The Concept and Principles of Environmental Planning
This article will expose you to the basic concept of planning and especially as it relates to environmental planning and management. Planning modes will be discussed and the relationship between planning and political power with respect to environmental management will be discussed.
An outline summary of the principles of environmental planning will be made to aid you in your environmental planning as an environmental manager. Ensure you apply these principles and processes in your activities.
The Concept of Planning
Planning is a process of quickening the pace of natural evolution by rational action.
Planning is a technical instrument, a process and an end result. It is a concrete systematic outlined strategy mapped out in advance to guide present and future actions. Thus planning must be strategic in vision, pulling from past experiences to build the future (Uchendu 1995).
Therefore you would realize that planning is essential in achieving modernity – no nation is developed today without adequate visionary planning. Planning compels society to decide what should be done at present in the light of the best estimate of how the future will look based on available resources.
Planning as a process leads to end result, usually called a plan. The plan is tentative/temporary and problematic and thus subject to review (Uchendu, 1995).It involved intentionally, reasonable sense of direction and coordination of human activities. It is made to achieve a set of policies. Planning consumes resources and an effective planning also produce more resources as it consumes.
Human is the most fundamental basis for planning – for comfort and wellbeing for now and future generation.
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Planning Mode and Managerial Process
Planning theory recommends three complementary modes, which can be modified to environmental management: the entrepreneurial mode, the adaptive mode and the generic planning mode.
The entrepreneurial mode of environmental planning is designed by an active search for new planning opportunities to stabilize the environment; the centralization of power and resources in a particular planning institution and the ability to take risk with the environment.
The adaptive mode of environmental planning is a reactive rather than proactive strategy of environmental management. Planning in this phase lends itself to negotiation as a step of confidence building and education in all matters involving the resolution of disputes of environmental goals.
The generic-planning mode involves anticipatory decision-making, a decision rule and amend-result. It conforms to Herbert Simon’s characterization of a rational decision-mode which involves an intelligence activity or the search for relevant information; a decision activity or the classification of the available information into suitable lasses; and a choice activity or the selection of the best option from the alternatives available.
Now let us consider another important aspect of planning – as a managerial process.
Planning is also a managerial process. The managerial process is a tool that aids the executive to identify environmental problems and establish attainable goals for each of them in the light of available resources.
The manager directs the attention of the executive to critical decision-points and the needed administrative action in the planning cycle (Uchendu, 1995).
Environmental management requires not just planning but the basis upon which objective evaluation can be made of the degree of success or failure of management performance.
This type of measurement should include evaluation of the clients involved in the project; the project characteristics; the nature of the change introduced; and the kind of feedback received as to the progress made and how far they reflect the set goals.
Planning as a process involves programming, auditing and information support systems. The programming process demands policy formulation and articulation. It means a re-statement of environmental policy in a manageable way, the collection of dependable data and workable theory of action to guide the use of data.
Environmental planning procedures should state the measurable goals to be attained, when and how they can be attained in the light of the resources available.
It must articulate the environmental issues facing the target community at the present time and in the foreseeable future and the “entry point”, that is, where planned action should be targeted, given the opportunities available and the limitations observable.
Implementation, as the day-to-day management of an environmental plan may be defined as an important part of the programming component. It should have a calendar of action, which includes the start-up time, specific time frames for service delivery; the monitoring of activities to ensure readiness and the levels of compliance and possible reprogramming in the light of the feedback received.
Managerial auditing is an instrument for executive information and control. The purpose of planning is to specify performance, ahead of time. Managerial auditing should tell us how far, stated objectives are being met.
This of course requires that resources be preferentially allocated according to set priorities and that evaluation procedures reveal the relevance of the policy and operations. Evaluation is the opposite side of the information support system.
We evaluate in order to it uniform. A successful environmental management demands that critical information be available and made accessible to critical management operators on timely basis.
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Planning and Political Power
Planning cannot be removed from politics, because of resources. This raises questions about power in the planning process: how political power shall be used and distributed among individuals and groups who claim legitimate interests in the end products of planned change; and how the cost or burden involved in “planning change” is to be borne.
Please, dear readers understand that the first obligation in environmental planning, and in fact in every planning process, is not administrative but legislative. Legislative action involves the consideration of policy.
Policy consideration is not just a technical exercise but a value-laden one in which public interest, culture, tradition and non-material elements of culture enter into play. “What kind of environment do we want to live in?”
This is a policy question, which does not just require a technical answer from an environmentalist like you and I. It demands the community view of “good life”.
Does it include a healthy, sustainable environment? It is the community that must legislate this through balances of forces and compromises, which it must make. If the democratic solution is found inadequate, it is always open to re-legislation. Community involvement is therefore indispensable to environmental planning.
Although planning involves the exercise of power in a legislative sense, planning is also a technical, professional exercise, demanding technical analysis, rational choice based on the results of the analysis and the co- ordination of policies by means of a plan.
Planning is premised in the belief that a positive change can be brought about or accelerated by governmental or community intervention. This means bringing “intentionally planned and rationally coordinated policies” to bear on an agreed environmental problem so as to move it to a desired direction.
Planning as a rational instrument of environmental policy involves concrete steps designed in advance, to manage the intended side effects resulting from policy intervention. A sound planning theory should also anticipate some of the unintended effects of planned change.
