Building effective Planning Support Systems for green urban water infrastructure—practitioners’ perceptions

Martijn Kuller, Megan Farrelly, Ana Deletic, Peter M. Bach

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleResearchpeer-review

13 Citations (Scopus)


The multiple benefits of adopting distributed, green stormwater technologies in the local environment are increasingly recognised, particularly in relation to water quality, flood mitigation, amenity and aesthetics. To advance the integration of these systems into everyday decision-making practices, Planning Support Systems (PSS) are considered vital. Despite several PSS available to support planners and key decision-makers, their uptake remains constrained; a phenomenon known as the ‘implementation gap’. While scholars have hypothesised why the adoption of PSS is limited, there remains little empirical investigation regarding the reasons why. This paper tests the hypotheses underlying the implementation gap in relation to water sensitive urban design (WSUD) planning. Drawing on the tacit experience of 24 key urban water planning professionals in the front-runner city of Melbourne, Australia, in-depth semi-structured interviews were undertaken to unpack the contemporary planning processes used and reveal characteristics leading to success and failure of PSS application. Data analysis revealed WSUD planning professionals regard the adoption of PSS as a significant step towards improving contemporary decision-making practices, which are regarded as opportunistic rather than strategic. PSS use was widespread, though the type, intensity and sophistication of use varied among interview participants. Confirming the hypotheses from planning literature, practitioners suggested PSS need to be user-friendly and align closely to planning practice. Additionally, however, it was found that it is crucial for PSS to meet industry conventions. Suggested improvements to current PSS included incorporating socio-economic factors alongside biophysical and planning factors, hence the role for GIS-based suitability analysis tools. Overall, this study provides current and future PSS-developers with critical insights regarding the type, function and characteristics of an ‘ideal’ PSS aimed at enhancing the usefulness and uptake of PSS, and thus improve planning that supports expediting green infrastructure implementation.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)153-162
Number of pages10
JournalEnvironmental Science and Policy
Publication statusPublished - Nov 2018


  • Implementation gap
  • Low impact development
  • Planning Support Systems
  • Strategic planning
  • Urban planning
  • Water sensitive urban design

Cite this