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Great Planning Disasters

Great Planning Disasters: With a new introduction

Peter Hall
Copyright Date: 1980
Pages: 329
https://www.jstor.org/stable/10.1525/j.ctt1ppx64
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  • Book Info
    Great Planning Disasters
    Book Description:

    In this "pathology of planning," Peter Hall briskly recounts the histories of five great planning disasters and two near-disasters and analyzes the decisions of the professional bureaucrats, community activists, and politicians involved in the planning process. He draws on an eclectic body of theory from political science, economics, ethics, and long-range future forecasting to suggest ways to forestall such grand mistakes in the future. For this edition, Hall has added a special introduction in which he reflects further on the sequels to these cautionary tales and on the moral planners and citizens should draw from them.

    eISBN: 978-0-520-90694-5
    Subjects: Sociology

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-vi)
  3. List of Tables
    (pp. vii-vii)
  4. List of Figures
    (pp. viii-viii)
  5. Preface
    (pp. ix-x)
    Peter Hall
  6. Introduction to the American Edition
    (pp. xi-xxviii)

    This American edition ofGreat Planning Disastersappears over two years after the book’s original London publication, and rather more than that since it was written. If two weeks are a long time in politics (as a former British Prime Minister had it), two years are certainly an epoch in the mixture of politics and planning that forms the subject matter of this book. Therefore I am glad of the opportunity to write this Introduction to the American edition.

    In it, I try to do three things. First, to provide a brief update of the case studies that form Part...

  7. CHAPTER 1 Overview
    (pp. 1-12)

    Great Planning Disastersas a title sounds sensational — even sensationalist. But it is meant to be a reasonably exact description, so let us start with some definitions.

    GreatA major planning decision, involving an investment (or a set of related investments) costing a great deal of money by almost anyone’s standard: at least millions of pounds or dollars, more commonly tens or hundreds or even thousands of millions. This is the kind of decision that should call for an elaborate effort of analysis and evaluation before it is finally made. This book concentrates on big decisions for two reasons:...

  8. Part One Case Studies

    • CHAPTER 2 London’s Third Airport
      (pp. 15-55)

      The main point about London’s third airport is that, like Thurber’s unicorn, it does not exist. True, scattered across the face of England are no less than seventy-eight sites once considered in 1970 by a government commission of inquiry for the role. One, Cublington in Buckinghamshire, was the final choice of all but one of its members. Another, Maplin on the North Sea coast of Essex, was resolutely supported by that last member and was finally picked by the government of the day, in 1971. Yet another, dropped by the commission after only seven months’ work, had been proposed by...

    • CHAPTER 3 London’s Motorways
      (pp. 56-86)

      As with London’s third airport, so with its motorway system: the most important point about it is that it does not exist. Or, strictly, only small fragments of it exist — some forty miles, out of 350 once planned. These fragments terminate arbitrarily at junctions that lead nowhere. The rest is abandoned, and for the most part even the lines of the motorways are no longer safeguarded by the planners. London’s motorways compete with its third airport for the title of the most costly civil engineering project ever planned in this country; and both were aborted. They represent classic cases...

    • CHAPTER 4 The Anglo-French Concorde
      (pp. 87-108)

      Daily at 11.15 in the morning and on five days a week at 9.15 in the morning, a distinctive and even anomalous plane lines up on one of the two parallel main runways of London’s Heathrow airport, to begin its take-off roll for New York. Passengers in Jumbos and Tristars, in the queue of taxiing planes, stare at it, always with curiosity, often with wonder. For its most anomalous feature is its size. Minute and slim, it is dwarfed by the new generation of giant jets that increasingly dominate the world’s airways. It is British Airways’ Concorde — one of...

    • CHAPTER 5 San Francisco’s bart System
      (pp. 109-137)

      San Francisco’s Bay Area Rapid Transit, or bart, has many admirers, especially among first-time visitors who throng the city’s streets during the year-long tourist season. For many of these, the seventy-one-mile bart system is the archetype of everything a modern urban rapid transit system should be, and a model for the great majority of America’s large cities that still lack one. These people are impressed by the calm elegance of the stations, each individually designed with mosaic-tiled walls; by the uncannily silent, air-conditioned, carpeted trains; by the automatic train control system that seems effortlessly to accelerate the train to its...

