2000 volume 18(2) pages 145 – 162
doi:10.1068/c9804j

Cite as:
Pennington M, 2000, "Public choice theory and the politics of urban containment: voter-centred versus special-interest explanations" Environment and Planning C: Government and Policy 18(2) 145 – 162

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Public choice theory and the politics of urban containment: voter-centred versus special-interest explanations

Mark Pennington

Received 25 May 1998; in revised form 26 November 1998

Abstract. The policy of urban containment has lain at the heart of British land-use planning for over fifty years. The author examines the political dynamics underlying the commitment to this policy through the lens of public choice theory. The analysis suggests that macroelectoral shifts in favour of environmental protection have provided a push towards restrictive land-use planning and an emphasis on urban containment in recent years. Evidence of a ‘voluntary’ approach to regulation in other areas of environmental concern, however, suggests that the peculiar focus on containment is attributable to the political power exerted by a coalition of special interests and public sector bureaucrats who benefit most from this core of the British planning system.

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