“War is When They Kill Your Children”

Ethics and Modern Property Development
  • Michael Benfield
Part of the Research Issues in Real Estate book series (RIRE, volume 5)


Drawing on recent European research (a thirty-two-case project inquiring into the decision processes surrounding permits for major private European development projects—Czech Republic two, England eleven, France five, Germany two, Hungary two, Italy five, Netherlands five) this article confronts the values, choices, and conduct seen as being involved in land and resource development. Viewing progressive changes in government, business, and social mores as unwittingly encouraging an operating environment of unexpected and unjustified license, it prompts real estate professionals to consider how the emerging imperative of sustainability1 will affect ethical standards and, through them, development practices. Conceiving development processes as driven by accountancy economics, (an economics primarily concerned with profit and loss and balance sheet calculation rather than wider capital considerations), it argues that these are prone to overlook many other forms of capital. Often masked by the common pursuit of cash profits, jobs, and monetary wealth, these include social, welfare, community, cultural, and various forms of resource, capital.

By definition, planning is concerned with futures. By default it appears to have become little more than a cipher for short-term political goals. Regulatory regimes, designed to protect rights and freedoms, are regularly being overridden2 and (notional) open local government replaced by covert, elitist decision-making practices. Placing democracy and due process under threat, a form of municipal entrepreneurialism may be emerging. This shows Yiftachel’s (1996) dark side of development control to facilitate not just social engineering but private profiteering. With no one to speak for the environment, Agenda 21 sustainability and subsidiarity (the principle adopted by the European Union that decision all should be taken at the lowest possible level) seem only of interest to cities if they serve the same ends. In the face of this, it is argued, real estate professionals have a moral obligation to protect land and resources for the benefit of countless future generations. To ignore this duty may prejudice the existence of both. Thus, with current ethics in the property industry seen as a sham, a means to replace or renew them is suggested.


Real Estate Property Development Development Control Industry Practice Real Estate Development 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.


Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.

Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.


