COVID Briefs Building back better: post-pandemic city governance

Towards circular urban development post-Covid

Joanna Williams

Associate Professor, Bartlett School of Planning, University College London (UCL) and Director of the Circular Cities Hub

This policy briefing explores how the impacts of COVID-19 on our cities might be addressed by adopting a circular development pathway. The ecological regeneration of cities is central to a healthy recovery. The integration of accessible and connected green infrastructure will help to address health problems, whilst continuing to encourage active transport and the use of green space, the impor- tance of which has been highlighted by the pandemic. The paper discusses how urban food systems need to be more robust, particularly in respect to feeding the urban poor. The informal practices for reusing and redistributing food have proved inadequate during the pandemic and should be formalised if supply is to be maintained. The paper suggests that increasing public interest in food-growing during the pandemic could be harnessed and encouraged to increase local supply, particularly amongst the urban poor. The long-term economic impacts of COVID-19 on our cities remain to be seen, but the experience to date suggests that there will be a shift in economic activities. This is likely to result in vacant buildings and sites. This redundancy wastes resources. The paper suggests that by creating adaptive and recyclable urban environments we can reduce waste. These economic trends will also result in unemployment. Adopting a circular development pathway will provide a range of more sustainable jobs linked with resource looping, ecological regeneration and adaptation. In conclusion, the paper suggests that adopting a circular development approach in cities post- COVID-19 could aid their sustainable recovery. Download COVID brief