Young Urbanist 2026 Manifesto - Maynard
Young Urbanist

Young Urbanist 2026 Manifesto

As a member of the Academy of Urbanism’s Young Urbanists I am invited to various events throughout the year;

 

This month’s event was: ‘The 2026 Urbanism Manifesto’.

The discussion would be focused on exploring key trends for the next ten years of our rapidly developing cities following a series of short presentations by key speakers in a range of areas.

 

Some background:

The Academy of the Urbanism is an organisation who work with the greater aim of making places more successful through roles such as: city management and policy making, academic research and teaching, development planning and design, community leadership and urban change-making, arts and cultural development, infrastructure and engineering, property law and management, politics and media. (Learn more here)

And The Young Urbanist network is a branch of the Academy of Urbanism for students and early career professionals, where they can develop their understanding of Urbanism and meet other like-minded individuals and connect with organisations through events and projects. (Learn more here)

My role at Maynard includes looking to how we can constantly innovate in the public realm and transport sector whilst maintaining high quality spaces & experiences for people; So this event was of particular interest to me!  

 

Brian Deegan – TfL

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First up was Brian Deegan a Cycle planner and Engineer from TfL who introduced a number of projects he had worked on in the past. He explained how when he started his role roughly ten years ago, the co-design, community group engagement factor with cycling infrastructure hadn’t really been born yet. Brian began working with local cyclist groups to change their thinking around working with TfL and invite them to give their expert opinions on their future infrastructure plans. He spoke of how the groups were initially hesitant and rather surprised about being asked to cooperate, but over time relationships between these groups and TfL strengthened, the system and attitudes changed to allow those who cycle most, to have their say and make effective changes.

 


He also introduced us to the London Cycling Design Standards (LCDS), which are part of TfL’s Streets toolkit and is a comprehensive guide for cycling network planning across London, which previously hadn’t been updated for ten years. I would recommend anyone with an interest in design and cycling to have a read through this document!    

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Brian ended with a thought-provoking comment with regards to the future cities and the future of London. In a period where we’re being told each day that driverless cars are going to be the future of transport, he asked what does that mean for cycling? If we (boldly) assume that autonomous cars and cyclists can work in harmony, then the people using the new service will no longer need to own cars, and hence London’s streets, currently choked with parked cars, will be cleared with more space for cyclists! Hurrah!

Kirsty Austin – Peckham Coal Line

Brian was followed by Kirsty Austin, one of the key figures in the Peckham Coal Line project, which aims to crowdfund the regeneration of the disused coal line which runs parallel to the railway line, into a new elevated urban park. The project reached its crowdfunding target last year and became the most successful spacehive project yet, making it the poster project for these types of grassroots crowdfunded initiatives.

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Kirsty spoke about the significance of the crowdfunding process as a community tool. How it served as a platform to engage with the community, allowed people to join the journey and as a way of directly demonstrating to the local authority the local support for the project.

She emphasised the importance of how crowdfunding is made up of 95% individuals and only 5% organisations. This meant it was far from a faceless corporate project and the implications were people could identify and engage easier. Especially because the crowdfunding process must be a process which is both online & offline. The project would not have had the support that it did without physical community engagement; it is not enough to have a website for your cause and expect local support.

Anastasia Vikhornova – Future Cities Catapult

Anastasia, a researcher at Future Cities Catapult introduced to us the concept of ‘Blockchain’. Which is an urban application for cities, similar to bitcoin. I’m don’t fully understand it but it fundamentally based on establishing a secure network enabling peer to peer transactions. For example, being able to buy some energy produced by your neighbours solar panel, directly via the blockchain system.

I’m certain we’ll be hearing more about the Blockchain system in the near future!

Claire Bennie – Peabody

Claire Bennie was the former Development Director at Peabody a housing association in London. She spoke about travels studying the critical differences in approaches between housing developments in Europe, and those happening & planned in London.  

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She identified the major umbrella issue to be that of transparency; How London developments happen without any participation, or very limited information on offer to the local community and general public; therefore mistrust develops.

She spoke of how many cities in Europe have open exhibition centres where anyone can view the plans for developments and ask questions; But the idea of this in London would be unheard of!

Claire mentioned how when visiting the construction of a housing development in Helsinki, visitors can book a regular walking tour. This was complete with it’s own wayfinding system around the site.

Chris Green – ARUP

Finally Chris Green, an ARUP innovation researcher, presented on exploring the use of drones for urban farming.

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Starting with the shocking statistic that the space needed to grow food to feed London for a year is equivalent to the whole UK; And that urban farming could be a more sustainable way to fuel our city. Chris reinforced what we already know about London, there isn’t much space left on the ground. But there is unused space on the top of buildings, which could be utilized for urban farming using drones. Exciting possibilities!

It was my first AoU Young Urbanist event and I didn’t quite know what to expect! But it was hugely inspiring to hear all the key speakers speak with such enthusiasm for their field and for wider positive change for London & other cities. As well as how impressed and receptive they were to the younger minds in the room.

I’ve got a lot to think about!

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