Pre-emptive planning

Planning has always been about visioning the future but how should it seek to embed principles of urban resilience?

It has long been argued that urban resilience requires a proactive planning process. Notwithstanding the fact that the majority of built-in interventions will be retrofits, if resilience can be designed into the built fabric of the city at the inception stage of a development it should ensure more effective protection at often lower cost. Much evidence however supports the view that resilience is not generally considered at the early planning and design stages. All too often it is seen as an add on to developments once planning approval has been given. In this context it was heartening to see the desire to pre-emptively plan-in resilience recently endorsed by the UN when the Secretary-General urged governments to integrate disaster risk reduction into development agendas.

“Integrating disaster risk reduction from the beginning, during the planning stage, and taking a consistent approach will ensure the best results.”

Although such a vision to acquiring built-in resilience was articulated in relation to earthquakes, tsunamis and other hazardous events, it is also an agenda that has resonance with countering the threat of urban terrorism. Attempts over the last five years by the UK policing agencies to interface with planners, urban designers and architects to ensure security features are thought about at the earliest design stage have proved problematic. There appears to be reluctance by built environment professionals to consider security enhancement in the same way. This can be put down to a number of factors: the perceived extra cost of such measures, the lack of available information as to how to action this need, and a general sense of apathy regarding the risk faced in particular localities. However, this trend is beginning to change. More recently awareness raising and training programs specifically for planners and architects, together with a slew of policy guidance – though interestingly not legislation – have partially succeeded in elevating the counter-terrorism agenda amongst the planning profession. Within this UK context the emphasis is on embedding ‘resilient design’ into early concept stages of the planning and design process to ensure cost minimization and efficient solutions. It also provides the opportunity for innovative urban design solutions, which in most cases seek to minimize any negative aesthetical issues that security features, particularly when added later in the process, can often bring.

Whatever type of threat you are protecting against when new developments are planned then it is imperative to think ahead and be as proactive and risk conscious as possible to ensure the embedding of resilience is as painless, effective and appealing as possible.

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