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UBC Theses and Dissertations

Public participation and rural planning : Texada Island, a case study McWilliam, Robert


This thesis examines various approaches to public participation within rural planning. It deals with the roles rural residents, in unincorporated areas of British Columbia, can play in local planning. The thesis argues that effective planning in such areas only occurs if a rural planning approach, which considers distinctive rural characteristics, is applied to the planning process. Such planning generally requires the active involvement of rural people. To accomplish this objective a model is constructed of how rural residents participate in planning. Its theoretical framework is developed from a review of the available literature on rural planning and public participation. The model is then used to examine a specific area--Texada Island--which was selected because of its recent experiences with planning. The model identifies four main approaches to rural planning: planning 'of a rural community; planning 'for' a rural community; planning 'with' a rural community; and planning 'by' a rural community. The thesis argues that all of these approaches can meet the criteria that define rural planning, but they differ significantly on the objectives for the planning process, and the roles the local residents perform. The model also contains four categories of public participation: public information; data collection; citizenship training; and involvement in decision making. This thesis defines public participation as the means whereby the general public interact with decision makers, beyond elections, to ensure public decisions reflect their objectives. Within the context of this definition the four categories are seen as being the main avenues that rural people have for participation in planning. When the types of participation were applied to the various rural planning approaches a number of observations about the involvement of rural people in planning became apparent. These characteristics were reinforced when the Texada Islanders' experiences with planning were examined. The model and the Texada example both demonstrated that even within the constraints inherent in the various types of planning there were opportunities to enhance the level of public involvement. The author takes the position that these possible improvements are significant to the planning process since there is a positive linear correlation between increased public participation and the effectiveness of the planning process. The relationship between public involvement and planning is demonstrated through the analysis of rural planning approaches. Planning 'of' a rural, community may produce some short term results but it is incapable of providing any long term direction because the planning process is too divorced from the aspiration of the local residents who have considerable ability to frustrate external objectives even when they have little ability to take the initiative. Planning 'for' a rural community generally fails because the issues that the planning exercise is attempting to deal with are examined from the perceptions of 'outsiders'. Planning 'with' a rural community is limited because the planning process is dominated by the 'experts' who also see issues through a different set of perceptions. Planning 'by' the rural community approach is the approach that the thesis claims can succeed when the others fail. Its success is related to its correlation to rural values; its emphasis on local resources, which expands the usually limited resources available for any rural planning; and the fact that it deals with planning as part of a larger process of rural development. Rural development avoids the frequent segregation of planning and implementation and permits the planning to become an ongoing process which allows for adjustment and elaboration as required. Advocating a need for planning 'by' rural communities is not done with any naive assumptions about its success being assured. This approach can produce the most enduring results, but it also exacts the highest costs in terms of effort and its existence is dependent on a continuing commitment by the rural residents who are in control of the planning process. But this commitment is a requirement for rural development where change is achieved by the active participation of affected people.

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