This paper has attempts to identify some of the underlying frames of reference about the function of participatory planning and among the planners of Dutch highways, railways and other infrastructure. Identifying these conceptions helps us understand the prevailing practical usage of some of the insights delivered by the 'communicative turn'. Whereas much of the literature predominantly stresses the normative-related arguments surrounding participatory planning, planning practitioners working on regional infrastructure projects in the Netherlands tend to take an instrumental position. The paper has focuses on infrastructure planners' notions regarding the function of participatory planning. The results have shown, for example, that the notions of Dutch infrastructure planners are mainly pragmatic. Pragmatism emphasises that a good-quality decision is to be found in its practical application. Pragmatic planners emphasise that existing conditions within their field cannot always accommodate extensive participation, or, if these conditions do, undesirable outcomes may result. For some situations, then, participatory processes may be undesirable. As a consequence, in infrastructure planning non-participation or consultation via established formal procedures is (still) acceptable. The experiences in Dutch infrastructure planning indicate the perceived bounds or limits in using participatory planning in practice.