An examination of the knowledge production process in a spatial planning exercise : the case study of the Back of Port Project in Durban, South Africa.
Cities actively endeavour to reposition themselves in the global economy by using large scale neoliberal interventions, which have the potential to significantly alter urban landscapes. Within these interventions, it is important to understand the ways in which knowledge is produced, and how decisions are made. Typically located within cities, ports are drivers of local and regional economic growth, and can stimulate urban development and prosperity. In the age of containerisation, ports and their cities have to transform in order to remain competitive. This study investigates the Back of Port (BoP) Project in Durban, which is a spatial planning exercise initiated by the eThekwini Municipality that sought to create a BoP zone that would enhance the Port of Durban’s competitiveness. The Port was facing a ‘congestion crisis’, and this city-led project emerged out of a co-operative initiative between the Municipality and the state owned Transnet National Port Authority. It was developed by a range of specialist consultants, with the aim of creating a distinct framework for the management and development of land use in the areas adjacent to the Port. The study follows the knowledge production process from the Inception to the Concept Plan Phase of the BoP Project. By using discourse analysis, this research identifies the dominant discourses, story lines and discourse-coalitions, as well as other dramaturgical and deliberative factors, which were introduced by various actors and shifted throughout the project. These features shaped this project’s knowledge production process, and have the potential to significantly alter urban space in this locality. The ‘rules of the game’ constructed the BoP Project so that a ‘good business climate’ would be created for logistics and port-related activities in adjacent city spaces. These spaces were conceptualised as areas of change, which facilitated the introduction of new planning strategies. The knowledge negotiation processes were nuanced and complex, as knowledges associated with the functional discourse-coalition became hegemonic, whilst counter-hegemonic knowledges ‘fell through the cracks’. The research revealed that in order for such planning projects to be successful, it is important that decision-making in urban planning is cognisant of the context within which it occurs, and that holistic decisions, based on ‘multiple knowledges’, are made.