This blog was first posted on the Planning Resource website on 22 September 2011.

Next year will see the twentieth anniversary of the landmark UN “Earth Summit” that was held in Rio de Janeiro. Will the 2012 “Rio +20” summit in Brazil next June become a new landmark or an epitaph for environmentalist dreams? What strategy should planners and the other built environment professions adopt if they are to have their voice heard?

This blog was first posted on the Planning resource website on 15 August 2011.

The recently published report of the State of South Africa’s Cities makes extensive use of the concept of “resilience”. This is a theme that I discussed in a previous blog a couple of months back. However, as far as I know, the South Africans are the first to use it as a building block for a major national report. Thus “Towards Resilient Cities: Reflections on the first decade of a democratic and transformed local government in South Africa 2001-2011” is interesting both for its use of the concept and for what it has to tell us about what is happening in South Africa. In addition, it comes at a time when work is being progressed by the Commonwealth Association of Planners and others on a Commonwealth Urban Agenda and a Commonwealth set of urban indicators.

This blog was first published on the Planning Resource website on 9 August 2011.

Dadaab in Kenya is the biggest refugee camp in the world. It is roughly 80 kms from the border with Somalia. Its population on 24 July 2011 was 387,893.  There were 40,434 new arrivals in July – equivalent to the population of a small town. Another 40,000 or so had arrived over the previous six months. They come from drought-stricken and war-scarred Somalia. The Dadaab complex is now Kenya’s fourth largest “city”. I have been talking to two young professional planners who work in the camp. This is what they told me.

This blog was first posted on the Planning Resource website on 1 August 2011.

The Localism Bill in England is creating new Neighbourhood Development Plans. The bill will also provide powers to communities to bring forward a ‘community right to build’.  So this is a good time to distil  key messages from experiences with community planning, and an international perspective can help. Phil Heywood’s new book “Community Planning: Integrating Social and Physical Environments” is a good place to start. It includes a compelling case study of the practice of design-led local community involvement  in Northern Queensland.

This blog was first posted on the Planning Resource website on 25 July 2011.

As the UK government urges planning authorities to plan for growth and Local Enterprise Partnerships set out to boost local economies, what do we know about spatial trends in the knowledge economy?

This blog was first posted on the Planning Resource website on 18 July 2011.

Tax Increment Financing (TIF) is a controversial tool for economic development. New and so far unpublished research on its use in Chicago questions the benefits that TIFs generate. These findings strengthen the reservations about TIF that my co-authors and I expressed in our new book on Regional and Local Economic Development. In England the TIF idea has been promoted by the British Property Federation and the Core Cities Group, and has received government backing. Meanwhile the Scottish Government has indicated that it will support six pilot TIF projects. So why are there so many criticisms of TIFs in the USA?

This blog was first posted on the Planning Resource website on 11 July 2011.

A third of the world’s people are on the move, says Billy Cobbett, the Manager of Cities Alliance. Addressing the World Planning Schools Congress in Perth, Western Australia, Mr. Cobbett called for planners to transform the current wave of urbanisation into a sustainable process. However, he issued a grim warning – there is no certainty of success. Likening today’s situation to the historic migration to the New World, Mr. Cobbett cautioned that we have no guide to follow. “Most current policies are wrong”, he said. “Policies that fail to focus on urbanisation as a positive force for social, economic and political transformation are policies that will fail.”

This blog was first posted on the planning resource website on 3 July 2011.

Janet Strachan (Commonwealth Secretariat) hears about planning education in Ghana from Dr. Inkoom, while Dr. Lauence Carmichael from University of the West of England swops notes with Dr.Alias Abdullah of Malaysia's International Islamic University

The Maldive Islands: annual increase in urban population – 5.2%.; maximum height above sea level – 8 metres; rapidly growing tourist industry; four planners; no planning school.. Mozambique: annual increase in urban population 4.1%; proportion of urban population living in slums – over 90%; number of planning schools – 1. Basic facts like these hint at why planning education has become an important issue for the Commonwealth. What can we do to get planners with the right skills in the places where they are most urgently needed?

This blog was first posted on the Planning Resource website on 24 June 2011.

