There will be another 2 billion people living in urban areas by 2030. With a billion people now living in slums,and over 100,000 homeless people in Delhi, for example, it is no exaggeration to say that this is a critical decade for cities and the practice of urban planning.
The international agreement reached in COP21 in Paris should provoke a wide ranging review of planning policies around the world.
Place-based innovation is vital to making cities more inclusive, but much depends on local leadership.
The 2015-2030 Sustainable Development Goals to be adopted by governments at the United Nations next week pose a direct challenge and opportunity for planning and other built environment professionals.
In smaller towns across the UK and many other countries, the town centres are struggling. Julian Dobson, has a barrowful of ideas of what to do about it. His book How to Save Our Town Centres is the best starting point I know for those who want to combine analysis with action. It is well researched, well-informed and refreshingly creative. It deserves an international audience. Much of the analysis is UK-focused, but there are plenty of non-UK examples of innovative responses to the problems of town centres.
Zlin is an outstanding example of a town inspired by 20th century functionalist architecture. This classic company town was a product of the Bata shoe company, its "home town" that the company then mimicked across the continents. It survived Communism, and now a finely balanced conflict is taking place between conservation and consumer capitalism.
How has the economic crisis impacted on migration patterns across Europe? This question is addressed in a new four-page ESPON Evidence Brief. The theme was also a central feature of the ESPON seminar in Vilnius on 4-5 December. Migration has been a priority concern of the Lithuanian EU Presidency. This is not surprising, given the scale on which this small country has been haemorrhaging people in recent years. It is estimated that a sixth of the population has been lost over the last 20 years. However, as we in the UK know, migration has become a hot political topic in many countries. For example there are concerns in countries around the Mediterranean about their “front line” position in relation to illegal immigration from Africa and the Middle East.
In 2013 I helped RTPI construct a timeline to tell the story of planning 1914-2014 for their centenary year. Inevitably the focus was on the Institute itself and events in the UK. However, it set me wondering what a “World View” of planning over that 100 years might look like?
Just a few months ago there were major demonstrations in Istanbul triggered by protests against plans to build a shopping mall and housing on Taksim Gezi Park. In Rome this week I stumbled into another demonstration. A couple of hundred people had gathered late on Saturday afternoon outside a rather non-descript industrial building, a former foundry, not far from Porta Maggiore, the greatest entrance gate to ancient Rome. There were banners opposing speculators and “defending” San Lorenzo, the rather rundown neighbourhood squeezed between the railway, La Sapienza University and an elevated urban motorway. A hundred meters away the carabinieri were lined up with their riot shields.
Mumbai has been a powerful driver of economic growth in India over the past couple of decades. It is a mega-city with an estimated population of over 20 million. Much of the growth has taken place despite rather than because of planning. A spate of building collapses in recent weeks has prompted new debates about how to regulate development in this boom town. Provision of affordable housing has not kept pace with housing need, resulting in illegal housing development on a massive scale. However, it is not only houses that are falling down. People are risking their lives in poorly constructed workplaces as they try to earn a living.
Walking the streets of Dublin, you are never far from the brash excesses of the Celtic Tiger era – or from the havoc that the banking crisis has brought. Just as remarkable is the spirit that seems to have sustained the city, and not least the planners in their attempts to build a recovery. Where better to be for the ESPON seminar on jobs and growth?
The European Council of Spatial Planners has just published a book to mark “A Centenary of Spatial Planning in Europe”. It is a compendium in which the Introduction is followed by 32 chapters that range far and wide in their concerns and approach. What does the book tell us about where planning in Europe has come from and where it is heading to?