Development planning in post-independence India: Where did we go wrong? What can we do about it?

The term ‘Development‘ (physical development) may be defined as – carrying out engineering, building, mining, quarrying and other such works in/on/under land. This is also called material change in the use of any building or land. Development may also refer to change of land use. In some countries, demolition is also considered to be a form of development.  Contemporary theory defines development as synonymous to ‘urbanization’ and economic growth, but the question that arises is whether or not economic growth is sufficient for human development. Amartya Sen and other scholars advocate a holistic form of development that supports the capabilities of humans and society. He propagates the idea of development which extends beyond economic growth to include better living conditions (safe drinking water, education, housing, etc.) for the population that is usually overlooked (i.e. the poor category unable to pay the taxes), with the larger goal of improving its capabilities.

Post-independence, the vision for development of India by Jawaharlal Nehru, the first prime minister of Independent India, was founded in industrialization and large scale infrastructure development. Dams were believed as temples of modern India. Urban centres were projected as engines of economic growth. In 1986, Charles Correa spearheaded the National Commission on Urbanisation and projected urban centres of the country as generators of economic momentum, famously known as GEMs.

Much before the large scale industrialisation took place, the majority of the Indian population lived in the countryside working as farmers. Over 70 per cent of the country’s population lived in its villages and employed almost half of the workforce, as evident from records maintained by the Office or Registrar General of India at the Census of India office. With the Independent India formulating a vision for future development of India based on urban centres, public finance, public policies and planning efforts moved towards these GEMs as well. People, particularly males, left their farms to move to these ‘employment-rich’ cities of the time in search of jobs and a better standard of living.  While some came to build cities and stayed, many others developed a seasonal mobility – travelling in the lean agricultural seasons to cities and moving back to their home village in the sowing and harvesting seasons.

As a cumulative effect of this perpetual focus on urban centres and increasing rural-to-urban migration, demand for basic amenities of food, clothing and shelter increased exponentially, well beyond the carrying capacity of the cities and financial or technical capacities of local authorities. But the population was increasing and urban centers were expanding in numbers and in terms of spatial extent. India’s urbanisation level increased from mere 11. 4 per cent in 1947 to over 33.4 per cent in 2017, as per Census of India estimations. This large scale urbanisation was accompanied with large scale destruction of natural resources: large scale deforestation to create spaces for humans to inhabit, places for leisure, networks connecting different areas, air, water, noise pollution etc.  Crux of the discussion is that urbanization never was and never will be an isolated process. It has multiplier effects, usually in sync with environmental degradation.  It is aggravated by perpetual rural to urban migration as well as urban to urban migration in Indian cities.

The systemic increase in population and its demand for resources, beyond the capacity of a city, has resulted in over a third of urban populations living in poor conditions, which means: lacking a pucca (house), clean water and sanitation services; being forced to take up petty jobs, and lacking the security of regular income to support life; and facing recurrent eviction by force. This inability of cities to accommodate a large portion of society has led to the growth of slums and bastis. However, let’s not forget that these slum dwellers or informal workers are not just poor, they are the very hands or children of workers which may have built the city, or are themselves providing fruits and vegetables at nearby markets on a daily basis, or for that matter cleaning the homes and offices where the more well-to-dos spend over 80 per cent of their daily time. Also, not all rural to urban migrants are poor. A small fraction is the educated middle class section which possesses skills to get absorbed in formal employment.   


File Photo:  A slum cluster at Prem Bari bridge, Wazirpur Industrial Area, NCT of Delhi, India – the settlement came up to serve the industrial area in 1960s. It has witnessed evictions and court stay orders with political support in 1990s. However, it continues to occupy a linear parcel of land along the railways, lacking access to adequate water and safe sanitation, or, for that matter, an all-weather roof for most of the units they call as home. (Image by Author, 2017) 

In general, however, the amount of labor available on the market is increasing more than the opportunities available. The Census of India estimates annual rural to urban migration of 10 million. This migration is primarily guided by social and economic development of the in- and out-migration node. But then where does planning fit into all this?

The answer (or solution?) is – how does urban planning accommodate its population, native as well as migratory? Does it need to serve only the tax payers? Do the poor always have to occupy the crevices?

There is much talk and measures to strive for inclusive development. But what really happens on the ground? Can one blame the government? Do the poor want to live in poverty? The answer and solution is not that simple.

First, concerning the poor: no, they do not want to live in poverty. First generation or the first flow of workers that migrated to city, is educating their children and sending them to seek respectable employment. While the second generation who is often educated but in Hindi medium schools, is teaching its children English, for all respectable employment are considered to require fluency in English as a basic skill. Some manage to escape the poverty trap while many continue to live (or die) in it.

Second, concerns with the other end of the spectrum, which includes policy makers and administrators. Is it their fault that the poor live in disgraceful conditions? The answer is no. There are several instances where affordable housing is provided by the government and allocated to the poor by the administrators, but in over 90 per cent of cases it has been found that they leave the newly allocated units for more familiar dilapidated housing. How come? Poor communities have often established years of work-home relationships and networks or have adapted to using formerly-available limited space that was earlier available, which are difficult to replicate in the new locations of affordable housing. This is where urban planning steps in: where does one allocate space for them in a landscape where land prices determine the type of development that may come upon it? Are we as planners only concerned with simple allocation of land in our age-old system of land use allocations, or do we look into the demand for retaining work-home -place relationships and provision of basic services?

Gautam Bhan (TEDIndia, 2017) believes that a basti is not a problem, it’s a solution. One cannot provide as many affordable houses as worked out from simple mathematics of housing demand. Basti is not a illegal squatter on public or private land by workers who have built the city or help in its functioning. Running a bulldozer over them is not the solution. These citizens have as much right to the city as a tax payers does. The former might not be paying property tax or income tax, but do pay indirect taxes. If they are paying a fraction of tax, then why is it an issue if they occupy less than 10 per cent of a city’s land while accommodating 20 to 60 per cent of urban population in an Indian city? Why is it that they have inhabited on a parcel of land for 10 to 40 years but notified illegal a few days before eviction? One of the most practical explanation for this is – the parcel which was earlier a no man’s land becomes a pot of gold for proposed development.

Coming back to the question – what can a planner do to balance this scale of development and make it inclusive? Does one look at New York’s public housing and rent control, which has been able to accommodate workers from around the States and the world in areas surrounded by elite and high priced property? Or do we look for innovative ideas that developed within the country, like the Barefoot Movement (TEDGlobal, 2011) founded by Sanjit ‘Bunker’ Roy who built country’s first college for the illiterate with the help of the illiterates. Sanjit Roy has been propagating and working on the vision of helping rural illiterate communities to become self-sufficient in and around India, thence reducing the need for rural to urban migration.

