chapter  11
15 Pages

What kind of spatial planning do we need? An approach based on visioning, action and co- production! JEf VAN DEN BROECK

The current evolution in Asia, not only in China but also in Vietnam, South Korea, Thailand, Malaysia and other Asian countries, indicates that the already huge and vast population is growing at a rapid pace. This also applies to economic growth and the continent’s impressive technological advancement. The dynamism and energy of the (largely young) population is quite invigorating: it seems that in Seoul people (officially) work 2,088 hours a year. In Paris, the average is 1,480 hours per year. Asians are generally optimistic and eager to create ‘a better life’ for themselves. Asian societies are in motion, even literally so: in Ho Chi Minh City 500 new motorbikes and 100 new cars a day require more space and infrastructure. The atmosphere in the region reminds us a bit of the 1950s and 1960s in the Western industrial countries. But the scale and the pace of these developments are different. But the coin also has a reverse side. The gap between rich and poor is growing rapidly. So is the tension between governmental systems and their form, on the one hand, and individual and human rights and the demands of the civil society on the other. The education level remains low, especially in rural areas. Sustainable development doesn’t seem to be an objective, which will have a direct impact on the quality of life and health conditions in the long term. According to the Chinese state media, environmental pollution cost the Chinese economy approximately €50 billion in 2004 or 3.1 per cent of the GDP. Between 2000 and 2004, air pollution due to SO2 from coal-fired power plants rose by 27 per cent. The fast development and the investors behind the scenes are not interested in traditional values and culture. From discussions with responsible politicians, officials, academics and students it becomes clear that the majority of the population and the authorities do not really care about these issues. And what about ‘old’ Europe? Each day there are stories in the papers about the ageing of the European population, the growing inactivity rate, the pension issue and more. All these issues create a kind of pessimism, negativism and even nationalism. Sociologists and politicians refer to Europe as a ‘soured society’. The industry is migrating its activities to Asia and Eastern Europe, while the Antwerp diamond sector is dominated by Indians and Singapore and Shanghai are investing in terminals in the ports of Antwerp and Zeebrugge. On the other hand, the average hourly wage in Europe (€15 before tax) is much higher than in

Asia (€3-4) and studies about the ‘feelgood rate’ of people, based upon housing and environmental conditions, welfare, health care, public services, educational and cultural equipment and opportunities result in a positive image. The trend is set to continue in Asia, and this will have consequences for Europe. How can Europe and European cities react to this new context? Do we have to compete with the ‘new’ world? What does it mean? Is it possible and how can we do this? What kind of (strategic) planning is needed and what is possible? We can try to think about possible strategies in order to deal with the effects, the situation and trends in Europe. I assume that such strategies should be based upon endogenous capacities and assets as well on intellectual, social, cultural, economic and spatial potential. What are our strengths and what should we focus on in planning? What is the role of space and place in the search for opportunities and a future? Specifically, I want to argue that ‘space and place’ have to be considered an important resource and a main asset for creating a better quality of life. Space is considered to be an integrating framework for sustainable ecological and economic development. I also want to stress the importance of ‘visioning and design’, in a broad sense, as tools to further creativity and innovation and for research purposes (Loeckx and Shannon 2004: 164; Schreurs 2006). They are also tools with which to explore the assets and the potential of a place and its possible future, and even the potential of a society. Last but not least, visioning and design can be tools in a process to negotiate agreements (Van den Broeck 2006). There are two assumptions underlying this statement. The first is that visioning enables long-term planning and serves to motivate and encourage people who definitely need a perspective. The second assumption is that design, in contrast to verbal communication, can reveal another kind of knowledge about spaces and has the power to integrate different (sectoral and fragmented) aspects in one image. As I have already stated, visioning and design have to be interpreted in a broad sense. They can be defined as a way to engage and develop our creative capacities (Albrechts 2005) in order to look for innovative possibilities to transform the present situation. In this sense, visioning and design are not (static) products, but tools that generate creativity and innovation. In this chapter I want to argue that space, as I have already stated, has to be considered a main resource and asset and that design can function as a strategy to explore assets and opportunities. To argue this statement, I will cite an example from Africa. Second, I want to focus on two kinds of spaces, which for different reasons have been of strategic importance to date: the ‘urban/cityregion or network’ and the ‘locus’. Both are keys to a better quality of life and sustainable development. Third, I would like to suggest a strategy for planning: a ‘trialogue’ between visioning, action and the co-production of policy and implementation. There is another important trialogue: it covers the relationship between local authorities, civil society and the private sector, but that falls outside the purview of this chapter.