Planning implementation has, historically, been a top-down activity that preceded policy making, whereby planners were concerned with developing plans and strategies, but did not get involved directly with putting the policy into practice (Cullingworth & Nadin, 2006). The planner was identified as an expert and therefore there was no need to give consideration to the issue of implementation (Ennis, 1997).
Up to the mid-1970s there was a focus on forming ‘good’ policy and developing techniques for improving the information on which policy was based (UWE material, 2010), whilst neglecting improvements in implementation techniques and strategies. Barrett and Fudge (1981) explained that decisions were seen as the outputs of the policy process, the assumption being that once they were made they would be translated into action. Ennis (1997) noted that this translation into action operated hierarchically, which trickled down from the top managerial level to the lower operation level.
The implementation stage was usually undertaken by a range of different agencies, following a rational, technocratic, plan-making process, which was based on science and reason. This type of planning was successful in countries such as Germany and the USA, whereby they created zoning systems that did not leave anything to chance and improved certainty. Claydon (2003) argued that tackling development control in this way was unhelpful in the British planning system, as there would always be a mismatch between the proposed plans and the final outcome. There may also be problems of power hierarchies, assuming agents at the lower levels were fully compliant (Ennis, 1997).
It has been argued that bottom-up and consensus-based planning is more inline with the discretionary British planning system, as it allows the complexities of the real world to be taken into account (UWE material, 2010). Consensus-based planning, or collaborative planning, are where stakeholders, planners, communities and social workers, for example, share ideas and get more involved in planning decisions, through dispute resolution, negotiation, mediation and consensus-building (Claydon, 2003). This style of planning is thought to be a more reactive and flexible method of decision making (Mitchell, 2002). Now let’s look at the British planning system.