Voices from the sharp end – how are the values of today’s planners shaping contemporary practice?
A Special Issue of Planning Practice & Research
Special Issue Editors
Hannah Hickman, Associate Professor of Planning Practice, University of the West of England, UK (
The contemporary scene for planning practice can be painted in negative terms by authors. Whether identifying ‘frustration, disappointment, and even despair’ amongst young planners (Tasan-Kok & Oranje, 2018, p. 1); or the worrying emergence of ‘the austerity planner’ (Slade et al., 2019), it can seem to be a bleak time to be a planner. These negative feelings are often ascribed to an ongoing shift in the framing of planning policy and legislation, with planners – and therefore the idea of planning as an activity and a profession – portrayed as ‘enemies of enterprise’. For Raco (2018) this is evidence of an ‘inversion’ of planning’s core purpose.
Whilst we do see this negativity in our own conversations with planners in the UK, we also see optimism, positivity and enthusiasm – and from students from a wide variety of countries. This is not to suggest that studies which find negative or troubling aspects of contemporary planning are in any way mistaken, but we question the extent to which these reflect the diversity or ‘hybridity’ of contemporary day-to-day practice globally, and sufficiently draw on accounts from planners in the widest range of settings, including from young planners and those in the private sector.
In framing this special issue, we want to put the experiences and motivations of practicing planners at the forefront, to explore how they navigate the complexity of being a planner in the 2020s, in different contexts. This might include:
- how practising planners consider their professional obligation to serve the public interest and to behave in an ethical manner;
- how they define what matters to them; whether other drivers, such as social or environmental justice are now more important to (young) planners than the public interest;
- how they balance what might be seen as competing interests (the public, their clients, elected politicians, and their managers); and
- where they have a choice, how do they decide which work to pursue and which to avoid?
The special theme issue will bring together a range of perspectives and research findings on these questions, drawing on experiences in different parts of the world and from academic research and professional practice.
We welcome original research papers that build on the rich history of findings on planning practice in the journal. We also encourage contributions from practitioners in the form of insightful reviews and illustrations of practice, or compelling comment pieces setting out a personal reflection on the topic. Original research papers should be no longer than 7,000 words, practice reviews 5,000 words, and comments 2,000 words. All word limits exclude references and figures. Shorter contributions are welcome.
Please submit a 200 word abstract and explanation of the type of paper proposed to special issue guest editors Hannah Hickman and John Sturzaker [
The theme editors propose to hold a symposium in early September 2022 on the topic of how values are shaping contemporary planning practice which will discuss draft manuscripts. Further details will follow after the acceptance of abstracts.
Note that all original research paper submissions will be subject to the standard double-blind review process including independent reviewers. An invitation to submit a paper is not a guarantee that the paper will be published. Practice reviews and comments will be reviewed by the theme editors and editorial board with reference to other reviewers if needed.