EVENT REVIEW: World Town Planning Day 2013: Water and Planning – The Fluid Challenge

World Town Planning Day 2013:  Water and Planning – The Fluid Challenge

For this year’s World Town Planning Day the RTPI, PIA and NZPI London branches organised a far reaching debate around the challenges that water presents for built environment professionals today and in the future, kindly sponsored by Atkins and UCL. Technical experts from the Atkins, GLA, Environment Agency and UCL discussed the challenges and opportunities from the macro to the micro level.

The debate highlighted the challenges in understanding how people value water and how to connect consumers to allow water to be valued and managed sustainably in the future. This is not least because, with the challenges of climate change and the projected increases in population, the sustainable management of water will be a critical for planners and all built environment professional to consider and address holistically.

The evening opened with a warm welcome from the event’s chair, Zoe Green (RTPI London and Atkins). Zoe provided an interdisciplinary perspective on the challenges that built environment professionals face concerning water from the human to the global scale. She noted that “cities have long been faced with broad, complex and constantly evolving risks but these are becoming more resource-oriented and increasingly similar for both the developing and developed world. Resource scarcity, climate change, flood risk are now issues that face us all.”

The first to present was Tse-Hui Teh, a Lecturer at the Bartlett School of Planning at UCL. She provided a historical context for the use of water in London, posing the following question:  how do we really value our water environment and who is planning to ensure water remains a sustainable resource.  Hui discussed the opportunities for technology to evolve to conserve water resources, including the challenge of redesigning the toilet for 21st Century to make London’s sanitation ecological. UCL are holding a Festival as part of the UN World Toilet Day on 19 November (http://www.ucl.ac.uk/urbanlab/events/UCLoo).

Then, from the human scale to the global scale, Geoff Darch (Atkins) provided an overview on ‘future proofing’ water resources and the challenges that climate change presents; looking at the different types of risks from physical through to regulatory and the provision of infrastructure needed.  Geoff introduced scenario planning to future proof the UK Water Sector and water resource planning in London. To navigate the water challenges of the 21st century Geoff highlighted planners have a pivotal role to play to approach these issues holistically.

Toni Scarr from the Environment Agency then spoke. Toni, who has worked on European River Corridor Improvement Plans, highlighted that rivers throughout Europe are facing similar problems due to urban pressures and there are many lost rivers in London. Through a number of inspiring case studies she demonstrated the many lost rivers in London and how through river restoration projects, the value of rivers and projects can significantly be increased. Through opening up one river, for example, usage increased by an outstanding 278%.

Last to speak was Kevin Reid of the GLA. He provided a very useful insight into the Drain London project and the opportunities to manage surface water flooding in London through the planning system and the use of strategic policy. Kevin explained the role Sustainable Drainage Approval Bodies (SABS) will play in April 2014 to ensure that every new development manages water drainage sustainably. The GLA & EA are also working collaboratively to produce a London Sustainable Drainage Action Plan to retrofit exist buildings and streets to manage rainwater sustainably.

As usual there was, following the debate, a lively Q&A session. This revealed, amongst other things, that London’s new ‘Super Sewer’ was unlikely to be enough to address the drainage challenges of the future. A networking event then followed where the debate on how we can better secure and manage our future water resources continued. Together, attendees were left with the clear message that collaboration is essential for the future sustainable management of our water resources and there is the opportunity for town planners to play a crucial role.

Thank you to all our speakers and attendees to this interesting thought provoking debate to celebrate World Town Planning Day 2013!



Zoe Green introducing World Town Planning Day 2013


Toni Scarr speaking about regenerating our river corridors


Panel Debate: Zoe Green, Kevin Reid, Tse-Hui Teh, Toni Scarr, Geoff Darch


Panel Debate: Zoe Green, Kevin Reid, Tse-Hui Teh, Toni Scarr, Geoff Darch



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One Response to EVENT REVIEW: World Town Planning Day 2013: Water and Planning – The Fluid Challenge

  1. Really interesting article.

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