Urban Planning, Power, and Conflict

James Simmie. Handbook of Urban Studies. Editor: Ronan Paddison. SAGE Publications. 2001.

Large-scale industrial and commercial cities were mainly invented in Britain during the early part of the nineteenth century. Before that time Rome had probably been the largest city in the world during its imperial era. As a result of the first Industrial Revolution in England, the development of new industries, such as cotton, combined with new forms of production, such as factories, led to rapid urbanization and the growth of the first large industrial and commercial cities. The economic changes underlying this urban growth also led to major social changes in phenomena such as social stratification and consequential political changes such as the rise of the Labour Party in Britain.

Urban growth and change therefore need to be analysed in the wider context of regional, national and, increasingly, global economic, social and political change. Cities are the geographic concentrations where these wider societal forces are played out. Although each city has its own historically specific economic, social and political characteristics, these specifics are composed of the particular elements of the wider societal forces operating in that particular geographic location combined with the actions and reactions of local institutions and actors.

One major element of these specifics in all cities is the use of land and buildings. These constitute one of the most important physically visible defining characteristics of urbanization. Great concentrations of public and private buildings, factories, offices, shops and houses, parks, libraries, museums and stadia, roads and railways are both symbolically and functionally how most people define and recognize cities. Behind the development of these physical artefacts, however, lie the working of elements of economy, society and politics, usually mediated through some kind of public land use planning and regulation system. This is true even in the case of Houston, Texas, which has been misleadingly characterized as arranging all its land uses through markets (Siegan, 1972).

Nevertheless, Siegan (1972) raises the important question of why any city actually needs or develops a land-use planning system at all. This is a question that needs to be asked on a regular basis whether the cities in question are located in North America, Europe, or Australasia. It needs to be asked even more often in some Third World countries which have developed mega-cities with populations in excess of 25 million people.

Four main arguments that address this question in different ways are analysed in this chapter. They focus on the conflicts that develop over urbanization and consequential debates around the nature and powers of planning systems in relation to issues such as:

  • Private interests versus the public interest.
  • Private individuals versus public institutions.
  • Private property rights versus public regulation.
  • Markets versus plans.

In the first case, in capitalist economic systems the interests of private property owners are hegemonic. But the unfettered pursuit of these private interests gives rise to a whole range of undesirable externality effects as far as the generality of the urban public are concerned. As a result, there have been conflicts between the absolute abilities of private property owners to propose, oppose and dispose of their properties exactly as they see fit, and collective interests expressed in terms of a public interest to influence and curtail these freedoms. In practice the outcome of such conflicts may reduce the extreme freedoms of private property owners to site such noxious developments as bone crushing and blood boiling factories next to middle-class housing. In less extreme cases, the conflicts are more often resolved by compromises that favour the interests of private property owners. This is true of both the British and Californian planning systems compared and contrasted in this chapter.

The second set of conflicts arise once public land-use planning institutions have been established. They revolve around the issue of who influences and controls the goals and objectives of these institutions. This depends on the balance of elitist or pluralist control in different political systems over their public agencies. This is often expressed in the degrees to which public participation in planning is permitted or demanded. The highly elitist and centralized planning system in Britain does not provide adequate democratic controls over the main goals and objectives of land-use planning. In contrast, in California, such institutions as ballots, recalls, initiatives and referenda are available to middle-class groups wishing to hold their elected and appointed planning representatives to account.

The third set of conflicts that establish the characteristics of particular land-use planning systems revolve around the degree to which political systems are moved to introduce systematic formal legislation which seeks to regulate private property rights. This depends very much on the power of property owners to enshrine their own individual freedoms in the ideology of the planning legislation. This power changes through time. In general, however, British town planning legislation is still based on the fundamentals of the central government 1947 Town and Country Planning Act. This effectively nationalized all new urban property rights from that time to the present. It is much more draconian than the more piecemeal state and local legislation enacted in California. Both systems are subject to fairly regular pressures to change in somewhat contradictory directions. Urban property owners and developers often seek legislative relaxations in their interests. Rural property owners often press for tougher legislation to prevent new developments in their own backyards.

The fourth conflict at the heart of the establishment and subsequent nature of land use-planning systems focuses on the degree to which they seek to replace free markets with plans. The control and regulation of land and property markets changes the reward structures of private owners. Those that can acquire permissions to develop reap larger rewards in restrictive circumstances than would otherwise have been the case. Those who are refused permission to develop lose virtually the entire potential development value of their property. Not surprisingly such decisions, and the basis of the planning system that gives rise to them, lead to conflicts. One of the most significant of these is stimulated by attempts to recoup for the community some or all of the new property values that it has created by giving public planning permission to develop. In Britain such attempts have generally been reduced in scope until they are now limited to specific ‘planning gain’ agreements concerned with individual projects. In California some cities such as Los Angeles resisted planned market interventions right up to the 1980s. In such an ideological framework the idea that some private property benefits should be appropriated by the state is anathema.

All these conflicts involve, in one way or another, the distribution of scarce land uses and property rights to different groups, organizations and social classes producing, working or living in cities. They deal with the quintessential political questions of who gets what, when and how (Lass-well, 1958). As a result they are also the focus of attempts by different interest groups to exercise power over the goals, objectives and outcomes of land-use planning. This is the case in virtually all cities. Empirical evidence to this effect abounds in the community power study literature (for a summary see Simmie, 1981: ch. 1; LeGates and Stout, 1996: ch. 4), which mainly refers to the USA; in British studies, such as those by Brindley et al. (1989), Saunders (1979), and Simmie (1974, 1981) all show the significance of power with respect to planning from the Second World War onwards; it has been shown to be a key feature of planning in Australasia by Badcock (1984), and across Europe, North and South America by Castells (1983).

Two major case studies are used to illustrate the working of these conflicts in this chapter. They are the British and Californian land-use planning systems. These two are selected partly because the author has worked within both of them and, more importantly, because they represent relatively extreme cases of tough and relaxed planning regimes set in significantly different economic, social and political circumstances. Many planning regimes in other countries fall somewhere between these two extremes of tough and relaxed regulation of land uses and development.

The two regimes are compared and contrasted in terms of how the four major conflicts identified in this introduction are worked out. Despite significantly different starting points, it is shown -when it comes to regulating private property rights in capitalist societies – public interests, institutions, regulations and plans often meet with limited success. One of the few major differences between California and Britain is the more extensive institutional arrangements for calling elected representatives and planning bureaucracies to account in California. There at least the vocal and organized middle classes can affect directly the goals and objectives set in their local planning system.

