For a few years in the 1970s the phrases 'public participation' and 'planning' went together as easily as 'fish and chips'. Now the emphasis in discussions of citizen involvement is changing: the concept of 'participation' is being replaced by 'decentralization' and 'user control' . Attitudes towards planning itself have also changed. There is less confidence in the ability of planners to produce blueprints for developments stretching far into the future: there is more emphasis on the importance of unplanned market forces. It is timely, therefore, to reassess the role of public participation in relation to planning; and to consider the implications of the experience of this local service for a general discussion of user control.