Urban design is meant to be all about communities – so listen to them

Charles Campion with young people at a St Clements charrette in east London

The public should take their rightful place alongside professionals and politicians

Through history human beings have, by nature, been proactive and collaborative in creating their own habitats and communities. Today most of the world’s population lives in urban environments, and most people seek to live in enterprising and sustainable communities. These are objectives that planning systems aim to support and deliver. But post-war planning and urban renewal has often been undertaken without the involvement and support of local communities, often with unintended negative – and sometimes disastrous – consequences.

Professionals and politicians tend to dominate planning and placemaking. Communities are all too often only consulted on proposals that have already been formulated without their input and not surprisingly see themselves as being excluded from the real decision-making, which usually takes place before the “consultation” stage even begins.

Jane Jacobs famously wrote that, “Cities have the capability of providing something for everybody, only because, and only when, they are created by everybody”.

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