• Kai Zhou

Student thesis: Phd


Modern society since the 1970s has been characterised by an ongoing information revolution which has been led by innovations in Information and Communication Technologies (ICTs). Technological breakthroughs have pushed social organisations to constantly adjust themselves to fit new possibilities and demands. But, in spatial planning, comparing to other fields, the influences of the ICT innovations are still limited due to the 'mismatch' between real demands and technology supply and 'bottlenecks' in implementations. This research is aimed at improving the technological support practice in spatial planning decision-making by, linking the technology supply with planning demand. This is based on both theoretical debate and practical experiences, to develop a new model for a successful Planning Support System (PSS), and to test and implement it in the practice of 'sustainable urban regeneration'. In this research, new opportunities have been created from matching the innovations of Web 2.0 internet applications and geo-semantic web services with the standing demand on gathering and exchanging knowledge in spatial planning, which facilitate the shift of decision-making towards a more communicative and collaborative mode. To do this, a new PSS framework was proposed for bridging the ICT innovations and the planning world, focusing on the common interest in the positive combination of technology, knowledge and people. A prototype system was designed, developed and implemented with local authorities in Greater Manchester in a case study of sustainable transport planning. The experiences learnt show that: 1) the contradiction between the limited expectations of the planners and the complex technological facilities that the developers offer affected the motivation to take up innovations in the first place; 2) the wider context of planning decision-making, i.e. the changing ideology of public policy-making, affects the acceptance of ICT innovations in practice, 3) the organisational structure and politics within planning institutions can also limit the diffusion of innovations. Besides, the actors (i.e. initiator, developers and targeted users) in technology implementation are often not clearly defined, which causes uncertainties and misunderstandings in the process. Furthermore, there is a dilemma in that using ICT innovations to facilitate policy innovations also means unexpected changes in daily routine or organisational culture, which most governmental departments are not fully ready and willing to accept.Therefore, it is recommended that future development in PSS should: 1) actively embrace the new technologies and interfaces, 2) find suitable 'use-cases' which support knowledge exchange in the multi-level and multi-agent plan-making, 3) follow a task-based approach to produce a useful tool with clearly defined purposes, 4) identify the appropriate actors and partnerships for PSS development and implementation and 5) try to institutionalise PSS development and implementation within the planning authority, to minimise resistance caused by non-technical issues and organizational obstacles.  
Date of Award31 Dec 2011
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • The University of Manchester


  • Planning Support Systems
  • Sustainable Urban Regeneration

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