Academy of Urbanism Congress – lessons for the next Mayor of London.

London needs a Mayor for all the people….That’s an obvious statement.

At the Academy of Urbanism congress two weeks ago, a powerful case was made for a Mayor that embraces change, doing things differently and for the benefit of the wider community.

Starting with George Ferguson, hosting the Congress in Bristol where as a non-party Mayor he has encouraged Bristol to embrace environmental sustainability, delivering energy and food, encouraging the local enterprise economy with the Bristol ¬£ and has the support of the local political leaders “who leave their party politics outside the door of his cabinet”. He has a mandate to change and working as the only Mayor in the 8 major city grouping of cities outside London has taken the lead on green issues.

Reeling off the achievements and goals of his mayoralty makes for good sound-bites but they convince as part of an overall Citywide strategy. Above all they address everyday residential needs. Its true that the City has had to endure the cuts as well as any other city but from the awards being given to the city from Rockefeller, Bloomberg and above all the Green Capital of Europe 2015, after many years of planning.

During the day presentations from Sue Riddlestone, Wulf Daseking , Peter Lord, Herbert Girardet and Marcus Grant covered sustainability from the global to local, the value of a place that encourages an entrepreneurial spirit and the challenges of healthy living in the city.  The demands and short-termism that so often result from a misunderstanding of the critical issues being faced across the world.

A rousing and invigorating talk from the ex Mayor of Curitiba , a place that has faced the challenges of a booming population, limited resources but a Mayor that brought the can-do to politics was a refreshing way to end. Focusing on the urban infrastructure of buses in his city Jaime Lerner showed why the urban infrastructure of movement was so critical to the success of his city. Making the bus your friend, with one a minute, when the city cannot afford to build a subway system. The car that drinks a lot and coughs a lot, the cigarette of the future. His three principles of innovation, practicality and simplicity making the difference. A city of structure and design. A planned city one might add and one that the children can comprehend.

Which brought us back to where George Ferguson had started – making children the heart of the city, with every child planting a tree for the future of the city.