On Wednesday 24th September 2014, the Centre for Urban Research hosted for Ronald McGill , the head of the advisory team of the Kenya Municipal Program, to give a seminar talk to members within the University. The presentation was titled: Urban Development Challenge; a new Response. It was broken down into four parts; The urban challenge, Town planning, Poverty and Participation.
Prof. McGill touched on the significance of towns and urban demands of Kenya and the deficit that it currently faces due to poor planning. He highlighted the components that are essential to each urban household such as water, sanitation, electricity, tenure, security and accessibility. He pointed out the shortfall within town planning implementation in the country such as institutional immaturity, which has resulted in a weak development control process.
In his presentation, Prof McGill recommended the understanding of current physical, social and economic situations, dynamics and priorities for proper formulation of plans. Capacities and thresholds of towns should be considered with future projections in mind. He also insisted the fact that trunk infrastructure influences spatial form and therefore should be meticulously plotted.
The presentation also focused on poverty and poverty reduction in the context of planning. Interestingly, he pointed out on how enlightened governments such as Lilongwe are now accepting squatting as a function of economic development and have started incorporating it into formal planning. Planning can intervene in to poverty reduction by the injection of services and granting of tenure into areas which are squatter zones thereby reducing certain aspects of poverty.
For purposes of public participation in planning, which is a crucial dimension, Prof. Ron proposed the use of exhibitions instead of meetings. In public participatory meetings, some voices end up being drowned due to the design of the forum and again they are also ‘conflict-laden’. The exhibition model of plans being displayed in a hall for a period solves most of these problems. They are a more leisurely way of interaction where people are more open in their discussions to give comments and recommendations. Town should also have a dedicated space to showcase their current plan and design to the public.
The presentation was closed with a few questions from the attendees and a vote of thanks. I t was an enlightening and enriching presentation to all those who attended. The Centre hopes to have more seminars to link planning practice to planning education