Context for Participatory Planning
Germany’s public participation was derived from its representative democracy. Both mandatory (formal) and voluntary (informal) public participation in broad aspects were developed during the last three decades (Levytska & Zapototska, 2017; Selle, 2010).
Within the institutional framework, requirements for public participation are clearly stated. For example, in 2012, the “Law for Broadening the Public Participation and for the Standardization of the Procedures for Determining Sectorial Plans” was introduced in the German legislature that requires public participation prior to the formal opening of the procedure for planning and approval of sectorial plans (Bothe, 2018). Moreover, in 2013, the Association of German Engineers developed standards governing the communication and public participation in planning and building infrastructure projects. These standards indicate several mandatory procedures in the regional planning and approval processes including: scoping the previous and present participation (both formal and informal) of the public and their interaction, conducting official investigation to show just cause for projects, establishing online searching platform for plans information to the public, requesting and enabling public participation periodically with the planning processes (ibid.). However, federal level laws and local regulations have different level of details. The Spatial Planning Federal Law only determines the bases of requirements and leaves the responsibility of determining whether public participation is demanded in regional planning processes to the lower level authorities – the State’s legislator. Six out of sixteen States in the country have set public participation as an obligation on the local administration, while the other States decentralised the decision-making rights again to the lower level — project administration on a case-by-case basis (ibid.).
In terms of informal participation, various participatory methods have been applied in both government-led and self-organised activities. In 2008, Berlin citizens stop the original Berlin Tempelhof Airport development plan by collecting 200 000 signatures and holding referendum (Levytska & Zapototska, 2017). In another city, Leipzig, government works with citizens in the project “Leipzig weiter denken”. Various methods e.g., competitions, surveys, exhibitions, participatory budgeting, digital planning workshops, online discussion, etc., were used in the project (City of Leipzig, 2021). However, despite the good examples of government-led and self-organised activities, the material conditions (financial and personnel) of the non-governmental organisations are deteriorating. As a result, many of the members of these organisations felt that their work has no or extremely small influence on decision-making (see Bothe, 2018). Therefore, financial support, for at least a portion of the cost, to the citizens’ organisations is considered necessary (Bothe, 2018; Independent Institute for Environmental concerns 2013; 69th Meeting of German Lawyers 2012, p. 52).
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