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Sustainable Exclusion: The Power Behind Sustainable Development

Part 2 Dissertation 2005
Alan Wallis
University of Lincoln Lincoln | UK
Sustainable development is rapidly becoming a common term in rural planning and is a focus for much new policy from the Government. Yet smallholders who try to live on the land in a sustainable way are prevented from living in the countryside by restrictive planning controls and an inflated housing market. This essay sets out to reveal the hidden interests that lie behind particular definitions and uses of the term sustainable development in Government literature in an effort to explain why they might conflict with understandings held by these smallholders.

This dissertation is different from previous studies because it looks at the use of the term sustainable development in rural planning as a basis for ideological struggle rather than a definable concept. The methodology used is discourse analysis, in particular, an approach known as ‘textually oriented discourse analysis’ advocated by Norman Fairclough. The material being investigated in this case is in the form of written documents, such as PPG7.

The language the Government uses to explain sustainable development is structured to persuade the reader to agree with a particular ideological position. The term sustainable development has been manipulated to include additional meanings which are beneficial to vested interests. Sustainable development is no longer an ecologically motivated term but is used to describe economic growth and countryside preservation. In rural planning these meanings seem to have become dominant resulting in a planning system seemingly concerned with ecological affairs, but which actually has more interest in promoting economic growth and protecting the existing state of the countryside.

Alan Wallis

This student has taken an original approach to interrogating the rhetoric of rural planning policy to reveal an apparent contradiction underlying the Government’s position on sustainable development. The methodology he employs is quite sophisticated and allows him to draw clear links between the detailed use of language and the broader interests at play in the formulation of government policy.

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