Thursday 8th November is World Town Planning Day – celebrated in 30 countries on four continents. The day is to recognise and promote the role of town planning (also known as spatial planning) in creating great places and communities. Planners face global challenges: population growth, water availability, climate change adaption and flood risk resilience. Challenges we share with other professions. Think back to the period of hot dry weather we experienced this summer in the UK – learning how to design places that can cope with these impacts is a cross sector challenge.
At Anglian Water, the scale of population and economic growth is particularly acute as we cover one of the fastest growing areas in the whole country. But while this presents its challenges, it also provides opportunities to create truly exemplar development that reduces demand and integrates water management into new communities and places.
Spatial Planning provides a common language to help understand others’ perspectives, challenges and opportunities. Through our teams of planners, we help shape long term direction of growth by working with local authorities on their Local Plans and on Neighbourhood Plans produced by our region’s communities. In turn, this helps reduce demand and ensure water is a key consideration at the outset of development. We provide advice to local authorities and developers on their specific development sites, and deliver our own projects, like extensions to our water recycling centres, which make up a significant proportion of the £6.5 billion of investment we set out in our draft business plan covering 2020-2025.
However, our role goes much further than that. As one of our key priorities in supporting sustainable growth is thinking differently and developing new ideas. For example, some of our recent projects involve:
- Providing support for local authority planners by preparing a set of guides, including the Local Plan guide being launched today!
- Supporting the RIBA design competition into Letchworth Garden City to re-imagine the original garden principles established by one of the key figures of planning – Ebenezer Howard. The Government is supportive of a range of new garden communities, many of which are in our region, like in North Essex, North Northamptonshire and the emerging proposals in Wisbech. Updating the principles for the 21st Century means we can encourage homes to be designed with water efficiency, water reuse (or ‘green water’) and SuDs front and centre of place creation.
- Preparing research to understand the implications of the Oxford to Cambridge Arc which could one day see more than 1 million new homes, and a national focus of economic growth and infrastructure investment. Our early involvement is to ensure that any development includes the latest thinking on water management.
- Better understanding of where development is happening and when through bringing together data on housing and economic delivery through our innovative grosight software.
- We are also seeking to do more to help communities understand the impact of our projects, and be part of the design through utilising technology like virtual reality.
World planning day is an opportunity to recognise the valuable contribution that we can all play in creating the places we want to live. For more information on world planning day, visit the Royal Town Planning Institute (RTPI) website.