In general it is argued that, at any point in time, the current characteristics of both planning systems will reflect the outcomes of the balance of forces between those ranged against each other over the various aspects of the major categories of conflict outlined above. The systems are therefore in a constant condition of tension and change.

A final section will summarize the main points of the argument and draw some conclusions. It will be argued that, although the British and Californian land-use planning systems are often seen as significantly different from one another, when attention is focused on key phenomena such as the furtherance of private property rights and markets, they are not so different as they are made out to be.

Private Interests versus the Public Interest


Britain has no written constitution. Parliament is sovereign. Party discipline in Parliament is enforced through the carrot of prime ministerial patronage and the stick of the ‘whipping’ system. In practice this means that a party that can gain a majority of Members of Parliament can override opposition and can introduce or change any law. This system has been likened to an elected dictatorship by Lord Hailsham, a former Lord Chancellor. It partly accounts for the highly centralized and elitist nature of government in Britain. If the relatively small governing elite can be persuaded to initiate or support a measure, then it can be made law despite opposition. For this reason the embryonic, pre-war town planning movement made its appeal by elites outside Parliament to the governing elite inside Parliament.

The war-time coalition government drawn from all parties was receptive to the idea of planning for two main reasons. The first of these was the recent experience of the economic collapse and depression during the late 1920s and early 1930s. This combined with wartime production needs gave rise to ideas for and an acceptance of the need for economic planning. The second reason was the need to provide a morale-boosting vision of post-war society. Ideas for economic and land-use planning were developed, along with other aspects of a ‘welfare state’, as part of this vision.

The ideas for the land-use planning part of this vision were developed by elites both inside and outside Parliament. According to Hall et al. (1973) these elites followed a unitary model of society in which social stability and harmony were of prime concern. These views failed to recognize the inherent conflicts of interests both between different elites and between them and the rest of the population which have dogged land-use planning in Britain ever since the Second World War.

These basic conflicts rest on the differences of interest between manufacturing industry and agriculture, often expressed as a difference between town and country; and between these and the mass of the working population. During the war there was some cooperation between manufacturing and agriculture because of their importance to the war effort. There was some acceptance by their elites that better conditions should be promised to the working masses than they had experienced before the war. As a result, an elite view of the public interest was developed.

Hall et al. (1973) argue that the British elites proposed an ‘organismic’ vision of the public interest. By this they mean that society as a whole had some interests which were different from those of partial and separate private interests. This organismic vision of the public interest was, however, a lofty and imprecise definition of the public good in terms of ends which were ideologically derived. Because the elites involved in developing this lofty vision were influenced by different and conflicting ideologies, the view of the public interest that they arrived at was also inconsistent. To disguise the inconsistencies, it was also vague.

The post-war history of the conflicts between private interests and the public interest in British land-use planning is one of a shifting balance. During the post-war years the public interest in planning was defined by relatively small numbers of politicians, civil servants and experts. It was elitist and inconsistent. It contained conflicting elements of both the ideologies of private property and the public interest.

During the 1950s and 1960s there was relatively full employment and rising affluence among the masses. Increasing profits could be made from development. As a result, private property interests both in terms of home owners and developers began to re-assert themselves over the public interest in planning. Despite this, planning continued to claim that it was guided by the public interest even though that was defined by political, technical and property-owning elites. With the notable exception of the New Towns programme, planning had no means for implementing plans without negotiating with these elites.

The late 1960s and the 1970s saw a temporary attempt to redefine the public interest by non-elite groups through the ideology and mechanisms of public participation in planning. There were two main reasons why this movement arose at this time. The first was the ability of members of the public to monitor the effects of post-war planning for themselves. Many of the original schemes for comprehensive redevelopment and high-rise public housing had been completed by this time. Frequently they did not measure up to the elitist visions of the public interest portrayed before they were started. Those who lived in them or could see their effects demanded a say in future schemes.

The second reason for the emergence of demands for public participation at this time was economic decline. This set in during the 1970s. It meant that it became increasingly difficult to follow social objectives without treating different groups or areas differently. Policy-making became more of a zero-sum game in which one group’s gain became a lost opportunity for another group or area. Politics deals with these kinds of issues and so planning became more overtly politiczed during this period.

Continued economic decline during the 1980s meant that it became even more difficult to satisfy rising social demands in conditions of falling or static economic growth. To meet this conflict the ideology of private property was reasserted in Britain during this period.


In contrast with Britain, America has a written constitution. Any instance of the assertion of a public interest over private interests therefore has to follow from some provision of the Constitution. The provisions which provide such a basis for land-use planning are twofold. First, there is the Tenth Amendment to the Constitution – the reserved powers doctrine. This states that any powers not specifically granted to the federal government in the constitution are reserved by the individual states. As land-use planning powers have not been specifically granted to the federal government they therefore rest with individual states which wish to take them up.

Secondly, the general power resting at the state level which forms the basis of planning is called ‘police power’. This is the power of a governmental entity to restrict private activity in order to achieve a broad public benefit. In California police power is used to protect the health, safety, morals and welfare of the public. For more than a century it has been used to justify governmental regulation over the use of land.

Police power does not rest inherently with city hall. Local government in California exercises police power over land uses only because the state government has delegated that power to them. Article XI, Section 7, of the California Constitution states A county or city may make and enforce within its limits all local, police, sanitary, and other ordinances and regulations not in conflict with general laws.’

Local ordinances and regulations must not contradict constitutional principles. Among the most important of these for planning are the concepts of due process, equal protection and the unlawful taking of property without compensation. The last has proved to be a long-running conflict between private interests and the public interest as expressed in land-use planning. It will be seen later that private interests have often taken the view that any effective planning regulations constitute a taking of property. Conflicts such as these mean that the actual breadth and depth of police powers expressed in planning are almost always in a state of change.

Planning commentators tend to look back on earlier eras with some nostalgia. One common theme is that the public interest was easier to define in planning at the time it was first established than it is now. It is claimed that ‘Planning does not have a strong sense of the public interest any more. Each group claims to represent the public interest while in fact representing a much narrower interest’ (Fulton, 1991: 13). But, to European eyes, American planning systems never seem to have been based on the kind of temporary ideological and political consensus that prevailed in Britain after the Second World War.

