Programme Director: Professor Samer Bagaeen
Words by John Kirtley
The built environment comprises of a multitude of agents set in a myriad of contexts. Often expressing a desire to engage within this discipline requires an appreciation of the delicate balance of art and science with that of empathy and compassion. So as to maintain these delicate and somewhat symbiotic relationships between stakeholders and their environments, the MA Urban Planning & Resilience runs as a practice and policy embedded programme.
The MA in Urban Planning and Resilience reframes the understanding of these concerns and addresses these delicate ecosystems in a way that circumvents the focus of isolation by appropriating a systems-based approach to understanding the complexities of policy implementation, urban design, and development.
With the focus is on resilience, we as students feel that we are able to address broader issues of social and infrastructure resilience. In the face of the climate and housing emergencies, more sympathetic and inclusive approaches toward futureproofing development and facilitating community growth have called for more creative solutions. We therefore have explored in class improving the capacity for communities to participate in shaping their futures and equip them to better react to future shocks and stresses as well as changes over time.
With ongoing changes to the planning system, we are beginning to see a shift away from the conventional approaches of top-down urban development in favour of more inclusive bottom up and locally set agendas. We get the benefit of lectures from policy and government experts at the cutting edge of system reform.
Our cohort attended several external events off campus during the year, including the Building Garden Communities conference which was held at the RIBA in London in May 2022. We were fortunate to spend some 1:1 time as a group with the Government Minister responsible for planning and housing. Our teaching staff have also attended the largest industry event since the pandemic, UKREiiF, held in Leeds in May 2022. The School collaborated with the Royal Town Planning Institute, the Government Department for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities, and the BAME Planners Network on an invite only roundtable at this event.
At the Garden Communities Conference at the RIBA, we listened to experts and politicians outlining the steps to action on the levelling up agenda, however understanding and contextualising the concept of sustainable development is still an ongoing learning practice.
The issue when exploring an alternative method of practice often relies on case studies and constant evaluation that extends far beyond the initial concerns for economic viability and the inclusion of bureaucracy. We are beginning to explore such scenarios in our dissertations as part of the MA.
In her keynote address, the lead in Homes England, Fionnuala Lennon, focused on what was being undertaken to modify the approaches of planning in this new garden city movement. By emphasizing active transport and connecting with nature to streamlining the procurement and delivery process. We transitioned smoothly into an open discussion of what does good, sustainable development look like.
With representatives both in the public and private sectors, the overall consensus of this discussion saw the value of individuals and cultural assets toward shaping spatial ownership and called for greater transparency in education, adaptability in policy frameworks and expressing the importance of holistic management toward legal and emotional ownership of space. One of the panels at the conference unpacked how we could achieve net zero through the garden community model while a wider discussion explored how resource allocation and infrastructural provision could cater for all members of the community. The final remarks of this session called to humanise the public sphere and ensure that development is fair, equitable and accessible.