Community participation has become the buzzword of development projects over the past two decades. It is today at the core of almost every sustainability-related project as there is a gradual shift from top- down authoritative managerial planning towards more inclusive participatory development. The concept has become overused (Swapan, 2014: 191) and heavily politicised (Head, 2007: 447) thus often reducing its efficiency to a box ticking exercise, or, occasionally to further the interests of a minority (Botes and van Rensburg, 2000: 41). Beyond the vagueness of the term “community” itself, which suggests a sense of harmony, shared identity and cohesion which it often lacks (Head, 2007: 441), there is also a lack of common understanding of how “successful” participation is measured or defined (Holzer and Kloby, 2005: 517; Khwaja, 2004: 428). There is debate surrounding the forms that such participation could take and its impact on spatial elements of sustainable development (Marfo, 2008).
The need for low carbon cities can be reduced to a simplified equation; cities produce too much Green House Gases (GHG) thus contributing to climate change and negatively impacting their sustainability. The major source of urban GHG’s are fossil fuels used for energy generation in the sectors of transport, electricity and district heating (Whiteman et al 2011:252). It is therefore essential to not only transition to more sustainable, less carbon intensive sources of energy but also to reduce overall energy consumption. Poor town planning initiatives that do not encourage transit oriented development, mix use, densification, green infrastructure as well as an ill adapted regulatory environment surrounding waste disposal, construction materials and property development further contribute to urban GHG emissions (CCC, 2012:8).