Since Strategic Housing has now been integrated into PAS at the IDeA, I went along to the RTPI planning convention today. A couple of things surprised me. Firstly, I ran into my sister randomly (she works in the world of digital mapping and planning) and secondly, I discovered Columbia has tried some truly interesting stuff in terms of bringing planning and social cohesion together.
Let’s start at the beginning. The first session was three speakers from three countires – Columbia, South Africa and England. Each had their own unique take on the role of planning in creating sustainable communities. South Africa (Jhb in particular) and Columbia have both faced huge social fracturing that is starting to be repaired – aided by the planning process. In Botega for example, reclaiming desolate land to give back to the commuity as shared public space has been instrumental in binding together the social classes. This along with creating cycle ways for the whole cities population to enjoy has helped to mend a previously torn apart society. Planning working closely with the social support systems available to communities.
The scale of change in Jhb following the Apartheid regime put a huge smile on my face. I am South African and grew up in Jhb in the 80’s and early 90’s. The city I saw pictures of today is so far from the dangerous, urban centre of 20 years ago – it is staggering. One thing that Professor Harrison, Executive Director of Development, Planning and Urban Management, City of Jhb, said really struck home. He said that in the 80’s Jo’Burg was a city with no vision. Whatever the political problems of the past, it seems that with a vision for the future, this city is changing and changing for the better. We harp on about the importance of having a vision for your place and it is always good to see the outcomes of a solid vision.
I often long for the wide open space of SA and miss my car and not having to rely on public transort but Professor Harrison spoke about how unsustainable that way of life is and how SA needs to look to cities like London, New York and Botega to find a new path. He spoke at length about the importance of learning from other places. Something we at the IDeA try hard to help local authorities with.
Both Columbia and SA went on about how their planning systems weren’t nearly as sophisticated as the UK’s but I think their outcomes are better. Have we over complicated things perhaps?
Sir Terry Farrell spoke about London and the Thames Gateway and how the political structures surrounding local authorities are a real barrier to effectice ‘place-shaping’. Places, just don’t follow boundaries. He took the Marylebone-Euston Road as his example and you can read more on his take here.
It was sad not to find any housing colleagues at this conference but that is a symptom of the siloed worlds of housing and planning. I think we are making in roads through our programme and through PAS and perhaps at next year’s RTPI confreence we will see a more mixed group. Certainly enough of the programme was about delivering new housing and the role housing has to play in developing places.
The day was well attended and we certainly had lots of interest in the stand and the PAS workshop was full. It is odd being a non-planner at a planning event but I came away with a lot and can only suggest that more non-planners get involved in shaping our places.
A long blog today and I still wonder if anyone out there actually reads this stuff……