Dialogue on the built environment breathes life into local politics

Thursday 8 March 2018

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The Royal Swedish Academy of Engineering Sciences (IVA) project Good Cities of the Future is publishing it final report containing several recommendations to promote and improve the Swedish built environment. One of the most important IVA proposals is that Sweden should appoint a built environment minister for a comprehensive approach and to limit conflicts.

“Urban planning is a complex process involving long time horizons and outcomes that affect us all. We need clear political leadership to manage this. Sweden therefore needs a built environment minister after the election in 2018,” says Gabriel Urwitz, Steering Committee Chairman for IVA project Good Cities of the Future.

The proposal for a built environment minister was expressed in the final report of Good Cities of the Future, alongside a number of other proposals to optimise urban planning and the future built environment. The proposals are based on the need for sustainable resource use, reduced environmental and climate impact and structures that prevent segregation and social gaps.

IVA proposes:

  1. Cohesive and clear political leadership. Urban planning is a complex process involving many interests at the municipal, regional and national levels. Decisions have consequences that exceed terms in office. Clear political leadership is needed to enable a range of actors to contribute to the urban development process.
  2. Expanded dialogue and commitment. Urban planning in Sweden is currently characterised by a silo mentality. More actors need to be activated earlier on in the process. A vision and a set of objectives are needed to form the foundation for all urban planning, and all of the actors who will be involved and will be doing the work must participate from the start.
  3. Solve conflicts between laws. The laws that regulate the built environment sector are in general effective. There are, however, some conflicts between the laws on the books. Most of the conflicts are between the Environmental Code and the Planning and Building Act (PBL).
  4. Improve expertise and capacity. The number of spots available in engineering programmes at the bachelor’s and master’s levels needs to be increased. Also, actors outside the municipal organisation should be invited in to work with municipal civil servants on zoning plans.
  5. Sweden needs a built environment minister! Much of development of cities, population centres and small communities is a municipal responsibility. This needs to be supported at the national political level to address the great societal challenges we are facing, such as climate change, the environment, integration and health. Development of good living environments of the future is a national issue. Sweden needs a built environment minister after the election in 2018.