Why Social Change Matters

Why does social change matter in an exercise primarily concerned with physical planning? It matters precisely because the physical form and structure of any region reflect the underlying social character, structure, and behaviour of residents of the region. How and where people live, work, play and shop - in other words, the needs and rhythms of everyday life - are shaped by and in turn shape the physical form of the Zone and the challenges facing strategic planning. More broadly, planning is ultimately concerned with people and their well-being, and with the social sustainability of urban places, not simply with physical object.1 Thus, the first stage in any physical planning exercise is to determine who the citizens of the Central Ontario Zone are, to examine how that population is changing and why, and to assess people's needs and aspirations. During periods of rapid social and demographic change - such as we have witnessed over the last few decades and expect to experience over subsequent decades - understanding the dynamics of the population becomes even more important in mapping our urban future.

1. See, for example, R. Stren and M. Polese, eds., The Social Sustainability of Cities: Comparative Policy, Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 2000.