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Kuba Glaz on MKUA's role in the public space debate

12 of February '24

Article taken from A&B issue 11|23

What role should MKUA play in the debate about the quality of urban space? Does it fulfill such a role currently?

I have been a member of the Poznań MKUA since 2015 (now coming to the end of its second term). Eleven people have been appointed to the Poznań commission this term (the composition and the scope of the MKUA's activities, as defined by the mayor's order, are available at mpu.pl). We meet at least once a quarter, sometimes more often; it all depends on the number of plans for opinion coming from the Municipal Urban Planning Laboratory. At one meeting we usually give our opinion on three local plans (sometimes two, for more extensive ones). For participation in the meeting, each participant receives 500 zlotys gross (unchanged from 2015).

The composition of the current commission includes people with longer experience in its ranks, as well as those co-opted in 2019. The age cross-section of members and the range of their competencies are strongly differentiated.

In both terms, the activity of the commission's members has been and continues to be high. It is not uncommon for us to discuss proposed solutions at length and to question planners in detail about the reasons for such and not other solutions. As recently as 2015, we were treated more as a body that checks whether the MPZPs prepared by the Urban Planning Studio comply with the regulations and do not contain erroneous or unclear provisions. Happily, we have been able to expand this scope considerably, and for a long time the subject of our discussions and comments has been equally (if not primarily) individual planning decisions.

For years we have also been paying attention to a systematic approach to the creation of plans, so that they do not differ from each other in the quality, detail and precision of provisions. It was poor with this, the situation is improving. Over the past few years, the level of presentation of plans and their assumptions to us has also increased significantly. With several members of the MKUA, we also attach great importance to personal vetting of the areas under discussion. I believe that one should not give an opinion on a plan without an in situ visit or a good knowledge of the site in question.

Is that enough? No. In the Poznan case, the competence of MKUA members and their involvement could be exploited much more intensively. MKUA should not only be an advisory body to the mayor, but also to the councilors voting on the adoption of the local plan. Opinions on plans should be immediately published in the city's BIP (currently, one has to request access). A list of comments considered and rejected by the mayor should also be open and available (from time to time we have to ask MKUA for such summary statements). There should also be a mechanism for the MKUA to polemicize against presidential decisions. Today, after the arbitrary decision of the authorities, this is impossible.

It would also be worth publishing a synthetic, decently edited transcript of the committee's discussions. Such publicly available information would be an excellent support for residents during the next submission of the draft plan, as well as one of the tools for general architectural and urban planning education. MKUA's comments (with justification!) should also be compulsorily referred to councilors during the deliberations of those City Council committees that review plans before the final vote.

There should be greater public awareness of the existence of the commission and its opinions (although the situation is improving very slowly in this regard). Information about its work and findings should be automatically sent to the media. On matters of importance to the city, the commission, after prior internal discussion, could announce its position on its own initiative - independently of its meetings and opinions on plans. Finally, the MKUA should also pre-consult on planning intentions shortly after the local plan is called, before planners prepare the detailed provisions of the MCZP. This is especially true for areas of special importance to the city, whether historic, post-industrial or intended for major investments. Here, a swallow of change for the better was the process, spread over several meetings, of referring to the commission the assumptions of the updated Study - exceptionally well prepared by the MPU. This practice should be extended.

Jakub Głaz

The vote has already been cast

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