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?
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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.
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 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.
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.
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?
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.
“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?
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?
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.