planning, he
critiques much of the mainstream planning practices. He believes that planners
can often be quite insular when it comes to making decisions that affect the
wider community, particularly public policy or comprehensive plans for a city,
for example. He says that “if the planning process is to encourage democratic
urban government then it must operate so as to include rather than exclude
citizens from participating in the process”. The planning process should be as
diverse as possible. He advises on which groups could/should be included in the
drafting of community plans such as those who represent special interest groups
like low-income families, political parties and organisations which may be
deemed as proponents of a plan such as a neighbourhood association resisting a
land zoning change or controversial proposal. “The contention aroused by the
conflict between the central planning agency and the neighbourhood organisation
may indeed be healthy, leading to a clearer definition of welfare policies and
their relation to the rights of individuals or minority groups”. (Davidoff,
1965, p. 334) He also states that “there are many possible roads for a
community to travel and many plans should show them”. (p.335) According to
Davidoff, planners have a unique opportunity whether they are positioned in a
local authority or working on behalf of a client as a consultant, to shape the
world we live in. They have the power to address sustainability issues through
the creation of policies and strategies, and collaborating with other municipal
staff, NGOs, residents’ associations, businesses and developers. Davidoff makes
a call for more plural planning so that planners are in effect forced to open
their eyes to different ways of doing things. Our society is constantly
evolving and shifting, and planners need to be responsive and evolve with this
and be innovate in doing so. Planners must adapt to the challenges society is
faced with today and be cognisant of the impacts that they can have in terms of
becoming more sustainable. “Pluralism and advocacy are means for stimulating
consideration of future conditions by all groups in society”. (Davidoff, 1965,
p. 334) He states that to be able to “wrestle effectively with the myriad of
problems afflicting urban populations”, in other words to balance the three
principles of Brundtland’s triangle, there needs to be a departure from the
myopic view that equates physical planning with urban planning and widen the
scope to include social and economic planning. The latter programs of planning,
according to Davidoff, require “the type of long range thought and information
that have been brought forward in the realm of physical planning” (p.336) and
for planners to be “committed to both the process of planning and to particular
substantive ideas”. (p.337) According to the Irish Planning Institutes
definition, this is exactly what planners of today do. “They integrate the
expertise of other built environment professions – and the inputs of various
stakeholder groups and organisations – with the best principles of spatial
planning and sustainable development in order to achieve workable and enduring
solutions to environmental and place-based challenges”. They are also skilled
at putting forward “imaginative, practical and sustainable ideas, strategies,
master plans and designs at different scales for commercial companies,
institutions, civic authorities or community organisations”. (IPI, 2013)

In conclusion, this essay has attempted to discuss, with the
aid of several readings, that planners are in a unique position to address real
world sustainability issues due to the long-established roots and approaches of
the discipline. The fact that many of the urban utopian thinkers such as
Ebenezer Howard and Le Corbusier had hints of sustainable development in their
movement, leads us to believe that planners have always strived for this and
have a lot to offer in shaping the future of our cities.