By John Wynne | 26 Mar 2018

We are living in extraordinary times, where the speed of global urbanisation is defining a future that is incredibly different to now, and even more so to yesteryear. Dramatic change is evident in all environments in which we live.

Urban planners have the immense responsibility of managing this change.

In a world that feels to be spinning ever faster, the role of planning (and planners) is very powerful. Planners are critical change leaders – balancing the aspirations of a strong community, good design, better places and sustainable outcomes, amidst economic and political machinations. 

Strategic and regulatory frameworks are established to reflect the objectives of our cities and communities. It is then the role of the planner to positively shape the economic, physical and social character of our environment to achieve these ambitions.

The benefits of planning executed well are palpable – attractive and safe living environments; protection of biodiversity; access to social and hard infrastructure; resilience to changing climate; long term land use frameworks underpinning reliable investment and decision making. Used well, planning has the power to ensure our futures are sustainable, attractive, vibrant and liveable. 

Conversely, poor planning can undermine the success of the many factors that make our cities some of the best in the world.  Inconsistent or unclear policies; over-regulation; inefficient processes; and lack of community buy-in, are some of the more frequent areas of frustration within urban planning.

Unsurprisingly, increasingly complex and often conflicting views about the character and form of our cities, results in planning decisions being some of the most contested and debated areas of public policy. This is the space in which planners thrive – providing the community with the plans, evidence, scenarios, and basis for decisions about how we want to live.

Great planning outcomes require talented people – and the demand for talented urban planners is at an all-time high. Encouragingly, student intake to planning courses has grown to unprecedented levels. Moreover, the next generation of planners is optimistic and enthusiastic about their profession and how it offers the opportunity to make a meaningful difference to our futures. 

Planners were in the spotlight at the recent opening ceremony of the Winter Olympic games, where the audience followed the storyline of five children travelling through time. The children enter a future world, to realise their dreams as leaders.  Amidst the well-recognised, sought after careers of doctors, technology experts & K-pop stars – one child became a city planner, tasked with the challenging role of shaping a better, future world.

Effective urban planning has never been more important than it is now. Planners must recognise their critical position in city shaping, and utilise the power available to them to optimise long term outcomes.

The success of our future cities and communities depends on the positive power of planning.

This article first appeared in the Planning Institute of Australia National E-News

Urbis is delighted to be a platinum sponsor, once again, of the 2018 Planning Institute of Australia (PIA) National Congress, to be held in Perth over three days in May.