The answer is not simple and definitely not a one solution fits all. A country is defined by its people and the people most affected are the ones who lack the ability to pay taxes, i.e. the poor section of society. We as planners need to plan our spaces and policy in a manner that is inclusive of all. 


Editor: Ian Babelon



TEDGlobal (Director). (2011). Learning from a Barefoot movement [Motion Picture].

TEDIndia (Director). (2017). A Bold step to house 100 million people [Motion Picture].

ORGI (2011) Census of India. Office of Registrar General of India: New Delhi, India 

Posted in Beyond planning, Conflict, Planning, city, and society, Resources, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment

Changing Planning Culture in Flanders, third time a charm?

Guest author:  Clemens de Olde, University of Antwerp

Lion GDJ on Pixabay

A truly new spatial planning framework for Flanders? The lion is emblematic of the Coat of Arms of Flanders. Art credits: GDJ on Pixabay. CC0 Creative Commons, no attribution required.

Shifting paradigms

It is an interesting time for planners in the Belgian region of Flanders. The spatial planning system that was introduced in 1997 is about to be replaced by a new one which has been a long time in the making. First initiatives date back to 2011 and work continued under two legislations and different ministers. A white paper was approved by the government in December 2016, but rumour has it that the Flemish government intends make the final decision this coming spring. The question remains however whether this new planning system will be able to change the dominant planning culture (Othengrafen, 2012) rooted strongly in a system of land use planning.

Fragmented landscape

Flanders is the northern, Dutch-speaking region of Belgium. Counting 6,5 million inhabitants, its population comprises 57,6% of the Belgian total, on a regional surface that is 44,3% of the whole country. Flanders is therefore more dense than the southern Walloon region, and what’s more, with a built-up area of 32,6%, it is one of the most densely urbanized regions in Europe (Poelmans, Esch, Janssen, & Engelen, 2016). While sharing a language and a comparable landscape type with The Netherlands, the built environment of Flanders has little in common with the “rule and order” characterising its northern neighbour as both visitors and locals are quick to point out when the topic arises (Faludi & Van der Valk, 1994). In the 1970s, a land use planning system zoned the entire Belgian surface area in a bid to stop the ever-increasing unguided urbanization. It had an opposite effect however of making urbanization follow land ownership patterns instead of guiding it by strategic planning decisions. Weak policy implementation, lax permit control, municipal localism and clientelism also played a role in creating a fragmented landscape characterised by urban sprawl and ribbon development along roads connecting the urban and rural cores.

Flanders: open and urban

The academic literature observes three phases of urban growth management strategy (Bae, 2007; Chapin, 2012). In a first mid-twentieth century wave, development controls are fairly straightforward such as urban growth management and zoning. A second wave consists of comprehensive plans that combine boundaries with development strategies, and third a smart growth paradigm which focuses more on (dis)incentives for growth.

Following this pattern a new strategic Spatial Structure Plan for Flanders was introduced in 1997. With the slogan “Flanders: open and urban” it contained a comprehensive growth strategy which was to freeze the division of urbanization over rural and urban areas at the situation of 1991. Demarcations of urban and rural areas with prohibitive regulations and targeted supply policy of residential and commercial development were to safeguard the landscape. One of the planners who worked on the plan voices the spirit of the times:

‘That was the first time in the history of urbanism, of planning in Flanders that we thought a scale beyond that of the municipality, on a larger scale of a cohesive area for which a vision was developed.’ (E5)

These ambitions collided however with the dominant planning culture shaped by the land use system that provided property owners with legal certainty of development opportunities. Therefore the legal reality often trumped strategic planning considerations. After thirteen years, an evaluation of the planning framework concluded that its goals have only been realised to a limited degree (Voets et al., 2010). One practitioner phrases the problem succinctly:

‘So that entire dream of a separation of urban and rural space becomes meaningless when translated into the juridical instrument of the spatial implementation plan.’ (E8)

One of the main gains however is that the framework increased planning capacity in Flanders and has at the very least led to greater awareness of the need for strategic planning.

New horizons

The shift currently about to be realised in Flanders can be characterized as one from comprehensive to smart growth. The white paper for the new Spatial Policy Plan proposes to judge developments on their “spatial cost-effectiveness” defined broadly as ‘doing more with less space’ through strategies of intensification, interweaving, temporary and re-use. The white paper does not propose concrete instruments yet, but the policy framework as outlined focuses on promoting initiatives that benefit the spatial cost-effectiveness and discouraging ones that do not through financial incentives and flexible regulations. Furthermore it aims to support early-adopters of exemplary spatially efficient projects and to sensitize and promote behavioural change as regards land use. All the while monitoring the total amount of land use in various zoning categories but no longer speaking of comprehensive planning led by the regional Flemish Administration.

Third time’s a charm?

Though the government intends to remove the worst development locations from the market by compensating owners and setting up a system of transferable development rights, it lacks funds to remove all of those areas zoned for development back in the 1970s. Criticasters (especially those instrumental in producing the previous framework) are afraid of a regression to a past when planning regulations were interpreted very loosely and mostly depended on local actors with their particular agendas. Most of them agree however that it is time for a new planning system. The question now is whether the third attempt at producing a planning framework will prove to be a charm and can transform Flemish planning culture with its focus on land use and legal certainty to one that is amenable to pursuing the goal of countering fragmentation.

This article is part of a feature anticipating the replacement of the planning system in the Belgian region of Flanders in 2019. In the next contribution I will go into how the term “concrete-block” turned into the popular moniker for a 200-page spatial development plan.


Clemens de Olde studied sociology and philosophy at the University of Amsterdam where he developed an interest in cities and space. Currently he is PhD researcher in sociology at the University of Antwerp. His PhD research focuses on urbanization and the transformation of Flemish and Dutch planning culture.

Clemens de Olde_Profile Pic_Resized.jpg


Bae, C.-H. C. (2007). Containing Sprawl. In G.-J. Knaap, H. A. Haccoû, K. J. Clifton, & J. W. Frece (Eds.), Incentives, Regulations and Plans: The Role of States and Nation-states in Smart Growth Planning (pp. 36-53). UK: Edward Elgar Publishing.

Chapin, T. S. (2012). Introduction: From Growth Controls, to Comprehensive Planning, to Smart Growth: Planning’s Emerging Fourth Wave. Journal of the American Planning Association, 78(1), 5-15. doi:10.1080/01944363.2011.645273

Faludi, A., & Van der Valk, A. (1994). Rule and order : Dutch planning doctrine in the twentieth century. Dordrecht: Kluwer Academic Publishers.

Othengrafen, F. (2012). Uncovering the Unconscious Dimensions of Planning. Farnham, Surrey: Ashgate.

