Understanding and Managing Uncertainty in Metropolitan Planning

Michael John Abbott (2010). Understanding and Managing Uncertainty in Metropolitan Planning PhD Thesis, School of Geography, Planning & Env Management, The University of Queensland.

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Author Michael John Abbott
Thesis Title Understanding and Managing Uncertainty in Metropolitan Planning
School, Centre or Institute School of Geography, Planning & Env Management
Institution The University of Queensland
Publication date 2010-06
Thesis type PhD Thesis
Supervisor Associate Professor John Minnery
Emeritus Professor Brian Roberts
Total pages 309
Total colour pages 7
Total black and white pages 302
Subjects 12 Built Environment and Design
Abstract/Summary Metropolitan regions around the world are growing rapidly and face a complex and uncertain future. Plans for metropolitan regions cover large geographic areas, address a wide range of issues, and involve governments and many other organizations. They are prepared and implemented over a long timeframe. Planning for the future of metropolitan regions involves addressing uncertainties about future trends, external events, organisational intentions, political agendas and community values. In this thesis, it is argued that traditional planning approaches that emphasise what is known or thought to be known need to be turned on their head and the focus of planning efforts aimed directly at understanding what is unknown or needs to be known, i.e. at uncertainties. It builds upon concepts of uncertainty from philosophy, economics, planning, management theory and psychology to develop a comprehensive and dynamic conceptual framework for understanding and managing uncertainties in metropolitan planning. Uncertainties are perceived in social processes. The conceptual framework developed in this thesis distinguishes between environmental uncertainties, which are perceived by all people in a community, and process uncertainties, which are perceived by people actively involved in a planning process. The framework identifies five types of uncertainties to be understood and managed in planning: external uncertainties; chance events; causal uncertainties; organisational uncertainties; and value uncertainties. Planning processes envisage and construct alternative futures and each of these alternatives raises different uncertainties. Planning is conceived as a process of exploring alternative futures by visioning and analytical methods and of agreeing on a desired/ planned future and on how to get there. The conceptual framework has been used as a basis for two case studies of the preparation of metropolitan plans: the Livable Region Strategic Plan 1996 for Greater Vancouver, Canada; and the Regional Framework for Growth Management 1995 for South East Queensland, Australia. The case studies show that all five types of uncertainties were perceived by people actively involved in metropolitan planning. The types and level of uncertainties perceived changed through the planning process according to stages in the process, activities in the process and other events. In exploring alternative futures and a desired future, the planning process raises uncertainties and these have to be addressed and dealt with in order to reach agreement about the final plan. The case studies show that uncertainties in plan preparation were dealt with in the following five ways: • Avoided by deleting these aspects or elements of the desired future; • Deferred to a later planning process; • Referred to be dealt with by a different organisation; • Resolved by additional information collection, agreements or consultation; and • Retained in the plan and reviewed with the passage of time or contingent events. The studies also show that how uncertainties are managed, and particularly how uncertainties are dealt with in reaching agreement about the planned future, directly affects the nature and contents of the metropolitan plan produced. In this process of reaching agreement, there is a tension between achieving better or achieving more certain outcomes. How agreement occurs is affected by the interests and views of powerful groups in the decision-making process. Overall, the research shows that a focus on uncertainties assists in understanding the planning process and its outputs and that metropolitan planning can be usefully conceived as a process of understanding and managing uncertainties. Based on this research, on planning theories and on risk management models, a framework for understanding and managing uncertainties in metropolitan plan-making is proposed, involving five main stages, namely: • Initiate the planning process; • Identify the uncertainties and planning approach; • Identify the Desired Future; • Agree on the Planned Future; and • Implement the plan. The management framework involves specific methods and processes for understanding and managing uncertainties in metropolitan plan-making. The aim of the framework is to agree on a better future for a metropolitan region, compared to the trend, and with more certainty of achievement. The theories or concepts that we use to represent events and their relationships determine the kinds of action we can envisage. In the quest for certainty about better future outcomes for metropolitan regions, this thesis shows that understanding and managing uncertainty provides a powerful guide to action.
Keyword managing uncertainty
metropolitan planning
South East Queensland
planning theory
Additional Notes Colour pages are 64, 75, 113, 115, 145, 188 and 190. Landscape pages are 67, 134 and 188.

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Created: Thu, 17 Jun 2010, 07:23:41 EST by Mr Michael Abbott on behalf of Library - Information Access Service