The most famous early zoning ordinance in America, for example, was passed in 1916 by New York City. It was designed to stop the march of the hoi polloi up Fifth Avenue towards the homes of the rich. Its primary purpose was therefore to assert private interests over the public interest. The history of planning in California is replete with examples of political and legal conflicts. The golden era of consensus and a public interest based on it seems to be even more of a myth in California than it has been elsewhere.


The main constitutional difference between Britain and the USA is the existence of a written constitution in the latter. This provides an important ongoing framework within which the two parties must operate. In Britain the absence of a written constitution allows any party with a majority in Parliament to legislate on the basis of almost any strongly held set of ideological beliefs.

In these differing contexts many planning regulations have been enacted. In both cases, however, it has proved extremely difficult to introduce any lasting concept of the public interest which runs counter to private property interests. In Britain the highly elitist nature of government has meant that both the development of a land-use planning system and its subsequent operation was both instigated by elites and appealed to private interests such as major rural landowners, who are still mainly exempted from its provisions.

In California the planning system has been effected by the presumptions in the US Constitution which are strongly in favour of private property. The spirit of frontier individualism which pervades politics in the state has also viewed any intervention in the freedom of individuals to dispose of their private property as they wish with deep suspicion. In both Britain and California conflicts between private interests and the public interest are usually resolved on terms which are reasonably satisfactory to the former.

Private Individuals versus Public Institutions


Because Britain has no written constitution, Parliament is sovereign and the heads of the legislature, executive and judiciary all merge there. Power is thus highly centralized and private individuals have little control over public institutions. The administrative structure and procedures of the planning system are therefore largely determined by central government elites and those with access to them.

Parliament determines both the structure of government and the allocation of different planning functions to different parts of that structure. Both have been subject to periodic major changes since the Second World War. Throughout the entire post-war period, however, the relevant central government department has supervised both local government and the planning system. Until 1970 this was called the Ministry of Housing and Local Government (MHLG). In 1970 it was amalgamated with the Ministries of Public Building and Works, and Transport and its name was changed to the Department of the Environment (DoE). After the Labour Party election victory in 1997 its functions and name were changed once again to the Department of Environment, Transport and the Regions (DETR).

Both the old MHLG and DoE and the more recent DETR have the function of supervising local government and planning according to the legislation on these two subjects laid down by Parliament. Since 1997 the DETR has supervised the planning system, interpreted and made routine government planning policy and acted as the administrative court of appeal in disputed planning decisions. It is a powerful central ministry.

The original elitist, idealized planning system was intended to be centralized and unitary. In other words, it was envisaged that the old MHLG would perform most of the major planning functions. In the event, the day-to-day administration of the planning system was delegated to the largest local authorities after the war. These were the 58 counties, administering mainly rural areas, and the 83 county borough councils in urban areas.

In 1974 local land-use planning functions were split between two tiers of government. Strategic planning, in the form of structure plans, was allocated to the counties in England and Wales, and regions in Scotland. Local planning, in the form of local plans, was allocated to the district councils. This was a recipe for continual conflict between the two tiers of local government over planning matters. Many of these conflicts did not involve the general public directly. They were more often between property-owning county elites, seeking to protect their property values and amenities, and urban-based developers seeking to erect housing, industrial and commercial property in the counties.

The general public had least influence over the most important strategic, structure plans. The Secretary of State had a much greater degree of control here. These plans had to be approved by him and also to include any modifications which he demanded. Local plans then had to be certified as being in accordance with the relevant structure plan. Even then, the Secretary of State could ‘call in’ any politically controversial proposals or decisions made by the second tier district councils and decide the matter for himself.

Paradoxically, it was the rise of popular, participatory planning in the conurbations during the 1970s that led the government to propose changes to both the upper tier of local government and structure plans. Conflicts between a Labour-controlled Greater London Council (GLC) and central government over the non-private oriented aspects of the Greater London Development Plan (GLDP), the structure plan for London, contributed to the central government abolition of all the metropolitan counties in 1986. Their strategic planning was conducted within the DOE, whose dictates were then handed down to the boroughs in the case of London. They were bound to follow this ‘advice’ in drawing up what are now called ‘unitary development plans’ (UDPs).

The evolving system of public planning institutions in Britain is one that normally excludes the general public from any significant involvement in major and strategic decisions. Instead, organized elite private interests focus their lobbying and influence on Parliament in order to have their interests included in parliamentary legislation and on the DoE in order to influence major administrative decisions. Examples of such private interests operating in this way, and often in conflict with one another, are the Council for the Preservation of Rural England (CPRE) and the House Builders’ Federation (HBF).

A major new development in this structure of government is the growing importance of European Union (EU) institutions. At the moment two elements of these are of particular relevance for planning in Britain. The first is the Directorate General XVI, which deals with regional planning. This has the second largest budget of all the European Commission Directorates after agriculture. Already it has forced a Conservative government to spend funds on declining coalfields before receiving additional EU funds.

The second EU measure which is of significance for British planning is the 1986 Directive on Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA). This says that member states are required to assess the effects of both public and private projects which are likely to have significant impacts on the environment as a consequence of their nature, size or location. Despite some recalcitrance on the part of the British government to comply with the spirit of this Directive, most notably by avoiding its use on the Channel Tunnel project, they have had to comply with the letter of the Directive since 1988. The full implementation of this Directive should make it much easier to monitor the effects of major planning decisions in the future if only because of the information that EIAs will make public.


In California on the one side are public institutions with varying planning responsibilities. These include the federal government, the California state government, different regional agencies, numerous special districts, counties and cities. On the other side are private individuals who can seek to determine the planning objectives of these institutions using lobbying, political participation, ballots, recall, initiatives and referenda.

The power of Congress over planning is both ubiquitous and indirect. It is ubiquitous in the sense that the federal government can touch on all public policy-making. Thus, for example, federal environmental laws such as the Endangered Species Act and the wetlands provisions of the Clean Water Act have the power virtually to stop local development if the environment is threatened. It is indirect in the sense that the police powers, such as those used as the basis of local planning, are exercised by individual states.

In practice it is the Californian state legislature which has established the framework and roles of local planning in that state over the past 80 years. At the state level itself, the Governor can influence transportation planning. The State Department of Transportation, usually known as Caltrans, has played a crucial role in establishing the state’s pattern of growth. But, as state transportation funds have dwindled so has the ability of Caltrans to determine the patterns of urban growth.

