This blog was first posted on the Planning Resource website on 21 May 2012.

Warsaw is sprucing itself up for the European football championships that it will host next month. This is the latest stage in its transition from the planned socialist city to the city of 21st century consumerism. At times, these two faces stand in counterpoint to each other in the townscape; at other times they merge into one. How do you read a city, and hear its stories, by walking its streets and absorbing its messages?

This blog was first posted on the Planning Resource website on 15 May 2012.

Natural disasters continue to claim lives and devastate families, particularly the global South. The poor are most vulnerable as they typically live in the most hazardous locations. However, this social and geographical reality also compounds the problems, because of the gaps that exists between planners and the poor. The two groups speak different languages, have different understandings about the problems and what to do. Bridging such gaps could be a way to build greater resilience to extreme environmental events. Participatory 3 dimensional mapping is a technique that promises to do this.

This blog was first posted on the Planning Resource website on 7 May 2012.

The UN-Habitat World Urban Forum will meet in Naples in the first week in September. It is the pre-eminent meeting place for the global community of those who are actively engaged in trying to create more sustainable and equitable human settlements. It brings together mayors and grass roots activists, professionals and politicians, slum dwellers and developers, the global North and the global South. This week saw the launch of a series of on-line dialogues that will lead into the main WUF. You may not be able to get to Naples, but you can have your say on the ways you think urban planning should be used to tackle the challenges of the towns and cities.

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

This week Planning magazine celebrates its 40th birthday. At this critical juncture, the point where mid-life crisis is supposed to kick in with a vengeance, I thought that I should look back to where I was in 1972, while still taking a “World View”. So back we go to a time when my hair was long and curly, I wore red flared trousers, and the post-war world was on the cusp of changing fundamentally.

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

Scenario planning tools are increasingly being used in North America as means of community engagement. The state of the art is reviewed in a new publication that attracted attention at the recent American Planning Association conference in Los Angeles. The development of web-based GIS and mobile phone technologies opens the prospect of a rapid emergence of new techniques that could fundamentally change the way we do planning.

This blog was first posted on the Planning Resource website on 2 April 2012.

Last week I went to a meeting at the Scottish Parliament about architecture policy. Across Europe the divide between architecture and planning is more blurred than in the UK. So what kind of architecture policies do we see in Europe? What do such policies say and how are they used? Do we need such policies?

This blog was first posted on the Planning Resource website on 26 March 2012.

If planning is to become a means of supporting growth and economic recovery, then planners, economic development specialists and others working with Cohesion Funds will need a better understanding of the local business environment and accessibility. A new ESPON report includes a description of indicators that are used in Sweden to monitor these concerns, and inform local policy and practice.

This blog was first posted on the Planning Resource website on 19 March 2012.

“One of Norwegian society’s strengths lies in the fact that we have economic development spread all over the country. This enables us to get the most out of our natural, cultural and human resources, and is how we have laid the foundation of our prosperity and welfare.” This statement opens an official commentary on Rural and Regional Policy published by the Norwegian Ministry of Local Government and Regional Development.  In contrast, as I write this blog, the UK government is announcing a kind of regional policy in reverse: it will take money out of weaker regional economies by holding down the pay of public sector employees working in such regions. So is the left of centre Norwegian government’s regional policy a dinosaur?

This blog was first published on the Planning Resource website on 7 March 2012.

The use of major sporting events to drive development and regeneration has become increasingly controversial. Who gains? Who loses? Since the 1992 Olympics in Barcelona such spectacles have been widely seen as offering a unique opportunity to rebrand places and upgrade problematic sites. However, the planning of such infrastructure typically displaces poor and marginalised residents and small businesses. The Centre on Housing Rights and Evictions estimated in 2007 that globally millions of people had suffered forced removal as a result of development for sporting and other mega events. Are such outcomes justified in the wider public interest?

The Barcelona Olympics created new expectations about the role of sports events in regneration. Photo courtesy of Tom Bendall.

This blog was first posted on the Planning Resource website on 28 February 2012.

For many the very idea of town planning is inextricably tied to a statutory system for regulation of development, operated by professionals. To non-professionals the procedures and rules are opaque. The attempt to impose uniform standards can be inequitable and self-defeating. Such planning is seen as top-down and technocratic. From the 1960s onwards, and particularly in the global South, there have been attempts to put into practice quite different forms of planning and place-making. Such initiatives are bottom-up and participatory, and tend to be focused around a wider range of priorities than are permitted within official planning legislation. In Japan this counter-movement is known as Machizukuri , and it is attracting a lot of attention.

This blog was first posted on the Planning Resource website on 20 February 2012.

In June the Rio +20 UN Conference on Sustainable Development will be held. Few will place much confidence in the capacity of national governments to drive forward an inclusive and environmental agenda for the world, as happened at Rio in 1992. Rather, the leaders of change today more and more seem to be the mayors of cities in Latin America. For example, Mexico City is at the forefront of planning and implementing strategies for environmental improvement and climate change adaptation and mitigation.

This blog was first posted on the Planning Resource website on 13 February 2012.

Last week’s forced departure of the President of The Maldives has brought global attention to this small country. It is one of 29 small island developing states (SIDS) listed by the UN Commission on Trade and Development, though there is no official definition of a SIDS. These small countries face a range of sustainable development challenges, as I discussed in a recent article in Small States Digest. For example, many have to deal with debt and economic volatility, a particular problem for countries economically dependent on the export of a few natural resources. Energy dependency, HIV/AIDS and youth unemployment can be added to the list. While there has been some recognition of the threats from climate change to small islands, the urban growth dimension of all these issues has attracted little attention, yet is critical to the future of these places.

This blog was first posted on the Planning Resource website on 7 February 2012.

Richard Florida’s writings on the creative class have underpinned much of the urban regeneration work in Europe, Australia and North America over the past decade. The creative sector is also getting increasing attention in India, Brazil and China. A new publication from ESPON shows regional patterns and trends in the creative workforce across Europe. It argues that the ability to attract creative workers is highly linked to the qualities of places, and that the opportunities are not confined to the urban centres.

This blog was first posted on the Planning Resource website on 28 January 2012.

I went to the cinema last night to watch a new film from China. I recommend “Mr Tree” as a film that gives you a flavour of the great transition that China is going through as people move to the cities. It shows some of the processes of change and their impacts on villages in the countryside. It will prompt planners, environmentalists and those involved in economic development to debate the costs and benefits of an annual growth rate of 8% per annum growth rate, and to ask could similar gains be achieved without some of the less desirable side effects?

UrbanThis blog was first posted on the Planning Resource website on 16 December 2011.

Looking at planning and economic development from a global perspective, 2011 was a year that posed more questions than it answered. At the level of headlines, there was little to raise the spirits or to make you confident that the world is on a more sustainable track. Governments still struggle to grasp why urbanisation is a strategic issue. The de-regulatory temper in England has echoes elsewhere. Depressed economies and austerity measures have set back regeneration and stalled housing markets. However, the quiet work of professionals and NGOs still has some bright lights and maybe points a way ahead.

This blog was first posted on the Planning Resource website on 7 December 2011.

We are facing a “deadly collision between urbanization and climate change”. This is the warning given in the 2011 Global Report on Human Settlements published by UN-Habitat. It comes at a time when expectation is rock bottom that governments will achieve a positive outcome at the climate summit in Durban. The UN-Habitat report recognises that many local authorities are implementing adaptation and mitigation measures. However, it says that climate change is still seen as a “marginal issue” by most policy makers. Furthermore, the connections between urbanisation and climate change are often overlooked, though they are crucially important.