Sustainability as an Important Consideration for Urban and Regional Planning

The sustainability of development has become all the more important for modern urban and regional planning practices. As the human footprint on the environment has led to pressure on precious resources, a balance is needed between the socio-economic needs of communities and the environments in which they live. However, the well-being of the communities and economic development are closely related to the availability and responsible use of resources.

Modern urban and regional planning must be done with the consideration of sustainability as a top priority. Transportation, the way land is used, and how economic activities are structured affect the sustainability of urban development. To understand sustainable development in the context of urban and regional planning, it is important to first consider the framework of the latter.

What Is Urban and Regional Planning?

Many definitions exist for urban and regional planning, but it comes down to it being a political, economic, and technical process focused on how land is used. It includes, for instance, transportation infrastructure development planning, zoning, and the management of how communities settle in an area. The urban planning process forms part of regional planning. The latter is the plan for a larger area within which the urban area falls.

What Is Seen as Sustainability?

It comes down to the long-term viability and well-being of the community, environment, resources, and economic activities within a region. Sustainable development provides for the needs of the current generation, with consideration of the political, economic, and social needs of the communities balanced against the available resources and environment, without compromising the ability of the future generation to have their needs met in the same, or better, way. The idea of the sustainable approach is to get the perfect balance between ecological, socio-economic, and political needs.

Potentially Conflicting Aspects

Human settlement encroaches on the environment. As part of human settlement, manufacturing and other economic activities follow. The people need to be able to get to and from their places of work. For this, transport infrastructure must be in place. All of these require resources from the environment and take up valuable environmental space. Sustainable urban and regional planning acknowledges these needs but seeks to minimise the negative effects on the environment while aiming to maximise the well-being of communities.

For instance, land use for a noise emitting activity should not be allowed next to an area where noise emission causes problems. A conservation area, for instance, should not be located right next to an airport. Careful planning is done to balance the various land uses. An alternative approach is to structure developments in a manner to minimise noise emissions through buffer zones. Developing a retirement village right next to a busy highway doesn’t make sense since the noise emission from the highway affects the living quality of the residents. These are just examples of how sustainable urban and regional planning takes the well-being of communities and the health of the environment into consideration when planning transport infrastructure.

Accessibility of Work and Resources

Here, too, a balance must be achieved through proper urban and regional planning. People need access to their places of work, study, prayer, recreation, and more. Highways, rail infrastructure, and walkways must be planned to help reduce traffic congestion. Having settlements close to places of work can also help to reduce traffic congestion, noise emission from traffic, and pollution associated with transportation.

With proper consideration, it is possible to bring people closer to their places of work while also making it safer for pedestrians and cyclists to travel to work. If a highway runs through two areas with the residential area on the one side and the industrial area on the other side of the highway, the people from the residential area will need a safe way to get to work without having to cross the highway. Walk and cycle bridges must be provided at set distances to make it easier for them to get to their work.

We have looked at selective aspects of sustainable urban and regional planning, but many more aspects are involved. Our town planning consultancy helps municipalities and relevant authorities to create more sustainable environments through our modern approaches to balanced economic, political, ecological, and social needs and the well-being of communities and the environment.