Op-Ed

Planning makes a comeback

If “planning” has been, for a long time, considered as a taboo, the expression is gradually making a comeback in the public debate and seems to be the new leitmotiv of public policies.

How can this renewed legitimacy of planning be explained? There are three main reasons for this reversal:

Firstly, the rise of awareness concerning the climate crisis highlights the need for profound structural changes in all sectors of the economy and society. In this context, planning allows to define and spread concrete measures over time to initiate such changes. This perspective has been reinforced by the COVID crisis and the war in Ukraine, which emphasises the need for reindustrialisation, energy and food independence.

Secondly, these industrial, energy and ecological challenges can only be met over a very long time, well beyond the five-year period. Here, planning makes it possible to go beyond this short political timeframe and to rethink policy over the long term.

Thirdly, planning means that the debate can be focused on the “how to”. Although the solutions for dealing with the ecological and energy crisis are known, it is above all the methods for implementing them that are being debated, given the technical, economic and social complexity.

Facing these structural changes, spatial planning must address many challenges: accommodating the infrastructures of reindustrialisation and energy production, developing sustainable cities, revitalising city centres, and so on. Hence, the need to move away from an incremental approach and returning to a form of strategic and spatial planning.

However, the planning of the 21st century won’t be like the one of the 20th. If the current period is favourable to the return of planning, it is also a period of institutional crisis and desertion of the ballot box by a part of the population. Thus, planning must include young people, who may see a debate on ecological planning as a new means of democratic expression. Above all, it must include all citizens in order to guarantee its legitimacy and acceptability.

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La Fabrique de la Cité

La Fabrique de la Cité is a think tank dedicated to urban foresight, created by the VINCI group, its sponsor, in 2010. La Fabrique de la Cité acts as a forum where urban stakeholders, whether French or international, collaborate to bring forth new ways of building and rebuilding cities.

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