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Chapter 2. Overview of the planning process

The need for flexibility
Planning and implementation
Planning as an iterative process
The land-use plan

Every land-use planning project is different. Objectives and local circumstances are extremely varied, so each plan will require a different treatment. However, a sequence of ten steps has been found useful as a guide. Each step represents a specific activity, or set of activities, and their outputs provide information for subsequent steps.

Following is an outline of the steps which are described more fully in the next chapter (see also Figs 3 and 4).

Step 1. Establish goals and terms of reference. Ascertain the present situation; find out the needs of the people and of the government; decide on the land area to be covered; agree on the broad goals and specific objectives of the plan; settle the terms of reference for the plan.

Step 2. Organize the work. Decide what needs to be done; identify the activities needed and select the planning team; draw up a schedule of activities and outputs; ensure that everyone who may be affected by the plan, or will contribute to it, is consulted.

Step 3. Analyse the problems. Study the existing land-use situation, including in the field; talk to the land users and find out their needs and views; identify the problems and analyse their causes; identify constraints to change.

Step 4. Identify opportunities for charge. Identify and draft a design for a range of land-use types that might achieve the goals of the plan; present these options for public discussion.

Step 5. Evaluate land suitability. For each promising land-use type, establish the land requirements and match these with the properties of the land to establish physical land suitability.

Step 6. Appraise the alternatives: environmental, economic and social analysis. For each physically suitable combination of land use and land, assess the environmental, economic and social impacts, for the land users and for the community as a whole. List the consequences, favourable and unfavourable, of alternative courses of action.

Step 7. Choose the best option. Hold public and executive discussions of the viable options and their consequences. Based on these discussions and the above appraisal, decide which changes in land use should be made or worked towards.

Step 8. Prepare the land-use plan. Make allocations or recommendations of the selected land uses for the chosen areas of land; make plans for appropriate land management; plan how the selected improvements are to be brought about and how the plan is to be put into practice; draw up policy guidelines, prepare a budget and draft any necessary legislation; involve decision-makers, sectoral agencies and land users.

Step 9. Implement the plan. Either directly within the planning process or, more likely, as a separate development project, put the plan into action; the planning team should work in conjunction with the implementing agencies.

Step 10. Monitor and revise the plan. Monitor the progress of the plan towards its goals; modify or revise the plan in the light of experience.

In a still broader view, the steps can be grouped into the following logical sequence:

• Identify the problems. Steps 1-3.
• Determine what alternative solutions exist. Steps 4-6.
• Decide which is the best alternative and prepare the plan. Steps 7-8.
• Put the plan into action, see how it works and learn from this experience. Steps 9-10.

Figure 3: Steps in land-use planning

The need for flexibility

These steps, and the detailed procedures described under each, should not be followed rigidly. The circumstances of different land-use planning projects are highly varied and the guidelines presented here should be adapted to make the best of the local situation. What is important is to understand the purpose of each step or detailed procedure so that a decision can be made on whether it needs to be followed through, modified or omitted in the specific situation.

The above outline of steps and the descriptions that follow refer to the preparation of a specific land-use plan in response to a perceived need. It is not always possible to work through the procedures step by step in this way. Two other approaches are possible: emergency planning and incremental planning.

Emergency planning

Land-use planners are often called in when a problem situation has already been identified, for example severe soil erosion or the onset of salinization in an irrigation scheme. An immediate diagnosis has to be made on the basis of a field visit and whatever information is to hand. Recommendations for remedial action are needed at once. In this situation, the planning process begins at Step 3, analysis of problems, and ends with a highly compressed version of Steps 4 to 10. No general procedure can be offered but this kind of work needs an experienced team with a breadth of expertise in land resources, social sciences and the legal and administrative aspects of land use.

Figure 4: Steps in land-use planning: inputs, activities and outputs

Source: Dent and Ridgway (1986).

Box 6
Contents of the land- use plan

Executive summary. A summary of the goals, proposed changes in land use and methods for implementation of the plan, giving a clear overview of the essentials.

Terms of reference. Area, problems and goals (Step 1).

Land-use problems. Existing land-use systems and their problems (environmental, economic, social), constraints, environmental conservation standards (Step 3).

