x Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 25 July 2017

Abu Dhabi plans for better public spaces

New guidelines for public spaces in the emirate are meant to create more pedestrian-friendly and community-based neighbourhoods.

The city of the future? An illustration provided by Abu Dhabi’s Urban Planning Council shows one intended result of increased design control.
The city of the future? An illustration provided by Abu Dhabi’s Urban Planning Council shows one intended result of increased design control.

ABU DHABI // Residents spoke, and the Government showed it could listen.

A survey of 11,000 households last year revealed that nearly two-thirds of residents in the emirate lacked parks, playgrounds and other community facilities in their neighbourhoods. Now the Urban Planning Council (UPC) has developed guidelines for new public spaces.

With an emphasis on pedestrian-friendly streetscapes, better access to the waterfront, and areas for families and neighbours to gather, the guidelines were designed with residents in mind.

"It's our priority to listen to and provide for the needs of people," said Amer al Hammadi, the director of planning and infrastructure for UPC. "Now that we know the needs of people, we are working to make them a reality."

The guidelines, outlined in a Public Realm Design Manual, will be applied in four categories - parks, streetscapes, waterfronts and public places - across Abu Dhabi island, Abu Dhabi mainland and Al Ain.

The manual, based on themes of livability, connectivity and community building, will be used in planning all outdoor spaces including streets, pedestrian ways, bridges, plazas, parks and landmarks.

"Abu Dhabi is the region's first masterplanned urban centre … but the rapid economic growth we have witnessed in recent years, and the projected population increase, will gradually render the need for an integrated public realm an urgent requirement," said Falah al Ahbabi, the general manager of the UPC.

The Department of Municipal Affairs (DMA) will be responsible for ensuring the guidelines are respected.

The standard, which is to be applied by June, will cover only new projects, but Mr al Hammadi said existing spaces would be updated to include some of the same principles.

The manual will complement existing urban planning policies, including the street design manual.

"We are trying to learn from some of the mistakes in Abu Dhabi in the past, where it was crowded," said Ziad al Tahesh, a spokesman for the DMA. "This is about better quality of life in Abu Dhabi and offering the best possible services to the people of the emirate."

The guidelines will be applied to Al Gharbia later in the year.

In December, the UPC's Style Your Life survey showed that many residents - 22 per cent - would like shopping or eating facilities in their neighbourhoods.

The second most-desired facilities, with 18 per cent of the vote, were places of entertainment, including parks and playgrounds. Facilities for health care (15 per cent), transport (11 per cent) and sport (10 per cent) also won support.

jthomas@thenational.ae