PROGRAMME DIRECTOR: PROFESSOR SAMER BAGAEEN
The Kent School of Architecture & Planning’s MA in Urban Planning & Resilience was launched in 2018 in response to the global challenges of globalisation, urbanisation, digitisation and climate change.
Early in 2020, our students had the opportunity to put their skills in addressing global challenges to the test when the COVID-19 pandemic ground life to a halt, but not before we managed a site visit to the Berkeley Homes development at Kidbrooke in Greenwich to look at how green infrastructure and modular green construction were being built for a new community on the site of the former Ferrier Estate.
The decarbonisation agenda, delivering net zero, and recognising that capital and investments should shift towards transition activities form a substantial component of our curriculum. We looked at how the building industry, and construction in particular, could shift towards zero emissions as quickly as possible. This was one reason why we went to Kidbrooke. The labour-intensive view of construction is a fragile model vs. construction sites reliant on off site and modular construction.
During the year, we covered COVID-19 as an urban resilience challenge and this allowed the two cohorts of students on the programme to put their learning in to practice and the practice into their learning.
The pandemic is impacting lives and livelihoods around the world. And the built environment professions are not immune to its impact. The challenge for us as a planning profession is therefore to mitigate this impact and to ensure that we remain resilient, as much as we can through the next few weeks, but, more importantly perhaps, the challenge is also to emerge different, more mature, aware and suitably enabled to take advantage of the new operating environment.
We tried to address these issues in the work the students had to complete and the list included the following:
• The relaxation of planning rules and commercial units on the high street during a pandemic
• Commercial units on the high street and the role of economic subsidies during a pandemic
• Decision-making in local government and the role of technology during a pandemic
• Health and well-being in local government and the role of planners at times of crises
• The office lettings market and flexible space – How are empty properties being repurposed to house patients during a pandemic?
• Pandemics and the construction sector – what impact is the pandemic having on house building and office space provision?
Several elements of learning stood out for the group including the interdependencies between systems and how similarly or differently different places have reacted to the pandemic. We focused on the interconnectedness of recovery to people, to infrastructure, and to the environment. We also looked forward and covered the increasing use of Artificial Intelligence (AI) in planning.
We ended the year on a high with the appointment of Steve Quartermain CBE as our Honorary Professor of Practice in Planning. Steve recently retired from the position of Chief Planner at the Ministry for Housing, Communities and Local Government after 12 years in the role. He was responsible for the transformation of the UK planning system, bringing forward the National Planning Policy Framework.