Empowered by planning law: unintended outcomes in the Helsinki region

Anssi Joutsiniemi, Mari Vaattovaara, Jenni Airaksinen

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What are the unintended outcomes produced by Finland’s planning system? This analysis of present-day planning in Finland addresses how positive aims and promised designs and plans are diluted by the planning process. It shows how changes in the legislation governing planning are empowering the role of institutional needs rather than fostering the desired outcomes. Three levels are analysed: the development and crucial boundary conditions of planning-related legislation; the structure of urban development within the region; and a case study of the 30-year development of an orbital light-rail project. In contrast to claims in the planning literature, the communicative turn has not led to clear positive changes in the process and implementation. This research shows how institutional stakeholders are empowered in current planning practice. The attempt to make planning more inclusive and participatory has paradoxically led into the empowerment of institutional players. The actual outcomes of the planning process are side-tracked, and the evaluation is outsourced in the process, which calls into question the legitimacy of planning actions. There is a need for planning-related studies to address the legislative boundaries and the concrete outputs of the planning process.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)837-855
Number of pages19
JournalBuildings and Cities
Issue number2(1)
Publication statusPublished - 13 Oct 2021
Publication typeA1 Journal article-refereed

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