The state also has a major effect on what planning is required at the level of cities and counties. It passed the first Subdivision Map Act in 1907. The first General Plan law was passed in 1927. It first required that specific elements, such as housing and circulation, should be included in general plans in the 1950s. Finally, it required that zoning ordinances should be consistent with general plans in 1971. All these activities help to determine the nature and scope of local planning in cities and counties.

Within the state of California there are also a number of different kinds of regional agencies which also affect land-use planning directly or indirectly. The most important of these are the specifically regional planning agencies such as the San Francisco Bay Conservation and Development Commission, the Coastal Commission and the Tahoe Regional Planning Commission; and the agencies that build infrastructure on a regional level such as Caltrans and the Metropolitan Water District of Southern California.

In some parts of California there are also nominal regional governments partly concerned with land-use planning. These are known as Councils of Government (COGs). Examples are the Southern California Association of Governments (SCAG) in Los Angeles, the Association of Bay Area Governments (ABAG) in San Francisco and the San Diego Association of Governments (SANDAG). These are groupings of local governments and business interests rather like the London and South East Regional Planning Conference (SERPLAN) in Britain. Their only real power used to come from administering federal and state grants. As these were cut the power of the COGs has declined.

A more important group of state-established regional agencies that affect planning are special districts. Two in particular are important from a planning point of view. These are air pollution control districts and local agency formation commissions (LAFCOs). Air pollution districts have traditionally only dealt with stationary sources of pollution. Even so, this has important implications for planning. They also look set to become even more important by trying to cut down on the use of moving vehicles. LAFCOs rule on all incorporations of new cities, annexations and boundary changes. Boundary decisions, in particular, contribute to the regulation of the conversion of rural and agricultural land into urban development within cities and are therefore particularly significant for land-use planning.

Despite this plethora of different institutions concerned with planning, counties and cities are the two types of local government with primary responsibility for the production of general plans, zoning and the regulation of land-uses according to the criteria contained in them. Counties are created by the state. Every square inch of California falls into one of its 58 counties. Cities are created by local citizens to serve their own purposes. These usually include the provision of urban services such as water, sewers and police. There are about 450 cities in California.

Both counties and cities conduct land-use planning. Planning powers within city boundaries rest with those cities. Outside the cities and in unincorporated areas they rest with the counties. The form of local government in both is non-partisan. That is to say, individuals do not stand for election to them on the basis of party political divisions. Once elected they do not divide or vote along party lines. Counties are run by a board of supervisors. Cities are run by a city council. Unlike in Britain, both these bodies usually consist of only five members. The same is true of the separate planning commission which is appointed by the supervisors or council.

Both counties and cities usually have a department of officials to carry out planning on their behalf. In cities this may be part of a much larger community development department which encompasses other related activities such as housing, transportation and building code enforcement. These public institutions come into conflict with private individuals seeking to use their activities for their own private purposes.

American government in general is subjected to the activities of many full-time professional lobbyists. At the state level any major land-use planning bill is likely to attract the attentions of the League of California Cities, the County Supervisors of the individual counties and cities of California, the California Building Industry Association, the California Association of Realtors and environmental groups such as the Sierra Club. As a result, planning legislation comes to reflect compromises between the kinds of interests that can afford the time and resources to lobby in this way.

Individuals, on the other hand, can determine the content of state planning policies by the use of the ballot. Any issue can appear on the state wide ballot as an initiative or referendum if enough signatures are gathered to place it on the ballot. Major examples of this procedure in practice are the Coastal Act, 1972, which established the Coastal Commission to protect the coast from overdevelopment; and Proposition 13, the 1978 initiative that cut property taxes dramatically.

Similar procedures can be used at the local level. Citizens can also use the procedure known as ‘recall’ to bring an elected official back to the ballot box before their normal term of office has expired. Because most day-to-day land-use planning powers rest with local elected officials, the attempts of private individuals to use the public institution of planning to satisfy their private interests results in a high degree of politicization of planning. Planning in California is inseparable from politics.

The conflict between the interests of private individuals and those of public planning institutions has been seen at its sharpest following the passage of Proposition 13. That cut property taxes as a source of public authority revenue. It left sales tax as the remaining source of public revenue that was not constrained. Local authorities have reacted by aiming for fiscal growth by attracting large new sources of sales tax revenues into their jurisdictions. On the other hand, many of the same individuals who voted for tax cuts are also interested in the new planning growth management controls. In many cases fiscal growth by local governments is in direct conflict with growth management.


In Britain private individuals have little influence over the public institutions that make strategic decisions in land-use planning. As a result they have sometimes resorted to direct action as the only means of insisting that their voices are heard. In the past much of this form of protest has involved major infrastructure projects such as new motorways or airport runways. It has been met as much by administrative changes that make it even more difficult to object to such proposals legally as it has with success in stopping them.

In California, in contrast, there are constitutional methods for introducing the interests of private individuals into the decisions of public planning institutions. Individuals in California have several ways of holding their elected representatives directly to account, as we have seen above. Although by no means perfect, they offer democratic opportunities to citizens not afforded to their British counterpart.

Private Property Rights versus Public Regulation


The 1947 Town and Country Planning Act expropriated all the future urban private property rights of owners to change the existing uses of their buildings or to construct new ones at will. The major, and often elite, land users, agriculture, forestry, statutory undertakers, the Crown and the military, were exempt from these provisions. From that time, private property owners wishing to carry out urban development had to acquire planning permission from the relevant local planning authority (LPA).

Development was defined broadly as ‘the carrying out of building, engineering, mining or other operations in, on, over or under land, or the making of any material change in the use of any buildings or other land’. A series of subsequent Town and Country Planning and closely related Acts in 1968, 1971, 1980 and 1990 have modified the details but maintained these basic principles of the 1947 Act.

These public regulations have created sharp distinctions between the private property rights of those who can acquire planning permission and those who cannot. The underlying justifications for public distinction between them rest on two quite different principles. On the one hand, the publicly created oligopolistic profits enjoyed by those who can acquire planning permission are justified as legitimate rewards for enterprise. On the other hand, those who cannot acquire the right to develop their property are prevented from doing so on the grounds that such development would cause nuisance to others (Reade, 1987: 22).

Local planning decisions which separate these two sets of private property rights are based on two main elements. The first of these elements is development plans. The second is development control. Like the structure of local government, both have been subject to change since their statutory arrival in the 1947 Town and Country Planning Act.