Poelmans, L., Esch, L. V., Janssen, L., & Engelen, G. (2016). Indicatoren Ruimtelijk Rendement. Retrieved from Mol:

Voets, J., De Peuter, B., Vandekerckhove, B., Broeckaert, D., Le Roy, M., Maes, P., . . . Blummel, P. (2010). Evaluerend onderzoek naar de effectiviteit van de uitvoering van het ruimtelijk beleid in Vlaanderen. Retrieved from Leuven:


Posted in Uncategorized | 1 Comment

Johor Bahru & Singapore: Is the conurbation defining megaregion in the South-East Asia?

Megaregion is a regional planning unit concept, and it is argued that larger geographical regional units such as megaregion are economically more competitive in terms of contributing towards the national economy. In the light of climate change, megaregions are also known to be developed and implemented as a strategy to consume optimum resources. While the traditional debates on megaregion argued about form versus function, and integration of economic activities, the contemporary debates are around emerged versus strategically planned megaregion to achieve economic growth through urbanization. For instance, Asian countries are known to strategically develop megaregions as part of their low carbon development strategy. A recent study explores the concept of megaregion in India through its new economic and industrial corridors (here). In this blog, some preliminary ideas are presented to explore whether Johor Bahru-Singapore conurbation can be evaluated as a megaregion. The interesting point is that it would be a transnational megaregion. Moreover, there would be strong rationale to think about how this is positioned in the Singapore-Malaysia-Indonesia triangle context (here).

Johor Bahru, a city located in the southernmost city of Peninsular Malaysia, used to be considered the backyard of Singapore until 1900s. The physical connection between Johor Bahru and Singapore, which can be crossed in 15 minutes by car, provided the traffic flow is smooth, is the only point of communication between Singapore and Malaysia (shown in picture). As shown in a media report in 2015, there are 296,000 pedestrians commuting to Singapore everyday. The approximate data on other vehicles are: 126,000 vehicles daily, including 4,000 trucks and lorries entering Singapore. There is a second link by road that has capacity of 200,000 vehicles per day and the approximate number of motorcycle users is 100,000.

The rationale for Johor Bahru to be backyard of Singapore is that it is convenient for one to work in Singapore, with a salary as large as three times of what they would earn in Malaysia and live in the neighbourhoods of Johor Bahru, from where it is convenient to commute to Singapore. This makes the transportation infrastructure between Johor Bahru and Singapore critical. In addition to above numbers, there are company buses that shuttle between JB Sentral and Singapore. With huge volume of traffic, congestion is one of the main issues the regional development authority has to deal with. In comparison to overall Iskandar region, the share of traffic volume in between Johor Bahru and Singapore is significant. It also takes almost six hours of daily commuting (both ways) in terms of door-to-door service.

However, with Malaysia’s aspiration to be amongst the developed countries and with the forecasted urban growth, there is a new trend of urbanization in progress. Iskandar Malaysia, which is the brand name adopted by the regional development authority (Iskandar Regional Development Authority), is being considered the gateway to Malaysia. Iskandar Malaysia was declared a Special Economic Zone in 2006. In addition, in line with Malaysia’s commitment towards reducing carbon emission, Iskandar Malaysia has developed a blue print for Low Carbon Society that mandates delivery of low carbon infrastructure, including public transport (here). Besides Iskandar Regional Development Authority’s Low Carbon Society Blueprint, there are two other planning framework of Johor Bahru, which are its structure plan and master plan. The structure plan of Johor Bahru also highlights its importance in Malaysia-Singapore-Indonesia triangle, and Johor Bahru is the node located in Malaysia. Acknowledging the need of mass transit project between Malaysia and Singapore, both governments have recently approved high-speed rail project between KL and Singapore (here), and another MRT project between Johor Bahru and Singapore (here). Further, the federal government of Malaysia has approved partial funding for a large-scale mass transit project on Bus Rapid Transit in the region that will be connected to HSR, easing the commute between these two cities/regions from 2021 (here). Hence, investment in strengthening the connection between Johor Bahru and Singapore can be placed in the wider framework of both Low Carbon Society Blueprint and Johor Bahru’s Structure plan. It is worth noting the importance of the Singapore-Malaysia (Johor)-Indonesia triangle that aims to improve the regional economic competitiveness to attract investors, and hence, Johor Bahru has taken a decision in favour of strengthening this regional connectivity, besides supporting the wider national interests that come from Kuala Lumpur region.

Following are some criteria to evaluate a megaregion and assessment of whether Johor Bahru-Singapore conurbation could be identified as a megaregion. It would be worth to look into the models of Johor Bahru-Singapore, and Shenzhen-Hongkong (which is considered a model for Johor Bahru-Singapore) in order to be able to define megaregion in the South East Asian context.

  1. Megaregion: Traditionally megaregions were identified based on population and geographic area. One main debate on the concept of megaregion is whether it is about economic integration or is it about accumulation of urban form. However, there is no magic figure. The link between Singapore and Malaysia is already established in the broader framework on Malaysia-Singapore-Indonesia context.
  2. Flow of people and goods: As reflected in media reports, approximately 300,000 people cross the border of Malaysia everyday to commute to their jobs in Singapore. However, such huge influx of people could be unidirectional for the purpose of jobs. The flow of people on economic grounds would be for tourism. Johor Bahru is considered as the gateway to Malaysia, and many tourists choose to travel to Malaysia from Singapore. For instance, Johor Bahru hosts many national level tourist festivals and sports festivals that attract additional huge number of tourists in a year.
  3. Investment in transport infrastructure (low carbon infrastructure: HSR and BRT within JB) is made to improve urban mobility both within and with other regions, both for flow of people and goods. The first rationale for investing in transport infrastructure is definitely on economic grounds, and by investing in low carbon infrastructure; the region is strategically implemented as a low carbon development.
  4. Challenges for Malaysia: Heavy investment in regional connectivity between Singapore (developed economy) and Johor Bahru (still in developing state) creates challenges for Johor Bahru, especially in terms of ensuring the interests of local people. Developments like forest city (here) raises questions on gentrification, which the planning authorities are also aware of. Besides local peoples’ financial capacity to own such property, their access to natural resources (such as sea beaches) is also threatened in the process of attracting external development and investment. This will also address the question of whose megaregion (attracting outsiders or for locals), how (through investment both in infrastructure and development) and why questions of megaregion (low carbon development, economic growth), as discussed in the academic literature (here).
  5. Differences in traditional development pattern: Singapore and Johor Bahru remain two regions with completely different development patterns as of now. In terms of public transport, while Singapore has a already developed a well-appreciated public transport system, and a supporting culture, Iskandar region is quite the opposite. The region grew based on automobiles like other cities in Malaysia, and there has been difference in development strategies between these two countries. It is to be noted how these two regions deal with their differences, while still being identified as a region, and what is the homogeneity.
  6. Focus on climate change and low carbon infrastructure: There is focus on low carbon infrastructure in terms of strategy and investment due to even Malaysia’s commitment towards reducing carbon emission.
  7. Does the megaregion also address the concern of climate change/ low carbon infrastructure? While megaregion remains an old concept, and it was not always related to low carbon development, it is to explore whether authorities consider this as a strategy to mitigate carbon emission and resource consumption, as many Asian countries do.
  8. Contribution towards the national economy: The main rationale behind promoting megaregion is its contribution towards national economy. This is the main point to explore both for Singapore and Malaysia.

