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Sheikh Mohammed reveals phase 2 of Dubai 2040 plan

Sheikh Mohammed launched phase 2 of the Dubai 2040 plan on Monday Supplied
Sheikh Mohammed launched phase 2 of the Dubai 2040 plan on Monday
  • Emirate’s master plan sets out sustainability and ‘liveability’ targets
  • Urban farms, heritage and 20-minute districts among key themes
  • ‘Our goal is for Dubai to be an eco and pedestrian-friendly city’

Agricultural industry, heritage preservation and the “20-minute city” concept are key planks of the second phase of the Dubai 2040 Urban Master Plan, the government said on Monday.

The plan – whose first phase was published in March 2021 – sets out a strategy for Dubai’s urban development over the next two decades. It is the seventh plan of its kind to be implemented in the emirate since 1960. 

The first phase focused on how Dubai would accommodate a population forecast to hit 5.8 million by 2040, from 3.3 million today, and make Dubai “the best city in the world to live in”. 

The second phase goes further, detailing the emirate’s sustainability objectives and the ways in which it aims to compete with other cities on “liveability”.

“Our goal is for Dubai to be an eco and pedestrian-friendly city, and a city with a high yield from urban agriculture,” said Sheikh Mohammed Bin Rashid Al Maktoum, the vice president and prime minister of the UAE and the ruler of Dubai, in a statement issued by the state-owned WAM news agency. 

Faisal Durrani, partner and head of Middle East research at consultancy Knight Frank, told AGBI: “Dubai has set a benchmark for urban planning in the Middle East. Successive 10-year plans have helped to redefine the global image of the region and Dubai in particular, which is associated with being a high-tech, futuristic global hub.

“This next phase of growth appears to be a focus on Dubai’s roots, with greater emphasis on the history and culture of the city,” he added. “This will appeal to a new tranche of global travellers and help to diversify the city’s global appeal.”

The second phase consists of several projects under 10 key initiatives, according to WAM. They include enhancements to urban centres; a real estate strategy; an urban farming plan; preservation of urban heritage; a policy for developing the 20-minute city; and a plan for pedestrian networks. 

The real estate strategy aims to strike a balance between supply and demand and boost investor confidence in the years to 2040. 

The urban farming plan will seek to identify suitable locations and the infrastructure required to enable high-yield agriculture and farming in the emirate.

The master plan includes five urban centres, equitable access to facilities, and more green spaces

The phase 2 plan also outlines ideas to preserve urban heritage, for example in the historic neighbourhoods of Bur Dubai and Deira, “to enhance the emirate’s identity, promote historical areas, landmarks and buildings and improve the tourism experience at archaeological sites,” the government said.

The government has also set a blueprint for all new residential neighbourhoods in Dubai, based on the principle of an integrated street network where facilities and services cater to residents’ needs.

Alleyways, spaces underneath bridges and disused squares will be enhanced and brought back into use under the second phase of the masterplan, with the intention being to develop green corridors and reduce the emirate’s carbon footprint. 

Nicholas Maclean, managing director of CBRE Middle East, said: “This is an intelligent and sensible plan that provides solutions to some of the wider strategic issues that Dubai is looking at currently – most of which are positive problems to have, such as high demand for real estate and a growing population.

“The emirate wants to accommodate this without sprawling outwards too heavily, and also while still meeting its 2050 net zero carbon targets.”

Hence, a focus on brownfield development (finding uses for city centre alleyways and other smaller infill sites) and sustainable living (green corridors and ensuring people are close to amenities), Maclean said.

Building the 20-minute city

As part of the second phase of the masterplan, the government wants to create  “20-minute” neighbourhoods, an urban planning concept that is being explored in many European and North American cities. 

The idea is that residents can reach 80 percent of the destinations they visit daily within 20 minutes on foot or by bicycle, reducing the need for polluting private transport. It necessitates the development of integrated service centres in communities. 

Stephen O’Malley, founding director of Civic Engineers, a UK-based architecture and urban design practice, told AGBI that the 20-minute city concept was being looked at by societies transitioning away from cars as the automatic first choice for people to manage their daily tasks, as part of efforts to create low-carbon, interconnected and people-led cities. 

“The lifestyle afforded by the principles of a 20-minute neighbourhood increases sociability, community cohesion and stronger contact with nature – improving social fabric, increasing climatic resilience, and ultimately boosting public health and wellbeing,” he said.  

To deploy 20-minute city principles in Dubai, O’Malley explained, authorities and developers will have to “cultivate and showcase the biodiversity of the natural landscape, creating cities like an oasis in the desert and celebrating the best of Gulf culture, and reduce the distances people need to travel to access different uses.”

Schools, healthcare facilities, residential, leisure and administrative uses must be clustered and arranged so people can walk, cycle, scooter, or e-bike around to reach amenities safely and in comfort, he added. 

What is in the first phase?

Among the targets set in Phase 1 of the 2040 plan were to develop the emirate’s five main urban areas, increase education and health facilities by 25 percent, increase hospitality and tourism facilities by 25 percent, extend the length of public beaches by as much as 400 percent and ensure that 55 percent of residents live within 800 metres of a public transport station. 

The first phase also aimed to increase the total area used for commercial and industrial activities to 168 square kilometres, and ensure that nature reserves and natural areas make up as much as 60 percent of the emirate’s land use.  

On Monday, the Dubai government set out progress towards those goals, including launching the Hatta Development Master Plan; drafting the Urban Planning Law and setting up the Supreme Committee of  Urban Planning, and doubling the area of land to house Emirati nationals in Dubai to 1.7 million square feet.

The government aims this year to complete a plan for integrating land uses and transport policies and directing development in coastal areas – including increasing the size of beaches – as well as scaling up public parks and recreational areas. It also aims to draft a strategy on wellbeing in Dubai. 

Prathyusha Gurrapu, head of research and advisory at Dubai-based real estate agency Core said: “The plan reinforces the continued effort of the Dubai government in implementing global urban planning best practices, while bearing in mind the tourism, heritage and sustainability context, and keeping the wellbeing of its residents at the heart of the city’s growth.”

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