In order to explore the nature of private sector activity in planning and its impact on understandings of professionalism and the public interest, the project will adopt a range of qualitative research methods. This innovative and holistic approach will employ interviews with key actors, alongside historical and ethnographic methods to capture the multiple and shifting dimensions of public/private sector relations.
- Archival work to trace how ‘the public interest’ has been understood in planning in the post-war era in the UK, in particular examining archives of planning professional organisations and the collections of local planning authorities and long-established professional practices.
- Focus groups, co-produced with the Royal Town Planning Institute, to provide an up-to-date account of the new public and private organisational arrangements for planning in the UK. The focus group activity was supplemented by a Freedom of Information request.
- Biographical interviews (and associated pen portraits) with planning professionals, investigating how these new organisational arrangements have changed their understanding and practice relating to professionalism and its role in securing the public interest.
- In-depth ethnographic case studies of the contexts in which private sector professionals work to explore how ideas of ‘professionalism’ and the ‘public interest’ are defined and realised through the day-to-day practices and interactions of various professionals, politicians and citizens involved in local planning.