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PR 13 - New tool launched to help planners respond to global urban boom

17 March 2008

Sharp increases in urbanisation will make it even tougher for the world's planners to provide for the basic needs of city dwellers, according to the Global Planners Network (GPN). The GPN is today (Monday) launching a tool designed to help planners around the world assess their capacity to cope and to make sure the most important requirements, like housing, clean water, sanitation and basic services can be provided.  


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.


A 'Self-Diagnostic Tool to Assess Planning Capacity' has been developed by the UK's Royal Town Planning Institute (RTPI) and Commonwealth Association of Planners, to help planning organisations across the world to assess their capacity to respond to the challenges of urban growth. By assessing their skills-base, organisational capacity, leadership and working methods it is hoped planning organisations will find themselves better placed to cope with the challenges that lie ahead.


The Tool will also build a better picture of the way different countries plan their settlements and it is hoped this will help develop international support networks between planning organisations to share and transfer knowledge.


The 'Self-Diagnostic Tool to Assess Planning Capacity' is designed for global use. It will be made 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.


Will French, who is managing the project for the Global Planners Network said: \"Rapid urbanisation is a huge and growing challenge for cities world wide. Good planning is essential to provide housing and the essential infrastructure and services that make places fit for habitation. This diagnostic tool will help us all to understand better what skills and capacity exist, where possible gaps might be and how best to fill any identified.\"


Christine Platt, President of CAP said \"this initiative is a crucial step in ensuring that planning and the planning profession can adequately deal with the challenges that we shall face throughout the 21st century.\"


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:


Will French, RTPI Project Manager: 0208 997 0201


Editors Notes:


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

2.      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


3.      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 (


4.      Global Planners Network is at


5.      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.


6.      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.


7.      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.


8.      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.


9.      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.


10.  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.


11.  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.


12.  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.


13.  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