During the 1960s development plans were separated into general, strategic ‘structure’ plans and detailed ‘local’ plans. It was wrongly assumed that, with the exception of London, these would be produced and operated within a single local planning authority. In the event, structure plans were made the responsibility of counties and local plans were given to the districts after the reorganization of local government in England and Wales in 1974.

Initially, structure plans were broad strategic plans which included some economic and social considerations. They had to be approved by the Secretary of State who, by this time, was ensconced in the DoE which had superseded the MHLG. Once approved, they became statutory documents. Local plans produced by the districts had to be certified as being in accordance with their relevant county’s structure plan.

The history of structure plans is one of the progressive reassertion of private property rights as their scope has been whittled away by the Secretary of State. First to go was their economic and social content. The DoE soon insisted that they confine themselves exclusively to matters of land use. The next nail in their coffin was the conservative government’s 1980 Local Government, Planning and Land Act. This effectively emasculated structure plans by allowing districts to prepare local plans without waiting for an approved structure plan, and placing all control over development, apart from mineral extraction and waste disposal, in the hands of the districts. This was followed in 1985 by the Local Government Act which abolished the metropolitan counties and placed their strategic planning functions in the hands of the Secretary of State.

Local plans were introduced at the same time as structure plans. They were prepared by the district councils. They could take the form of general plans covering the whole range of local planning issues, ‘subject plans’ concerned with specific matters and ‘action area plans’ which were related to specific localities. They have always been concerned with the more traditional aspects of land-use planning and especially with questions of layout and design. Even so, a circular from the Secretary of State (circular 22/80) required them to devote less concern to layout, design, non-conforming uses and public participation. During the 1980s districts were under pressure from central government to pay more attention to private property rights and less to their public regulation.

Under the latest Unitary Development Plan (UDP) system, such strategic planning as will take place will be laid down by the Secretary of State in the form of regional planning guidelines. These will determine the framework within which local plans will have to be produced. It will depend very much on the attitude of central government to private property rights as to how far their interests will be written into regional planning guidelines. The evidence so far suggests that the rights of certain kinds of private property will carry more weight against their regulation than at any time since the Second World War.

The second main element of the British planning system is development control. Development control is the power to decide whether or not a specific development can take place on a specific site, to control the intensity of the development permitted and to control its layout and design. It is at the heart of the British land-use planning system. It is the point at which individual property rights come into direct conflict with public regulation.

Development control has traditionally been operated mainly by the lowest tier of government. At first this was the counties and county borough councils. Since 1974 the districts have had the main responsibility for operating the development control system. Decisions are expected to be in accordance with the contents of any relevant public and formal plans. They are also expected to be consistent with the provisions of two central government orders. These are the General Development Order (GDO) and the Use Classes Order (UCO). The GDO specifies which limited types of development can take place without planning permission. The UCO categorizes land uses. Planning permission is not required for changes of use within certain defined categories.

Until the 1980s the development control system regulated strongly urban types of private property rights. Since then its operation has been relaxed and speeded up by central government. The exceptions to these general principles are in what are called ‘designated areas’. These are green belts, conservation areas, national parks and areas of outstanding natural beauty.

In addition to the statutory framework, development plans and development control, planning decisions in Britain are also influenced strongly by circulars from the Secretary of State, dispatched to LPAs at regular intervals. One of the more important of these was 22/80. It recommended to LPAs various ways in which the operation of the planning system should be speeded up and made more responsive to the private property rights of large-scale developers.

Circulars do not have any statutory force, but LPAs are advised to follow their requirements because, should they refuse planning permission and that decision be taken to appeal, the Secretary of State is the ultimate judge and jury, through the ministerial inspectorate, of that appeal. The Secretary of State can therefore reverse any decision taken at the local level to accord with his or her wishes as expressed in circulars.

The history of conflicts between private property rights and their public regulation can be summed up as one of strict elitist regulation of urban rights after the Second World War, an element of popular public regulation during the 1970s, and the steady reassertion of urban private property rights through the 1980s. The system is still changing.


The third conflict at the heart of the Californian planning system is also between private property rights and their public regulation. The results of this conflict have swung the nature of planning in California from a primary concern with the rights of private property owners before and after the Second World War, through growing regulation during the 1960s and 1970s, and back again to private property rights during the 1980s and 1990s. This reflects the continuing conflict between private property rights on the one hand and public regulation on the other.

The rights of private property owners are a fundamental constitutional principle in California. The degree of significance attached to them there is a major distinguishing feature between the political economy of California and Britain. In California private property rights are respected by the courts and guarded by civil libertarians. Planning, on the other hand, is a classic regulatory system which, in principle, is designed to restrain the exercise of private rights in order to achieve a public good. The technical basis of planning regulation is a series of laws which have been passed by the state legislature and interpreted by the courts right up to the Federal Supreme Court.

The characteristic American and Californian planning regulation of private property rights is zoning. This is a system which allocates all urban land to zones in which only certain types of building are permitted. Early zoning was cumulative. This placed single family houses at the top of a pyramid of desirable land uses and industrial property at the bottom. In this system any land-use zone was permitted to accommodate any uses below it but not above it. Thus, industrial zones could contain a mixture of all uses because they formed the base of the pyramid. Single family zones could only contain single family houses because they were at the top of the pyramid. Cumulative zoning was replaced during the building boom after the Second World War by exclusive zoning. This allowed only one type of use in each zone.

Although zoning regulates the uses of private property this has not always been against the interests of private property owners. Initially it was used in New York, in 1916, to prevent the continued encroachment of rented tenements up Fifth Avenue towards the privately owned mansions of the bourgeoisie. The constitutionality of such zoning was upheld by the Supreme Court in 1926 in the case of the Village of Euclid, Ohio versus Ambler Realty Company. The village in this case lent its name to the subsequent Euclidean zoning which divided all a municipality’s land into districts and aimed to treat all property owners within those districts equally.

Although property owners within districts have been treated more or less equally, residents within different districts have not. Post-war exclusionary zoning practices tended to operate in the interests of property owners and against those of non-owners. Single-family house zoning on quarter-acre plots, for example, was covertly designed to prevent reductions in property values by not allowing poor urban renters to escape to the privately owned suburbs. Prices were maintained at too high a level for them to be able to do so.

During the 1960s and 1970s planning regulation of private property rights was increased by the growing use of existing or new planning laws. These included the planning, zoning and development laws discussed above. In addition to these, there are six other major laws which are significant for planning in California.

