City of Dreams? Belfast, planning and the ‘myth’ of development

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The future of Belfast is found in its plans – beginning with 1945 planning proposals to the recently adopted Belfast Metropolitan Area Plan, these documents have aimed to encourage and channel urban development processes to secure collective outcomes that enhance the public interest. Central to this objective has been the idea of ‘development’ and in this paper we interrogate the representation of this concept in the urban discourse of Belfast. We seek to do this by first exploring how ‘development’ and associated concepts are articulated in key spatial policy documents and then contrast these with examples of some of the key physical, spatial outcomes of economic processes that have occurred in the last ten years. The paper will review the dominant trajectories of urban change in Belfast, consider their implications and relate these to the official goals and aspirations represented in planning strategies and regeneration visions for the city. In doing this we draw on the recent work of Marcuse (2015) to identify how ideas of ‘development’ and ‘growth’ have been used to anonymise, harmonize and homogenise the outcomes of these spatial processes. The paper will conclude by considering how Belfast’s urban discourse acts to suppresses alternative visions of the city and explores the potential consequences of this for the new governance arrangements for planning in Belfast.
Original languageEnglish
Publication statusPublished - 23 May 2015
Event47th Conference of Irish Geographers - Queen's University , Belfast, United Kingdom
Duration: 21 May 201524 May 2015


Conference47th Conference of Irish Geographers
Country/TerritoryUnited Kingdom


  • Belfast
  • Planning
  • discpurse

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Geography, Planning and Development


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