Timothy Crawshaw MA MRTPI FRSA is President of the RTPI (2022).
It was my very great pleasure to be invited to attend the International Society of City and Regional Planners (ISOCARP) Congress in Brussels. Entitled from Wealthy Cites to Healthy Cities the 58th Congress brought together planners from around the world for three days of learning, shared experiences and what felt like a celebration of the power of planning.
What was clear from the outset was the recognition that the wellbeing of citizens is directly related to the climate, green infrastructure, housing, mobility, and good work. These were constant themes throughout the congress, with connection points in many of the seminars, breakouts, and plenary sessions. The quality of the academic work presented was outstanding in many cases, with detail aplenty for the specialist on matters such as the urban heat island effect and wider social science topics.
The venue itself was an inspiring setting, showcasing the creative re-use of a former goods station as a catalyst for regeneration within the city, alongside walking and cycling tours that provided the learning opportunities from place.
The former goods station provided an inspiring venue
I was delighted to take part in a cycle tour of the countryside in an around Brussels that illustrated the importance of green infrastructure in the regeneration of former industrial areas and in providing active travel opportunities. Restoring the landscape back to pre-industrial uses and the establishment of urban farming were consistent themes, alongside the need to provide fair and equitable access for all communities to the benefits of the countryside around a dense urban area.
At the end of a very productive day the city of Brussels hosted the welcome reception to the Congress. To a packed room of delegates and officials I was honoured and delighted to provide the closing International Keynote speech as guest of honour. To a packed hall the rousing ‘Planning is Awesome’ was repeated by all to the delight of many and set the tone for the rest of the week!
Tim provided the International Keynote speech
Like many cities Brussels has a need to provide much more affordable housing for its citizens. The Tivoli district provided a learning opportunity to explore a new neighbourhood with exemplar projects including an inspiring community land trust housing scheme with a penthouse communal kitchen, lounge, and terrace with a fantastic view. What was striking was the quality and the ambition of the housing, which would for many people be their first choice in terms of accessibility, location, and amenity space.
The range of learning opportunities was inspiring with walking tours that took in demonstrations of rammed earth as a viable and low carbon alternative to brick construction alongside innovative approaches to area-based regeneration that seek to bring neglected areas of the city to life, whilst leaving no one behind. Strong leadership and a high profile and professional city planning team are clearly at the heart of the future of Brussels, a diverse and vibrant city with an eye firmly on the future, whilst celebrating the past. A productive and cultural city with people at the centre.
With many thanks to the team at ISOCARP who made me most welcome, I was honoured and privileged to join the family of international planners.