1.25 - The Nature of Spatial Planning Policies in Small Islands

Project Description

Planning research has not been traditionally focused on the study of small islands. Rather, it has taken continental areas as prime subjects/objects of academic focus and inquiry. In the context of Europe, Bailey (1998) reminds us that «When students in British and continental European schools study Europe they usually concentrate on the continent’s heartland. (…) Rarely do they have the chance to consider the situations of those other Europeans who live along the continent’s Atlantic margins in island and island groups such as Faroe, Shetland, Orkney, the Hebrides, Madeira, the Azores and the Canaries» (p 309).
On the other hand, despite the existence of a research field, ‘Island Studies’, devoted to the study of events and phenomena in small islands and, more specifically, to the analysis of plausible influence and impact of the distinctive characteristics of small islands (which are usually referred to in the literature as ‘islandness’) on any of the areas handled by traditional disciplines (such as ecology, economics or sociology) and policy foci (such as governance, social capital or sustainable tourism), there are still a number of issues that remain to be addressed by ‘Island Studies’. Among these issues there is the nature of spatial planning policies in the context of small islands.
The apparent lack of research focusing on planning in insular contexts is the driver of this PhD research project. Its specific purpose is to uncover the nature of spatial planning policies in small island settings, with especial reference to those shaping their model of physical organisation. Drawing on three case studies – the archipelago of Madeira, the archipelago of the Azores and a set of international cases (composed of 17 islands or group of islands scattered throughout the world), the PhD research project aims at: i) fulfilling an important gap in Planning literature; ii) understanding the rationale that guides the design of the set of spatial planning policies that play a crucial role in the physical organisation of the island settings, namely those of a volcanic origin; and ii) uncovering the ways in which the abovementioned rationale is related with the distinctive features of islands.
The expected outcome of the PhD research project is the establishment of a set of recommendations capable of informing Spatial Planning policy-making in the context of small islands, with special reference to the case of volcanic islands and, more specifically, to the cases of the Azores and Madeira.

Research Team
  • Ruben Fernandes
  • Paulo Pinho (supervisor)
Financial Support
  • FCT - Fundação para a Ciência e Tecnologia (SFRH/BD/38047/2007)
Stage of Progress
  • Concluded in 2013