‘Planning Disrupted’ webinar results and presentations

June 16, 2020

On the 9th of June, ISOCARP together with other collaborating partners from South Africa (eThekwini Municipality, SACN – South African Cities Network, SALGA – South African Local Governments Association, SAPI – South African Planning Institute and MILA), held the webinar ‘Planning Disrupted’. The main aim of the webinar was to defy critical thematic areas pertinent to urban planning during COVID-19 crisis across cities and regions. Practitioners, planning organisations, individuals and academia were invited to join and discuss on what kind of policy, planning and design actions should be undertaken in our cities, in South Africa and city of Durban in particular. 

Over 250 participants joined the ‘Planning Disrupted’ webinar from all over the world, with most participants being from South Africa, followed up by India and Indonesia. 

After the welcoming words from SACN, the webinar continued with a presentation of the ISOCARP UPAT workshop for the inner-city renewal of Durban. The results of this collaborative UPAT workshop between urban planning professionals of Ethekwini Municipality and ISOCARP experts are bundled in the PLAN Magazine publication. After the welcoming words and the kick-off presentation the webinar moved on to the five Breakout Sessions, which offered an interactive, broad and moderated discussion on the following topics:


1. Planning Practice in the Time Of Flux – moderated by SALGA and SACN.

The Session deliberated on the changes and disruptions that are happening on the municipal level planning related to COVID, and took a concrete look what could be the new norms, the new leaderships and new formats for planning emerging from the crisis. The discussion highlighted the stark polarities and inequalities that the COVID19 crisis has brought forward in South Africa. Having to adapt to use social media as means of public participation, has shed light into inequalities in data accessibility among interested stakeholders. There is a necessity for urban planners and practitioners in the urban field to act as agents of change in order for practitioners in the urban field to best serve to those people who are most vulnerable in such situations. 

Suggested articles to learn more about the topic at hand: Built Environment Integration Practices Chronicles of a Change Agent

2. Dark Side of Planning Disruption – moderated by SAPI

Dark Side of Planning Disruption revealed the “dangers” facing planning practice, such as increasing inequality and growing bureaucracy as results of primary Covid responses. How to deal with the “low resilience capacity” of the established planning schemes and processes? The discussion touched upon topics related to: 

– The market in urban renewal and the finance economy; 

– Safety and perceptions of safety; 

– The need for leadership in organisational development;

– Need to foreground inclusiveness and transparent allocation of resources; 

– Government urban system collapse with rent seeking behaviour;

– Flexibility and transparency in regulation and laws.

3. Reset Opportunity for Density and Land-Use Planning – moderated by eThekwini Municipality

“Density Wars” seem to be at the heart of the post-COVID planning discussions. But if we can’t reset the existing frameworks of planning for more flexibility, simplicity and inclusivity NOW – when then? The Session reflected and re-prioritized the importance in land use planning for the inner city of Durban – through the lens of COVID. Main outcomes from this session highlighted the need to have a set of minimum standards for green spaces to bring relief to density. While the need for more public space is clear, the problem still remains on attracting the right investment pipelines to make this happen. Furthermore, the COVID crisis has put a big question mark on the future of the work place, in a time when working from home has become the new normal. This might require us to transform the functionality of office spaces. 


4. Public Spaces as Life Line for Cities – moderated by ISOCARP

How can public spaces adapt in the times of uncertainty, and will we be able to reclaim them after the quarantine restrictions? Location and scale of public spaces matter, as well as their contribution to more resilient, inclusive and just city. What kind of role will public space have for the next inner-city making? These were some of the questions that this break-out session explored. Contextualisation of public spaces is necessary as the public space is complex and the same rules cannot just be replicated from one context to another. In this way, it can reflect the values and cultures of all the people who use or experience them in an inclusive way. 

Read the Manifesto produced at the end of the session to learn more about the outcomes of the discussion. 


5. Relevant and Supportive National Planning – moderated by ISOCARP and SAPI

The crisis has revealed the bigger need for comprehensive planning on the highest, national level, covering primarily health facilities, housing, shelters, and all kind of supporting functions. The globalisation should not become the norm after the COVID crisis, and new economic pathways need to be found. Can urban data help establish relevant and supportive national (and local) planning and how? The discussion, pointed out three main priorities that need to be taken into consideration when it comes to national planning:

Mitigate political instability which influences planning processes;

– While the national policies are present, the main challenge remains on their implementation. ‘We need to own the policy at the local level’.

– There is a need to work on horizontal integration in planning (not just topdown/bottom-up) but for more horizontal collaboration. 


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