Acknowledgement: I would like to thank MIT-UTM Malaysia Sustainable Cities Program as I was based at University of Technology, Malaysia (UTM), Johor Bahru, for a semester as part of the program. I have spoken about Johor Bahru and Singapore relationship to a senior faculty at Faculty of Built Environment, UTM and to one of my colleagues for the fellowship, also based at UTM. I am thankful to them for the discussion and ideas.

Photo credit: online OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Open Defecation: A Coda of Geospatial differentiation by British India?

Swacch Bharat? A pan India mission launched with political support at the centre is a novel effort. But to eradicate open defecation from a society whose foundation is still influenced by Manu Smriti, sanitation pipes need to be dug deep. 

Open defecation and urban sanitation has been influenced and associated with several policies, agendas and efforts, running separately for rural and urban areas in India. Yet, the human right to adequate sanitation and anyone concerned with its upkeep and cleanliness, continues to be linked with ‘dirty’. The latter idea emerges from the Laws of Manu, famously known as the ‘Manava Dharma Shastra’ of 500 BC, which identify toilets and the caste cohort ‘responsible’ for cleaning them as untouchables and thereby need to be segregated from place of habitation. Centuries of social, physical segregation and psychological segregation have been spent but the outlook remains largely unaffected. Living in a country which boasts of earliest sanitation systems, as excavated from the Indus valley civilization in 2600 BC, our country and its citizens have been knowingly or unknowingly been propagating the ideologies of British India when it comes to eradication of open defecation, until recently.  

British India introduced the modern sanitation system in India post 1857 mutiny, in conjunction with recommendations of the Royal Commission appointed in 1859 to look into the sanitary state of the army, which was plagued with the epidemic post mutiny. Sanitary reforms were launched and spatial segregation of indigenous and European population became vital. Model towns, cantonments and civil lines came up as areas boasting of modern sewerage system interwoven with network of pipelines and latrines while the indigenous population, derogated as dirty, drowned in their own waste. The guiding principle of this movement was that it is cheaper and more effective to prevent further environmental degradation than spending large amounts of public finance on poor relief. As state intervention was required for achieving its goal, these sanitary reforms soon became political and gained support of the middle class and elite. In 1848, the Public Health Act was passed. It was only in the late 1860s that public health and sanitation became effective with the passing of Sanitation Act of 1866.

This sanitary revolution and its implementation was managed by the  Provincial Sanitary Police force headed by a military medical officer, while for the indigenous section, Sanitary Boards and inspectors were delegated with the task of vaccination and other menial containment measures. At city level, need for sanitary society was emphasized and thus a resolution for establishment of Local Self Government (LSG) by Lord Ripon was passed in 1882. These newly formed institutions at the local level were given the power to collect taxes to finance sanitation services and public works.  In 1885, the LSG Act was passed and Urban Local Bodies (ULBs) came into existence for sanitation at the local level but still necessary staff was not appointed by the Central government. With the outbreak of plague in 1896 in the port towns of Bombay and Calcutta, the need for bringing sanitary reforms into town planning was further reinforced. Immediately, the level of expenditure skyrocketed, unfruitful outcomes of which led to the establishment of Improvement trusts in Bombay (1898) and Calcutta (1912). These trusts were entrusted with the power to demolish existing informal settlements, especially slums and build chawls for workers, along with development of new housing estates and arterial roads, catering to emerging middle class and prospering elite. Soon, the first town planning legislation in India, i.e. ‘The Bombay Town Planning Act, 1915’ came into force on March 6, 1915. The Act primarily provided for the preparation of Town Planning schemes (TPS) for areas in course of development within the jurisdiction of local authority.

With time, however emphasis from using bye-laws and sanitation systems to address these problems shifted to controlling the use of land. At the same time, slum clearance had become the most commonly used method by financially constrained local government in their attempts to beautify the city, pushing the poor to overcrowded and fringe areas. Simultaneously, large residential areas were being developed as an attempt to make cities ‘sanitary’ by spending large amounts of public finance to build the capital infrastructure of drainage and sewerage system. These practices of colonial India led to adoption of slum clearance policy post-Independence in late 1950s, as a way of city beautification.

With Jawaharlal Nehru pivoting urban centers as engines of economic growth post- Independence, cities witnessed a large influx of migrants from all parts of the country pre- and post-partition. Cities and its local government fractured under population pressure. Failure to provide the universal service obligation of adequate sanitation, more and more people were succumbed to defecate in the open. By the time, the First Five Year Plan was rolled out, sanitation became a national agenda, but emphasis was given to rural India and sanitation was just a sub-section of water supply chapter. From second Five Year Plan onwards, funding was allocated for the development and strengthening of state public health engineering departments. It was only in the 8th Five Year Plan (1992-97) that a national attitude was developed towards urban water supply and sanitation. A decade later, the National Urban Sanitation Policy, 2008 was rolled out encompassing a broader spectrum of stakeholders involved in providing sanitation to India’s urban residents. Still, urban sanitation was drowning amidst the attention given to water supply projects. It was only in 2014, that government at the Centre identified open defecation as a priority issue across India, not just in villages and launched the Mission to achieve 100 percent eradication of open defecation by 2019.

Launched with great hope and rigor, the Mission has not been able to fully achieve its agenda. Reports available in public forums have indicated that the Mission in many parts is producing the same results as that of the past. Toilets and infrastructure created are being misused for other purposes or lying unused, particularly storage. Reasons may vary from social attitudes to financial burden to mismatched priorities. The crux of the matter is that sanitation deprivation and open defecation is not a linear concept, it is not as simple as provision of toilets and water to clean it and thence you are able to eradicate open defecation. The history of sanitation, especially urban sanitation, is a much complicated and deep rooted than its modern day pipelines, with spatial manifestation of differentiation.


Keywords: Sanitary Revolution. Physical Segregation. Spatial Differentiation. Universal Service Obligation.

