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Biennal Lyon 1995

A message from the Towns and Planners of Europe from 1st biennial : "town planning and sustainable development"

At the end of the first Towns and Planners of Europe biennial, held in Lyon between December 4-6, 1995, the participants voted the following declaration, addressed to the City Summit - Habitat II scheduled for Istanbul next June. "In the Light of the agreements reached at the Rio "Planet Earth" summit and in particular Agenda 21,

- the work of the European Union Commission, especially the Green Book on the Urban Environment and the "Sustainable European Cities" project,
- the European urban charter drawn up by the European Council,
- the Aalborg charter for sustainability in European Cities,

we are aware that the future of planet Earth is in our hands also and that urban planning should be contributing to sustainable development in our cities.
We cannot ignore the rapid changes being imposed on our cities by the need to compete and by technological advance: globalisation, deregulation and urban expansion on the one hand, poverty, exclusion and urban crisis on the other. But we assert that in spite of these changes - and maybe because of them - our fellow-men now feel an even stronger need for belonging, identity and coexistence. We are convinced that businesses are more efficient and individuals more fulfilled when they have real territorial roots; they are then ready to actively seek social and economic innovation and accept the diversity of the world around them.

Giving back meaning to public-sector
To give back meaning to public-sector action planning, we first have to get back to the basic notion of the extended time-frame implicit in ecosystem cycles. We have to be more thrifty, more alert to the shortage of natural resources, to the limits of investment capacity and to the planning responsibilities involved. In applying this principle to the use of space, we have to see the city as capable of self-renewal via continuous recycling of its fabric and functions. This is the alternative to simply letting certain areas lie derelict while, even though our space needs have considerably diminished in quantitative terms, the waste of this rare resource continues.
In the same spirit, instead of limitless urban expansion, we have to give priority to a cultural and heritage-based approach that acknowledges the history and tradition of our cities and their residents. This means making the most of the entire urban heritage: not just the "sights" and the "old town" areas, but the city as a whole, from its landscape setting down to its everyday built-up areas. These latter represent the bulk of past urbanisation measures and our task is, simultaneously, to get them back on the market, give them status, make them understandable and usable for their residents. This can be done by providing organisation and structure (via "quality of life" monitoring, creation of subsidiary urban centres, etc) within a long-term time frame that will allow the everyday to contribute to the tradition to which every city has a right.
One of the major issues in sustainable urban development is mobility management. The tendency nowadays is for each resident to utilise the city as a whole. This extended use of space dilutes the feeling of belonging to a particular neighbourhood in favour of the overall city, which the individual uses in a selective and sometimes segregate way. However the different forms of pollution due to private transport - dirty air, noise, stress, space problems - are the source both of here-and-now public health problems and or long-term effects over which we have little control.

Adapting services to needs
In our view, moving towards satisfactory solution requires hard and detailed thinking, as well as urban measures that take account of the needs of the residents and of how satisfy these needs via an appropriate level of services. This means cutting car trips to the minimum or giving the car a strictly complementary role in respect of other ways of getting around. Various measures have already been put into effect, but in our view the notion of the short-distance city, the dose to-hand city, the concentrated city, the mixed city - with local services grouped together within walking distance, neighbourhood units, and a good public transport backup system covering the whole of the urban region - should make it possible to reconcile compactness and multipolarity.
The current problems are the difficulty of setting up a dialogue between short-term project management and the long term view urban planning calls for, and the inevitable clashes when different territorial scales are tied to the same management and programming approaches, as well as to a host of government institutions. Our view is that we should be working towards steering institutions capable of coming up with appropriate solutions on the right scale (that of the urban region) and of identifying in advance our fellow-citizens' legitimate expectations. Taking people into account provides the basic orientation for any sustainable planning policy. We should also be aiming at public financing that allows for real consideration of a long-term needs in respect of the creation and management of such infrastructures as water supply.
Urban planning should allow the city to become a social melting pot. The primary concern of sustainability is urbanity: by this we mean the ability to generate exchange and to give concrete form to the symbols that underpin the idea of living together. In a world of networks and endless back-and-forth messages, public-sector action should be making the city a place where everybody can learn about these networks and gain access to them: a place - a street-corner, as it were -where democratic discussion can happen.
The participatory approach - motivation of residents, partnerships, access to the tools of democracy - gives a better grasp of local realities and of the diversity of interests involved; it thus leads to a reinvention of democracy, an open forum that makes possible an ongoing evaluation of local public policy and strategies".