E-Participation in Urban Planning: Online Tools for Citizen Engagement in Poland and in Germany

E-Participation in Urban Planning: Online Tools for Citizen Engagement in Poland and in Germany

Lukasz Damurski (Wroclaw University of Technology, Poland)
Copyright: © 2012 |Pages: 28
DOI: 10.4018/ijepr.2012070103
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Simple observation of planning practices in Eastern and Western Europe reveal a substantial gap in citizen participation between the post-socialist societies and the highly developed countries. This gap was created recently during the continent’s history and is reflected in an uneven distribution of social capital and democratic attitudes. During the last 30 years Western societies developed their civic consciousness and improved their democratic procedures; while citizen activities in the East was constrained by socialist regimes, then dissipated by the system transformation and only now is slowly reviving. How can social and political distance? Development of ICT (Information and Communication Technology) tools seems to stimulate social cohesion of European countries. The Internet creates new forms of social life, giving new opportunities for citizen involvement and strongly influences public decision-making systems. Examples of e-participation in planning from both sides of the continent suggest that this gap is not necessarily as big as it appears to be. This article compares online participation tools offered in Poland and Germany. Analyzing three complimentary aspects of e-participation in planning: “transparency,” “spatiality,” and “interactivity.” The results are expressed further in the article.
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E-Administration And E-Planning

A very significant element of public administration is spatial planning – the decision-making process related to land-use. In this article the term “planning” is restricted to the official administrative procedures regulated by the national law and it does not include a wide variety of unofficial, particular, local planning actions taken outside the obligatory legal regulations. Bearing in mind the definitions of e-administration and e-governance we may ask “What about e-planning?” Theoretical basis of e-planning (or cyber-spatial planning) were formed a couple of years ago (Budthimedhee et al., 2002; Szuba, 2006) and describe it as a process supported by ICT systems, aiming to provide a fluent flow of information between the users of the environment and the planning authorities, with special attention to equal rights of all the actors involved in the decision-making process. Thus the term e-planning tries to encompass the relationship between information and communication technologies and spatial planning1.

There are already numerous examples of good practice in the use of information and communication technologies, namely the Internet, in spatial planning2. Some authors claim that we are witnessing the birth of “digital planners” (“Digitale Urbanisten”) (Höffken & Kloss, 2011), who not only use the Internet as a tool for the planning process but also get actively involved in wider online political debates. The e-planning projects described in the literature are a precious source of knowledge about the available techniques and methods, but they are usually limited, fragmentary and single-use, they are directed to a certain group of participants and can be applied only to one particular plan (e.g., Andrzejewska et al., 2007; Antunes et al., 2010)3. Therefore, we need to look for more universal online planning tools, offering a fixed set of standard functionalities and features.

In this article I do not aim to describe all the available e-planning applications. The main objective of this study is to look for and to compare some integrated online planning systems, operating in different political and cultural contexts, to describe them from the perspective of a potential user. Such analysis will answer questions about trends in the development of e-planning in the West (Germany) and in the East (Poland) and will be the first step towards the definition of some common European standards for online planning procedures.

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