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Opinion: Educating Phuket locals about city planning

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Rakkiet Deedpin, a native of Patthalung, is the City Planner for the Public Works and Town and Country Planning office in Phuket, having previously worked for that office as a policy analyst. He earned his Bachelor’s and Master’s degrees in Architecture and Planning from Thammasat University.

Here, he talks about ways to educate Phuket locals about town planning.

PHUKET: The rapid growth of property, investments and mega projects in Phuket has made it necessary to educate locals about how to handle the ever-expanding landscape.

The most important role is played by educational institutions, such as Prince of Songkla University and Phuket Rajabhat University. These institutes need to produce town planning experts who can pave the way to help manage Phuket in the best way possible.

Several universities in Thailand have a faculty of architecture, but none of them focus on city planning. It is a shame that Phuket’s educational institutes do not offer these courses, as they are quite valuable.

Initially, town planning courses can be incorporated within the broader course work of technology, environment and civil engineering. This is a good start, which may eventually lead to the establishment of a faculty of architecture and town planning.

Phuket students are more focused on language, business and tourism related courses, since these are the courses that educational institutes mainly offer. They don’t see town planning as important, because they are not offered the choice to study it and there is no emphasis placed on it.

We must communicate to students how important it is to bring Phuket toward sustainable growth. City planing and discipline is the base of every local economy and also reflects how civilized a city is.

Presently, town planning experts need to be brought to Phuket from outside. But if we have our very own local architects and town planners, they will be more passionate about creating the best city plan for their home town. Additionally, they will have a better idea of what is suitable or unsuitable for Phuket than outsiders, who have not been exposed to the specific problems and issues of Phuket in the past.

Thailand acquired all of its town planning knowledge from developed countries, but when we try to implement foreign knowledge in local situations, we find that the two are not easily compatible.

The ideal approach to town planning is to delegate the responsibility to local authorities in each area. The government should give the power to determine the layout of cities to locals. It will save a lot of time that would otherwise be spent waiting for approval from the department of town planning.

Some current laws do not take into account special attractions like mega shopping malls and the Ferris wheel. Therefore, the height limit under the law is not up to date and relevant. The height limit law was passed in 2011 and updated last year. However, sections of the law still need revision to incorporate the needs of the rapidly changing landscape of Phuket.

If Phuket gains more local town planners, they will be able to appreciate these nuances and negotiate with government experts to reach a compromise that works best for all.

We need to motivate Phuket students to learn this subject and incorporate it into the current curricula taught at schools and universities, so that we can grow as a society and do what’s best for Phuket in the future.

— Sukawin Tanthavanich

 

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