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Youth Seminar 'Sustainable Urban Development'

As part of the 2019 Royal Visit to Germany, UK-German Connection organised a youth seminar on the theme of Sustainable Urban Development.

Exploring the theme

In May 2019, 28 young people from across the UK and Germany met for the first time in Leipzig to learn and exchange ideas about sustainable urban development. They brought examples from their own local cities (from Birmingham to Leipzig, Belfast to Berlin) to share, and engaged with different sub-themes, considering questions such as:

  • How can a city’s past be preserved and respected while also building for the future?
  • How can we make cities sustainable and pleasant places to live and work?
  • How can young people be encouraged to “have their say” in how cities are developed?

Leipzig as urban planning pioneer

Awarded ‘European City of the Year 2019’ by the Academy of Urbanism, Leipzig was the perfect location for the group to get to grips with the topic of sustainable urban development. They learnt about how the 1989 Peaceful Revolution led to deindustrialisation, a huge population decrease and a plethora of disused factories throughout the city. They also saw first-hand Leipzig’s transformation into a dynamic and green city, putting communities at the heart of its urban planning decisions.

"I discovered how Leipzig was revolutionised by its urban redevelopment and, by studying this, worked out some ways in which these methods could potentially be applied to cities over here in the UK (UK participant)"

Learning from local experts

Knowledgable and passionate experts supported the group along their urban development journey. Their input included:

  1. A talk and Q&A session with the city of Leipzig urban development office
  2. A guided tour of Leipzig west, led by a local city planner / architect
  3. A presentation from Western Leipzig’s regeneration office

Participants heard about the development of Leipzig over the past few years, the way in which the community has been involved in the regeneration of areas, and saw for themselves the way that previous industrial areas have been transformed in a sustainable way.

Discussing the sub-themes

Bringing together everything they had heard and learnt from the experts – as well as each other’s experiences – the participants split into groups to discuss the three following sub-themes of sustainable urban development in more detail:

  • Buildings and structures
  • Environment and sustainability
  • Community involvement and human interaction (“have your say”)

All groups agreed on three key focus areas for each sub-theme, and created a visual presentation of their outcomes, which they presented to the Prince of Wales and Duchess of Cornwall. Explore the themes in more detail, and discover the participants’ nine focus areas.

"By learning so much about urban sustainability, I have been more inspired to take part in projects concerning the city (German participant)"

Presenting at the Altes Rathaus

After signing the Golden Book in the Old Town Hall, Prince Charles and Camilla, Duchess of Cornwall joined the participants. Each group in turn shared their experiences and impressions of Leipzig, discussed how this had impacted their understanding of urban development and presented their ideas and key focus areas for future development.

What next?

Participants were really enthusiastic about so many different elements of sustainable urban development, and are keen to discuss other areas from a UK-German perspective in the future. Their ideas for future topics included:

  • Sustainable housing and gentrification
  • Renewable energy and transportation
  • Artificial intelligence

They were also keen to focus on the more practical side of urban development (looking at skills and local projects ‘in action’), as well as turning the discussion towards the countryside and development needs there.

Following on from the fantastic work and ideas of our participants, there is clearly much more to be discussed and explored around this topic…watch this space!

"The seminar has made me think more deeply about the way that the city around me is designed and built. (UK participant)"