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China looks to regulate city growth

Zheng Jinran
Updated: Feb 22,2016 7:37 AM     China Daily

China released a guideline on urban planning on Feb 21 in a bid to tackle the problems associated with increasing urbanization and the explosion of city sizes.

Cities will no longer be allowed to grow beyond what their natural resources can support, and odd-shaped buildings will be forbidden, according to the guideline from the Communist Party of China Central Committee and the State Council, China’s Cabinet.

The document comes on the heels of December’s Central Urban Work Conference, the first such meeting to address the issue since 1978, when only 18 percent of China’s population lived in cities. By the end of last year, the figure had reached about 50 percent.

Increased urbanization has brought with it several problems, including pollution, severe traffic congestion and compromised public safety. Poor urban planning has also led to issues such as overtaxed power distribution networks.

To combat such problems, the document calls for greater oversight from city legislative bodies and harsher punishments for anyone contravening urban planning regulations.

Any modification or revision of local urban planning policy should also be approved by legislators first, the document says.

Bizarre architecture that is not economical, functional, aesthetically pleasing or environmentally friendly will be forbidden, while construction techniques that generate less waste and use fewer resources, such as the use of prefabricated buildings, will be encouraged, according to the document.

It projected that in 10 years, 30 percent of new buildings will be prefabricated.

To further monitor urban sprawl, governments should use a variety of methods including remote satellite sensing to locate buildings that violate existing urban planning policies.

Within five years, a map of all such illegal buildings across China’s cities will have been drawn up and action taken against violators, the document said.

Other highlights in the guideline

Reform of the urban housing system will see governments satisfy the basic living needs of disadvantaged groups, while the market will meet the demand of other residents. By 2020, the transformation and renovation of existing shantytowns, urban villages and dilapidated houses in cities will be complete.

New open residential communities will be established with links to public roads that can become part of the urban road system, leading to better utilization of urban land and optimization of the urban road network.

Cities will have more green belts and urban parks that are free to the public, putting residents closer to greenery. The buildings occupying public green land should also be phased out within a set time period.

Cities should exert more effort to protect their historical sites through regular repair and renovation plans. Within five years, all cities should demarcate their historic and cultural buildings and districts for better protection.

Cities will further increase the development of public transportation systems, including buses and metros. By 2020, mega cities with a population greater than 5 million will have at least 40 percent of journeys completed via public transport, while that figure will be 30 percent in cities with a population greater than 1 million. In other cities it will stand at 20 percent.