Strengthen Public Involvement in City Transformation

Use the example of Gothenburg inovative approach to city transformation by mandating councils to set up inovative interactive public participation in planning decisions. Gothenburgh sets up quick cheap public exhibitions on any major development at an early stage and a facility for the public to make concrete suggestions to improve the proposal and to interact with each other on-line in discussing amendements and alterrnatives to what is being proposed. The end result is greater citizen awareness of the issues and satisfaction and better developments that fit the needs of the users of the city better. Our 4 main cities have outstanding city centres but recent planning decisions haven't improved but deteriorated the quality of the experience of the city centre to thus draw more people into them. In Aberdeen conversely the city centre experience is deterioating. Very highrise office bocks without any great design destinction are being incresingly allowed to encroach into the heart ofthe city centre, ingnoring their effect of oblitering the city sykline and are even in the prosess of being built now on Union Street. This shows a complete lack of appreciation of the of outstanding urban design heritage we have inherited from the past. Further errosion of the city centre experience is likely as shopping malls in Aberdeen are being sallowed to convert their upper floors from shops to resteraunts, thus undermining the viability of locally owned restaurants and making the city centre streets destered in the evenings. We either need a City Czar in Scotland who can highlight these wider issues so as to make elected councilors more aware of these issues, or we need greater citizen involvement in the planning process as was done in Gothenburg to bring the user's perspective to bear on decisions that preofoundly affect their experience of the city and ultimately the city centre's economic survival. English cities have been far more aware of these issues than is evident in Scotland. They have concentrated on improving the experience of the city centre as a way to boost the city economy. The changes in English cities like Manchester, Nottingham, Bristol and others have all been based on hightening the pedestrian's experience of the city centre through urban design and the creation of vibrant urban spaces. We need to learn from their experience and again this suggests that a city czar or taskforce is needed to ensure that Scotland's cities raise their game.   

Why the contribution is important

The internet is undermining city centres as are the internalising of city life into internal semi-private spaces like shopping malls which now incorporate leisure (cinema and restaurants) as well as shopping. English cities by their initiatives show greater awareness of the need to procatively counter this by spending a lot of effort in improving the user experience of the city centre by doing far more than just pedestrianisation through the design criteia for new building and the preservation of older building as well as though creating urban spaces and greenery in the city centre to attract more people. If we don't compete at this level then economic benefits will move away from Scottish cities. Manchester has done more than any other english city in this regard and has transformed its economic position as a result. 

by AlexBuchan on October 13, 2015 at 09:24PM

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