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The role of spatial planning in enhancing sustainable urban development


The purpose of this essay is to develop a comprehensive analysis of a topic that will be used for further research. The topic for further research is the role that spatial planning plays in enhancing sustainable urban development. Three things are achieved in this essay. The first one is that the topic of the role that spatial planning plays in enhancing sustainable urban development is clearly defined. Secondly, the essay seeks to provide a detailed analysis of the outcomes of the research that will be based on the selected topic. Lastly, the essay provides information on different ways in which spatial planning can be used to enhance sustainable development in urban areas.

The role spatial planning in enhancing sustainable urban development

There is a close relationship between the concepts of climate change and urban planning. In general, this relationship is reflected in the fact that developing sustainable cities begins with good planning (Norman 2010, p. 16). This in return contributes to overall environmental conservation. In the same vein, many cities are realising the role that effective planning, particularly with regard to the energy needs, plays in mitigating the effects of climate change (Rogowska 2013, p. 5). In the current times, there is an increasing awareness of the role that spatial planning of cities can play in helping mitigate the effects of climate change. Since the current way in which spatial development in the form of use of land and development of infrastructure is carried out undermines the course for sustainable development, changing the way things are done will be a sure way of ensuring that cities develop in a manner that not only minimises the impact of the development on the environment but also mitigates the effects of climate change on the human population.

There are several issues that are used to define what sustainability means, particularly within the context of urban development. According to Tanguay (2010, cited by Broekhof & Van Marwijk 2012, p. 3), sustainable urban development can be understood in terms of social, economic and environmental aspects of the city. To begin with, sustainability means that the levels of energy use as well as emissions are maintained within internationally acceptable levels (Naess 2000, p. 506). Second, sustainable urban development means that the use of materials that degrade the environment is at a bare minimum. In the same manner, the process of urban development should not take place by encroaching natural areas and destroying ecosystems and arable lands. Lastly, sustainable development within the context of urban areas means that the urban populations are not subjected to the different forms of pollution and are able to experience and connect with the natural environment. It can be seen that these aspects, which are very important in defining sustainable cities, are what should be taken into consideration during the process of spatial planning for cities.

In the current times, cities face a number of challenges. For instance, many cities are facing economic and demographic challenges resulting from uncertainty about the future of market-led approaches as well as differential population distribution issues (Roth 2012, p. 2). But most importantly, many cities in the world today are facing the challenge of climate change which arises from their increasing dependence on fossil fuels among other issues (Burkley 2013, p. 9; Roaf, Crichton & Nicol 2009, p. 138). With an increase in populations and the rate of urbanisation, the production of greenhouse gases increases thus leading to anthropogenic climate change (Nath 2008, p. 182). It is the need to tackle these challenges, which can be described as social, economic and environmental, that will define the future of cities in the world.

There are several ways in which spatial urban planning is important in helping cities mitigate the effects of climate change and thus develop sustainably. For instance, the development plans for urban areas should be made in such a manner that policies which reduce the causes of climate change are adopted (IIED 2007, p. 2). Such policies may seek to reduce the overall emission of greenhouse gases, promote the use of renewable source of energy and take into consideration the need to minimise the impact of climate change in the planning process (Bulkeley, et al. 2010, p. 21).

Also, cities may play a role in enhancing sustainable development and, by extension, manage climate change by helping the population adapt to the changes that have already been caused by climate change (Calthorpe 2011, p. 9). To this end, local authorities can play the key role of finding local solutions to problems of sustainability experienced by the local populations (Steinebach, Guhathakurta & Hagen 2009, p. 235). Secondly, through effective spatial planning, local authorities of different cities across the word can help populations avoid the effects of climate change. Through effective planning, human settlement and development in areas that are prone to disasters such as flooding can be avoided (El Sioufi 2010, p. 7). This way, the local leadership of cities would be effectively helping the population to adapt to the effects of climate change while at the same time ensuring that the process of urbanisation does not compromise sustainability.

The importance of using planning as a tool of enhancing sustainable development of urban areas can be understood in terms of the general benefits that arise from application of the concept of sustainability in the first place. First, sustainable development needs to enhance economic stability within the urban areas (Pinderhughes 2004, p. 12). As such, planning cities in such a manner that their development is completely sustainable guarantees better allocation of resources and management of the allocated resources (Shen & Kawakami 2013, p. 2). This is in turn beneficial to different stakeholders in the development process. Second, the concept of sustainability can be understood in terms of ecological sustainability which covers a wide range of interrelated issues. One important issue that is part of ecological sustainability is the reduction of pollution to the surrounding environment (Pinderhughes 2004, p. 13). To this end, sustainable development seeks to develop technologies that reduce pollution, enhance recycling of waste products and reduce all manner of pollution.

Another point is that using spatial planning cities to enhance sustainable development and consequently mitigate climate change is beneficial in that the spatial development can promote a balance between rural and urban populations. This is important because one of the problems that many cities in the world, particularly in developing countries, are currently facing is a rapid increase in populations (Sen 2013, p. 73). The rise in urban populations is necessitated by a number of factors, key among them being the loss of more arable land to the effects of climate change. As such, rural populations move to cities in search of a living. Therefore, when cities use planning to achieve sustainability, they will not only be contributing to reducing the number of populations moving into them but also helping the already high populations manage the effects of climate change (Birkeland 2008, n.pag).

There are several strategies that can be used to ensure that spatial planning for urban development enhances sustainable development. For instance, the planning authorities should pay attention to the physical issues such as the spacing and location of facilities as part of sustainable action planning (UN-HABITAT 2007, p. 3). Also, urban planning should be done in accordance with the need to provide public place for social affairs and use innovative technologies in constructing the facilities.

Another strategy that can be used to ensure that the planning for cities is done to enhance sustainability entails tapping into the expertise of different stakeholders. For instance, there is need to include the input of different stakeholders such as scientists, local leaders and other institutions in the process of planning for a sustainable urban area (Wheeler 2013, n.pag). This is because such a move will encourage coordination between different persons and institutions involved in the urban planning process (Cooper, Evans & Boyko 2009, p. 17). In addition to this, involving different stakeholders in the process of planning for cities as a way of enhancing their ability to mitigate the effects of climate change is beneficial in that there is coordination between the local leaders of the cities and those at regional and national governments (OECD 2001, p. 87).


Therefore, it can be seen that spatial urban planning plays an important role in enhancing sustainable development of cities. On the other hand, it can be seen that the concept of sustainable urban development is an important one in several ways. First, its application to urban development means that development of the cities is done to ensure that they are sustainable in social, environmental and economic aspects. Also, by sustainable urban development, cities will be able to not only adapt to but also mitigate the effects of climate change. This is because urban areas face and will continue to face different challenges arising from the consequences of anthropogenic climate change.


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