A new Briefing Paper with John Driscoll and Caroline Creamer for the International Centre for Local and Regional Development (ICLRD) explores the application of the concept of ‘functional territories’ in strategic spatial planning on the island of Ireland. The policy concept of functional territories build on recent academic research work on soft spaces and addresses the potential for spatial planning to work across local, regional and/or national boundaries to engage with the functional spaces in between. The paper is particularly timely given the current preparation of a National Planning Framework for the Republic of Ireland, where functional approaches may come to the fore.
Source: Department of Environment, Community and Local Government (2015) Towards a National Planning Framework
The book: Soft Spaces in Europe: Re-negotiating governance, boundaries and borders has been published this summer. It is edited by Phil Allmendinger (Cambridge), Graham Haughton (Manchester), Jörg Knieling (Hamburg) and Frank Othengrafen (Hannover).
Through five metropolitan and three cross-border case studies, edited volume greatly contributes to a comparative understanding of soft spaces as an emerging element of the contemporary governance landscape in northwest Europe. The author of this blog (Cormac Walsh) was responsible for the case studies of the island of Ireland and Fehmarn Belt region (Chapters 7 & 9) and contributed to the study of the Hamburg metropolitan region (Chapter 3). Previous versions of the chapters were presented at international conferences in Tampere, Finland (Fehmarn Belt) and Dublin, (island of Ireland).
Here is the official blurb from the Routledge website:
The past thirty years have seen a proliferation of new forms of territorial governance that have come to co-exist with, and complement, formal territorial spaces of government. These governance experiments have resulted in the creation of soft spaces, new geographies with blurred boundaries that eschew existing political-territorial boundaries of elected tiers of government. The emergence of new, non-statutory or informal spaces can be found at multiple levels across Europe, in a variety of circumstances, and with diverse aims and rationales.
This book moves beyond theory to examine the practice of soft spaces. It employs an empirical approach to better understand the various practices and rationalities of soft spaces and how they manifest themselves in different planning contexts. By looking at the effects of new forms of spatial governance and the role of spatial planning in North-western Europe, this book analyses discursive changes in planning policies in selected metropolitan areas and cross-border regions. The result is an exploration of how these processes influence the emergence of soft spaces, governance arrangements and the role of statutory planning in different contexts. This book provides a deeper understanding of space and place, territorial governance and network governance.
Rethinking the Spatiality of Spatial Planning: Methodological Territorialism and Metageographies, European Planning Studies (online first)
This paper, accepted by European Planning Studies in Ocotber 2012 and now available in the ‘latest articles’ section online is my most theoretical paper to date, as indeed the title might indicate. The empirical work it draws on, is drawn primarily from my PhD research on strategic spatial planning for the Dublin-city region. The focus here is on the territorial politics (or perhaps, local scale geopolitics) of spatial planning. It is well-known perhaps that ‘localism’ is a key feature of Irish planning and development practice. But what do we mean by ‘localism’ precisely? What type of geograhical associations does localism in spatial planning apply?
This paper contributes to partially answering these questions – although admittedly using more convoluted/technical/precise? terminology. Specifically the focus is on the influence of ideas of politically-bounded territorial space on the representation of space in spatial planning documents and in the spatial politics or discourses of political representatives associated with the planning processes for the city-region. In this case, county boundaries represent the dominant spatial imaginary or ‘metageography’. At the same time, however, processes of strategic spatial planning seek to introduce new ways of thinking about relations across space, based on ideas of fucntional geography and to smoe extent relational space. This ‘soft space’ approach is however constrained by the dominant territorial imaginaries which continue to focus on the political and administrative boundaries rather than functional relations.
The paper has gone through a long process with many iterations along the way. Previous versions were presented at the Regional Studies Association Annual International Conference in Pecs, Hungary and at a European Urban Research Association workshop in Oslo (both in May 2010). A working paper version was also published as part of the NIRSA working paper series in November 2010.
This paper argues for increased attention to the role of territory and territoriality in framing sociospatial discourses in the context of spatial plan making. In particular, it is suggested that the engagement of political actors with processes of spatial planning tends to be framed within particular spatial imaginaries which reflect established political-administrative and territorial boundaries. It is contended that a critical analysis of the territorial framing of processes of spatial planning is necessary in order to understand the capacity for spatial strategies to effectively challenge and reconfigure established sociospatial imaginaries in functional or relational terms. It is suggested that spatially explicit public policy statements, such as planning strategies, may be characterized by specific assumptions of territorial space, in a similar manner to which mainstream social science has contained implicit assumptions of state-centrism. The salience of territorial spatial imaginaries is demonstrated in the case of European spatial planning and through a local case study of city-regional spatial planning and politics in the Greater Dublin Area.
Walsh, C. & Kitchin, R. (2012) Supporting Evidence-Informed Spatial Planning in Ireland: A Research Perspective, Pleanáil, Issue 18, 75-89, Full Text
This paper, written in summer 2011 for Pleanail, the journal of the Irish Planning Institute (one of two professional associations for planners in the Republic of Ireland discusses the role of academic and applied research in supporting spatial planning in Ireland. It was published in November 2012. It focuses in particular on the applied spatial planning work of the National Institute of Regional and Spatial Analysis (NIRSA, where Prof. Rob Kitchin is Director) and the related All-Island Research Observatory (AIRO) and International Centre for Local and Regional Development (ICLRD). AIRO plays a key role in making spatial data and publicly available on a comparable all-ireland basis. The ICLRD conducts policy and practice oriented research and training focussed on the cross-border region of Ireland/ Northern Ireland. At the European level, NIRSA contributes to the further development of evidence-informed spatial policy through its role as ESPON Contact Point for Ireland and as a partner in ESPON projects.
The Irish Planning Institute has recently highlighted the need for ‘coordinated and comprehensive research on planning and development matters at a national level’ to support evidence–based planning in Ireland (President’s address, Autumn Conference 2010). New legislative requirements and a rapidly changing planning and development environment have served to highlight the need for a robust evidence and research base to support decision-making and monitoring at local, regional and national levels. The National Institute for Regional and Spatial Analysis (NIRSA) has since its foundation played an active role in articulating and implementing an applied research agenda for spatial planning in Ireland providing tools, analysis and research support on a wide range of issues. The recently launched All-Island Research Observatory (AIRO) provides a freely available spatial data portal where key statistics, indicators and mapping can be easily accessed in a user friendly manner. The International Centre for Local and Regional Development (ICLRD), of which NIRSA is a founding partner, is very active, working at the interface between research, policy and practice with a particular focus on issues of North-South cross-border cooperation through spatial planning. Through participation in the ESPON programme, NIRSA is active in disseminating research findings and policy implications at a European level and translating them to an Irish context. This paper provides a research perspective on some of the key challenges and opportunities associated with the further development of an evidence-informed approach to spatial planning policy and practice in Ireland. In particular, experience in NIRSA points to the positive benefits of a dynamic interactive relationship between research, policy and practice, which is well positioned to respond to a rapidly changing economic, planning and policy environment.