Onderzoek in planning : betekenis van kennis uit landbouwonderzoek in dertig jaar streekplanning

Research output: Thesisexternal PhD, WU


1 Introduction

Research question
A good land use plan is based upon an insight in the current social developments and spatial potentials. This insight is gained by research performed during the planning process, which in this book is called research in planning . Dutch spatial planning has a long tradition in making use of planning surveys and research. In this study the self-evidence of the positive role of research in planning is questioned: what is the function of the information from research and surveys performed during the planning process?

Background of this study
Research into knowledge utilisation passes a lot of practical recommendations to improve the relation between research and policy in general. For example: the in time formulation of research questions; good communication between researcher and policy-makers; publication of results with adequate means; etc. The consequent application of these recommendations will undoubtedly improve the utilisation of research outcomes. Given this, what is the reason to perform a study into the function of knowledge from research in planning? This reason is found in recent social developments, which can be characterised as post-modern. Post-modernity expresses itself in, among others, a broad felt doubt about the meaning of (scientific) research. In the post-modern society the idea of a multiple truth is broadly accepted. What's the function of knowledge from research against this social background? That fundamental question forms a more important reason behind this study than the practical misunderstandings between researchers and policy-makers.

Knowledge can be considered in two ways. Knowledge can be more explicit, contained by books, articles, etc. or knowledge can be implicit: contained by people in their minds. This study focus on the role in planning of explicit knowledge, but seen against the background of the implicit knowledge planners have.

Focus of this study
This study focus on the relation between regional planning and research into agriculture. Regional planning has been chosen because it plays an important role because in the Dutch planning system spatial planning and different forms of sector planning are linked on the regional level. Agriculture has been chosen because it is the most important form of rural land use which development is on a turning point because of declining prices and environmental problems. This study is divided in three parts:

theory: how can research in planning theoretically positioned in planning theory;knowledge utilisation: how is the information as a result of research in planning utilised in regional land use planning;application : new ideas for socio-economic land evaluation based on the results of part 1 and 2.

2 Knowledge utilisation and planning theory

The positioning of knowledge in planning theory implies a choice of position in debates on planning theory and scientific research.

In this study planning is treated as an argumentative process. Actors use arguments to influence and rule other actors. Each type of argumentation has its own goals, its own assumptions on reasonability of arguments, its own public and even its own name. Such types of argumentation are called genre . Each genre has its own rules of argumentation, which allow certain kinds of sentences and forbid others. In that way also planning can be seen as a genre aimed at the linkage of knowledge to action. To perform this reflective judgements are necessary. In reflective judgements the rules to judge the validity of sentences are not given, but have tot be sought.

Like planning also research can be described as genre. For research genre theory is elaborated in the so called Forum theory. Forum theory is based on the idea that the only criteria for good and bad research are given by the judgement of a virtual forum, which has no real existence, but can be seen as representation of the whole of scientific researchers, magazines, conferences, etc. Objectivity, fair presentation of results, etc. are not a mean to give the best representation of reality, but to make a good communication in the Forum possible.

Research in planning
Because research in planning has not an own goal on itself, it can not be considered as a genre on its own, but as a meeting between two genres. A fruitful meeting of genres implies that in both genres a non-conformative style of acting is used. This non-conformative style can be of a strategic nature and a bold nature. The strategic style implies that research and planning find each other in a common pragmatic interest and do not start a debate on each others principles. A bold style of acting tries to combine research in planning with a fundamental discussion about principles and basic assumptions. This means for instance that in the genre research a discussion on objectivity will be included, while the planning genre include questions on the fundamentals of different planning options. The bold style can be expressed in a learning model and in a contingency model for the communication between research and planning. The learning model tries to integrate the learning cycle of policy making and the learning cycle of research. The contingency model loosens the bonds between a specific planning issue and a specific research question, but let the relevance of research outcome be ruled by coincidence.

