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The renaissance of strategic planning?

  • Political Science


After a decade of increasingly pragmatic and localised planning in the United Kingdom, promoted by the Tory government, strategic planning is back on the professional, political, and, arguably, the popular, agendas. There has been no ideological U-turn, but on a pragmatic basis certain important changes are evident. The government has made enough noises for planning professionals to assume -- if rather warily -- that strategic planning is again worth talking about. This paper is an attempt to explain these recent changes by way of a brief history of strategic planning in the United Kingdom through the 1980s. The nature of the emerging arrangements for strategic planning -- labelled the 'Patten model' after the Secretary of State for the Environment responsible for their adoption -- is explained. The author goes on to develop a critique of this model, focusing on shortcomings that arise from procedural and administrative characteristics. After this critique the question is posed: how might the 'Patten model' be improved? Two possibilities are suggested: an 'optimising' approach, which looks for an ideal model of strategic planning, and a 'satisficing' approach, which looks to make incremental improvements to the existing system. It is suggested that both approaches can be maintained, and might provide an agenda through the 1990s for advocates of strategic planning.

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