(Photography by Author (2017) : Open Defecation in confined space) 

Posted in Academia, research quality and assessment, Beyond planning, Conflict, Dissemination, outreach, communication, Planning, city, and society, Resources, Sustainability and resilience, Territory, landscape, land | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Call for blog posts

The Newspaper Reader by J Seward Johnson Jr NonCommial CC

Sculpture: “The Newspaper reader” by J Seward Johnson Jr (located in Steinman Park, King St, downtown Lancaster, Pennsylvania, USA). Photo credits: John on Flickr. Non-Commercial 2.0 Generic Attribution (CC BY-NC 2.0). 

The blog of the AESOP Young Academics network is looking for regular and occasional contributors to write on diverse topics related to spatial and territorial planning. Contributions can be made on just about any aspect of spatial planning. Detailed examples of themes and contribution types can be found on the “Themes” tab of the YA blog website, which are simply listed here again:

  • Methodology and ethics
  • Dissemination, outreach, communication
  • Research quality and assessment
  • Beyond planning
  • Planning, city, society / Planning and conflict
  • Territory, landscape and land
  • Sustainability and resilience
  • Heritage and planning
  • Books and book reviews
  • Event summaries
  • Useful resources

The Thematic Groups of the AESOP network also provide a good overview of much of the wide-ranging research conducted by its members. The thematic groups overlap with the themes listed above.

Guidelines for contributions to the YA blog can be found here.

Here are a few more suggestions of themes for contributions (among many others!):

Bridging Theory and Practice.

The gap between planning theory and practice is nothing new. We often hear that research and practice evolve in parallel worlds, subject to different organisational cultures and project timeframes. At the same time, there is ample evidence that planning theory and practice feed off each other in very diverse ways, especially where individuals become planners and academics at different points in their career (e.g. the journal of the UK Royal Town Planning Institute is named Planning Theory and Practice). Check out also the latest volume of the AESOP YA network’s own truly open access journal, PlaNext, vol. 5 Dec 2017, themed “Spatial Governance: Bridging Theory and Practice“.

Contributions to the blog are warmly encouraged about how theory and practice shape each other. Particularly, contributors are invited to share their personal stories, experiences, and career paths across academia and practice, including practice-led research and research-based practice, as well as insights about the role of education (both formal and informal, from pre-school nurseries to continuing education). How can we continue to build stronger bridges between theory and practice?

Food and planning

Food might not always appear as the main concern of spatial planners, particularly in post-industrialised contexts, yet its spatial and societal implications are tremendous. As food and water security will rise even higher on the global agenda due to environmental change, a growing body of research and hands-on experimentation is already showing the way toward more resilient, equitable and ecological forms of food production and landscape management, including the socio-cultural and economic networks and innovations that can sustain the health of both people and the environment. How can spatial planning better promote more sustainable food?

Consumption and planning

Beyond food, people consume huge amounts of consumable goods and services. Strangely enough, the regulation of “planned obsolescence” (i.e. designing consumer products to last a limited period of time, so as to increase consumption levels) usually falls outside the remit of spatial planning (yet see how one country is suing Apple for slowing down its phones). While cities around the world are becoming carbon neutral, the consumption habits of their citizens are actually becoming ever more carbon intensive, with huge implications for environmental pollution and the depletion of resources worldwide. From plastic pollution in the seven seas to “peak everything”, how can spatial planning promote more sustainable forms of consumption?

All roads lead to Planning

“Everything is spatial” goes the saying in geographically-minded circles. Likewise, (almost) everything can be related back to planning. Themes of interest to the blog are therefore countless: Climate resilience, Environmental Assessment, Post-truth and populism, Evidence-based planning, the Impact of academic researchyou name it!

See here for guidelines for contributions to the blog.

So open your favourite word processor or online note-taker and get blogging! Looking forward to receiving your submissions.


Posted in Uncategorized | 1 Comment

Urban Heat Island for Beginners: Part 5 *


There are many socio-economic impacts related to the increase of urban temperature exacerbated by the increase in the global warming. The implications on the urban environment are mainly: local air quality, heat stress, morbidity, mortality, energy demand and effects on ecosystems. In climate science, local and global are strictly connected issues (Corburn, 2009). A mutual relationship between local and global scale exists. The control of global warming through international policy – such as the Kyoto Protocol – involves not only policy-makers but also local politics and planners who can play the key role in the enhancement of the local and global climate. The role of cities is also important in a global perspective, indeed cities are responsible of about 97% of the CO2 anthropogenic emissions (Svirejeva-Hopkins, Schellnhuber, & Pomaz, 2004), but at local scale the effects of urbanization can give rise to an increase of temperature variable in time and space that on average is of about 1-3°C and in more extreme conditions urban contexts are warmer than the rural surroundings of 10°C (Grimmond, 2007).

The increase in urban temperature affects primarily human heath, especially during summer, increasing the heat strokes and decreasing the air quality for the formation of photochemical ozone. About 1000 people die every year in the United States for extreme temperatures (Changnon, Kunkel, & Reinke, 1996). The UHI influences the heat waves exacerbating their magnitude and duration. In addition, also the secondary effects such as the increase in ground-ozone and pollutants affects human health generating mainly respiratory diseases. In this last case, children and old people are exposed at particular risks (EPA, 2009).

The local warming causes the increase in the use of energy for cooling and a reduction during winter for heating. Previous studies demonstrate the effects of the increase in the urban temperature on the use of energy. For example the Heat Island Group has estimated an increase of the use of energy in Los Angeles correspondent to 100 million of US dollars (Chang, 2000). Besides, Sailor shows that for each degree of temperature above 27°C in New Orleans there is an increase of energy use of about 37 kWh (Sailor, 2002). The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) suggests that in the US cities, the increase in the peak of urban electric demand increases 1.5 to 2 percent for every 0.6°C increase in summertime temperature. This means that 5–10% of community-wide demand for electricity is necessary to compensate the heat island effect (EPA, 2009). Santamouris et al. (2001) found for the UHI in Athens a doubling of the energy use for cooling and the triple of the peak of energy use during the warmest days. The increase in the energy demand, especially in summer, causes the increase in the probability of blackouts provoking discomforts to the population and economic backlashes.

The augmentation in the energy demand produces an increase in primary pollutants and greenhouse gases associated with the energy production. The pollutants produced are mainly sulfur dioxide, nitrogen oxides, particulate and carbon monoxide. These pollutants are harmful to the human health and contribute to the formation of the ozone and to the acid rains. Besides, the carbon dioxide affects mainly the global warming.

The increase in urban temperatures and in particular in urban surface ones provokes the increase in the temperature of storm-water runoff. The storm-water drains into storm sewers raising the temperature of rivers, ponds or lakes in which it is released. The increase in water temperature affects many aquatic species acting on their metabolism and their reproduction (EPA, 2009).

