Interview results: learnings from Vinnytsia

The interviewed participants of urban planning process emphasized on the changing conditions that determine the spatial transformation in cities, related conflicts, roles played by the conflicting parties and feasibility of the existing planning tools for the effective transformation of the urban space. Particularly interesting are the differences in the perception of the same concepts and urban planning realities by different key stakeholder groups.

A concept of participation is the most important for Ukrainian respondents. The issue that particularly worried all our interlocutors is the difference between a real and an ideal urban planning process. Interviews showed a big gap between formal procedures for public involvement and their actual implementation. All interviewed stakeholders are dissatisfied with the state of communication in the power-business-community triangle. Representatives of the urban community want the other participants, first of all the city administration, to hear them, rather than pretending to hear and transforming the participation instruments into a farcical play. The responsibility for organizing communication between the stakeholders is another one painful issue: neither the city administration, nor the private business, nor the public activists, nor the specialists dare to assume it.

The conflicts over urban spatial transformations are seen inevitable due to the limited and incomplete institutionalization of the public environment, planning process politicization, rigidness of existing planning documentation, and the lack of general public position on the spatial development of Vinnytsia.

Thus, the complex of problems includes the following aspects:

  • Discrepancies in the vision of the planning process between the main stakeholders;
  • missing sense of fairness and justice in planning process, limited public access to the decision-making;
  • Acute and irritable question – “Who have a right for the city?”
  • Absence of an effective public involvement mechanism;
  • Low efficacy of planning activities and instruments, as well as their unpredictable effects on spatial transformations and related conflicts.

The analysis of certain positions of stakeholders on the causes, severity, resonance, and resolution of conflicts suggests that, despite sharp criticism of the liberalization of the economy, the main discourse on optimizing urban planning takes place in the framework of neo-liberal approach. Neo-liberal instruments are described as measures to enhance the influence of a particular person, a resident of the territory, on the planning of this territory and its transformation at all stages of the relevant activity.

Respondents offered a lot of ideas addressing the aforementioned urban planning problems. In particular: improvement of existing and seeking new methods of engaging the public into the planning process; the need to involve all stakeholders in the initial stages of planning; the need for facilitators and communication platforms; the need to focus on large projects that can attract a lot of people from different social groups; the need to implement the concept of integrated urban development.

It seems that in our next interviews, as well as in the further activity within the project framework, we need to focus on improving the interaction between stakeholders. This refers to the necessity to elaborate the instruments to enhance mutual confidence between stakeholders and to lay the foundation for a genuine, equal, and long-term negotiation process. First of all, it is about finding such formats that will allow these traditions to be initiated, developed, and maintained.

Different views on ideal planning process: