Strategies of responsibilization: planning obligations and the political role of property developers

Authors: Sophie Elsmore*, London South Bank University
Topics: Urban and Regional Planning, Urban Geography
Keywords: Urban Development, Property Developers, Urban Planning, Planning Obligations
Session Type: Paper
Day: 4/10/2018
Start / End Time: 12:40 PM / 2:20 PM
Room: Grand Ballroom B, Astor, 2nd Floor
Presentation File: No File Uploaded


Deliberations over property development are so often typified by caricatures of the process, its actors, and the outcomes (Imrie, 2009). The development process is generally portrayed as a ‘development game’, as planners and developers are imagined to occupy opposing positions across the ‘development table’, with planners acting in the public interest, and property developers concerned with achieving short-term gains to maximize profits (Moore, 2012). Yet despite this, there is a paucity of understanding of the social, political and cultural diversity of the development sector. Drawing upon an examination of the engagement of property developers with planning obligations in the London Borough of Southwark, this paper draws attention to the under-examined practices of these actors, by addressing how they assume responsibility for mitigating the impacts of their developments.

By exploring property developers’ understandings of, attitudes towards, and interactions with planning obligations, this paper examines how private property developers respond to and reflect upon this mode of state intervention. This paper argues that the attitudes and actions of property developers are neither technical or value free, but shaped by partialities that necessitate the conceptualization of developers as ‘political actors’. It argues that whilst developers inevitably conceptualize planning obligations as financial costs, they ascribe a wider set of values to planning obligations, as they mobilize these contributions to serve their own interests, often revolving around the building of reputational capital.

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