The idea of planners exchanging jobs with colleagues in another country to broaden their experience and outlook is an attractive one. I understand that the International Division of the American Planning Association (APA) is looking at ways to facilitate such swaps. I know that there is also strong interest in similar ventures between countries in the Global South, with particular interest in South Africa.

The figure of Hans Clauert is used in public art in the centre of Trebbin to brand the town.

How do you make small towns in rural areas more attractive? This is the central concern of a Baltic Sea INTERREG IVB project that I have been working on. Trans-in-Form brought together partners from Norway, Sweden, Germany, Poland, Latvia and Lithuania. Some of them have had to contend with serious loss of population, and especially young people, who move to the capitals or go abroad to work or study and never return. The project has experimented with a range of techniques to engage local politicians, officers and the public in thinking about what scope there is for action – locally, in co-operation together and across similar regions.

I was involved as a speaker in an event about indicators for sustainable urbanisation the UN-Habitat World Urban Forum in Naples. The Commonwealth Association of Planners (CAP) has been working with the US Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) to explore ways towards harmonising approaches so that policy makers can be used to track progress towards (or away from) sustainable urbanisation. As Professor Eugenie Birch commented in the workshop, “There is lots of uncoordinated activity in this field”. In co-operating in this way CAP and HUD are contributing to global advocacy of the importance of urbanisation to sustainable development. Representatives of the Ford Foundation and of UN-Habitat also spoke on the same platform, demonstrating their support for the initiative.

The use of planning and built environment design to boost public health is attracting growing attention. Therefore the publication of a major, international research-based compendium is much to be welcomed. Water, crime, obesity, transport and food are amongst the many topics covered. Kevin McCloud, British designer and TV presenter has said “I’d like to see every politician, planner and developer given a copy.”

This blog was first posted on the Planning Resource website on 24 August 2012.

I should have been in Abuja this week to speak at the Nigerian Institute of Town Planners conference on “Building Resilient Cities”. Due to lack of time to get a visa, I could not make it. However, I did write a paper and this blog is a summary of it. It reviews current thinking about the idea of resilient cities. This is a theme I have explored in previous blogs on this site.

I have just spent a few days enjoying the redwood forests of Northern California. Wandering amidst these magnificent trees was only possible because of the efforts of committed conservationists over the last century. I first saw the redwoods in 1980. That year we did a house exchange with the City Planner of Eugene, Oregon. This enabled me to see something of the workings of planning and zoning in this part of the US. We also travelled up and down the spectacular coast of Oregon. Riding once more on the iconic coastal Highway 101, what differences do I see?

Planning is being used in the Israeli-occupied West Bank of Palestine to deny Palestinian communites fair opportunities for development. The practices undertaken in the name of "good planning" actually amount to a denial of administrative justice. These are important findings from an International Advisory Board of experienced planners that it was my privilege to chair. 

As ever more trips are made it becomes harder and harder to move around cities, even when money is invested in transport infrastructure. Across the globe, but especially in the rapidly urbanising mega cities of the global south, cities are facing a crisis of accessibility. Quite simply, unsustainable forms of urban transport are no longer working.

Tuvalu from the air (photo courtesy of Dr.Julia Edwards)

This blog provides a front line report from Tuvalu, a small island state in the Pacific. Tuvalu is going through urbanization on a scale it has never experienced before, and is also struggling to adapt to the impacts of climate change. This remote and tiny place, so far removed from the global cities which are shaping its future, provides a laboratory specimen of the fate of a small island state in today’s world.

Spending a couple of days in Tel Aviv has enabled me to walk through the part of the town that was designed by Sir Patrick Geddes in the 1920s. The legacy of that plan is still evident today in what has become Israel's main gateway city.  Can some of Tel Aviv's dynamism be traced back to Geddes vision? What are the lessons for today's planners?

This blog was first posted on the Planning Resource website on 17 July 2012.

 

The next generation is going to witness a staggering amount of new urban development as the world’s economic centre of gravity shifts towards Asia. Cities in both developed and rapidly urbanising countries need professional planning if they are to prosper. Companies serving consumer markets should grasp the significance of the growing urban middle class and its diversity. Urban analysis is increasingly necessary for business success. These are the main messages from a dramatic new report from the McKinsey Global Institute (MGI).

This blog was first published on the Planning Resource website on 5 July 2012,

“The word planning has a positive connotation, and the feeling that ‘things work better with a plan’ is a nearly universal personal experience.” This is one of the findings from a piece of market research undertaken recently on behalf of the American Planning Association (APA). However, in the USA planning is now a divisive topic politically. Why is this, and what form of planning is it that the American public seems to favour?

VÄ›ra Chytilová's film Panelstory is essential viewing for planners and housing professionals. Made in what was then Czechoslovakia in 1979, it shows residents (not) adjusting to life in a new high rise estate. While the prefabricated panels are swung by huge cranes through space against a blue sky, on the ground women struggle to push prams and buggies through the mud on their way to join the queue at the clinic.

This blog was first posted on the Planning Resource website on 27 June 2012.

 

The Rio +20 summit was widely ignored by the world’s political leaders – the clearest possible statement that they have no intention of providing leadership on sustainable development. Similarly, the media devoted scant attention to the event – in marked contrast to the coverage given to the landmark 1992 gathering, or the 1972 summit in Stockholm. So what actually happened at Rio and where does it leave planners and others whose work it is to deliver more sustainable forms of development?

A wide ranging international review of national urban policies highlights the importance to national development of coordinated planning and well-functioning urban areas. Urban planning is seen as an economic imperative. "The argument
that well-functioning urban areas can help to unleash the development potential of nations is more persuasive than the argument that urban policy is about alleviating poverty and meeting basic needs", says the report.

On a cold and blustery Sunday morning in February I visited Susiya, a Palestinian village in the hills outside Hebron. Today I heard that the homes of the villagers are likely to be demolished. The plan they presented to secure the future of their properties and the right to develop has been ruled to lack feasibility, while the existing development falls foul of planning standards. According to an Israeli NGO, Rabbis for Human Rights, there is an imminent risk that the villagers' houses will be demolished and they will be left without anywhere to live. This is the latest stage in a long running story of a poor community on the receiving end of a planning regime rooted in military occupation.