3 Knowledge utilisation in practise

To analyse the utilisation of knowledge on agriculture in regional planning 16 regional plans and their procedures have studied. The plans are spread over the country and dated from 1965 to 1995. The year 1965 has been chosen because in that year the Dutch Law on Physical Planning came into operation.

Planning concepts in Dutch regional plans
Several planning concepts were reconstructed from the regional plans. Two types of concepts on the development of agriculture were found. The first considers agriculture from a perspective of underdevelopment of some parts of agriculture; the second from a perspective of economic potentials for the agricultural sector as a whole. From these two concepts on the spatial development of agriculture follow. The first aims at land improvement for all land under cultivation; the second aims at the improvement of the spatial-economic structure. Four integral spatial concepts were recognised: the first is based on the domination of urban influences in the rural areas; the second aims at the protection of the 'weak' interests; the third is based on a formal method to make choices; the last is based on a landscape architectural concept.

Knowledge elements
The (explicit) knowledge used in regional planning has been analysed by the reconstruction of knowledgeelements . These are configurations or clusters of internal integrated fragments of knowledge. Out of the 16 planning procedures, 91 knowledge elements were reconstructed. The nature of these elements changed during thirty years of Dutch regional planning from more descriptive to more interpretative and from more non-geographical to more geographical.

From knowledge to planning concept
Different planning concepts require different types of knowledge. Strategic agricultural concepts use mostly knowledge of agricultural developments in general and knowledge of social demands. The last type of knowledge is especially used in strategic agricultural concepts aiming at the potentials of the agricultural sector as a whole. Spatial agricultural concepts use mostly geographical information and knowledge of land suitability. Integral spatial concepts use mostly geographical agricultural information if they aim at the protection of weak sectors or are based on the domination of urban development, and knowledge of land users if they use formal methods or are based on architectural concepts.

Argumentation as link between knowledge and planning concepts
Among all the possible ways knowledge can be linked to planning concepts, two ways dominate. The first way links general knowledge of agriculture to concepts on agricultural development by means of argumentation based on regularity. The second way links geographical information to spatial agricultural concepts by means of argumentation based on rules.

Importance of knowledge
Physical and geo-agricultural knowledge has either a very important or negligible function for the development of planning concepts. Because this kind of information has a specific nature it is used or not used at all, but noting in between. Knowledge of agriculture in general, non-agricultural land use or social demands however has in most cases a function for the founding of planning concepts, but the function is not exclusive: the information could be replaced by other information.

Planning process
The function of knowledge in the planning process differs from that for the planning concepts. Six functions of knowledge in the planning process has been distinguished:

the development of knowledge among agricultural experts ; for this function mostly general agricultural knowledge is used;the formation of agendas for which also general agricultural knowledge is mostly used;underpinning of spatial choices : use mostly geographical information and knowledge on land suitability;generation of ideas for planning concepts ; this function makes mostly use of interpretations of agricultural development and knowledge of social demands;evaluation of plan alternatives , which makes use of geographical agricultural information;earning of support for the plan ; a function especially of knowledge on social demands.

The two most important ones are: the use of knowledge for underpinning spatial choices and the use of knowledge for the formation of agendas. But about one tenth of knowledge elements is not used at all.

Knowledge and type of planning process
Two aspects of the planning process can be distinguished: the development of the substance of plans and the co-ordination of the planning process. Substantial plan development makes more use of knowledge if it has a pragmatic character than if it has a systematic character, which is surprisingly. If the co-ordination of the planning process has a communicative of a strategic character the use of knowledge focus on the formation of agendas. But in more co-operative co-ordination of the planning process, knowledge is mostly used to underpin spatial choices

Relation with planning organisation
The elder regional planning procedures were generally organised among sector lines: a work group on agriculture, outdoor recreation, nature conservation, etc. The results of these groups were integrated by an integral planning group. This type of organisation promotes the use of sector knowledge for the formation of agendas. The last decades planning procedures were more thematically organised. Work groups are composed of several experts and planners. This type of organisation was common in an era in which speed of procedures prevail and the need for research was suppressed. Mostly old or direct available information has been used.

