What kind of regional development actions might boost competitiveness and growth through forging new links with states around the borders of the European Union (EU)? This is the question that will be the focus of a meeting in Cyprus that I am participating in this week. The EU’s European Neighbourhood Policy dates from 2004. Its objective is to avoid “the emergence of new dividing lines between the enlarged EU and our neighbours and instead strengthen the prosperity, stability and security of all.” What are the pressures and opportunities and how might a place-based approach help?

What are the issues that planners across the globe are grappling with? This week I attended a meeting in London of the Commonwealth Association of Planners (CAP). Representatives from Africa, the Caribbean and Americas, Asia, Australasia and the Pacific, and Europe gave fascinating presentations. In the space of an hour we were given a kaleidoscope of planners’ work and concerns – from post-earthquake Christchurch to crime and sprawl in Caribbean islands, from the “jobs and growth” agenda in Europe to the forced removal of people to make way for major infrastructure projects in dynamic African countries. Where does planning go from here?

What are the implications of moves to offer international accreditation of planning education, particularly on North-South basis globally? The RTPI has fully accredited a planning programme in Africa for the first time. I chaired the Accreditation Board that visited University of Cape Town last week. On 30 October the Commonwealth Association of Planners will hold a meeting in London that will consider how to build capacity and institutions for planning across the Commonwealth. The following day I will be part of a video-link panel to the annual conference of the American Collegiate Schools of Planning in Cincinnati, where the theme of the panel will be international accreditation.

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.