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Methods for analyzing policy tools: the case of new planning instruments in the UK


by Peter Newman

The growing literature on instruments and tools of government has its origins in particular national contexts in the UK and North America. In the UK consideration of policy tools has its base in the public administration literature (Hood, 1986). In North America much recent work aims to understand the emergence of 'governance' and appropriate tools for urban management. On both sides of the Atlantic there is a strong normative dimension to the consideration of policy tools. At issue in Canada, for example, is a question of, 'how best to "steer" complex networks of actors toward a form of governance that is both sustainable and legitimate' (Eliadis, 2005, 5).
The literature turns to practical questions about how to select policy tools, including the need to consider multiple criteria and multiple instruments (Peters, 2005), finding new tools to address new environmental issues, and, importantly, how to secure the backing of political coalitions for specific policy tools. Identifying the analytical potential of a policy tools approach, Ponzini also asks normative questions about how the instrumentation of Italian planning should develop. Here, I will approach the normative questions from an indirect route. I would like to focus on the question of the legitimacy of governance tools and consideration of what works best or carries more legitimacy. How we arrive at such judgments will be of vital importance to understanding policy success or failure and to being able to advance suggestions about appropriate tools and instruments. The aim here then is to concentrate on how to understand legitimation processes and to make some brief comment about how this may assist the broader, normative consideration of the right tools and instruments. The paper therefore first reflects on some analytical themes in the policy tools literature and then develops a line of argument through a discussion of recent planning reform in the UK that has been concerned with major infrastructure projects.

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