Mitigation Strategies

Since the UHI is caused by a modification in the natural heat balance at the surface, the mitigation strategies should modify or enhance the contribution of some of the factors in the equation 14 and equation 15. First of all it is possible to increase the amount of reflected radiation increasing the mean urban albedo and the emissivity in order to reduce the outgoing long-waves. Then, it is possible to enhance the latent heat flux converting residual urban spaces into gardens, lawns or planting trees (Shahmohamadi, Che-Ani, Ramly, Maulud, & Mohd-Nor, 2010; EPA, 2009) or increasing the water bodies (Akbari, 2009). Other strategies can be related to the modification of the urban morphology, such as the amelioration of the natural ventilation, even though that is difficult to realize when the urban pattern is already defined.

Future policies can attempt to design cities in which efforts can be conducted to decrease the UHI phenomenon and all its impact on the environment and population.

Nowadays, most of time is not easy to modify the urban morphology because not residual spaces are available to convert into green spaces. It is easier to replace dark surfaces with high-albedo ones.

Tree planting can positively affect the UHI in two different ways. Trees reduce urban surface temperature by their shades blocking the incoming radiation and reducing the incoming energy reaching the soil (Rosenfeld, et al., 1995). Moreover, trees can decrease the air temperature through evapo-transpiration (Akbari, 2009) producing the so-called ‘oasis phenomenon’ (Santamouris, 2006) and as a consequence the use of energy for cooling (Simpson & McPherson, 1998). Other benefits in terms of urban air quality connected to trees planting are the increase in the amount of pollutants uptake (Akbari, Pomerantz, & Taha, 2001; Cardelino & Chameides, 1990), reduction of noise (Akbari, Pomerantz, & Taha, 2001), beautification, increase in biodiversity. Moreover, trees planting has positive effects also on global warming decreasing the amount of carbon dioxide.

The role of green areas in the mitigation of the UHI, has been also investigated by Petralli et al. (2006), who analyzed temperatures in gardens and courtyards. The temperatures recorded in the two green spaces had the same trend, but different values. This behavior is justified by the two green spaces having the same thermal characteristics, but different geometric characters. The temperature in courtyards is influenced by the canyon effect, caused by the surrounding walls resulting in the rise of temperature. Small green areas such as courtyards and gardens contribute to the mitigation of the UHI. A difference of approximately 1.5°C between streets and gardens, and 1°C between streets and courtyards, was recorded in the early morning. Moreover, urban parks can contribute to provide thermal comfort to people.

Typically, urban environments are characterized by low albedo surfaces. The replacement of natural surfaces with concrete, asphalt and tar lessens the urban albedo producing a reduction of the reflected radiation and as a consequence an increase of the surface temperature (Akbari, 2009). The quantity of the reflected radiation depends on the optic characteristics of the materials but also on latitude. At low latitude, such as at the equator, the amount of the incoming radiation is consistently higher than radiation at high latitude (Oleson, Bonan, & Feddema, 2010). This means that high-albedo surfaces are more effective at low latitudes rather than at high one (Lenton & Vaughan, 2009). As well as vegetation, increase in surface albedo can have positive effects both on the small and medium-scale. A high-albedo surface reaches a lower temperature than a dark one, but the urban-wide conversion of urban surfaces can accrue several benefits (Rosenfeld, et al., 1995); not only the decrease in surface temperature but also the decrease in air temperature and as a consequence the reduction in energy use for cooling and the enhancement of the air quality. As it will be discussed later the increase in world-wide surface albedo has positive effects also on climate change (Akbari, Menon, & Rosenfeld, 2009; Menon, Akbari, Mahanama, Sednev, & Levinson, 2010). The main problem in big and densely urbanized cities is that is not easy to convert dark impervious surfaces into light green areas. One solution could be to convert traditional black flat roofs into green roofs. Indeed, since roofs represent about 20-25% of the urban surface (Akbari, Rose, & Taha, 2003), their urban-wide conversion into green roofs can give rise to many benefits both on an urban scale – effects on UHI, air quality, storm-water management, biodiversity and urban amenities (Oberndorfen, et al., 2007); and on a building scale – increase in life span of the building materials underneath the soil, reduction of noise, and decrease in building energy use especially during summer (Saiz, Kennedy, Brass, & Pressnail, 2006).


Akbari, H. (2009). Cooling our Communities. A Guidebook on Tree Planting and Light-Colored Surfacing. LBNL Paper LBL-31587.

Akbari, H., Menon, S., & Rosenfeld, A. (2009). Global cooling: increasing world-wide urban albedos to offset CO2. Climatic Change, 94, 275-286.

Akbari, H., Pomerantz, M., & Taha, H. (2001). Cool surfaces and shade trees to reduce energy use and improve air quality in urban areas. Solar Energy, 70 (3), 295-310.

Akbari, H., Rose, S. L., & Taha, H. (2003). Analyzing the land cover of an urban environment using high-resolution orthophotos. Landscape and Urban Planning, 63, 1-14.

Cardelino, C. A., & Chameides, W. L. (1990). Natural hydrocarbons, urbanization and urban ozone. Journal of Geophysical Research, 95 (13), 971-979.

Chang, S., (2000, June 23). Energy Use. Retrieved August 22, 2010, from Heat Island Group:

Changnon, S. A., Kunkel, K. E., & Reinke, B. C. (1996). Impacts and responses to the 1995 heat wave: A call to action. Bulletin of the American Meteorological Society, 77, 1497-1506.

Corburn, J. (2009). Cities, Climate Change and Urban Heat Island Mitigation: Localising Global Environmental Science. Urban Studies, 46 (2), 413-427.

EPA. (2009, February 10). Heat Island Impacts. Retrieved August 22, 2010, from Heat Island Effect:

Grimmond, S. (2007). Urbanization and global environmental change: local effects of urban warming. The Royal Geographical Society, 83-88.

Lenton, T., & Vaughan, N. E. (2009). The radiative forcing potential of different climate geoengineering options. Atmospheric Chemistry and Physics, 9, 5539-5561.

Menon, S., Akbari, H., Mahanama, S., Sednev, I., & Levinson, R. (2010). Radiative forcing and temperature response to changes in urban albedos and associated CO2 offsets. Environmental Research Letters, 5, 1-12.

Oberndorfen, E., Lundholm, J., Bass, B., Coffman, R. R., Doshi, H., Dunnett, N., et al. (2007). Green Roofs as Urban Ecosystems: Ecological Structures, Functions, and Services. BioScience, 57 (10), 823-833.

Oleson, K. W., Bonan, G. B., & Feddema, J. (2010). Effects of white roofs on urban temperature in a global climate model. Geophysical Research Letters, 37.

