In 1949, Argentinian urbanist Professor Carlos Maria Della Paolera put out a call to planners and urbanists everywhere. He wanted 8 November 1950 to be the first ever Día Mundial del Urbanismo, or World Urbanism Day. This, of course, is now more commonly known in the English speaking world as World Town Planning Day.
Professor Della Paolera felt that modern cities being developed in this post-war period were at a crossroads. His personal experience of living in Buenos Aires had reinforced this. There was conflict between development and conservation, between communities and developers and between economic growth and communities’ needs. Other places across the globe found themselves in a similar situation. Despite the hangover of World War II there was a feeling of hope and drive to do things differently. Part of this was a need to rethink how our cities were designed and how they could work for all.
Della Paolera saw, and grasped, an opportunity to celebrate the world’s cities and to learn from their past, to reflect on the present, and to look to the future of urban development. So, World Town Planning Day came at an opportune moment as it called all communities, professionals, and governments to ask themselves what they should be doing to make our cities more attractive and liveable places.
More than 50 cities worldwide took part. It showed how Professor Della Paolera’s call resonated across the world. This has been built upon and World Town Planning Day is now celebrated in over 30 countries across 4 continents, aiming to “recognise and promote the role of planning in creating liveable communities.”
It could be argued that we are at another critical time for our cities, towns and villages with the climate emergency declared in countries, states and cities across the world. Scottish Government has set zero carbon target to be hit by 2045.
This is another opportunity for planners and planning. Within our profession we all know the power of planning, the potential of the planning system and the passion of planners. But not everyone understands this. That’s I why I’m delighted that the new Scottish Programme for Government highlights the role of planning and the National Planning Framework in achieving the zero carbon target.
But we need to use events and milestones like today’s to get the message out about how planning is a vital tool to help put in place a planned and managed approach to achieving these targets.
Today coincides the enactment of the first provisions of the Planning (Scotland) Act 2019. This means that we have – for the first time - a purpose of planning enshrined in law. It is “to manage the development and use of land in the long term public interest”.
This is something that the Royal Town Planning Institute was instrumental in getting onto the statute books and in framing it to ensure that it reflects and reinforces the fact that planning works in the public interest and not in the interest of one specific group. Something that, perhaps, has been lost in translation in recent years.
It is a very useful starting point for taking forward the Professor’s original vision, seventy years on.
Director of RTPI Scotland