  1. Albrechts, L. (1991). “Changing Roles and Positions of Planners.” Urban Studies 28(1):123–137 (cited in Berry and McGreal, 1995, p. 4).CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  2. Ash, Maurice. (1992). The Fabric of the World: Towards a Philosophy of Environment. Dartington: Green Books.Google Scholar
  3. Attfield, Robin. (1991). The Ethics of Environmental Concern. Athens: University of Georgia Press (cited in Fairweather, 1992).Google Scholar
  4. Baier, Annette. (1984). “For the Sake of Future Generations.” In T. Regan (ed.), Earthbound: New Introductory Essays in Environmental Ethics. Philadelphia: Temple University Press (cited in Fairweather, 1992, p. 14).Google Scholar
  5. Bailey, Sinead. (1995). “The Importance of Local Level participation in the Design and Management of Conservation Development Projects.” Paper presented at IRNES Conference, Keele University.Google Scholar
  6. Beatley, Timothy. (1994). “Environmental Ethics and the Field of Planning: Alternative Theories and Middle Range Principles.” In H. Thomas, (ed.), Values in Planning. Google Scholar
  7. Benfield, Michael. (1994). “Futurology: Plan Makings Missing Element?” Paper presented at Planning for a Broader Europe, Istanbul, Turkey.Google Scholar
  8. Benfield, Michael. (1995). “Forging the New Morality: Will Planners Be Guardians or Ciphers?” DISP 121 (April): 25–36.Google Scholar
  9. Brown, G. (1993). “Greening government.” New Ground (35): 4–7 (cited in Gibbs, 1993).Google Scholar
  10. Cadogan, Peter. (1974). Direct Democracy: An Appeal to the Professional Classes, to the Politically Disenchanted and to the Deprived. London: Direct Democracy.Google Scholar
  11. Carr, Mike. (1996). “Social Capital, Civil Society, and the Informal Economy: Moving to Sustainable Society.” Paper presented at Local Planning in a Global Environment, July 25–28, Toronto, Canada.Google Scholar
  12. Carta, Maurizio. (1993). “The Territory of Chiron: Museum’s Role in the Cultural Planning of the Territory.” Paper presented at AESOP Summer School, Lodz, Poland.Google Scholar
  13. Cheshire, Paul C. (1991). “Causal Factors in Western European Patterns of Urban Change, 1971–88.” Reading, Eng. Centre for European Property Research, Faculty of Urban and Regional Studies, University of Reading.Google Scholar
  14. Chichilnisky, Graciela. (1994). “Sustainable Development and North-South Trade.” FEEM: Fondazione Eni Enrico Mattei 3.Google Scholar
  15. Clark, Michael, Paul Burrall, and Peter Roberts. (1993). “A Sustainable Economy.” In A. Blowers (ed.), Planning for a sustainable environment: A Report by the Town and Country Planning Association. London: Earthscan.Google Scholar
  16. Clarkson, L., V. Morisette, and G. Regallet. (1992). “Our Responsibility to the Seventh Generation: Indigenous Peoples and Sustainable Development.” Winnipeg, Man.: International Institute for Sustainable Development (cited in Carr, 1996 #1170,12).Google Scholar
  17. Crenson, M. (1971). The Un-Politics of Air Pollution. Baltimore: John Hopkins University Press.Google Scholar
  18. Deblonde, Marian. (1995). “Environmental Economic Scientists and Politics.” Paper presented at IRNES Conference, Keele University.Google Scholar
  19. DLI. (1996). “Licenses and Inspections.” Philadelphia Internet Page (20 July): 2.Google Scholar
  20. Dobson, Andrew, and Paul Lucardie (eds). (1993). The Politics of Nature: Explorations in Green Political Theory. London: Routledge. Reviewed by Ian Thompson, 1994.Google Scholar
  21. Douthwaite, Richard. (1992). The Growth Illusion. Dartington, UK: Green Books.Google Scholar
  22. Dunleavy, P., and D. King. (1990). “Middle-Level Cities and Control of Urban Policies.” Paper presented at PSA Urban Politics Group, June, London School of Economics.Google Scholar
  23. EDK. (1996). “Corporate Irresponsibility: There Ought to Be Some Laws.” New York: EDK.Google Scholar
  24. Fairweather, Ben. (1992). “Deriving Environmental Obligations from Property Rights.” Paper presented at IRNES (Interdisciplinary Research Network for Environmental Studies) Conference, Sheffield.Google Scholar
  25. Ferraro, Giovanni. (1995). “A Communicative Planing Theory at Work. Patrick Geddes Planner in India, 1914–1924.” Paper presented at ninth AESOP Congress, August, Glasgow.Google Scholar
  26. George, Henry. (1937). A Perplexed Philosopher. London: Henry George Foundation of Great Britain.Google Scholar
  27. George, Henry. (1947). The Condition of Labour: An Open Letter to Pope Leo XIII. London: Land & Liberty Press.Google Scholar
  28. George, Henry. (1953). Progress and Poverty. London: Hogarth Press.Google Scholar
  29. Gibbs, D. (1993). Manchester: The Green Local Economy. Centre for Local Economic Strategies. Google Scholar
  30. Goldsmith, Mike. (1993). Local Government: In R. Paddison, B. Lever, and J. Money (eds.) International Perspectives in Urban Studies 1. London: Jessica Kingsley.Google Scholar
  31. Goodchild, R., and R. Munton. (1985). Development and the Landowner: An Analysis of the British Experience. London: Allen and Unwin.Google Scholar
  32. Gore, T., and D. Nicholson. (1991). “Models of the Land-Development Process: A Critical Review.” Environment and Planning A 23: 705–730.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  33. Habermas, J. (1975). Legitimation Crisis. Boston: Beacon Press (cited in Carr, 1996 #1170,15).Google Scholar
  34. Harper, Thomas L., and Stanley M. Stein. (1995). “Sustainable Planning: Is a Paradigm Shift Required? “Paper presented at Ninth AESOP Congress, August, Glasgow.Google Scholar
  35. Healey, P. (1983). Local Plans in British Land Use Planning. Oxford: Pergamon Press (cited in Gore and Nicholson, 1991).Google Scholar
