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MIPIM: Paving the way for global cities

Urban landscape

MIPIM was a reminder to planners and the property industry of the need for policy and practice to adapt to the demands of modern cities, says Simon Stanion

The concept of global cities is now a major discussion point as councils begin to determine how they can create better urban environments fit for a growing population. However, with this opportunity brings new challenge – specifically, how the cities of the future should be designed to ensure that inclusive and sustainable growth can be achieved.

For the planning industry, there were some key takeaways from MIPIM 2018. In particular, exploring how the development sector should approach major planning decisions to ensure that cities are enhanced to not only focus on the here and now, but also cater for the future. Sustainable placemaking, air quality, infrastructure advancements and releasing greenbelt land are a few of the areas that planners must take seriously.

With the government predicting that more than 70 per cent of people will be living in urban areas by 2040 there are still challenges to overcome. The discussions inevitably focused on how to drive inclusiveness and sustainability through improvements to urban infrastructure and design. Panel discussions at the conference honed in on ‘urban mobility’, which examined how local authorities and the private sector can collaborate to offer a mobility network which will answer the needs of cities.

"There is no denying that the country’s cities must adopt a higher density model but ensuring that regeneration plans keep in mind the importance of sustainable place making will be crucial to the development of the cities of the future"

In part, the government could further encourage devolution and loosen the purse strings. There is a hugely compelling case for spending more on infrastructure, skills and education in areas outside of the M25. Funds spent now should more than pay for themselves over time and ensure housing and inclusive living requirements are met. With a significant amount being spent on HS2, connecting surrounding cities and towns into major stations on the rail line will be crucial to improving true connectivity across our regions.

Releasing greenbelt land will also play a part in expanding our cities. With local authorities often experiencing the greatest demand for new housing, many find the constraints of large areas of protected land surrounding their cities a significant barrier. What many fail to recognise is that some of the most sustainable locations for new homes to be built are in fact within green belt boundaries.

It is also necessary to recognise that changes must stretch beyond the need for improving the country’s transport links, and towards the importance of cultivating healthy cities. The quality of life that a city can offer is crucial to the decision-making process of where people choose to live and work. Moving forward, the green space initiative will be vital in encouraging people to walk or cycle to work, in turn freeing up transport routes. This makes a clean, green, safe and attractive environment a high priority when considering future planning challenges.

The government’s Air Quality Plan also looks to address some of the issues on the green agenda. However, whether the proposal will fall short of expectations in reality, is a whole other issue. What is certain is that ignoring air quality measurements and mitigating procedures is not the answer. Future development proposals have and will be refused unless robust data on the impact on air quality, and how it is going to be overcome, is submitted along with applications. With the responsibility to draft such plans also being placed on local planning authorities, a question of resource capacity is also raised.

Despite the mounting evidence regarding the health and economic benefits of an environment centred around wellness, buildings continue to be built with public space and wellness as an afterthought. There is no denying that the country’s cities must adopt a higher density model but ensuring that regeneration plans keep in mind the importance of sustainable place making will be crucial to the development of the cities of the future.

While there is undoubtedly still a long way to go, it is encouraging that these important topics were given the airtime they need and importantly, raised the issue that national planning policy must catch catch up with the modern demands.

Simon Stanion is head of planning at law firm Shakespeare Martineau

Photo | Shutterstock


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