Petralli, M., Prokopp, A., Morabito, M., Bartolini, G., Torrigiani, T., & Orlandini, S. (2006). Role of green areas in urban heat island mitigation: a case of study in florence (Italy). Rivista Italiana di Agrometeorologia (1), 51-58.

Rosenfeld, A. H., Akbari, H., Bretz, S., Fishman, B. L., Kurn, D. M., Sailor, D., et al. (1995). Mitigation of urban heat islands: materials, utility programs, updates. Energy and Buildings (22), 255-265.

Saiz, S., Kennedy, C., Brass, B., & Pressnail, K. (2006). Comparative Life Cycle Assessment of Standard and Green Roof. Environmental Science and Technology, 40, 4312-4316.

Santamouris, M. (2006). Environmental design of urban buildings. An integrated approach. London: Earthscan.

Santamouris, M., Papanikolaou, N., Livada, I., Koronakis, I., Georgakis, C., A., A., et al. (2001). On the impact of urban climate on the energy consuption of buildings. Solar Energy, 70 (3), 201-216.

Shahmohamadi, P., Che-Ani, A. I., Ramly, A., Maulud, K. N., & Mohd-Nor, M. F. (2010). Reducing urban heat island effects: A systematic review to achieve energy consumption balance. International Journal of Physical Sciences, 5 (6), 626-636.

Simpson, J. R., & McPherson, E. G. (1998). Simulation of tree shade impactcs on residential energy use for space conditioning in Sacramento. Atmospheric Environment, 32 (1), 69-74.

Svirejeva-Hopkins, A., Schellnhuber, H. J., & Pomaz, V. L. (2004). Urbanised territories as a specific component of the Global Carbon Cycle. Ecological Modelling, 173, 295-312.


* Rearranged text from: Susca, T. (2011). Evaluation of the Surface Albedo in a LCA Multi-scale Approach. The Case Study of Green, White and Black Roofs in New York City. Ph.D. Thesis

Posted in Planning, city, and society, Sustainability and resilience, Territory, landscape, land | Leave a comment

#Spacematters – List of planning-related blogs v. 1.0

“It doesn’t matter what country or what political system you are from. Space brings you together”

Valentina Tereshkova, retired Russian cosmonaut, engineer and politician; first woman to have been in space (1963).

As the YA AESOP blog will be entering its fifth year of activity in March 2018, I found it fitting to start a list of planning-related blogs available on the big wide webosphere. Planning blogs are by nature interdisciplinary, so I have chosen to sort them by their main geographical area of focus. The “Global/International” heading is resolutely international in outlook. Some blogs are more heavily grounded in academic research, while others lean more toward industry and practice. Some are in other languages. Do ask Google for a decent translation if needed.

Here is a very selective selection, version 1.0.

Global / International

CityTalk is the blog of the global network Local Governments for Sustainability (ICLEI). As national politics are susceptible to change with every new mandate, the ICLEI functions as a valuable network for sharing initiatives and commitments with regards to sustainable development and climate change, including in following up on the Paris Agreement, and the COP23. The current president of the Global Executive Committee of ICLEI is Won-soon Park, Mayor of Seoul since 2011.

Cooperative City, the “magazine for urban partnerships”, features regular, engaging articles about a very wide range of topics, including participatory planning, bottom-up and grassroots planning and urban design, crowdfunding, alternative use of public space, and creativity. Its main themes are: culture, governance, environment, economy and community. It focuses on a selection of major European cities, including Paris, Rome, Berlin, and Lisbon, amongst others. They also publish books, check out for example their recent Funding the Cooperative City: Community Finance and the Economy of Civic Spaces, available upon request under Creative Commons license. Somewhat unusual, they also welcome articles from the wider blogosphere.

Engaging Cities brands itself as “Public Engagement and Civic Tech news from around the web”. Basically, it is not a blog but a repository of mostly consultancy-based blog posts and public social media comments about everything related to public engagement in urban planning.  It is published by the Urban Interactive Studio, a supplier of digital public engagement platforms. The content of Engaging cities is curated by one of their platform products (CiviComment) which pulls related content from the web.

The Urban Affairs Forum “is a space for leading thinkers about urban issues to share their research, ideas, and experiences”, delving into all things local, regional, and urban policy-related, focusing mostly on North America but not only. The Forum is the more outwardly digital face of the peer-reviewed journal Urban Affairs Review. Eminently research-based, the Forum is quite serious about the implications of all kinds of political decisions and policy orientations for urban planning.

The Urban Resilience research Network is all about urban resilience, grounded in research, featuring article contributions from leading academic experts and young researchers alike. Co-founded by Lorenzo Chelleri and three other PhD students in 2011, the network got a brand new website in 2016. Alongside its bi-monthly articles, the website hosts a compilation of research literature covering just about any aspect of urban resilience, from climate change adaptation and resilience theory to urban design and regional economics.

The Funambulist is a blog about the ways in which architecture and spatial planning embody or mediate power, and how this plays out in terms of segregation, politics, gender, cultural identity, and environmental health. Its posts address post-colonial contexts quite extensively, as well as places of enduring or latent conflict. The blog was founded in 2010 by Paris- and New York-based architect Léopold Lambert. It is also a printed and online magazine, as well as a podcast. The content is very international, with articles and blog posts exploring diverse topics and case studies in depth.

The construction, design and planning firm ARUP has a blog (or “thought leadership platform”) called “Thoughts”: a series of contributions made by experts in different fields related to urban planning, engineering, construction management and everything in between. The contributions seem to have stopped in May 2017, but do check out the very large number of contributions made until then. Topics range from planning for migration, age diversity, building design, resilience and smart cities to technology and green space.

Atkins’ Angles is a blog similar to ARUP’s except seemingly leaning more strongly on the engineering, technology and the economic side of things. More posts about data, tech and engineering solutions, as well as organisational trends. Blogs cannot be pigeonholed easily, however, so well worth a look as well for a wide range of perspectives and experiences relevant to spatial planning and the built environment professions.

The Netherlands

There seems to be quite a few good industry-based blogs in the Netherlands. Here are a couple. Excuse my Dutch while Google translates them.

Ruimtemeesters (the “Space Masters”) has a blog/news feed covering all sorts of issues with spatial consequences nationally or locally, for example contributions on the need to “futureproof” the competencies of almost half of Dutch government officials, or on the topicality of fighting drugs.

Ruimtevolk (the “Space People”). Alongside their rich, regular, and wide-ranging blog posts, they also run the brand new NL magazine. Well-worth reading.

Over Morgen (“The Day After Tomorrow” – not to be confused with the global warming disaster blockbuster movie), features regular articles on a wide range of topics connected to spatial planning, especially the energy transition in the Netherlands.


Two very interesting city-based blogs are well-worth noting, as well as a consultancy-based blog.

