In What Circumstances Should Plans Be Public?


The literature on planning assumes that plans, to be useful, should be public and then implemented. The participatory paradigm, with its recent resurgence, assumes that planning should be performed with stakeholders in public forums. This paper challenges the notion that plans and planning processes should be public in general or even within a group whose mandate it is to plan. It considers the inherent strategic reality of planning and interactions of multiple plans, existing and being made and being discarded, to argue for cases in which plans are and ought to be private and planning necessarily strategic and idiosyncratic. This paper addresses questions such as: In what circumstances will a plan maker choose to make plans public, to whom, and when? What should we expect to be public from the plans of others and what not? This paper will posit that plans are subsumed in plans about plans and that plans are strategically made explicit in public. The absence of public documents in particular situations should not be taken to imply that plans do not exist or that plan led behaviour is not occurring, inferable, or observable. Based in part on examples from New Orleans recovery planning, we then provide explanations of why and in what circumstances individuals, voluntary groups, and governments are likely to plan in public and make plans public. And we consider related but distinct justifications for what aspects of plans should be made public and in what circumstances.

Journal of Planning Education and Research