Geography & Environment Publications

An Analysis of Public Debates over Urban Growth Patterns in the City of London, Ontario

Godwin Arku, University of Western Ontario
J. Kemp
Jason Gilliland, University of Western Ontario


In much of the developed world, the direction and patterns of urban growth have been the subject of public debate. Some scholars and practitioners believe that the current urban development pattern are too outward-oriented and are concerned about its possible negative consequences. Others defend outward expansion, arguing that it fulfils consumer preferences and promotes economic growth. Despite a sizeable literature on the topic, the discussion has been hampered by a lack of knowledge about how growth is perceived by key “agents of change”, those individuals whose decisions and activities affect the direction and patterns of urban growth. Additionally, the news media often represents the urban growth debate in simplistic, oppositional terms (e.g. “pro-growth” versus “anti-growth”, “pro-business” versus “anti-environment”) with little or no regard for local factors that affect development patterns in specific situations. As described in this article, we used a multi-method case study approach to address these limitations and to better understand recent urban growth issues. The primary goal of this study is to assess multiple perceptions of urban growth and management debate in London, Ontario. As elsewhere, the issue of urban growth patterns is intensely debated in this case study. However, we argue that discussion on this topic should change from simplistic generalisations to consideration of locale-specific factors that influence urban growth patterns.