Making strategic city planning work: Grasping the moment of opportunity in the critical juncture of the governance of Lahti

Aktiviteetti: Konferenssiesitelmä


In the city of Lahti, a pioneering iterative master planning policy has been adopted since 2009, as connected to the iterative strategy work of the city council. Each four-year council term marks a full cycle in updating the city strategy and in translating it in the preparation, assessment and ratification of the updated master plan of the whole city. The model is counterintuitive in two respects. Firstly, a long term and comprehensive master plan is not expected to need updating every four years. Secondly, making a legally valid master plan is expected to be so burdensome with the necessary preparatory surveys and impact assessments that having the preparatory work started all over again right after the ratification of a master plan does not seem to make sense. In Lahti, however, this model has been made to work, and after three cycles of iterative city strategizing and adjoined master planning, the model has become rooted as a key organizing factor of the governance of the city. Moreover, the Lahti cyclic model of master planning is being applied or considered in many other Finnish cities and municipalities, too (e.g. Tampere, Riihimäki, Raahe, Vihti, Kangasala), and it has been held as a benchmark case of strategic master planning by the Ministry of Environment. The Regional Council of Päijät-Häme has adopted the cyclic model, too, in its regional planning, as paced with Lahti’s cyclic master planning.
This presentation aims to trace the developments and interactions at play in the process of transforming the policy of master planning in Lahti in the late 2000s. The agency of the newly hired master planner in this transformation is especially examined. In terms of path dependency research vocabulary, there emerged a critical juncture in the prevailing local policy of master planning and city governance at that time, which provided a moment of opportunity for the new master planner. At this moment, certain developments and events coincided. The Ministry was developing new guidelines for strategic master planning with a pool of planning experts, partly influenced by the former Lahti master planner, who had earlier conceived the idea of ‘immanent master planning’. Making a new legally valid master plan in Lahti was, however, well overdue, when the new master planner was assigned to start the planning process. In the meantime, digitalization of georeferenced data had reached a technological level, which made it possible to apply the idea of immanent master planning in terms of linking plan preparation and monitoring with a regularly updated GIS system. Once established, keeping up such a data system with regular updates is much less burdensome than building the data “from scratch” for each master planning process, ten or more years after the previous one. In the late 2000s also a new city manager was hired, at a time of economic restructuration of the industrial realm of the city, and diminishing tax revenue. The city manager was eager to streamline the sectored administration structure of the city and to add more strategicness to it, in the face of the city’s economic challenges.
How was the situation perceived by the new master planner at the time? How did she manage to establish the new, highly unique and unconventional, master planning policy, and how did she react to and make use of the developments and events at the time, which in hindsight appears as a historical moment of opportunity? The story of this planner has broader relevance for understanding agency-structure dynamics in path divergence, and the role of agency in reinterpreting the statutory rules of master planning and utilizing them as a resource of strategic city planning.
Aikajakso13 marraskuuta 2020
Tapahtuman otsikkoHallinnon ja kuntatutkimuksen tiedepäivät: null
Tapahtuman tyyppiConference
SijaintiVaasa, Suomi
Tunnustuksen arvoNational