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Planning, as discussed in this book, has three key characteristics. First, it is a future oriented activity. Planning seeks to devise strategies which will lead to desired end states. Many dictionary definitions of the word planning begin with this idea of decision making to achieve a given goal and it is at the heart of an influential theory of planning known as procedural planning theory (discussed in Chapter 2). Second, planning is primarily a public sector activity. It describes a process by which the public sector, at central, regional and local levels, seeks to influence the activities of firms and households through guidance, regulation and incentives. This is not to suggest that the decision making that occurs within the private sector is not of interest. On the contrary, one of the main arguments of this book is the need to understand these private sector processes in order to understand how the public sector conducts its planning activities. However, the starting point for a review of the planning system is an analysis of the policies, procedures and institutions of the public sector. Third, the particular type of planning covered by this book is focused on the physical environment, whereas in other contexts planning may refer to economic or social planning. This draws on another sense of the dictionary definition of planning, the association with drawings and layouts for buildings, sites and urban areas.
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