Academic journal article The Town Planning Review

3rd AESOP Sustainable Food Planning: Thematic Group Meeting, Cardiff, 28-29 October 2011

Academic journal article The Town Planning Review

3rd AESOP Sustainable Food Planning: Thematic Group Meeting, Cardiff, 28-29 October 2011

Article excerpt

The very nature of humanity's global existence focuses on the production, distribution and availability of food (Flannery and Mincyte, 2010; Inglis and Gimlin, 2009). The importance of viable sustainable food systems is a challenge facing governments across the world, from developed nations to developing nations; the very notion of food often dominates the global political agenda, generating conflicts, creating crisis and causing dilemmas. There is a risk of strategic food concerns increasing over the coming years; with fossil fuels dwindling and populations rising, the need to source food sustainably is an ever important concern in our daily lives (Steel, 2009; Wekerle 2004; Wiskerke and Viljoen, 2012).

The first meeting organised by the Association of European Schools of Planning (AESOP) Thematic Group on Sustainable Food Planning meeting was held in Almere, The Netherlands in 2009. The meeting's theme was built around examining the need for sustainable food systems and, in particular, thinking of new ways to source, transport and enable populations to have access to produce (Urban Performance Group, 2009). A subsequent meeting, a year later in Brighton, continued this in-depth discussion, bringing together a relatively large number of policy-makers, practitioners and an assortment of academics.

The third meeting in 2011, located in Cardiff, the capital city of Wales, maintained this theme of cross-disciplinary dialogue. The conference venue was CardiffUniversity's Glamorgan Building, a stunning former county council office situated between two large parks. Jointly hosted by CardiffUniversity's School of City and Regional Planning and the Sustainable Places Research Institute, the conference format followed that of its two predecessors, with the event spanning two days and including several parallel sessions. Despite the meeting's relatively short duration, the event hosted over 30 papers from a variety of authors.

The most striking difference between the earlier events and that in Cardiffwas the restriction on delegate numbers. Unlike the two previous meetings, this event made provisions for 80 delegates to attend, a relatively small number for such a pertinent and interesting topic. Contrary to this reviewer's initial feeling, the restriction on attendance proved to be a positive factor, providing an intimate relaxing atmosphere for the two-day event. Furthermore, although the meeting was small, it was still impressively able to attract a breadth of delegates, ranging from academic nutritionists, planners, geographers and agro-scientists to policy-makers and practitioners. Over a third of these delegates were from outside the UK, adding a distinctive flavour to the meeting. However, perhaps the most notable feature was that over 30 research students attended the meeting, a particularly high number for such a small event.

A chronological reflection on the Cardiffmeeting

The Thematic Group's third meeting aimed to address a particular question: 'are there new paradigms for urban and rural planning capable of supporting and developing sustainable and equitable food systems?' The introductory message, conveyed by Professor Kevin Morgan and Professor Terry Marsden of CardiffUniversity in the Meeting Handbook, informed delegates that four parallel sessions would attempt to explore the stated need for a more 'sustainable food planning' approach - 'Urban Agriculture', 'Urban-Rural Linkages', 'Community Food Systems' and 'Urban Food Strategies' - with each containing two or three papers and a small discussion segment.

Complementing these parallel tracks were four plenary sessions, which were delivered by a variety of leading experts from around the globe. The variety of keynote speakers on offer was impressive, ranging from the orchestrator of the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organisation's (FAO) 'Food for Cities' initiative to a leading urban design academic and several other influential thinkers. …

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