During the last three decades, the use of public–private partnerships to deliver urban infrastructure has increased considerably around the world. The objective of this paper is to understand how the availability of private finance that comes with the use of public–private partnerships and, specifically, unsolicited proposals, affects planning. To do so, I investigate the case of Lima, Peru, where between 2009 and 2012 three urban highway projects worth a total of US$1.3bn were approved, and a new metropolitan plan was written in 2014. I use qualitative case study methods to reconstruct the process. I find that the introduction of private finance deeply shapes the planning process, including the selection of the projects that will get built. Thus, beyond transforming the implementation stage of a two-step process, private finance has a profound impact on the planning phase itself by setting constraints on what can be done and to what ends. Furthermore, I find that the logic following the profit motive to prioritize infrastructure projects then becomes embedded within formal planning, as plans are written according to what can be built with private finance. I call the specific mechanism by which this happens “unplanning.” The paper contributes to understanding how public–private partnerships and private finance impact planning processes and outcomes.
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