This week I've had a chance to check out how far the ideas of Bill Mitchell and others linking town and country planning to technology planning reach into the realities of local planning.
I've been running public workshops with colleagues to help people influence development of a regional plan that will effect housing, transport, environment, economic development and a host of other issues. What has surprised me (but probably not others) is how little new technology featured in the discussions.
We were talking, for example, about the problems of road and rail access to remote rural areas, and how to encourage young people to stay in these areas when they had been to college there. Other problems - and opportunities - included relatively wealthy 'incomers' buying property and working from home, with maybe the occasional trip to town, and how to provide public services to remote areas.
Many of those present were public sector planners, and you might expect e-government, e-commerce, e-learning and all the other e-'s to pepper the group discussions. There were some thoughtful contributions about development of the knowledge economy, and how far online access could substitute for physical access - but there wasn't any great sense that technology would be the major driver for change. It wasn't seen as the BIG IDEA.
It is easy to be smug and sneery on these occasions, and evangelise the benefits of information and communication technologies while muttering 'Luddites' under one's breath. But while there may not be enough awareness among 'conventional' planners of the changes technology may make, I'm not sure the balance of discussion was wrong. Maybe people were realistic about how difficult it is to foresee and plan developments in this field, and cautious about pinning their hopes on investments which may or may not provide benefits to taxpayers. I'm not arguing either way - just interested what really gets talked about when planners meet.
Of course, as with all public workshops it depends who turns up on the day, and next time we may get a different picture. We will also be running a Blog to report events and invite further comments. More later on that.