Evaluating the effectiveness of approaches to public consultation in the regeneration of urban public spaces

  • Katerina Frankova

    Student thesis: Doctoral ThesisDoctor of Philosophy


    Until the mid-1990s, urban public spaces were in decline. Their rejuvenation has now become a key policy concern in the UK, with high demand for well-designed and well-maintained spaces, which meet the diverse needs of their users. Despite public space improvements being an essential part of any successful regeneration strategy, they are not always achieved. However, urban public spaces can be successfully regenerated if they are co-produced by professionals and public space users by drawing on their knowledge and aspirations for these spaces. Despite the fluctuations in public involvement in the process of decision making, involving the general public is now considered as central to urban regeneration policy and practice. However, discussions concerning how the public could be involved in a meaningful manner continue. While the need to involve the public is clearly advocated, the most effective ways of achieving this remain ambiguous. Although the number of mechanisms to involve the public has multiplied, their quality and effectiveness is less certain. Detailed literature on involvement methods is scarce. Where literature does exist, it reveals an absence of agreed evaluation criteria against which the effectiveness of different methods could be measured, a lack of evaluation instruments and general uncertainties about how evaluations should be conducted.

    This research focused on public consultation as opposed to more extensive public involvement and critically explored and evaluated the effectiveness of eight public consultation methods -online form, e-mail, electronic kiosk, text message, on-street event, photographic diary, walking discussion and focus group -in the context of regeneration of urban public spaces. These methods were identified as under-researched or offering potential for further development.

    They were applied as part of „test‟ consultations in two case study areas in Coventry and their effectiveness was established using an evaluation framework designed to address wider issues in effectiveness. The framework was used to explore the methods from three perspectives; that of the participant, the researcher and data quality. The participant perspective was explored using questionnaires. Data quality was assessed against criteria such as 'relevance', 'clarity', 'location specification' and 'actionability'. The researcher perspective triangulated the two perspectives with general observations, an examination of methodological practicalities and the influence of non-human actants, informed by actor-network theory (Callon, 1986; Law, 1992; Latour, 1996). Professionals involved in urban regeneration were interviewed to provide contextual and practice-based perspectives.

    Empirical findings revealed that each method generates different types of data which may be useful for the regeneration of urban public spaces. Some generated „surface‟ data from a larger number of participants, while others yielded in-depth data from smaller participant samples. This highlighted the value of evaluating „data quality‟, which has so far been neglected in effectiveness evaluations. The two in-situ methods (the photographic diary and walking discussion) proved most effective, generating high quality data and achieving participant satisfaction, and it is argued that public consultations concerned with regeneration of urban public spaces would benefit from a greater use of in-situ experiential approaches. Furthermore, factors such as providing opportunities for dialogue, understanding, level of immersion, the influence of non-human actants and provision of information were identified as influencing the effectiveness of these mechanisms, contributing to the empirical and conceptual debates about method effectiveness.

    The proposed contributions to knowledge include the development of an evaluation framework that can be used to assess method effectiveness. It particularly highlights the value of examining data quality, which can be assessed against the proposed data quality criteria. The identification of factors influencing effectiveness, derived from empirical findings, contributes to the wider theoretical and practical understanding of public involvement methods‟ effectiveness and its evaluation.
    Date of Award2013
    Original languageEnglish
    Awarding Institution
    • Coventry University
    SupervisorKevin Broughton (Supervisor), Andree Woodcock (Supervisor) & Philip Dunham (Supervisor)

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