Regional and Urban Planning seems to be going through a period of growing popularity throughout the world. Interest in cities is on the increase as evidenced by the Habitat conference in Istanbul in 1996 and the growing literature on World Cities. At the policy level there has been a new emphasis on producing strategies and visions for cites in an increasingly competitive environment. Regional policy has also gained a new lease of life with many countries across the world placing greater importance on this level of decision-making. Here in Britain with the new Labour government there are exciting new developments to analyse with the creation of Regional Development Agencies and the new elected mayor for London. Tony Giddens, the Director of the LSE, is heavily involved in advising the new government and is travelling all over the world expounding the 'Third Way' to various Prime Ministers and even addressing the United Nations.
All this interest in urban and regional issues seems to have had its impact on the Planning Studies courses at the LSE. As reported in the last Newsletter in 1996/7 there were 30 students on the Masters course rising to a record 35 in 1997/8 and 32 this year. It is very encouraging also to note that these larger groups have maintained the tradition of strong social interaction and have retained networks of friendship throughout the world when they leave. There has also been an increase in the size of the PhD Planning Studies group. The World City hypothesis linked to globalisation has become a popular theme amongst these students and there are theses developing on the application of these ideas to Istanbul, Tokyo, Mexico City and Guangzhou/Hong Kong. We are therefore extremely fortunate in having Saskia Sassen, the guru of World Cities, attached to the programme every Michaelmas Term for the next three years. Another well known figure, David Harvey, will also be making a regular appearance each year.
The 1997/8 Masters group was extremely active in organising events through the Regional and Urban Planning Society and the highlight of the year was undoubtedly the study visit to Moscow. Moscow is not an easy place to visit and analyse these days with the formal mechanism of decision-making being replaced by shadowy informal networks of one kind or another. Organising an educational visit therefore is no easy task. However in our case this proved no problem as one of the students on the course, Arnaud Colin de Verdiere, spent an enormous amount of time and energy organising the trip. He was able to use the networks of his father who is the French Ambassador to Moscow. This opened up opportunities and we were able to get the help of some wonderful speakers and guides. Another student Katia Khlopkova came from Moscow and was able to contribute her local knowledge and language skills. The embassy was also excellent in arranging good seats at the Opera and ballet and a highlight of the week was a banquet in the French Ambassador's residence - one of the most beautiful old houses of Moscow. So this all added up to a unique experience full of life-time memories.
New Russians build their homes illegally in the Green Belt
Finally I would like to welcome Karen Walton who has taken over as course administrator and has been doing a wonderful job improving the procedures and modernising us. She explains here how we are linking up to the world of the Internet.
As I mentioned in the last Newsletter, one of the advantages of this is that it is easy to add more extended contributions to the Newsletter so please send in any material you think would be of interest to everyone.
Planning Studies on the internet!
If any of you have been looking very carefully at the LSE website recently, you may have noticed a new addition to the Departmental web pages!
The Internet presence of Regional and Urban Planning Studies at LSE has until recently, been confined to the web pages of the Department of Geography and Environment. However with more and more potential students using the net as a tool for researching (and applying to) university courses, we felt that Planning Studies would benefit from an independent site, more able to reflect the interdepartmental structure of the programmes.
You can visit the site at:
http://www.lse.ac.uk/depts/planning/ (link now inactive - 4/4/12)
We have also dedicated some thought, time and web space to 'old' planners, and the Planning Newsletter will be available on the site before too long. In the meantime, please keep sending/e-mailing your news to us at firstname.lastname@example.org
You will notice that we have included a link to the LSE Alumni Home Page. Please do visit it and update your details on their database and e-mail directory! We regularly exchange information with this department, and it is their directory we use to send out your editions of Planning Newsletter, so it is important to keep up to date.
Enjoy the site - and watch this space for news of further developments!