Should shrinking regions be abandoned? This was a key question raised during the final day of the ESPON Open Seminar in Hungary (the opening day is covered in my previous blog this week). It is clear that many European regions face a difficult future in which their population is aging and people are moving out, especially young women. Should such regions be sustained by public investment – or left to gently fade away, as key services are withdrawn, infrastructure is not maintained and only those prepared to live in such conditions are left?

This blog was first posted on the Planning Resource website on 22 June 2011.

Budapest

What can local and regional authorities do to speed economic recovery? What kind of actions are needed to make the pattern of development more sustainable? How can we make places more inclusive?  The Territorial Agenda of the European Union 2020 (TA), agreed by the Ministers responsible for spatial planning last month, aspires to point the path “Towards an Inclusive, Smart and Sustainable Europe of Diverse Regions”.  Now I am at the ESPON meeting in the Royal Palace at Godollo, Hungary that seeks to explore what knowledge is needed to take the TA forward and to inform the EU’s Cohesion Policy after 2013.

This blog was first posted on the Planning Resource website on 14 June 2011.

After spending a month in the USA (the reason for the lack of recent blogs) I have really begun to grasp the scale of the housing market crisis there.  The sub-prime US mortgage market triggered the global economic crisis in 2007-8. Now the weakness of the housing market is slowing the US recovery, and making front page news day by day. As housing became a commodity and an investment opportunity, rather than a place to live, so speculation led to over-production and predictable bust. Foreclosures have soared, homebuilding has stopped and many homes now lie empty.

This blog was first posted on the Planning Resource website on 16 May 2011.

This is an exciting time. There is a new confidence in economic geography and regional science. We are seeing the emergence of a set of concepts and propositions that have strong and direct implications for policy makers and practitioners. One of these is the notion of urban and regional resilience. It has been described as a “steering model” for urban and regional development. It offers some pointers for planners and regeneration and economic development professionals.

This blog was first posted on the Planning Resource website on 4 May 2011.

Food security is an issue that is rapidly rising up the international agenda. As a recent paper produced by the Commonwealth Association of Planners explains, the global consensus is that population and food prices are increasing, while access to food is decreasing. Last August the RTPI released a policy statement on Planning for Food, and then took a leading role in an on-line discussion of the topic on World Town Planning Day in November 2010.

The American Planning Association has also issued policy guidance on “Community and Regional Food Planning” ,and as my blog last week showed, food was a key concern of “tweeters” at last month’s APA annual conference.   So should food security become a key consideration in the practice of planning across the globe?

This blog was first published on the Planning Resource website on 24 April 2011.

The American Planning Association annual conference in Boston provided a fascinating insight into the concerns and perspectives of US planners. The angle that particularly caught my attention was the blitz of presentations and activities about how planners and developers can use social media and new information technology in their work. Whether you want to tweet, trip or ClickFix, or just browse in the urban interactive studio, the APA was the place to be. Or not to be, maybe that was the question, for you didn’t need to be in Boston to be connected to this virtual planners’ world.

This blog was first posted on the Planning Resource website on 11 April 2011.

Across the world, administrative boundaries, and particularly international borders, are blocks to economic development,  management of energy and conservation of natural resources. Rivers flow across frontiers, where flood prevention measures differ. National energy policies and grids constrain efficiency. Small towns split by a border struggle against larger economic hubs.  The culture of officialdom looks inwards. However, across Europe border barriers are being tackled through spatial planning and economic development. Local blinkers are being replaced by new forms of co-operation and policy-making.

This blog was first posted on the Planning Resource website on 4 April 2011.

Frustrations with urban conditions were a fundamental factor behind the popular uprisings in Egypt, according to Doug Saunders, author of a new book Arrival City: The Final Migration and Our Next World. The book looks at neighbourhoods that are transitional between rural and urban. Across Africa and Latin America rural dwellers are moving to temporary locations for temporary or seasonal work. They form their own neighbourhoods on the outskirts of ‘urban’ areas, the first rung on the urban ladder. Once they get established, they want to move on, but find themselves blocked by housing policy and planning regulation. That’s when social unrest and political crises can be expected.