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18/08/2014

Urbanisation is a global issue

Words:

"Planning is not about control (primarily), and it is not about inhibiting (primarily),” Nick Boles told this year’s RTPI centenary convention in June: “It is about enabling; it is about creating; and it is about painting a picture of a future that we will bring about together.”

Steve Kemp of Open PlanWhatever political motivations may underlie the ex-planning minister's words, how could anyone who cares about planning and what it can achieve for people argue with the principles?
 
Balancing control and creativity featured strongly at this year’s Caribbean Urban Forum (CUF) in Barbados, where the theme –Place making – was well towards the ‘creativity’ end of spatial planning’s spectrum.
 
Working in the Caribbean raises one’s awareness of the impacts of rapid urban development, fragile economies, and uneven wealth distribution.
 
Towns and cities have hollowed out, poorer communities have become isolated, informal settlements abound, and wealthier people have decanted to sprawling non-places.
 
The need for creative place making is clear and, in a region with high risks from natural 
hazards like hurricanes, storms, landslides and earthquakes, 
this includes managing and reducing the impacts 
of potentially destructive place-shaking, place-breaking and place-taking forces too.

"There is a strong desire to move beyond a post-colonial planning heritage"

In the government’s commitment to tipping the balance towards creativity and away from control, localism is seen as an essential component, with planners supporting communities so that they can make creative, vision-based plans.
 
The Caribbean situation is similar – yet more complicated. There is a strong desire to move beyond a post-colonial planning heritage, based on the British 1947 Town & Country Planning Act. Theirs was a colonial variation, designed to control rather than to facilitate: an alien import, applied to a highly creative culture for which it was ill suited after independence. Caribbean warmth is now starting to thaw the region’s long-frozen legislative and bureaucratic inheritance from Britain. Trinidad and Tobago’s new Planning and Facilitation of Development Bill is, for example, paving the way for a new localism in planning, with an emphasis on creative urbanism.
 
Urbanisation is a global issue, requiring a global approach. British planners and the RTPI have much to offer and share and much to learn working with our Commonwealth partners. More vulnerable parts of the world will lead the way in issues that will eventually affect us all and we must be willing to listen as well as recognise our ability to support and guide.
 
Steve Kemp is founder and director of Open Plan
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