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Doctoral thesis, 2014

Developing theory of public involvement in landscape planning

Butler, Andrew


Public involvement has been recognised as a fundamental aspect of landscape planning for over 40 years, and has been more recently legitimised in policy through the European Landscape Convention. However, the practice of public involvement in landscape planning remains questionable. In this thesis I develop the argument that failure in public involvement is founded on a weakness in theoretical understanding within the discipline. Consequently I argue for a strengthening of the theoretical base underpinning public involvement in landscape planning, and seek to contribute to the development of this theory. The research which this thesis builds on examines how public involvement is theorised and practised in landscape planning. The empirical material which supports this analysis has been gathered by examining landscape assessments, which are identified as a key moment in the landscape planning process. I use landscape character assessments, undertaken in England, as a case for analysing how practitioners engage the public and handle their multiple values. In this thesis I expose the dynamics between theory and practice within landscape planning. I argue that an ambiguity in the discipline is created by the presence of plural understandings of landscape. In particular, two contrasting theorisations of landscape drive a gap between the rhetoric of practice, and its conduct. The first theorisation, expressed in the ELC and forming the rhetoric of practice, identifies landscape as a dynamic, holistic entity dependent on perceptions. The second theorisation which is operationalised in the conduct of practice is an objective outsiders’ view, where landscape is understood as a physical surface. I further argue that this confusion relates to a weakness of substantive theory in the landscape planning discipline. Practice builds on procedural theories which have weak substantive grounding, brought about by the discipline being driven and developed by practice, and falling back on an objective outsiders' view of landscape. Such a view of landscape means that landscape planners lack adequate tools for handling the diverse and dynamic values which are experienced in landscape, and therefore have no sound basis for dealing with conflicting values. This thesis contributes to an understanding of the dynamics of landscape planning, and begins to develop a theoretical position, with landscape as a democratic entity as the focus for public involvement. The thesis explores the implications of the theorisation of a democratising landscape for the discipline of landscape planning.


landscape; landscape assessment; landscape planning; public involvement; landscape values; theory

Published in

Acta Universitatis Agriculturae Sueciae
2014, number: 2014:52
ISBN: 978-91-576-8052-5, eISBN: 978-91-576-8053-2
Publisher: Department of Urban and Rural Development, Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences

Authors' information

Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences, Department of Urban and Rural Development

UKÄ Subject classification

Political Science (excluding Public Administration Studies and Globalization Studies)
Human Geography
Landscape Architecture

URI (permanent link to this page)