'A tree on your doorstep, a forest in your mind' : greenspace planning at the interplay between discourse, physical conditions, and practice

A. Van Herzele

    Research output: Thesisexternal PhD, WU


    This thesis has focused on practices in greenspace policies and planning. It was the central assumption that we can learn from practice in order to improve practice, particularly by moving it closer towards place- and people-sensitive approaches. In this respect, planning was primarily referred to as the imaginative and interpretative work involved in framing ideas and translating these into policy texts, plans, and actions on the ground. The thesis presents three studies of practices:The first study concentrates on the question of how forest expansion discourse in Flanders, having its origins in a relatively small group in a defensive position, could gain prominence in current land use debates and even come to produce a new set of spatial practices for shaping the rural-urban interface. In tracing back the development of this discourse, the emphasis was on the genealogy of discourse-actor relationships over the past decades, including the translation of discourse into various (non)-discursive forms. The case of the Ghent Park Forest was used to explore what happened to forest expansion discourse when it came to interfere with different actors in a local planning situation. The study draws attention to the powers of 'organising' ways of representation, in particular an appealing 'story line'. It was questioned what makes a story line effective (or not) in carrying forward its strategic idea along the various trajectories from concepts and ideas to actual implementation that are constitutive of a long-term policy processThe second study is concerned with the issue of factual evidence and normative prescription as it is used in planning practice. It presents an integrated indicator, made operational in a Geographical Information Systems (GIS)-based working procedure, and designed to monitor the greenspace provision in cities against quantitative and qualitative targets. It was demonstrated that not only can the GIS-based applications provide a powerful tool for analysis and representation, but they can also play an integral part in the dynamics of planning itself: this is to explore spatial datasets in an on-going process, playing with multiple interpretations of the data, rather than representing stable, known information. However, this study also points to the limitations of the geographical approach and draws to the need to involve those people who actually use the greenspace in exploring the special qualities that planning should support.The third study examines the value of local knowledge in the creative phase of planning practice. It uses the case study of an urban renewal project inAntwerpto explore the actual dynamic of the construction of meaning in discursive interaction, that is, the ways that urban designers and workshop participants made sense of the planning situation. The analysis identified shared 'interpretive frames employed by the lay participants when collectively and actively playing with options and choices, problems and solutions. The study goes on to discuss how distinctive these were from the professionals' perspectives and what the consequences were for the material outcomes of the planning process. Given the difficulties encountered when reconciling both perspectives, it was concluded that research should concentrate attention on what happens at the overlapping boundaries where different frames converge, in order to uncover what makes it so difficult for professionals to reflect on and to break out of their own frames.
    Original languageEnglish
    QualificationDoctor of Philosophy
    Awarding Institution
    • Wageningen University
    • van Woerkum, Cees, Promotor
    Award date31 May 2005
    Place of Publication[S.l. ]
    Print ISBNs9789085041993
    Publication statusPublished - 2005


    • green belts
    • forests
    • physical planning
    • geographical information systems
    • communication
    • urban areas
    • forest policy
    • belgium


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