  36. Healey, Patsy. (1992). “Planning Through Debate: The Communicative Turn in Planning Theory.” Town Planning Review 63(2):143–162.Google Scholar
  37. Healey, Patsy, Paul McNamara, Martin Elson, and Andrew Doak. (1988). Land Use Planning and the Mediation of Urban Change: The British Planning System in Practice. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.Google Scholar
  38. Hoggett, Paul. (1995). “Does Local Government Want Local Democracy?” Town and Country Planning (April 1995): 107–109.Google Scholar
  39. Horrocks, Ivan, and Jeff Webb. (1994). “Electronic Democracy: A Policy Issue for U.K. Local Government?” Local Government Policy Making 21(3): 22–29.Google Scholar
  40. Jacobs, Michael. (1991). The Green Economy: Environment, Sustainable Development and the Politics of the Future. London: Pluto Press.Google Scholar
  41. Jacobs, M. (1993). “A Green Route out of Recession.” New Ground (34): 4–5 (cited by Gibbs, 1993, p. 15).Google Scholar
  42. Kivell, Philip. (1993). Land and the City: Patterns and Processes of Urban Change. London, Routledge.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  43. Kramer, Ludwig. (1995). “Recent Developments in EC Environmental Law.” Paper presented at The Impact of Environmental Law in the United Kingdom, conference, London University, Centre for the Law of the European Union.Google Scholar
  44. Kuhn, T. (1970). “Natural Science and Its Dangers.” In Lakatos and Musgrove (eds.), Criticism and the Growth of Knowledge. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press (cited in Harper Stein 1995, p. 4).Google Scholar
  45. Leopold, Aldo. (1949). A Sand County Almanac.Google Scholar
  46. Lovelock, J. (1979). Gaia: A New Look at Life on Earth. Oxford: Oxford University Press (cited in Nijkamp, 1994, p. 13).Google Scholar
  47. Lukes, S. (1974). Power: A Radical View. London: Macmillan (cited in Heap, 1993).Google Scholar
  48. Lundmark, Carina. (1995). Green Seeds to Democratic Thought Within Swedish Political Parties.” Paper presented at IRNES Conference, Keele University.Google Scholar
  49. McDonough, William. (1993). “Design, Ecology, Ethics and the Making of Things.” Paper presented at Centennial Sermon, February 7, Cathedral of St. John the Devine, New York City.Google Scholar
  50. Meadows, Donella H. (1974). The Limits to Growth. New York: Universe Books.Google Scholar
  51. Kant, (1785/19). Principles of the Metagdysies of Ethics. Google Scholar
  52. Newell, Peter. (1995). “The Fossil Fuel Lobbies and the Politics of Global Warming.” Paper presented at IRNES Conference, Keele University.Google Scholar
  53. Norton-Taylor, Richard. (1982). Whose Land is it Anyway? Agriculture, Planning and Land Use in the British Countryside. Wellingborough, UK: Turnstone Press.Google Scholar
  54. Ophuls, William. (1977). Ecology and the Politics of Scarcity (vol. 3). San Francisco: Freeman (cited in Orr, 1992, p. 68).Google Scholar
  55. Orr, David W. (1992). Ecological Literacy: Education and the Transition to a Post-modern World. Albany: State University of New York Press.Google Scholar
  56. Plato. (1955–1987). The Republic. (p. 7, bk. VI). Harmandsworth: Penguin (cited by Rose, 1985, p. 8; Stewart, 1992).Google Scholar
  57. Poulton, Michael C. (1995). “The Strange Relationship of Zoning and Planning.” Paper presented at the Ninth AESOP Congress, August, Glasgow.Google Scholar
  58. Rawls, J. (1971). A Theory of Justice. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press (cited by Beatley, 1994, p. 21; Heap, 1992, p. 319).Google Scholar
  59. Robertson, James. (1974). Profit or People? The New Social Role of Money. London: Calder & Boyars.Google Scholar
  60. Robinson, Nick. (1995). “The End of the Road for Roads? The Royal Commission on Environmental Pollution as a Spur to Change.” Paper presented at IRNES Conference, Keele University.Google Scholar
  61. Rose, Jack. (1985). The Dynamics of Urban Property Development. London: E&FN.Google Scholar
  62. Ross, M. (1995). “Goods and Life Forms: Relativism in Charles Taylor’s Political Philosophy.” Radical Philosophy (May-June) (cited in Harper and Stein, 1995, p. 4).Google Scholar
  63. Simmie, J., and S. French. (1989). Corporatism, Participation and Planning: The Case of London. Oxford: Pergamon.Google Scholar
  64. Strong, Carolyn. (1995). “The Influence of Children on Family Purchase of Environmentally Friendly Grocery Products. Paper presented at IRNES Conference, at Keele University.Google Scholar
  65. Thornley, Andy. (1991). Urban Planning Under Thatcherism: The Challenge of the Market. London: Routledge (cited by Simmie, 1993, p. 10).Google Scholar
  66. Tickell, Oliver. (1996). “Healing the Rift.” The Independent on Sunday Review (August 4).Google Scholar
  67. Van der Krabben, Erwin. (1995). Urban Dynamics: A Real Estate Perspective— An Institutional Analysis of the Production of the Built Environment. Amsterdam: Thesis.Google Scholar
  68. Watson, Glenn. (1992). “Recycling Disused Land in the Black Country”: Developing a Model of the Recycling Process. PhD. dissentation, Oxford University.Google Scholar
  69. Westra, Laura. (1994). An Environmental Ethic Proposal for Ethics: The Principle of Integrity. Lantham, MD: Rowman & Littlefield.Google Scholar
  70. Will, George F. (1993). Restoration: Congress—Term Limits and the Recovery of Deliberative Democracy. New York: Free Press.Google Scholar
  71. Yiftachel, Oran. (1996). “Planning and Social Control: Towards a New Understanding.” Paper presented at Local Planning in a Global Environment, July 25–28, Toronto, Canada.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 1999

Authors and Affiliations

  • Michael Benfield
    • 1
  1. 1.Centre for Research in European Urban Environments (CREUE)University of Newcastle upon TyneUK

Personalised recommendations