First there is the General Plan Law. This requires that all local governments prepare a general plan for the future development of their city or county, and lay out all the state’s requirements governing what a general plan should contain. The general plan is the same as the document that most planners outside California refer to as the Comprehensive or Master Plan. It is a comprehensive document that establishes the city or county’s land-use policies and also details the likely future development patterns.

Second, the Subdivision Map Act governs all subdivisions of land. It requires that local governments establish regulations to guide subdivisions. It grants powers to local governments to ensure that the subdivision occurs in an orderly and responsible manner.

Third, the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA) requires local governments to conduct some form of environmental review on virtually all public and private development projects. CEQA’s requirements, which are mostly procedural, sometimes cause local governments to prepare environmental impact reports on specific development projects, detailing the likely environmental damage the projects would cause.

Fourth, the Coastal Act, which was originally passed as a ballot initiative in 1972, establishes special planning requirements for coastal areas and creates a powerful state agency, the Coastal Commission, to oversee coastal planning.

Fifth, the Community Redevelopment Law gives cities and counties great power to redevelop blighted areas. It is perhaps the most powerful single tool local government possesses, other than the basic laws permitting them to engage in planning at all.

Finally, there is the Cortese-Knox Local Government Reorganization Act, which is not strictly speaking a planning law. Its provisions play an important role in local planning because it governs procedures by which local government boundaries may be changed. Under the Act, all annexations, incorporations and other boundary changes must be processed through a special countrywide agency called the Local Agency Formation Commission (LAFCO) (Fulton, 1991: 223).

During the 1960s and through until the mid-1980s the Californian courts gave planning agencies a relatively free hand to apply these laws in regulating land uses. But, towards the end of the 1970s, the past 15 years of the expansion of these regulatory powers stimulated a counter-reaction in the form of the property rights movement. When this coincided with the political shift to the right under Ronald Reagan, the property movement began to have some successes. The most notable of these were, first, in 1981, when the legislature passed the development agreement statute. This permitted developers to enter into long-term contracts with local governments to secure their vested property rights irrespective of future conditions.

In 1987 two US Supreme Court rulings known as the First English and the Nollan cases also upheld the constitutional rights of property owners against governmental agencies seeking to regulate the use of their land. In the First Evengelical Lutheran Church versus the County of Los Angeles, it ruled that a property owner whose land was taken by regulation is entitled to just compensation even if the taking is only temporary. Thirdly, in the case of Nollan versus the Californian Coastal Commission, the Supreme Court ruled that exactions and other conditions of approval placed on a development permit must be directly related to the project under consideration (Fulton, 1991: 60).

These three decisions swung the conflict between private property rights and their public regulation by planning agencies firmly back in favour of the former. That such conflicts are nearly always in a state of change, however, is illustrated by the fact that, at the same time as the rights of individual private property owners were being re-asserted in California, the rights of individual property developers were being restricted in some parts of California by the political pressure exerted by some of those very same individual owners. This pressure arose in the mid-1980s from concerns about traffic congestion and urban sprawl. This led to state action in Florida and New Jersey to manage growth. Individual cities have also begun to introduce growth management schemes in California.


The public regulation of private property rights is conducted in quite different ways in Britain and California. The 1947 Town and Country Planning Act which expropriated all new urban development rights in Britain was a draconian measure by Californian standards. There a much more piecemeal series of legislative activities have sought to exercise rather weaker powers over private property rights.

The system in Britain has been more uniform than in California. It has rested on the production of various kinds of development plans. Their provisions have then been enforced on private development proposals through a uniform system of development control which in turn rests on an extensive body of specialized planning law.

In California the rights of private property are enshrined and generally protected by the US Constitution. There has always been a major conflict between these rights and their legal regulation through a land-use planning system. The main vehicle for achieving regulation has been zoning. This is a much more general provision than the development control system in Britain. Given a particular zoning provision, private property owners may assume that they can exercise their development rights within that framework. In Britain there is much more detailed regulation on a case-by-case basis.

Markets versus Plans


One of the key reports which inspired the postwar British planning system was the Uthwatt (1942) Final Report of the Expert Committee on Compensation and Betterment. It dealt with the significance of introducing effective plans on land markets. Had its advice been followed in its entirety, markets in land would have been abolished altogether and replaced by plans. This was not done, however, and the post-war system was established on the basis of a combination of both markets and plans.

The initial intention was to alter the ways in which land markets had functioned before the war not only by the introduction of plans but also by the use of taxes on the oligopolistic profits made as a result of those plans. Three abortive attempts were made to alter the operation of the market and tax ‘betterment’ as it is called. The first, introduced in 1947, levied a 100 per cent tax on the difference in price of a piece of land before and after planning permission was granted. This did not stop land owners adding this and more to the price of their land. It was abolished by the Conservative government in 1953. A Labour government tried to reintroduce the tax on betterment in 1967 in the Land Commission Act. This time the tax was set at 40 per cent. This was again repealed by the incoming Conservative government in 1971. Labour tried again in 1976 with the Development Land Tax. This varied between two-thirds and four-fifths of the assessed betterment gains. It was modified and then abolished altogether by the Conservative government in 1985.

These attempts to replace markets in land by taxing the gains made as a result of planning were too radical to be willingly accepted by the dominant private property interests. As a result they were a failure. Land owners did their best to avoid them or pass on the extra costs to developers. No Conservative government would accept them on a permanent basis and so they became an ineffective political football. Without them there is an inherent contradiction in the attempt to operate a planning system. This is that without an effective tax on betterment, it will usually be the markets rather than plans that make the significant land-use planning decisions (Reade, 1987: 23).

An alternative method used to acquire an element of betterment arising from planning decisions is planning agreements. These involve bargains struck in secret between planners and developers over payments in kind or cash for planning permission. They were not much used before the 1971 Town and Country Planning Act and the 1974 Housing Act. They used to take their jargon name from Section 52 of the 1971 Act, and are now known as Section 106 Agreements after their place in the 1990 Town and Country Planning Act.

Planning agreements have been used to specify additional land uses, provide public rights of way and public open space, to extinguish existing use rights, to provide community buildings, to rehabilitate property, to provide infrastructure, to acquire free public buildings and to pay for car parking (Jowell, 1977). They are only common in conditions of economic growth. They do not cost developers as much as the various taxes on betterment were intended to.