Planning as a strategic action is future oriented in two senses. It projects a desirable future event from present and past experiences; and it tries to bring the future events into being at a cost that the people can bear. In effect, planning draws from the past to build the future.
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The Concept of Environmental Planning
The term environmental planning may be globally referred to as the process of formulating, evaluating and implementing environmental policy.
As simple as the definition is, it serves to hide a lot of interpretations of environmental planning which may be variously interpreted as the technocratic, professional and political views of the process.
There are, of course, interactions between each of these interpretations, but each represents a distinctive way of looking at the processes of environmental policy and management.
Technocratic interpretations of environmental planning refer to an understanding of the process which gives precedence to the scientific knowledge deemed necessary to understand and thus manipulate natural biophysical and ecological systems.
The approach does not deny the importance of the socio-economic environment within which these processes might be managed or planned, but it does tend to emphasize the importance of technical approaches and solutions. As might be expected, this approach places greater emphasis upon rural and natural environments than upon urban, built environments.
Our second category of professional interpretations encapsulates a rather different approach to environmental planning. Here we are referring to the responses of established professional groupings to the rapidly expanding environmental agenda and the associated sources of employment and prestige.
Although some other professions, for example environmental health officers, are currently seeking to be known as the pre-eminent environmental professional.
It is the town planning profession which has been most effective in this respect in its search to move from town planning as its cognitive base, to a more ambitious notion of ‘environmental planning incorporating a much wider policy statement.
It is by no means clear that a profession based on land use and a tradition of town design has the epistemological competence – the necessary skill and knowledge base – to justify its claims.
As has been argued elsewhere, it is unlikely that any one occupation group will be able to legitimately claim the breath of wisdom and experience, and the theoretical knowledge necessary to oversee the whole of the policy field implied in the designation environmental planning.
The final view of environmental planning that we wish to consider is the political interpretation. Here, the long-term objective of sustainability is linked to a policy process of environmental planning.
The clearest expression of this position is that articulated by the Town and Country Planning Association (Blowers 1993), who argue that the only way of dealing with the complexity of environmental questions is to adopt an integrative, holistic policy approach which transcends established departmental and professional boundaries.
This interpretation of environmental planning sees it as a set of arrangements for formulating, organizing and delivering policy with the objective of securing environmental sustainability.
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Principles of Environmental Planning
Planning principles cluster around three dimensions: design concepts, a design framework; and scenario construction and application (Hancock, 1980:111-117).
The design concepts constitute the intellectual component of planning. The following questions should be asked of the design component:
How theoretical should the planning design be? The rule of the means should apply. The plan should neither be too theoretical not a theoretical.
How far should external planning models impose themselves on any plan? The more the plan is based on local realities, the better chance it has to succeed or be accepted.
What should be the focus of the plan? The focus should be determined by the context. Environmental planning is not an opportunity for education planning or vice versa. There are obvious inter-linkages; but they should not be over-drawn.
What is the relationship between planning and technology? Planning should not over-stretch the available technology nor should it ignore appropriate technologies.
The design framework is the theoretical structure of planning. It should address such issues as:
The degree of flexibility and adaptability of the plan and the capacity of the plan instruments to monitor plan behaviour at various stages.
Whether clear and precise and attainable objectives have been set, given the resources of manpower, material and funds available.
Whether the plan relates to other important sectors of the environment.
Whether the plan is based on realistic needs assessment of the target groups.
Whether there is adequate data base and how far its acquisition has been built into the design.
The ‘scenario construction and application deals with the choice tripod of the planning process. The final product of a planning process is the plan. A plan represents the choice made out of other competing alternatives.
Let us apply Herbert Simon’s (1860) Decision Theory to a planning framework. Planning is like decision-making. Both involve a three-fold activity: an intellectual activity; a design activity; and a choice activity. There are three possible ways of exercising a programme choice.
The judgment of the decision-making or the risk bearer, made on the basis of past experience or intuition, is one way. The other way is by analysis of the alternatives presented in the design.
The third option is by bargaining, an obvious strategy when parity power is involved or as in environmental matters, when multiple, or intangible interests are at stake.
Scenario construction involves people and their values. It is descriptive and prescriptive rather than analytical. It stresses the following values which are normally embedded in planning:
In planning, people are more important than techniques. Over centralization of planning tends to cut off relevant local decision- making interests.
Planning should normally maximize existing infrastructure and involve local talent who will carry on with the job when the professional planner departs.
There is need for organizations to maintain the continuity of their planning teams and personnel and ensure that they update technical knowledge through a programme of continuity education. Every planning process should be allowed adequate- time for the execution of assigned activities
In summary, environmental management cannot be on the move without the process of planning. The processes of planning are the instruments that make and keep environmental management on the move.
Every environmental organizations, be it government, non-governmental or corporate must employ environmental planning principles to be able to make significant progress in order to achieve effective conservation and management of natural resources and the environment in general.
There are no alternatives to the processes of environmental planning and principles. If we fail to employ them, we are planning to fail no just ourselves but future generations to come.
There are countries today, whose past generation did not fail the existing generation, just because they employed appropriate environmental planning principles and that also on time. What will be your contribution to the environment – to milk it or to make it?
Those who have milk it made money out of it, and messed it up. For you and I, we are to make it, make the environment what it ought to be, and make a name in this generation and several ahead.
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