"In December 1996, an architect hired by the city council of San Vincenzo - a small town in Italy - to prepare its new Master Plan suggested I researched residents' expectations and attitudes toward the development of the town. The town council approved the research project and accepted to fund it as a part of the planning process. Council staff were actively involved in the research process, helping to define the research issues and collect data. San Vincenzo is a town of 7,000 inhabitants on the Tuscan coast. It is a fairly modern town, of no historical or architectural interest, and owes its economic growth to the tourist development of' the '60s, which resulted in the building of holiday homes that fill up in summer and increase the population to some 35,000 persons. Tourism and its effects on everyday life, the relationship between natural and artificial environment and the prospects of development, were the main issues investigated by means of a series of' in-depth interviews 26 priority respondents (representatives of local groups and economic, political, sporting and cultural organizations), followed by a survey carried out on a stratified population sample (150 between the ages of 1 8 and 30 and 150 between the ages of 55 and 70). The town Mayor was extremely supportive during every phase of the research. Yet he pointed out clearly from the outset that sponsoring the research did not mean automatically accepting the results as prescriptions for the Master Plan. The Master Plan goals had been laid down in the local government political programme, and choices already made could not be changed to suit any preferences expressed by respondents. I think that we can only agree with this statement. Indeed, there is a potential danger in regarding a survey as a tool for directing policies. It is not that data collection and interpretation are always far from being "objective", but rather that research simplifies reality, emphasising dominant trends at the expense of diversity and social change. The survey results indicate that, despite a general consensus concerning the objectives set out in the Plans political document, the populations perception of development priorities is partially divergent. Both the Planning Board and the Town Council found the results interesting and useful. But useful for what? The paper addresses this issue from the different viewpoints of people involved in the planning process."