The Gentcement portal deals with every possible trend and evolution in architecture and planning in the city of Ghent. Themes include: New construction, Public space, Restoration and renovation, infrastructure, and urbanism, and posts can also be classified by construction material, from brick to glass.

BrusselBlogt covers arts, culture, planning, food, social entreprise, and social analysis in the Belgian capital. It also boasts a very impressive list of Brussels-based blogs in Flemish, English and French, some of which are no longer updated.

Brussels-based Citizenlab provides digital engagement platform to local government, and runs a blog in English that is strong on related themes, especially public participation in spatial planning and how to make technology work for government. Check out for example five innovative frameworks to assess e-participation, or a blog showcasing their successful public engagement campaign in the city of Liège.


Picture credit: Astronaut, by nicolgaravello on flickr, Non-Commerical CC Attribution


La Fabrique de la Cité (the City Factory in the English version of the website) is a think tank launched by the Vinci construction, infrastructure and facilities management giant. The Observatory tab features short, concise posts on a wide range of topics. Not very comprehensive, but a good repository of topical research and news reports. For example: check out the output of the transnational and interdisciplinary project European Cities and Refugees: a Laboratory for Affordable Housing and Urban Resilience to Future Crises, which assesses solutions developed in Berlin, Hamburg, Stockholm Stuttgart, Munich, and Dresden, with a view to help other cities faced with similar issues.

Another industry blog, Demain la Ville (which can be loosely translated as the “city of tomorrow”) is run by the real estate company Bouygues Immobilier, part of the Bouygues giant. Although probably partisan, the blog has for motto: “Let’s build tomorrow’s city together”. Its posts cover unusually progressive themes for a giant construction/real estate company, such as tactical urbanism and the role of crafts for urban sustainability.

The Funambulist (see above) has many posts about France, focusing particularly on social and environmental injustice. Check out for example this post about the social construction of “no-go zones” in the French capital.

La Gazette des Communes is the one-stop information point for local and regional government officials and anyone interested in French local affairs. Many diverse issues concern spatial planning either directly or indirectly, from education, safe cycling and third sector activity to extremism and regeneration, and all seem well-covered. Annual subscription is a bit steep though (223 euros).


Eddyburg takes the big picture on politics, planning, urban design, heritage, and glocal social and economic trends. The left-leaning posts are guided by three main, overlapping perspectives: “Urbs” – (a walled city in Ancient Rome), “Civitas” (Community; citizenry; city-state), and “Polis” (Greek city-sate, characterised by a sense of community). International in perspective, it also analyses Italian politics in depth, and the spatial consequences thereof.


Hållbar Stad (”Sustainable City”) is ”a forum for disseminating knowledge and good examples”. Regular articles cover the state-of-the-art in urban design solutions and latest news affecting urban planning, in Sweden and beyond. Topics range from the UN Agenda 2030, urban ecosystem services and public transport to the growing power imbalances between cities and hinterlands.


The Planner is the magazine of the UK Royal Town Planning Institute (RTPI). An essential source of information for all matters related to spatial planning across the UK, covering all relevant policy evolutions. Unfortunately you have to be an RTPI member or subscribe to the website after your 60-day free trial… RTPI membership is free if you are a student on a RTPI accredited programme. If you are less lucky you can always become an affiliate member, for a (steep?) £90 a year if you live in the UK, or £60 if you don’t. Check out also their job listings.

Branding itself as “Independent intelligence for planning professionals”, Planning Resource seems perhaps bit more industry- and less government-minded than The Planner. The yearly subscription is definitely less affordable (£195), which will screen out the poorer among us, unless your company/institution has subscribed to it. Its coverage seems very up-to-date and comprehensive, also on all manners of policy and economic trends.


Not really a blog per say, Green Space Scotland is the one-stop news and resource repository for all things green space in the country of Scotland and beyond. The news feed provides a thorough update on all policies that affect green space, as well as new geographical and other related data, including Scotland’s greenspace map. It also hosts a repository of publications on such varied themes as health, placemaking and growing spaces, as well as regular surveys about the state, quality and use of green space.


The blog of the Irish Planning Institute, an equally comprehensive and broad-ranging coverage of everything that relates to spatial planning, with news, insights and resources for professional development. It also boasts a planning research portal with output from IPI accredited planning schools.


ACSP – The Association of Collegiate Schools of Planning, is pretty much the equivalent of AESOP for North America. The ACSP Blog is rich with contributions from PhD analysis, with themes covering spatial analysis, zoning, housing policy, energy systems, etc., focusing mostly on the US. The blog seems relatively young however, the oldest post I could find was from November 2016.

The blog of the American Planning Association gives very comprehensive coverage of all trends in spatial planning in the US, from healthy planning and historic preservation (aka heritage) to planning theory and tax reform . The posts feature insightful case studies, which can be a source of inspiration or research material to practitioners and researchers alike. A very good complement to Planetizen.

Planetizen hardly needs an introduction. Very US-centred, it covers just about topics of direct relevance to spatial planning. From DIY urbanism and urban design to finance and tech, it’s all covered by experts in the field. As an aside, Christmas wishes to Santa Claus for proper public transport are in there; have you remembered to make your own requests to St Nicholas on Dec 6th this year? Planetizen also features available job positions in government and industry, as well as a guide to higher education opportunities and lifelong training. Check out the Planetizen Guide to Graduate Urban Planning Programmes.

Progressive City (:Radical Alternatives) “is an online publication dedicated to ideas and practices that advance racial, economic, and social justice in cities”. It is a project of the Planners Network, the US-based Organisation of Progressive Planning. The regular blog posts address inclusive urban planning practices, grassroots organising and civic action, with environmental justice very high on their agenda. They welcome contributions from activists, practitioners, academics and community members alike – that is, pretty much anyone with an interest and experience in anything civic or bottom-up.

Summing up: Space is the Common Denominator


Every blog is unique, which is what makes it so valuable. What brings them together, however, is an investigation of space. Space has always mattered, today just as yesterday, and it always will. Yet what matters even more than space itself, perhaps, is how we relate to it, both as individuals, communities and societies. As Greek philosopher Democritus provocatively put it: “Nothing exists except atoms and empty space; everything else is opinion”. Blog on!

Post-scriptum: Crowdsourcing the list – do help it to grow

This post is meant as a longer-term, crowdsourced post. Do share links to engaging blogs connected to spatial planning and related fields, either as comments below, or by email to The next post will focus on blogs based at specific research institutes and departments, as well as the blogs of individual professionals and experts.

Special thanks to Simone Tulumello, Thomas Verbeek, and Chandrima Mukhopadhyay for sharing links to many of the blogs mentioned here.



Posted in Beyond planning, Dissemination, outreach, communication, Planning, city, and society, Resources, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , | 1 Comment