As cities become more urbanised with rapid growth, it is critical that they balance development with investment in effective urban planning and design to enhance local communities.

A great example of urban renewal can be shown in Milan, Italy with the creation of Area C (Cerchia dei Bastioni) to bring people back to the city centre and enhance the local community. Area C was set-up as a Limited Traffic Zone (LTZ) where vehicles would have restricted access.

In most cities around the world, vehicle emissions represent a major source of urban pollutants and are also a greenhouse gas contributor. By reducing vehicle access to areas of public life, societal well-being can be greatly enhanced.

Unlike many other similar public space projects globally, Area C was noted for gaining a lot of public traction and was introduced by popular demand into an existing pollution charge scheme.

Area C was an important part of the city, home to around 25 per cent of Milan’s business activity with half a million people entering the zone daily. This meant it was a special place for many citizens as well as for those who wanted to protect its unique and historic charm.

urban planning

Under the Area C plan, vehicles were allowed to enter during specified hours on weekdays to better accommodate traffic and pollution with pedestrians. All vehicles were detected electronically using automatic number plate registration technology and were charged for entry into the zone with discounts given to local residents, electric vehicles and motorcycles.

Through restricting vehicles in the area, traffic congestion and pollution were largely eliminated and road accidents have been greatly reduced.

In the centre of Milan, a large section of road has been converted into a pedestrian area and mall space of around 15,800 square metres. This urban space has re-established the heart of the city, giving rise to farmers’ markets based on historical and cultural roots.

Similarly, Milan has re-invested money collected through vehicle tolls into improved services and public transport in the area.

The Milan project highlights the value in urban planning experimentation and the success of creating citizen owned urban renewal projects.

Urban spaces add social cohesion, cultural value, health and well-being benefits as well as creating new grounds to develop innovative new urban planning ideas.