Wuhan, 09 Septemebr2016 – UN-Habitat and the Wuhan Land Use and Urban Spatial Planning Research Center (WLSP) organised an Expert Group Meeting to pilot the implementation of the IG-UTP in China.

The Meeting brought together experts from various constituencies including the IG-UTP drafting committee; international experts with extensive experience in East Asia and urban regeneration; national government experts from China, local authorities and planning associations. Over ten institutions were represented, including China Academy of Urban Planning and Design (CAUPD), Chinese University of Hong Kong, Commonwealth Association of Planners (CAP), European Council of Spatial Planners (ECTP), Flanders Government, Ministry of Housing and Urban-Rural Development (MoHURD), Nanjing University, Urban Design and Planning Consultants Limited (UDP International) and United Cities and Local Governments (UCLG).

Participants noted that while planning for unparalleled growth in the past decades, and managing to renew existing urban precincts, the Chinese government has emphasized that “quality of urbanization has to match quantity in order to achieve people-oriented placemaking”. This is well-aligned with the recommendation from the Guidelines to “improve the quality of life in existing and new urban settlements”.

Experts reiterated that the Guidelines is an important instrument to implement the Sustainable Development Goals and the New Urban Agenda. Supporting tools such as indicators, capacity training materials, a compendium of case studies and a handbook were discussed as means for effective implementation of the Guidelines. Participants further exchanged views on utilization of the Guidelines in the Chinese context as a significant instrument to improve planning, systems, structures and programmes.

Ms. Christine Platt, Chair of the IG-UTP Drafting Committee, stated that “the Guidelines should be adapted to the national and local contexts with reflection to the institutional set-ups and capacities, and addressing specific urban and territorial challenges”. Ms. Laura Petrella, Leader of City Planning, Extension and Design Unit of UN-Habitat emphasized on the cruciality of community engagement. “It is essential to bring planning knowledge to local communities and take back opinions”, Laura remarked. Professor Hongyang Wang from Nanjing University elucidated that localising the Guidelines means being strategic and selective in terms of problem solving rather than trying to address on all urban issues. He further advised that “mega cities in China should play the role of facilitating resource-sharing with the surrounding clusters of urban and rural areas instead of competing for exclusivity.”

To showcase its innovative planning approaches that promote “integrated, participatory and strategic planning” as embedded in the Guidelines, WLSP presented its innovative Land Management and Planning Integration System, a citywide database on land use and planning regulation. The system challenges the conventional separation between land management and urban planning in China by synthesizing relevant information that could facilitate the understanding and decision making of land parcels in Wuhan, a city that occupies more than 8,000 square kilometres with over ten million inhabitants. Recommendations were provided to fine-tune this practice to be included in the compendium of good practices of the IG-UTP

Additionally, WLSP presented two ongoing urban renewal case studies: Zhongshan Avenue Revival Plan that had recently won the 2016 International Society of City and Regional Planners (ISOCARP) Award for Excellence, and the Tanhualin District Renewal Project that continuously seeks for the appropriate development model of the historical city centre’s regeneration.

Experts underscored that urban renewal projects worldwide face identical challenges, and the Guidelines has the capacity to ensure apposite planning at various scales including precinct level. It is counselled that to tackle challenges such as violations of dwellers’ rights, development should “result from a participatory process involving consultations between all relevant stakeholders and driven by those public authorities which are closest to the public.”

The key engagement between UN-Habitat and WLSP is a collaboration for three years to provide policy advice and support demonstrations for improved urban public spaces. The EGM is the second joint activity following the inception meeting on public space promotion programme in June 2016. Selective outcomes of cooperation will be featured at Habitat III in Quito from 17th- 20th October 2016. Subsequently, more cities are expected to take part in rolling out the Guidelines in China.