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Public consultation no alternative to strategy

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I was pleased to see the piece about the prolific and profileworthy Ken Worpole (People, AJ 26.7.01). His studies and reports on public parks have been invaluable. I was struck, however, by the apparent inconsistency between his statement that 'ordinary people' should 'engage with policy providers to ensure that realistic options are put forward' and his comment that 'opinions are 10 a penny'.

This reminded me of the case of the Stanley Park Task Force established in the early 1990s in Vancouver, Canada. A group of interested 'lay' people was appointed to determine planning and management policies for that city's pre-eminent and heavily forested 405ha central park. Their recommendations were piecemeal; they were based on the principle of 'letting nature take its course' and were never formally adopted'.

The lesson in Vancouver (and, I would suggest, in Worpole's Britain) is that politicians and their professionals should, of course, pay full attention to public opinion and, in particular, to the interests of facility usersà but that does not alter the fact that form and programme are generally better determined strategically rather than tactically. And that is exactly what members of the environmental design professions exist to do. As a project manager in Hong Kong once put it to me, there is a Chinese proverb which translates that 'a snake without a head will not go anywhere'.

Alan Tate, previous president of the Landscape Institute and head of the Department of Landscape Architecture, University of Manitoba, Canada

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