Cliff Hague

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International job swaps amongst planners

The Columbia Gorge - an example of the outstanding landscapes and natural environment of Oregon.

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 here in South Africa, where I am writing this current blog.

Making Europe’s small towns more attractive

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.

Towards a global set of indicators for sustainable urbanisation

Dr.Gora Mboup, Chief of UN-Habitat's Global Urban Observatory Section, addressing the CAP Networking event in Naples.

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.

Building resilient cities

Natural disasters like this earthquake in China are one reason for the growing interest in building resilient cities. (Photo by Dr.Zhang Bing).

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.

Redwoods and Sprawl on the West Coast of America

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?

New housing floorspace will be the area of the Netherlands by 2025

Rapid urban growth and new business opportunities: Kuala Lumpur

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).

Will a President Romney give US people the type of planning they want?

Mitt Romney (pic courtesy Austen Hufford via Flickr)

“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?

Rio + 20 – governments fail to lead on sustainable development

Sustainable development? East Port of Spain, Trinidad.

The Rio +20 summit was widely ignored by the world’s political leaders – the clearest possible statement that they have no intention of providing leadership on sustainable development. Similarly, the media devoted scant attention to the event – in marked contrast to the coverage given to the landmark 1992 gathering, or the 1972 summit in Stockholm. So what actually happened at Rio and where does it leave planners and others whose work it is to deliver more sustainable forms of development?

Smart specialisation as a development strategy in Denmark

Old Town of Aalborg

Aalborg has a small but charming Old Town, and being Danish there are plenty of bicycles.

What kind of strategies can help regions to strengthen their performance in knowledge and innovation? This was the theme of the ESPON Open Seminar that I took part in last week in Aalborg. What emerged was a strong consensus on the importance of getting stakeholders to feel a sense of ownership of a flexible regional strategy, which in turn was part and parcel of building trust. This region of North Denmark shows how strategic spatial planning has been used to create jobs and growth.

Conserving Europe’s cultural heritage

How is heritage conservation across Europe faring in these difficult economic times? Last week I was at the Europa Nostra meeting in Lisbon, representing the Built Environment Forum Scotland. We heard some inspiring stories but also cause for concern.

Lisbon, where Europa Nostra met last week