During the economic decline of the 1980s, market forces were reasserted over plans by successive Conservative governments. Their general intention was to free up the restrictions contained in plans and to allow market forces to operate both in terms of the development of housing and national economic ‘growth’. The 1980 Local Government, Planning and Land Act and a whole string of subsequent circulars were all designed to achieve these ends. The result is that plans are now more market-led than they have ever been since 1947.


In California there is a general conflict between those who assert that decisions about the use of land and buildings should be left to the operation of relatively unfettered markets, and those who argue that some desirable outcomes do not arise if markets are left to decide and therefore plans should be made to ensure that they do arise. This conflict is expressed in California’s zoning, planning and development laws. These say that the purpose of planning is to ensure the preservation and use of land in ways which are economically and socially (emphasis added) desirable in an attempt to improve the quality of life in California (Fulton, 1991: 3).

Planning, as opposed to markets, is the process by which government agencies determine the intensity and geographical arrangement of various land uses in a community. These include residential projects, shopping centres, office and industrial employment centres, transportation facilities, agricultural land and parks. Most of these land uses are established or built by private developers. What planning does is to regulate where and what these uses are. In California this means that planning is mostly a regulatory and reactive activity. It seeks to regulate what private property owners do in order to achieve some public good that unrestrained market actions do not provide. In most cases the only way that it can seek to obtain a public good is by reacting to proposals for land-use changes and development from the private owners of property. Planners do not realize their own plans themselves.

The prerequisite for the realization of the provisions of regulatory and reactive planning is economic growth. Only with growth do developers come forward with proposals that such a planning system can regulate and react to. It is economic growth that has raised the concern with and significance of planning.

The state of California required every city and county to produce a general plan as long ago as 1937. They were generally based on ideas derived from architecture and urban design. In most cases they remained ineffectual pieces of advisory paper until rapid economic and consequential physical growth were stimulated in California by the Second World War. In 1953 the state made the requirement to produce a general plan a central legal condition. Two years later it specified that all plans must contain at least land-use and circulation elements. Such specific requirements have now been extended to include not only the original land-use and circulation elements but also housing, conservation, open space, noise and safety.

The continuing conflict between plans and markets can be seen in the fact that, until 1971, general plans had no legal force in California. Until that time they were rarely used in conjunction with zoning, which did have legal force. In 1971 state law was changed to require consistency between general plans and zoning. Even so, Los Angeles did not reconcile its planning and zoning until forced to do so by the courts in the late 1980s.

In some senses it can be seen that planning, as opposed to zoning, did not have much overall effect on land and property markets in Californian cities in general until after 1971, and until after the late 1980s in Los Angeles in particular. Indeed, some of the state’s most handsome cities, such as Carmel, Pasadena and Santa Barbara, were developed as the result of private oligarchical rather than public planning.

Such effects as planning per se has had on Californian markets have also been undermined since the passage of Proposition 13 in 1978. This cut property taxes and left local governments increasingly reliant on local sales taxes for revenue and local deals with private developers for the provision of infrastructure. As a result of Proposition 13, planning in California has become ‘fiscalized’. Cities and counties now compete with each other in market fashion to obtain physical sources of big sales tax revenues. These include car dealerships, hotels and shopping malls. They do not include housing. Bargains are also struck with developers for the construction of highways and sewers as quid pro quo for development permits. The net result of these new forms of market is that huge regional imbalances have been created between those cities that can capture economic growth in the form of high sales tax developments, and those areas in which their employees can find housing. The former gain the most public revenues while the latter actually need them the most in order to provide for the collective needs of their populations.


Attempts to replace markets with plans in both Britain and California have met with effective opposition. This is particularly the case when they have sought to intervene in the financial rewards gained by development in market conditions. Although it is clear that, once land-use regulations are introduced, they both create and reduce land values, governments have seldom been allowed to collect much of the publicly created betterment.

Attempts to regulate land and development markets have been much weaker and more recent in California than in Britain. Some cities such as Los Angeles resisted effective interventions right into the 1980s. In Britain various attempts have been made to claw back for the public authority gains made as a direct result of planning decisions. These are now confined to planning agreements associated with specific developments. They can only be enforced if the benefits required also relate directly to those particular projects.

Summary and Conclusions

The British planning system has to be seen as being based on conflicts. At the core of these are conflicts between private property interests, which favour the use of markets to decide the uses to which they can put their property, and public interests, which look to public institutions, regulation and plans to provide goods and services which markets characteristically do not. There are also conflicts between different groups within these two large and general categories.

The outcomes of these conflicts rarely conform to the original intentions of all developers or public interests. One of the main divergences from the formal intentions of planning is the partial replacement of competitive markets in land and development with oligopolistic markets. In these modified circumstances a small number of large scale developers come to dominate the markets in land and development where development is permitted by the planning system. This reduces competition in these local markets and is therefore unlikely to benefit the eventual consumers of development.

It is possible that this result suits both developers and the supporters of planning. This may be seen in the fact that the history of British planning is one of elite and paternalistic decisions to introduce effective public regulation over land uses in the name of the public interest. When other interests were introduced into policy-making for a relatively brief period during the 1970s, as a result of increased public participation, they were soon reduced in the face of economic problems. The 1980s saw the reassertion of oligopolistic market forces over plans.

The reassertion of oligopolistic market forces in planning brought to the fore the basic contradiction on which the whole enterprise rests. This is the conflict between the drive to assist large enterprises to maintain or increase their profits in the name of market forces by providing infrastructure, information and other enabling functions; and the need to legitimate planning to the general public by demonstrating that it also provides some benefits to them in the form of public participation, establishing social objectives and generally assisting to create social harmony.

It was possible to follow both these contradictory objectives during times of economic growth. But the first objective has taken precedence since the 1980s. This is partly because of economic limitations and partly because of the ideological predisposition of the Conservative central government during that period. Nevertheless, the creation of oligopolistic markets in land and development by public action does not produce universal, public or mass benefits. This is shown by the analysis of the actual effects of the British planning system.

The background to the effects which can be directly attributed to planning is that social change and polarization have been increasing in Britain. This is marked by increases in the service class, decreases in manual workers and increases in unemployment. This has been combined with increases in the residential segregation of these groups, particularly between prosperous and less prosperous areas. Those groups, such as ethnic minorities, have been trapped in the inner cities where they form a growing and disenchanted ‘underclass’.

The introduction into these ongoing changes of containment, suburbanization and rising land prices by planning has increased residential segregation and allocated better living environments to those who are already better off. This is particularly true of those suburbanites who live beyond the major cities in their green belts and the smaller towns and villages both in and beyond them. They have acquired the best housing, the highest capital gains and have been able to protect those gains for themselves by using the planning system.

