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Planning Horizons

Thinking Spatially

Planning as a profession has integrated spatial thinking into its decision-making; planners aim to look beyond individual policies and decisions in order to take a broader and longer-term view. This helps them to decide between often competing interests (for example, regarding the use of land). The same could be true for other areas of public policy.

This Planning Horizons project considers how thinking spatially could help policymakers to make better judgements about how individual policy proposals interact with and affect the development of places as a whole.

The full paper and a summary version are now available from this project.

Thinking and working spatially

Spatial thinking is not constrained to the planning profession; the importance of space in understanding and predicting human behaviour and finding solutions to societal problems is well known, and sociologists, geographers and economists frequently use spatial approaches to decision-making.

Having said this, spatial thinking is not prevalent across all policy areas. This paper examines the consequences of taking a spatially insensitive approach to policymaking, and highlight case studies where a greater consideration and understanding of spatial impacts could have made a policy or initiative more effective.

The paperĀ also reflects on the tools available to policymakers which can assist spatial thinking in decision-making. The use of tools such as GIS and impact assessment has become more widespread in recent years, but barriers remain which prevent the use of these tools across all policy areas.

Get involved

We welcome the engagement of the planning community in the Planning Horizons projects, including practitioners, academic researchers and sister organisations.

We particularly welcome suggestions for UK and international case studies which demonstrate the role and value of planners and planning in relation to these challenges.

For more information about the Planning Horizons projects, and to get involved, please contact: Dr Michael Harris; Deputy Head of Policy and Research on 0207 929 9493.