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Connected urban planning for culture and citizens

London has launched its “game-changer” Cultural Infrastructure Plan

​This month the Greater London Authority’s Culture Team rolled out the capital’s new Cultural Infrastructure Plan. The initiative includes an action plan for City Hall and London residents; an online map of the city’s cultural venues and facilities; and guidance for planners, landlords and citizens to protect and nurture cultural space. We are proud to have delivered strategic mapping and consultation work to support the Plan’s delivery, carrying out a scoping study and a comprehensive index and analysis of London’s theatre sector.

The CIP’s publication marks London as part of a leading cohort of global cities making culture a strategic policy priority. New York released CreateNYC, its cultural plan for the city, in 2017. Buenos Aires has launched Barrios Creativos, its own ‘Borough of Culture’ programme, to expand cultural access across the city. European cities like Rome and Milan are investing significantly in neighbourhood initiatives to build up their cultural infrastructure assets. And London is building on the buzz and the investment legacy from the Olympics, and now has a number of major developments across the city for which culture is the defining factor (Think Kings Cross, East Bank. Thames Production Corridor). The current Mayor – Sadiq Khan – is able to draw on this energy to lead from the front.

The CIP also marks a key shift in city thinking about culture. In the last few years there has been a change from culture seen as a set of institutions to culture as infrastructure and as places. As Justine Simons, Deputy Mayor for Culture and Creative Industries at the GLA, puts it, culture is now being “hard-wired” into cities and has become a greater consideration for planning and development departments. Cities must think about the requirements for culture – and ask themselves what it needs to thrive – in terms of connectivity and spaces, and the perspectives of both makers and audiences.

Through BOP’s work with the World Cities Culture Forum, with UK local governments, with significant cultural organisations, we see that thinking about the role of culture now takes place on three levels:

  • Cities and regions are embedding culture in their planning systems and delivering big strategic projects to grow their competitiveness
  • Places and neighbourhoods are defining themselves with culture and developing inclusive plans for their communities
  • Organisations are becoming hubs for cultural activity stretching across health, education, environment, regeneration, skills, visitor economy and community building.

The GLA’s new Cultural Infrastructure Plan connects all three of these levels. It is a great blueprint for what an innovative culture-led government can achieve.

For more on BOP’s Places and Organisations work see here and here.

- Paul Owens, Founding Director