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Is planning paying attention to "the future?"

Experiences in eight South African municipalities

Article image

Engela Petzer

06 July 2016


uKESA Librarian, Engela Petzer

Conference paper

Council for Scientific and Industrial Research

South Africa

Planning is inherently about looking ahead. The profession holds the promise of bringing hope of a better future. Among planners it is sometimes taken for granted that planning is concerned with the future and that planners will confront the future and inevitably have a positive impact. However, a number of theorists have claimed that planning is neglecting the future and that planning tends to be reactive. This paper asks whether municipal planning in South Africa has an active engagement with the future. It draws on a literature review of mainstream planning literature in the English language. It further draws on the findings of and specifically the interviews conducted by a group of students at the University of Pretoria during 2014 and 2015. The interviews with key IDP role players in a number of municipalities dealt with issues such as timeframes of plans, plans’ focus on the future and the tools/techniques used to engage with the future. It was found that planning’s engagement with the future is in most cases merely a response to legislative requirements. The paper will highlight the reasons for planning’s ‘neglect’ of the future and will conclude with a reflection on the implications for municipal planning in South Africa.


Website References

Built environment

Human settlements

Planning and management


South Africa


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