Urban planning

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Urban planning is a socio-political and technical process operating in the urban contexts such as towns and cities. It is concerned with the management and orderly development of the built environment, the welfare of communities, control of the use of land, design of the urban environment including transportation infrastructure and communication networks, and the protection and enhancement of the natural environment[1].

Urban planning enables cities to respond to the emerging trends, events, challenges, and opportunities within the framework of the vision and mission they have strategically developed. Following the rise of the paradigm of New Urbanism, architecture and planning have essentially included the theme of society. This includes a commitment to the reconciliation of physical infrastructure with societal, cultural infrastructure. Broader ways to provide security, and varying citizens’ perceptions of (in)security, in urban spaces need to be considered:

Security aspects in urban planning

While security aspects do not always figure prominently in urban planning, much of that planning has effects on citizens’ security. By putting one focus on "soft" aspects (such as culture aspects) in urban planning, VITRUV will help urban planners identify how their planning decisions may directly or indirectly affect societal security. In this context, the concept of security particularly relates to a high level of safeguard for the infrastructure, the supply of goods and services, and for the commonly acquired values of a community. By identifying and validating practical methods to integrate culture, ethics and legal aspects, this contribution will facilitate the consideration of the multidimensionality of threats and vulnerabilities in their context of urban planning.

Urban strategic planning, reflecting the complex and continuous process of city change, has a couple of security-related aspects involved in its core missions, such as the following:[2]

  • Urban strategic planning is flexible and oriented towards the larger picture. It aligns the city with its environment, setting a context for meeting goals and providing a framework and direction to achieve the city’s desired future.
  • Urban strategic planning creates a framework for competitive advantage through thorough analysis of the city, its internal and external environment, and its potential. This enables cities to respond to the emerging trends, events, challenges, and opportunities within the framework of the vision and mission they have developed through the strategic planning process.
  • Urban strategic planning is a qualitative, idea-driven process. It integrates “soft” data that are not always supported quantitatively, such as experiences, intuition and ideas, and involves stakeholders in the on-going dialogue with the aim of providing a clear vision and focus for the city.

For resilience-enhancing consideration of security aspects in urban planning, it is – among other things – necessary to identify citizens needs and consider community involvement, in particular in, but not limited to, reconstruction or relocation planning and in emergency concepts. It is also important to adapt urban planning strategies, as necessary, to other planning policies and sectors, such as emergency and disaster management.

While urban sociology and socially concerned urban planning have gained much insight on environments such as "pleasant", "calming" or "exciting",[3] "secure environments" have been addressed to a far lesser extent.

For example, the city of Vienna’s guideline for "secure planning" highlights issues related to subjective factors influencing the quality and safety of urban life, with an emphasis on the social and cultural dimension, including urban neighborhoods, gender mainstreaming, subjective perception of safety and security (with emerging "hot spots of fear"), etc.[4] The “secure planning”-guideline describes the public space as being a social space and focuses on four "sociospatial" dimensions, which can have an impact on citizens perceptions of (in-)security in urban places: people, objects, dynamics and the image/identity of a place (see also sociospatial perspective).

  • The first part of the guideline concentrates on aspects characterized by the fact that the public space is used by different types of people, e.g. spatial consequences of social diversity.
  • The second chapter of the guideline focuses on inanimate elements of urban areas, like different types of objects, lightening, plants etc.
  • Different aspects of urban dynamics, e.g. pedestrians, bicycle riders, public transport, are an important part of city life and can therefore influence the perception of (in-)security in urban areas. These aspects define the main points of the third chapter.
  • Feeling safe/unsafe also goes together with the identity and image of an urban area, issue to be described in the fourth part of the “secure planning”-guideline.

It is still an open question if urban planning should be placed under the overarching objective of providing security to citizens. Regardless of how this question is answered, security aspects obviously have an influence on how built environment is changed and developed. Conversely, the way in which built environment is changed and developed influences the security of infrastructure, and of society as a whole, both in manifest and in latent ways. Comprehensive security information for the urban planner should include information on culture, ethics and legal aspects to consider when addressing security-related urban planning issues.

Dimensions involved in Urban Planning

Urban planning decisions addressing security aspects will moreover be the more efficient the more they considers analyses of the social context in which they are going to be taken. This could include, among other things, consideration of citizens’ self-perceptions of vulnerability, resilience and coping capabilities as well as cover the aspect of how urban planning decisions may influence this self-perception. Security centred urban planning is wise to consider and integrate security relevant aspects (culture, social, legal, ethics aspects) in its multidimensionality as such.

Footnotes and references

  1. Taylor, Nigel (2007). Urban Planning Theory since 1945, London, Sage. London, Sage.
  2. United Nations UN Settlements Programme (UN-HABITAT): Inclusive and Sustainable Urban Planning: A Guide for Municipalities. Volume 1. UNON Publishing Service Section, 2007, p. 7. Online: http://www.unhabitat.org/pmss/listItemDetails.aspx?publicationID=2662
  3. Cf. J. L. Nasar: Environmental psychology and urban design. In: T. Banerjee/A. Loukaitou-Sideris (eds.): Companion to Urban Design. London/New York: Routledge, 2011, p. 162-174 (p. 168).
  4. The guideline was developed by the Department of Urban Development and Planning in Vienna developed through the project “Physical and social phenomena of urban insecurity – How can urban planning meet them?”, see http://www.queraum.org/pdfs/Info_Sicherheit.pdf