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UBC Theses and Dissertations

Size matters : local government sustainability planning in British Columbia Littley, Kenneth James


The purpose of this research is to understand the application of sustainability principles at the level of local governments of different sizes in the Province of British Columbia. Sustainability principles in the study area are integrated into all other community planning processes through the development of an Integrated Community Sustainability Plan (ICSP). However, the process for developing an ICSP, including the definition of what sustainability means and how it is applied, is left up to the individual community, leading to conceptual confusion. Through a literature review, the study identifies pillars, principles, and ecological and anthropocentric ideologies of sustainability, which are then used to assess local government sustainability frameworks. When local governments develop their ICSPs, a fundamental challenge is the misunderstanding of concepts and principles of sustainability. A tension also exists because the application of sustainability theory is done in local government through the use of urban planning principles, known as “Smart Growth.” Principles of Smart Growth theory, identified in the literature as the way to apply sustainability in the local context, are also explored in communities in four size categories. These urban–centric Smart Growth principles are often grafted onto smaller local governments where they are not scalable for a number of reasons. To identify size–related variables and other variables which affect a community’s understanding of the concept of sustainability, a grounded theory approach, complimented by cross–case study analysis, and a defined coding procedure was used. 16 local government sustainability plans from across the province were reviewed to identify where the plans diverge from the theory as outlined in the literature. To support, validate and extend the findings, semi–structured interviews were conducted with local government planning managers and other senior staff. These expert interviews were then used to identify how size plays a role in a local government’s understanding of sustainability and to identify what other factors also play a role. These complimentary methods lead to the findings for the research question: 1. How does the size of local government affect how sustainability is understood and applied to policy as reflected in ICSPs in British Columbia?

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