Urban planners and design experts are chartimg a new course for post- COVID-19 urban planning and management of towns and cities. Dayo Ayeyemi report
Urban planners are already assessing and weighing their options on realities and imperatives for new urban planning approach post- COVID-19.
Prepared to chart a new course for urban planning and management of towns and cities, they all agreed that COVID- 19 had brought out Nigeria’s unpreparedness in the face of spatial, demographic, social, cultural, economic, and environmental challenges associated with urbanisation Issues and roles of urban planners were also discussed based on national, regional and international scenarios.
Setting the pace for discussions, a former President of the Nigerian Institute of Town Planners (NITP) and Director at the Centre for Environmental Studies and Design (CESD), Ota, Ogun State, Mr. Waheed Kadiri, listed issues of density, local government and planning, and health lifestyle as some key challenges that must be addressed by urban planners in the post-COVID- 19 planning era.
According to him, attention must be paid to informal settlements, adding that planning standards must promote liveability.
Kadiri said there must be considerations for people with underlying health conditions and those in poorer environment, who are proned to com- municable diseases arising from poor sanitation.
At a webinar themed “COVID-19 and Urban Planning: Issues, Challenges, New Normal and Pathways,” which has stakeholders all over the world as participants, and organised by Environews Nigeria Limited, the former NITP president called participants’ attention to the need for urban planning professionals to reassess their stand in the new era planning of towns and cities in order to meet the challenges posed to healthcare, transportation, technological advancement and physiological needs.
Landscape architect and urban designer from Sydney, Australia, Professor Martin Bryant, emphasised that COVID-19 should make people embrace the needful changes in culture, health and the society at large.
On the role of urban planning, he submitted that planners must begin to address the issue of open spaces across the world as they will play an important role in the post-COVID-19 urban era.
A former Chairman, Nigerian Institute of Town Planners, Lagos State Chapter, Ayo Adediran, pointed out that the pandemic called for the profession to re-examine the old conventional way of planning, mainstreaming informality into urban planning and increasing efforts at slum upgrading.
“Hence, we need to improve accessibility in order to bring about further spatial and social order,” he said.
Going forward, he suggested that green and blue spaces should be provided and integrated at all levels of the city as people require urban parks to recreate amidst lockdown regulations.
Deputy Vice-Chancellor (Academics), Rivers State University, Prof. (Mrs.) Opuenebo Owei, highlighted pathways to include urban growth management, provision of adequate and planned open spaces, adherence to planning standards, provision of infrastructure and urban basic services.
Pathway, she added, included participatory planning, providing a secure tenure system, and the implementation of the 2006 National Urban Development Policy framework to promote the creation of strategic plans for urban renewal in every Local Government Area.
A former Dean, Faculty of Environmental Sciences, University of Lagos, Professor Leke Oduwaye, urged planners to develop some planning principles that would help to build resilience against future challenges,especially in urban areas which are the epicenters, due to their population.
He is of the opinion that if the need to do physical planning is taken more seriously by the different arms of government, stresses and shocks would not be severe in the society.
“Therefore, COVID-19 is an opportunity to rebuild transformative, resilient, and pandemic resistant urban areas, especially now that the world is refocusing on human settlement spatial interaction and health,” he said.
Fellow of the Nigerian Institute of Architects (NIA), Mr. Ladi Lewis, pointed out that professionals would need to adjust and redefine their approach to the new and possible future normal in urban design and construction.
He concluded by stating that there would be future impact on architectural design and practice, such as having sanitising and decontamination units in buildings as a design requirement; social distancing design parameters in circulation, interior layouts and furnishing; and, increased usage of audiovisuals and online communication in buildings.
Collaboration was crucial in responding to the issues posed by the pandemic.