Future Urban Living Policy Commission

Future Urban Living Report Cover
Future Urban Living Report Cover


The fifth University of Birmingham Policy Commission explored the case for and against cities as the centres of population growth in the future, i.e. challenging the ideas that 70% of the world’s population should live in cities, and that the tendency should be towards megacities.

Are cities still as relevant in a very rapidly changing world where new paradigms for trade, communication, manufacturing, food production and consumption, and work are changing our understanding of our urban environments? Is the growing concentration of the world’s population a potential enabler, or inhibitor, of dealing with the world’s problems?

Download the full and summary reports here.

Urbanisation presents us with a wealth of new opportunities and huge challenges. It has the potential to further economic development and innovation, but also threatens to exacerbate key global problems, including resource depleation, climate change and inequalities. The Commission explored whether there is a more sustainable alternative to cities for future urban living.

The Future Urban Living Commission was chaired by Lord Shipley of Gosforth and led academically by Professor Chris Rogers, Professor of Geotechnical Engineering and Director of the Birmingham Centre for Resilience Research and Education at the University of Birmingham. The Commission team comprised experts drawn from the public, private and policy sector. Further details about the Commissioners are available here.

The Commission advocated the following six recommendations for change:

  1. Citizens should be empowered to combine with those who govern and other city stakeholders to create a City Narrative that describes their city’s history, its present context and its visions for the (far) future, via a transparently democratic process that delivers consensus across all sections of the community.
  2. Citizens should be empowered to be instrumental in delivering this City Narrative, and be entrusted to do so.
  3. There is a need for a system that creates inspirational local leadership, and this would best be achieved via either mayors or leadership groups elected on the basis of an ability to deliver the City Narrative.
  4. Local government leaders in turn need to be empowered by the triple devices of a balanced degree of devolution of power from national government, an ability to raise finances locally and structures that enable effective cooperation with organisations beyond the city’s boundaries (regional, national and global).
  5. Cities need financial and business models that allow them to experiment, enable them to invest for the long-term, and facilitate the capture of economic, social and environmental returns on investment.
  6. There should be a radical upgrade in the role of planners to promote creative, long-term, thinking on urban sustainability and resilience, and to enable more organic growth within that strategic framework. In this role planners should act as integrators of urban practitioners and other urban stakeholders.


Rogers C D F, Shipley J, Blythe P, Braithwaite P A, Brown C, Collins BS, Juned S, MacKenzie AR, Miller R, Pawlyn M, Price J, Swain C, Tight M R, Tindale S, Toyne P and Leach J M (2014), Future Urban Living – A Policy Commission Investigating the Most Appropriate Means for Accommodating Changing Populations and Their Needs in the Cities of the Future, University of Birmingham: UK. 60 pp. ISBN 978-0-7044-2843-0