Planning practice requires ongoing interaction between regulatory "facts" and deliberative "norms". Played out in local and strategic developments, "norms" are the agreed values and positions developed by advancing deliberative engagement of residents; while "facts" are the more rigid statutory procedures through which planning decisions are typically made. However, conflict arises between residents' groups and local government decision-makers when deliberative norms, now a key tenet of strategic planning processes, struggle to gain traction in the factual spaces provided by statutory planning regulations. A contentious planning process in St Kilda, Melbourne, Australia (concerning the redevelopment of a car park into a commercial and public space) highlights the challenges to deliberative engagement in highly-regulatory planning systems. Drawing on this contested case, this paper examines how the broader formal and relatively fixed framework of regulatory-based decision-making fails to support participatory principles, undermining both the desired communicative ethos and enduring collaborative outcomes and norm development. Specifically, the paper problematises tensions between residents' growing expectations for greater transparency and participation in planning, arising from a growing regard for deliberation in strategic planning, and the hegemonic nature of statutory planning that preserves planning control within the formal domain of government and the private sector. © 2014 Taylor & Francis.