Land-use types and management. Improved systems of land use recommended for the area; how these should be managed on each land unit, for example drainage, crop varieties, tree species, fertilizer (Step 4).

Land suitability. Maps, tables and explanatory text showing the physical land suitability for each land-use type on each land unit (Step 5).

Appraisal of alternatives. Analysis of the environmental, economic and social consequences of alternative options for changes in land use (Step 6).

Recommended changes in land use. A statement on which changes in land use have been selected, together with reasons for these decisions (Step 7).

The land-use plan. Maps and text showing the selected changes in land use, and where they are to be implemented or recommended (Step 8).

Implementation of the plan. How the planned improvements are to be put into practice; requirements for staffing, training, extension, infrastructure, supplies, research; timing and budget (Step 8).

Procedures for monitoring and revision. How the degree of success of the plan is to be assessed; procedures for ongoing revision (Step 10).

Supporting information. Detailed information gathered in the course of the planning exercise (for example rainfall variability, soil survey, forest inventory, population data, maps and statistics of present land use, study of marketing facilities, summary of interviews with farmers). This is so that people can understand the reasons for decisions taken and, where appropriate, re-evaluate selected aspects in the light of changes in circumstances.

Incremental planning

Planning does not necessarily have to proceed by means of specific, time-bound plans. It can proceed incrementally, by making small local changes. An advantage is that mistakes, for example a crop variety that is attacked by a pest, can be identified early on before losses have become serious. This is how individual land users operate, but planners can also contribute. They can assist change by offering their own skills, for example technical knowledge of small-scale irrigation methods, and by being agents in bringing in outside resources.

The initiative for incremental planning is likely to come from the land users (bottom-up planning). It requires that the planning agency should be on the spot and continuously in touch with the land users, and it is therefore more likely to be conducted by a national land-use planning agency or its district branches than by a specially convened external team. In formal terms this approach again commences with a perceived problem, Step 3, followed by a compressed version of Steps 4 to 10 in which one or more solutions to the problem are identified, their consequences considered and action taken.

Planning and implementation

Plans are made in order to be put into practice; the effort put into the planning exercise is wasted if this is not done. Occasionally, the outcome of the planning process may be a recommendation that changes are undesirable or impracticable but, normally, successful implementation marks the achievement of the goals of the plan.

In most cases, however, implementation is not part of the planning process as such, but is a separate exercise. Step 8 prepares for implementation while Step 10 is the planning activity which continues in parallel with it. In these guidelines, the description of Step 9 is an account of the potential roles of the planning team in implementation.

At the national level, implementation is usually a matter of government decisions on priorities. In planning at the district level, implementation will often be achieved through a development project, requiring considerably greater resources of personnel and finance than the planning exercise. In this circumstance, Steps 8 and 9 are effectively a pre-project evaluation. It is only at the local level that implementation may be more integral with planning, using the same team and resources.

Planning as an iterative process

Planning has to be continuous. There is never enough knowledge about the land and its response to management and, as more information and experience are gained, plans have to be changed. Figures 3 and 4 show the planning process progressing in logical steps, one after another, although in practice it is often necessary to repeat earlier steps in the light of experience. In particular, the land-use proposals arrived at by Step 7 should be open to discussion and may be recast several times by repeating earlier steps of the planning process before a firm choice is made and the plan implemented. Further changes may be needed during the lifetime of a plan because external conditions change, for example the development of new markets for a product or a change of government policy.

The planner's task is never finished! Some of the changes in land use may have proved unsuccessful. Frequently, changes that were desirable five, ten or 20 years ago are no longer suited to present circumstances. The circular or iterative nature of land-use planning suggested in Figure 3 has an element of truth in it; a time may come when monitoring and revision of a previous plan is no longer sufficient and the planners will need to shift from Step 10 of an earlier plan to Step 1 of a new one.

The land-use plan

The planning exercise will normally be presented as a report with maps. For more substantial plans, the report is likely to consist of a relatively short executive summary; a main text volume, with maps, describing the changes proposed; and one or more volumes of appendixes giving supporting data. An outline of what the report is likely to contain is given in Box 6, Contents of the land-use plan, which indicates the steps that have contributed to each section.

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