    • CHAPTER 6 Sydney’s Opera House
      (pp. 138-151)

      Sydney’s new Opera House belongs to a select group of buildings that become immediate popular symbols. ItisSydney, just as Big Ben is London, the Arc de Triomphe is Paris and the Empire State Building is New York City. It could thus be argued that it put the city on some sort of mental map of great world cities. Furthermore, though residents and visitors disagree on its aesthetic merits, no one would question that it is a highly memorable building. Whether seen by day in the crisp Sydney sunlight, or at night against the reflected lights in the great...

    • CHAPTER 7 Two Near-Disasters: California’s New Campuses and Britain’s National Library
      (pp. 152-184)

      It is useful, perhaps, to end this section of the book with two case studies of decision processes that for a considerable period looked like planning disasters, until they quite suddenly reappeared in a different light, as relative planning successes. One study, of the new campuses planned and built in the 1960s for the California universities and colleges of higher education, tells a story of a set of institutions that found themselves the centre of national controversy, and that for some time seemed almost to be fighting for their lives. Yet by the late 1970s, it appears that they have...

  9. Part Two Analysis

    • CHAPTER 8 Approaching the Problem
      (pp. 187-198)

      In various ways, our case studies have all concerned one of the central problems of the modern world: the way societies plan the output of public (or collective) goods. It is important because in most if not all advanced industrial countries, these goods account for a large and steadily increasing proportion of the total output of goods and services. Schools and colleges and universities, roads and airports and docks, armies and navies and air forces, hospitals and clinics, old people’s homes and welfare cheques, now help to swell a public-spending bill that in recent years, in a number of European...

    • CHAPTER 9 The Actors: (1) The Community
      (pp. 199-207)

      In theory the people are sovereign; in practice, in most so-called democracies, they are at best semi-sovereign,¹ since their power is circumscribed by the positions of other actors in the policy-making and decision-taking process. They are, at least partly, in conflict with these other actors. To understand this process, it is useful to borrow concepts from the conflict school of sociology, which we have already briefly surveyed in the previous chapter.

      For this purpose, the father of sociological conflict theory is not highly relevant: Marx’s proletariat and bourgeoisie are not the contenders in most of the battles we have been...

    • CHAPTER 10 The Actors: (2) The Bureaucracy
      (pp. 208-223)

      Bureaucracies — including professional planning bureaucracies — form the second element of our decision-making triangle. We now understand their behaviour rather well. Research since the early 1960s has shown us that bureaucratic organizations have their own well-developed rules of behaviour, both formal and informal; and that the resulting behaviour is to a large extent predictable. Understanding these rules will take us a long way in the interpretation of planning disasters.

      Most of this new knowledge comes from a select group of analysts in the United States. Some are psychologists by origin, some sociologists, some economists. From diverse origins, they come...

    • CHAPTER 11 The Actors: (3) The Politicians
      (pp. 224-241)

      The politician is the third apex of our decision-making triangle. Invariably, the final decision is his. But he does not take the decision in a vacuum: he is faced with one set of pressures from voters, organized (more or less) into pressure and interest groups; and another set of pressures from bureaucrats or professionals-in-government.

      We need to make certain assumptions about the behaviour of these politicians, in order to build a theory for testing. Positive political science, following the lines of positive economists, assumes that politicians are motivated by self-interest. Just as producers want to maximize profits and consumers want...

    • CHAPTER 12 The Actors in Concert
      (pp. 242-248)

      This chapter will be brief. It will try to summarize and to interrelate the necessarily rather complex argument of the last three chapters, and to try to relate this analysis, in turn, to the case histories in Part One. It will seek to provide a general explanation of how planning decisions are in fact made, and of how planning disasters can arise. For details and for references, the reader should go back to the earlier chapters.

      In this part of the book, we began with the people because that seemed obvious. But it is now possible to see that the...

    • CHAPTER 13 Towards Prescription
      (pp. 249-276)

      In this final chapter, we come to the most difficult problem of the book. How might a society work if not to remove, then at least to mitigate, the effects of planning disasters like these? Could it seek to develop early-warning systems for planning failure?

      It might as well be said straight away: there is no magic formula, no all-embracing model that will perform this miracle. At best, we are looking for piecemeal improvements that can be stitched together to provide some normative guidelines. They fall logically into two main areas.

      First are improvements in forecasting the future world, in...

  10. Notes
    (pp. 277-286)
  11. References
    (pp. 287-298)
  12. Index
    (pp. 299-308)