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.
One of the positive outcomes to emerge from the Rio+20 summit last year was the UN Environment Programme’s Global Initiative for Resource Efficient Cities (GI-REC) In trying to plot a way towards sustainable urban development it aims to reduce pollution and infrastructure costs while improving efficiency in cities across the world. The GI-REC will work with local and national governments, the private sector and civil society groups to promote energy efficient buildings, efficient water use, sustainable waste management and other activities.
Successful regional development can no longer be achieved through top-down public sector action. The skills and resources of the private and voluntary sectors are needed. This also means that planning for regional development must be done in a more inclusive way, less hierarchical and with co-operative networks and partnerships. However, action at regional scale needs also to be aligned to policy at national and transnational scales but also at local scale. These are messages from a new study that looks at regional development practice in four areas – the Randstad in The Netherlands, England’s West Midlands, Zealand in Denmark and Västerbotten in Sweden.
Seek the truth, speak the truth, defend the truth, live in truth. In my presentation to the closing session of the Association of European Schools of Planning annual congress, I drew on traditional Czech ideals to shape some messages for planners and planning educators. This blog provides an extended version of what I said.
The death of the 23-year old physiotherapy student after she was gang raped on a New Delhi bus has commanded headlines around the world. This appalling and tragic event has focused attention on the failures of the Indian authorities, and Indian society more generally, to tackle long standing problems of sexual assault and harassment. The sense of outrage stepped up when allegations emerged over the weekend of another gang-rape and murder in Noida, a satellite city east of Delhi. The media has concentrated on the failures of the local police. However, planners and urban designers also need to address the issues of women’s safety in urban areas.
I would like to award the prize for the best contribution to environmental sustainability for 2012 to Hurricane Sandy. Sandy single-handedly managed to convert more American citizens to the threats posed by climate change than any number of scientists, scientific publications or politicians. By dumping extreme weather on the US eastern seaboard, massively disrupting transport and business, and above all by providing great TV pictures, it made a strong case in many different ways.
Last week in Cyprus, I was able to get some insights into the development challenges facing this part of Europe. In a snapshot, Mediterranean islands like Cyprus were early cradles of urbanisation and often have a rich archaeological legacy. They were poor agricultural areas until mass tourism began in the 1970s. The boom saw the spread of urban uses along the coasts and around the villages, often undermining of the quality of the places that people were attracted to. Now these places face austerity and threats from climate change.
Amidst all the media coverage of the Greek debt crisis, little attention has been paid to the contribution that local and regional economic development can make to building competitiveness. Of course, the macro-economic policies pursued throughout the long crisis have been formidible barriers to growth. However, the counter-narrative from the enforcers of austerity is that the Greeks have only themselves to blame, even to the point where they need to be punished for electing the "wrong" government and delivering the "wrong" referendum result. Similarly, no media correspondents seem to have strayed far from Athens. Therefore this blog looks at a case study of one peripheral Greek region and traces its efforts to deliver innovation-led growth.
As European leaders vent their anger at the Greeks and threaten (once again) to perform the next act in a protracted tragedy, what became of territorial cohesion? This may sound an esoteric question, but it goes to the heart of the future of the EU.
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.
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.