Relation with theory
Does the theoretical positioning fit with the findings from the analysis of regional plans? The theoretical construct that knowledge is formed in daily actions of planners, especially when both succeed in exploring the borders of their genre, has been supported by the opposite: procedures in which researchers play the role of pure researcher and planners play the role of pure planners the use and impact of knowledge was limited. The positive effects of the learning model can be recognised in practice: in several planning procedures research was done by researchers, planners and members of interest groups together. This joined research stimulated the use of research outcome. Some other situations with a positive impact of research can be described with the contingency model. In that cases available knowledge from a completely different context could be successfully used.

4 Application to land evaluation

The results of the former is applied to a type of research in planning which is performed in almost every regional plan: land evaluation. A land evaluation framework which follows from the theory of part 2 will have the character of a set of rules for a game, which has enough degrees of freedom to express different views on the development of agriculture. Of central importance is the way criteria are defined. A criterion which makes several ways of elaboration possible, is expressed by the percentage of agricultural holding in a preferred class per grid or area. This criterion is used to elaborate three land evaluation games.

Agricultural land evaluation 1: Big farms are strong farms
This evaluation starts from an economic rationality: the bigger the farms the more economies of scale. As criterion is chosen: percentage of farms with an above average farm size. This average differs per type of farm. This evaluation is simple and robust, but uses only one criterion to evaluate which means that all nuances are lost.

Agricultural land evaluation 2: Every type of farm has its own perspectives
The leading principle of this evaluation is multidimensional: the division of farms in weak and strong enterprises neglect the potentials that also small farms have. The differentiation of farms expresses itself in two dimensions: scale and production intensity of farms. With these two axes for sorts of farms per type of farm appear: large, intensive, extensive, small. The criteria for agricultural land evaluation that follow are the percentage of large (intensive, extensive, small) farms. For every municipality in the Netherlands these percentages are calculated. Municipalities with the same characteristics are combined in nine clusters. A cluster does not represent a judgement on a scale from weak to strong enterprises. However, every cluster can be related to a scenario for regional development, based on the mix of sorts and types of farms. A spatial strategy has to give an answer to the question how to deal with these scenario's. This evaluation game has a postmodern character. It is more a classification than an evaluation, which is a strong but also a weak point for use in the context of spatial planning.

Agricultural land evaluation 3: being and becoming create each other
The third land evaluation is based on the principle that in general, quality rises in the tension between opposite forces. In this evaluation the tension between being and becoming. Becoming stands for the value of efficiency, while being represent the value of goals in itself. A being agriculture is a not intensive way of farming, with a low impact on the environment. The evaluation criterion for a being agriculture is: the percentage of large extensive farms, with large parcels, with a concentration of the same farms and on a fertile soil. A becoming agriculture is an efficient high input activity, footloose with several technical measure to lower the impact on the environment. The criterion for this agriculture is: the percentage of big, intensive farms, with good physical production circumstances and situated in a concentration area. The distinction between a being an a becoming agriculture can be used to develop a dual spatial strategy for Dutch agriculture that intensify the differences between being and becoming. This evaluation helps to identify the seed bed areas for this.

5 Research in planning under postmodern conditions

The task for research in planning under postmodern conditions will be the realisation of absolute priority for the object. That principle will serve the role of planning in the search for social and cultural symbols and also elaborate a bold style of research.

Original languageDutch
QualificationDoctor of Philosophy
Awarding Institution
  • van Lier, H.N., Promotor
Award date18 May 1998
Place of PublicationWageningen
Print ISBNs9789054858669
Publication statusPublished - 1998


  • urban planning
  • physical planning
  • research
  • planning
  • regional planning
  • history
  • agriculture
  • horticulture
  • scientific research
  • science

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