Planning staff within local, regional and national governments have the task of regulating development and preparing plans, policies and programmes to help society move towards a better future (Duerksen et al, 2009). Most cities and towns of any size have a professional staff that develops and administers land use regulations and issues permits for land development. Working in conjunction with engineering, public works, parks, housing and social welfare departments, planning staff also frequently plan infrastructure systems, develop housing policy, undertake economic development initiatives and create strategies to protect local environmental quality. Since most of these areas of work affect the environment in one way or another, planning can be seen as a principal means for the implementation of environmental policy.
This chapter discusses the role of the planning profession in relation to environmental policy (see also Frey, 1999) and after general consideration of the planning process examines the specific planning topics of: sustainability planning; land use and urban design; transport and infrastructure; energy efficiency and resource use; parks, public spaces and ecosystems; environmental justice; and urban planning in the developing world.
Typically, planners work with elected officials and members of the public to create planning documents laying out an overall vision for the place in question. These documents guide future growth and initiatives within the relevant jurisdiction over many years. Several levels to these plans may be created: an overall plan for the entire jurisdiction; area plans for particular neighbourhoods or districts; and sometimes very detailed specific plans for development sites. Issue-specific plans for topics such as energy, transportation and climate change may also be created.
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