Journal of Community & Applied Social Psychology

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Volume 20 Issue 1 (January/February 2010), Pages 1-81

‘Not in our front garden’: Land use conflict, spatial meaning and the politics of naming place (pages 44-56)


Strategies aimed at reducing land use conflict often stress the need to make planning decisions more democratic. However, this goal is obstructed by overly‐narrow conceptual perspectives that neglect the symbolic significance of place. We illustrate this by examining place names, which function as repositories of socio‐political meaning. Drawing on elements of discursive and rhetorical psychology and subject positioning theory, we investigated the variety of meanings associated with place names in the context of a proposed housing development in Swindon, in the South of England. Thirty interviews with different stakeholders were conducted to gauge their opinions towards the proposal. Noting differences in the way the proposed site was named, we analysed the range of meanings associated with each name in relation to participants' stances towards development. Our results show how, in naming place, spatial meanings are negotiated and contested in ways that support contrasting political objectives. We conclude that planning professionals should exercise greater sensitivity towards existing spatial meanings, especially place names. In addition, socio‐political understandings of subjective spatial relationships can serve as a basis for achieving more productive dialogue and improving development designs. Copyright © 2009 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.

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