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PR 22 - Tool to help planners cope with urbanisation gets International boost

29 April 2008

Royal Town Planning Institute (RTPI) President Janet O'Neill will use a trip to the United States to encourage colleagues from across the world to make use of a new web-based tool designed to let town planners know how well they are positioned to cope with the challenge of rapid urbanisation.  

President O'Neill will address the 100th American Planning Association (APA) National Planning Conference in Las Vegas on Wednesday April 30, explaining how global partnerships can help planners achieve real results in their home countries and outlining the benefits of utilising the new planning tool. She will share the stage with Canadian Institute of Planners President, Blake Hudema, and APA President, Robert Hunter. The event will be attended by more than 5,000 planners from across the United States and the world.

For the first time in history, more than half of the world's population now live in a town or city. By 2050 a further 3 billion people will have joined them*. These people will need access to shelter, essential infrastructure like clean water and sanitation, and services like schools and clinics, all of which need to be planned in a sustainable way. In order to help planning institutions across the globe advise their governments on preparing for the influx of urban dwellers the RTPI, in association with the Commonwealth Association of Planners (CAP), has developed a 'Diagnostic Tool to Assess Planning Capacity' which was launched by the Global Planners Network in March. The tool, which is available online via the RTPI's website, helps planning organisations to assess their skills-base, organisational capacity, leadership and working methods. It is hoped that by identifying shortfalls which exist organisations will be able to take steps to respond to the challenge of rapid urban growth within their home country.

Janet O'Neill said: \"Rapid urbanisation represents a significant challenge for the global planning community. Providing clean water and sanitation as well as infrastructure and essential services to the rapidly growing number of urban dwellers will be a priority for planners in many countries. While these are issues that each country will have to come to terms with individually there are opportunities to share knowledge and experiences which can build good practice.

\"The Self-Diagnostic Tool to Assess Planning Capacity gives planners the opportunity to asses their ability to cope with urbanisation and I would encourage planners to make use of this valuable resource.\"

The Tool is designed for global use. It is available online and in hard copy in English, French, Spanish and Chinese. It is tailored to fit the experiences of all types of planners working in public, private or voluntary sectors, and all organisations and institutions with responsibility for planning and managing where people live.

The outcomes of this project will be presented later this year to the UN Habitat World Urban Forum 4 in Nanjing, 'Urbanisation, Poverty and Climate Change' and to the Global Planners Network Congress in Zhenjiang entitled 'Spatially Harmonious Cities'.


For further information please contact:

Dale Atkinson, RTPI Communications Manager: 0207 929 9479

Or Will French, RTPI Project Manager: 0208 997 0201

Editors Notes:

1.For more information on the APA Conference visit the conference website here

2.The self diagnostic tool can be found online here.

3.The Royal Town Planning Institute (RTPI) represents 20,000 planners and works to raise professional standards and supports members through continuous education, training and development. For further general information, visit the RTPI website at:

         41 Botolph Lane, London, EC3R 8DL, charity no. 262865

4.The Commonwealth Association of Planners is a Commonwealth professional association whose members are the professional planning institutes from Commonwealth countries. CAP works closely with the Commonwealth Secretariat and the Commonwealth Foundation and others through ComHabitat (

5.Global Planners Network is at

6.The process of global urbanisation has been extraordinarily rapid and it won't slow down:

­        In 1900, only 14% of the population lived in cities. By 2000, 47% of us did so.

­        There are now 3.3 billion urban dwellers on the planet, by 2050 there will be 6.4 billion.

7.By 2025 there will be 27 megacities in the world, each with over 10 million people. But the fastest growth will take place in urban areas of developing countries, particularly in smaller cities and towns in Asia and Africa.

­        At present about 40 % of China's population are city dwellers. By 2050 this proportion is expected to exceed 70%.

­        Similarly the proportion of India's population living in cities will rise from 29% now to 55% in 2050.

­        Africa currently has just one megacity - Cairo. By 2025 Kinshasa and Lagos will join that club.

8.Urban growth continues apace in more developed countries. The UK is set to build 3 million new homes by 2020 and 240,000 homes a year until 2016.

9.Except in the very long run, the rate of growth cannot be slowed. It becomes a major challenge to planners and policymakers in the most affected countries who need to respond, e.g. by ensuring that:

­        the provision of housing keeps pace with demand.

­        basic infrastructure and services like clean water, sewerage, roads, schools and clinics are provided.

10.     Planners and policymakers also have to respond to the social and environmental consequences of the growth of cities.

­        Urban poverty is already increasing sharply.  One billion people - a sixth of the world's population - now live in shanty towns,

­        Such settlements can be difficult to govern and they can experience high levels of insecurity,

­        If built in vulnerable areas, such as on steep hillsides susceptible to landslides or on river banks liable to flooding, unplanned settlements expose residents to very high risks from natural disasters,

­        Unplanned settlements can also exacerbate environmental problems such the loss of vital tree cover or pollution of water supplies.

11.     The self-assessment tool is intended to be diagnostic and not just descriptive. By working through the pro-forma respondents will be able to provide information that can be analysed through the project, but also to highlight their achievements, identify their needs and alert themselves to the areas where enhanced capacity could bring benefits. Importantly too, the tool will provide respondents with an opportunity to build relationships within the Global Planning Network.

12.     The tool will assist potential donors and training and educational organisations to identify where the priority gaps in local capacity exist and to design the appropriate courses and other interventions to address them.

13.     Although not formulated as such because it is important not to impose a Western business model to it, the tool can be construed to be a form of SWOT analysis. It will allow respondents to position themselves rather than measure themselves against external norms.

14.     Further information on the growth of the World cities is available at:

­        UNFPA:  State of the World Population

­        UN Habitat:  Slums of the World

­        UN World Urbanization Prospects: 2007

*      UNFPA:  State of the World Population