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Abstract

While participatory processes have become an important part of planning, young people are a particularly vulnerable group in terms of potential marginalisation and exclusion from effective participation. Including the views of young people in participatory planning is not simply a matter of bringing them into existing processes. Instead, participatory processes must find ways to integrate and accommodate their needs and ways of expressing their views. Without these adjustments young people may simply move from being kept outside the planning process to a situation where, although they are formally included, their claims are not taken seriously and they are not treated with equal respect. In this paper we reflect on the success of a community advisory committee, formed to consider water planning issues, in integrating the views of young people into their deliberations. Using Iris Marion Young’s (1995) ideas of communicative democracy we highlight the challenges and opportunities presented by this participatory approach, as articulated by both the young people involved and the adult participants. We specifically consider how the elements of greeting, rhetoric and narrative were reflected in the committee process. We argue that both planners and adult participants need to ensure that participatory processes allow for the equal engagement of all participants and place equal value on their contributions. Our research shows that this involves both an institutional and attitudinal commitment to include the views of young people. The institutional commitment requires young people to be included in processes and for their involvement to be supported. However, the attitudinal commitment it is equally important and requires that adult participants be prepared not only to accept the views of younger participants but to actively encourage and support their full participation.

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