Effective planning takes into account diverse perspectives and impacts, says Shrinivas Rao

(This second part of the article on urban planning discusses the new issues involved in making public spaces more suited to the present-day environment)

Urban planning has evolved over time, with new issues and tools. Over the past few years, social equity, environmental risk management, heritage preservation, energy planning, security, non-motorised transportation, public health, and sustainability have all become planning issues. Effective planning takes into account diverse perspectives and impacts, allowing decision-makers to identify and implement the most effective ways to achieve goals.

Urban planning principles manage resources including people, time, money, land and infrastructure; while designing the principles it is necessary to identify the resources, constraints and conflicts. Urban Planning Principles (UPP) today increasingly incorporate the concept of sustainability, which refers to comprehensive, strategic planning that explicitly considers long-term and indirect impacts. UPP strive for development rather than growth and recognise resource constraints and ecological risks.

Involvement of stakeholders

Planning is a social activity as it involves people. Successful planning requires effective involvement of stakeholders. A comprehensive approach incorporating various stakeholders is vital while planning. Following are the key stakeholders while planning an urban space:

* Users

* Citizens/taxpayers

* Impacted residents

* Businesses

* Employees/workers

* Affected organisations / interest groups

Sustainable development and sustainability influence today's urban planners. Some planners argue that modern lifestyles use too many natural resources, polluting or destroying ecosystems, increasing social inequality, creating urban heat islands, and causing climate change. Many urban planners, therefore, advocate sustainable cities.

The planning process today generally encompasses the following principles:

* Comprehensive – all significant options and impacts are considered

* Efficient – the process should not waste time or money

* Inclusive – people affected by the plan have opportunities to be involved

* Informative – results are understood by stakeholders (people affected by a decision)

* Integrated — individual, short-term decisions should support strategic, long-term goals

* Logical — each step leads to the next

*Transparent — everybody involved understands how the process operates

Aesthetics

The aesthetics of the city is another prime consideration. Many a time the visual environment gets cramped with excessive human-made clutter such as signposts, signs, and hoardings.

Challenges facing urban designers include tensions between peripheral growth, housing density and new settlements. Other debatable issues include mixing tenures and land uses versus distinguishing geographic zones where different uses dominate.

Environmental protection and conservation are of utmost importance to many planning systems across the world. Not only are the specific effects of development to be mitigated, but attempts have to be made to minimise the overall effect of development on the local and global environment.

This is commonly done through the assessment of sustainable urban infrastructure and microclimate. Regardless, all successful urban planning considers urban character, local identity, heritage, pedestrians, traffic, utilities and natural hazards.

(The author is CEO, Asia Pacific, Vestian Global)

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