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Published: 21 March 2018
Area of Law: Planning, Real Estate

MIPIM 2018 - key take away for planners

Simon Stanion, head of planning at Shakespeare Martineau, reflects on the key themes for planners from MIPIM 2018.

The 29th edition of MIPIM explored the challenges and opportunities facing the future of urban living and how these changes will affect the approach taken by the property industry. The concept of global cities is now a major discussion point as councils begin to determine how they can create better urban environments fit for our growing population. However, with this opportunity brings new challenge; how will we live in the cities of the future?

With the Government predicting that more than 70 percent of people will be living in urban areas by 2040, transport is a huge challenge for cities. Highlighting the need for rapid action, MIPIM dedicated a panel session at the event to ‘Urban mobility: infrastructure on the move’ which explored how local authorities and the private sector can collaborate to offer a mobility network which will answer the needs of cities.

There is reason to believe that the necessary changes stretch beyond the need for better transport links and towards the importance of cultivating healthy cities. The quality of life that a city can offer is crucial to the decision-making process of where to live and work. Moving forward the green space initiative will be vital in encouraging people to walk or cycle to work, in turn freeing up transport routes. Therefore, offering citizens a clean, green, safe and attractive environment should be high on the list of priorities.

Despite the growing body of evidence based around the health and economic benefits of an environment centred around wellness, buildings continue to be built with public space and wellness as an afterthought. There is no denying that the country’s cities must adopt a higher density model to cater for the growing population but ensuring that regeneration plans keep in mind the importance of sustainable place making will be crucial to developing cities that not only focus on the here and now, but also cater for the future.

For example, Greater Manchester’s plans to enhance green links and waterways and the government’s pledge to invest £5.7 million in a northern forest, both point to authorities taking note of the need to create sustainable environments for the future. In the Midlands a pan-Midlands partnership of 23 Local Authorities, nine Local Enterprise Partnerships, the Chambers of Commerce, Highways England, HS2 Ltd, Network Rail, and the Department for Transport aims to deliver the enhanced connectivity required to power the Midlands Engine, maximising the Midlands’ position as a hub of the national transport network; driving economic growth, trade and productivity.

There is also an urgent need for action on inclusive growth in cities, the epicentres of opportunities and inequality. This year’s MIPIM questioned how city design will tackle the inequalities surrounding housing, education and employment.

While there is undoubtedly still a long way to go for our cities of the future, it is encouraging to see that these important topics are being given the airtime they need. Additionally, and arguably equally as important, is the need for national planning policy to catch-up with the modern demands.

Local authorities often experience the greatest demand for new housing, yet also find themselves constrained by large areas of green belt land surrounding their cities. Ironically, some of the most sustainable locations for new homes to be built are in fact within green belt land. In order to cater for the growing population, a sensible reappraisal of the function and purpose of the green belt itself, together with a limited release of suitable land for development, could be the answer, although there is little, if anything, in the draft National Planning Policy Framework published earlier in the month to indicate any current political appetite for change in this respect.

In order to ensure that our future cities are safer, smarter and more welcoming, it will be vital for the property industry to restore balance and begin to future-proof to adapt to new demands. After all, the decisions we make on the streets today will pave the future for tomorrows cities.

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