The planning system has also influenced access to public goods and services. On the whole, planning decisions have improved the life chances of those for whom they are already highest. In contrast, those without cars and those who cannot afford house prices in the prosperous rural South East are excluded from access to the publicly provided goods and services there.

Many of the effects of British planning were not formally intended by the planners themselves. They have followed as the unintended consequences of policies such as urban containment. The paradox is that few of the major post-war reasons for constraining the supply of housing land are valid today.

The first of these was that agricultural land should be preserved for defence purposes. This is no longer valid as no one really expects a modern war to last long enough to make the growing of crops a worthwhile or un-radioactive proposition. In addition, the Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) of the European Union generates food surpluses on the one hand and pays farmers to ‘set aside’ land from production altogether on the other. In such conditions there is a large surplus of land in Britain which is not needed for agricultural production.

Secondly, many of the objections to pre-war urban sprawl were often voiced by design professionals in terms of its visual appearance rather than its functional provision of inexpensive housing for the masses. If anything, the alternative restricted estate developments that have been located away from the major cities are even worse in design terms, lacking in urban facilities and less affordable than their pre-war counterparts. In Britain, at least, where 4.4 to five million new homes are needed by the early twenty-first century, some structured and sustainable release of building land is essential if housing is not to become even less affordable than it is now and slum densities are not to increase considerably.

Thirdly the decentralization of industry and commerce has taken place even with restrictive planning. It is no longer the dirty smoke-stack nuisance that was familiar before the war. It is increasingly high-technology based. The professionals who work in such new industry look for working environments which, among other things, improve the locality. This combined with the desperate need for economic growth of any kind argues for locational freedoms which are not provided within current policies of land-use constraint.

While this much has become increasingly obvious even in DoE sponsored research under the previous Conservative government, there remains a political reluctance to alter the fundamentals of the British planning system as it has operated since 1947. This is true even after the detailed changes made to the system by the Conservative governments of the 1980s.

The question therefore arises as to what holds these basic fundamentals of the land-use planning system in place. The answer to this question lies in who makes the significant planning decisions and who benefits most from the operation of the system.

In highly centralized Britain, it is powerful individuals and groups who are able to use the existing social and political institutions, like the planning system, to influence urban structure and the ways in which it is developed. Reade (1987) makes the pessimistic point that in any society in which land-use controls exist they will be ‘misused’. This is because it is always difficult to say what the public interest in land uses is and even more difficult to determine what combination or arrangement of them would actually be ‘best’ in any circumstances. On the other hand, it is much more possible for powerful groups such as the House Builders’ Federation to discern what kinds of planning decisions would be in their own best interests. It is also possible for the high-income and well-educated members of the service class to define and follow their interests in planning. It is much more difficult for the urban underclass to express ‘acceptable’ demands and to negotiate them successfully with the British land-use planning system.

The guiding principles of the Californian planning system are the protection and enhancement of the rights of private property owners and limited intervention in development markets. This is not to say that every individual planning action takes one or both of these forms. This is because, like most public policies, it is a system responding to mutually incompatible, external conflicts of interest. In the case of planning these conflicts are between private and public interests; between private individuals and public institutions; private property rights and public regulation; and between markets and plans. These conflicts pull the system in different directions. The outcomes at any particular point in time depend upon the balance of forces in contention over particular issues.

The protection and enhancement of the rights of private property owners, and limited intervention in development markets come to be the most common guiding principles of the Californian planning system, because private property owners and large scale developers are the best equipped and organized to obtain these outcomes from the conflicts surrounding planning. They do not always win all the individual conflicts and this is why not every individual planning action results in the protection and enhancement of the rights of private property owners and limited intervention in development markets. The majority, however, do take one or other of these forms.

One major distinguishing feature between British and Federal and Californian planning policy is that there are no national or state policies for the containment of urban growth. In California there were no effective planning mechanisms which could have been used to contain urban growth before 1971 when state planning law was changed to require the coordination of general plans and zoning ordinances.

In California, planning and zoning have combined with a discriminatory housing finance system and the lack of a significant public housing programme to spread out different social and racial groups over space. This has produced residential and social segregation. Its most extreme forms are racial segregation and the urban ghettos.

As far as planning is concerned, exclusionary zoning and growth management policies have served to segregate populations according to their different abilities to pay for housing in the market place. Growth Management Policies (GMPs) have tended to make housing relatively scarcer, more expensive and larger. All these factors make for increased residential and social segregation.

Residential segregation is important because of the differences in access to a wide range of both public and private goods and services that follows where families are able to live. On the one hand some locations give access to clean environments, good schools, parks and other public and private benefits. Other locations trap those who cannot escape from them in unhealthy surroundings with minimal or non-existent public facilities. The arrangement of these locational differences and opportunities on the ground in terms of new land uses and the built environment, has, in the past, been a prime official concern of planning.

Underlying planning, financial and government programmes in California, however, is the objective of protecting existing land and property values. Financial appraisal systems, zoning ordinances, GMPs and other policies have all been supported by existing and potential private property owners. They do not see residential integration as a way of maintaining and enhancing their property values. For this reason and because of their political power in the conflicts over planning policies, residential integration is unlikely to become a major planning goal in California.

Both the British and the Californian land-use planning systems have therefore reflected the distribution of power in their respective societies. Even the radical post-war Labour government in Britain was unable to establish a planning system with significant progressive redistributions of the costs and benefits derived from the uses of land and buildings. It is hardly likely therefore that the more conservative parties in California would even seek to establish such a system.

In practice, collective interventions in the rights of private property have been limited in both places. Where they have had some impact this has usually been where not to intervene would produce costs for all social classes. Key examples of this type include the need to provide public health infrastructure for all. Many regard the introduction of clean water and sewerage regulations, in the late nineteenth century, as the foundation of town planning in Britain. In California the more recent concern with the environment has stemmed from similar concerns but now on a wider scale. The growing concern with the whole issue of sustainability on both sides of the Atlantic may also eventually give rise to effective regulation.

In the meantime, it is no good expecting powerful property owners to establish a socially progressive system of land-use planning. It would not be in their interests. They have most access to the institutions that take such decisions. Therefore, other things remaining equal, the land-use planning systems in Britain and California will continue to reflect the distributions of power in their respective societies.