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23 responses to “Planning policies: circle not squared yet”

  1. Paul

    In Brisbane the State and Council are developing Transport Oriented Developments (T.O.Ds) on unused or underused chunks of state-owned land to create high-density communities in the inner suburbs close to (or right on) bus and rail routes to reduce car use and prevent a legion of high-density units popping up on every street in our so-called ‘character suburbs’. I think it’s great.

    The problem is a great many people in Brisbane are oppossed to any kind of development no matter how beneficial because they don’t want density anywhere for any reason. They also don’t want urban sprawl but are convinced that it’s perfectly sustainable to have houses 5kms from the CBD with back yards big enough to host an AFL grand final.

  2. adrian

    One of the other problems is the abysmally low standard of urban design, in Sydney at any rate. It is an entirely rational response to reject the Meriton style boxes that have virtually no architectural or design merit and are anthema to any sense of community.

  3. Paul

    @ 2

    That’s a fair point and I don’t think it’s just Sydney. I find it impossible to believe that you can’t build reasonably attractive, high density units or construct new housing projects in a manner that promotes a sense of community and shared communal space, but time and again urban planners prove me wrong.

  4. Fine

    Yes, we know what people don’t want. Urban sprawl and high density housing. But, how do we solve this problem? We can beautiful, sustainable and imaginatively designed cities. But, how do we develop the will and processes to allow this to happen?

  5. adrian

    Sorry about the spelling mistakes in the above – doing too many things at once. It amazes me that in many of these discussions the standard of architecture and urban design hardly rates a mention, but it is the core of the problem.

  6. Howard Cunningham

    People may also not want “communal space”. They may just want “space”.

    Many people don’t feel the need to collectivise or interact with other people, with whom the only thing they have in common is proximity of residential address. Communities build themselves if there is a need for them among the people who build them – you don’t need to try and create them.

    NIMBY syndrome may well be one of the worst aspects of Australians, much like Americans and debt reduction. I live in a small block in inner city southern Melbourne, and have plans to build up. I also catch public transport to work (although that is becoming increasingly frustrating) and vote Liberal. A living contradiction.

    What we really need is a recommitment to higher density housing closer to CBDs, and a sacrifice of petty, cosmetic grievances about whether someone can see into your backyard, or if your view of a tree is not somewhat obstructed.

    And congratulations on the backhanded compliment for the Libs’ Planning Policy – the only kind of compliment they can get in these here parts, regardless of action.

  7. moz

    Fine, getting decent design is not especially difficult. All you need is to get community consensus on what good design is then appoint a few non-corruptable judges to oversee planning applications and reject the bad designs. Simple really, much easier than squaring the circle.
    Like all wicked problems the practical answer is to introduce a new element. Whether that be an override (much favoured by state governments) or change in emphasis or new rules, the way to break the impasse is the change the game. As we so often see, an override serves to unite all opponents into one howling mob :)
    My preference is a high level plan and the fist of god to enforce it. More practical without that messy democracy to clutter things up, but at least the trains run on time. Or in Australia, are made to run at all. As Robert points out, there is no consensus nor is there likely to be one. Frankly, if I owned a house on a 3/4 acre section in Collingwood or Brunswick I wouldn’t want densification either. That just pushes up my rates.
    I am sometimes tempted by the idea that we require home ownership of migrants. If you don’t buy a house here within a year, out you go. It might change the population pressures a bit. Probably towards the Liberal ideal, unfortunately.

  8. moz

    In reality I’m a big fan of densification, cohousing especially. The combination of dense neighbourhoods and clusters of neighbours who are committed to being neighbourly works for me, especially the collective communal facilities. yeah, me communist too! Just like the residents of Eureka Towers, with their communal pool, gym and theatre (for non-Melbunions, Eureka Towers is the giant, ludicrously expensive residential tower behind Crown Casino in Melbourne).

  9. Zorronsky

    The whole idea of the communication revolution is to remove the need to suffer high density and urban sprawl. Sure that requires more transport infrastructure but it need not be in areas more suitable for food etc like most development has ’til now. Who caught this a couple of weeks ago?
    Donny showed what could be done with near desert conditions at Monato all those years ago and didn’t he have a plan for a Future City north of Adelaide?

  10. Zorronsky

    The whole idea of the communication revolution is to remove the need to suffer high density and urban sprawl. Sure that requires more transport infrastructure but it need not be in areas more suitable for food etc like most development has ’til now. Who caught this a couple of weeks ago?
    Donny showed what could be done with near desert conditions at Monato all those years ago and didn’t he have a plan for a Future City north of Adelaide?

  11. Zorronsky

    Sorry ’bout that Robert, missed the link first up.

  12. billie

    Melbourne urban planning suffers from the problem of land is sold to developers who sit on the land for 10 to 15 years. There are large swathes of outer Melbourne that have been sold to developers that are still green acres awaiting the optimal economic conditions prior to subdivision – to maximise profits.

  13. paul walter

    No. We have this going on big time in Adelaide at the moment, also.
    But why?
    Because, in Adelaide at least, the neolib Rann government have changed local government legislation to overrule locales in favour of the imperatives of outside capital.
    The big picture analogy would relate to the Gunns antic in Tasmania, where enquiries, EPAs etc were binned in favour of a fiat “special projects” approach, whereby local concerns were silenced.
    But it is not for nothing that the same pattern is followed right across Australia and right across the world.
    Devices like the AUSFTA, which is a good example of the aspirations of world capital, reinforce access of capital at the expense of locales.
    Locales and their citizens are more than ever isolated ,or made to feel that way :
    “what’s thepoint in fighting,its only happening here,its an abheration”.
    No, its the system.
    But every so often the raiding of public commons becomes just so egregious that people will still revolt.
    Recently I posted here concerning protests against major fringe and urban consolidation projects, here in Adelaide, ramped up since the ALP’s return to government.
    One of these protests related to the resuming of the beautiful St Clair oval and parks for a TOD proposal that included a fishy and suppressed as to detil, land swap deal.
    Given the small number of people turning out to protest development laws, I despaired, thinking, “another triumph for public apapthy”.
    Imagine my amazement this week, when I read that the Charles Sturt(Woodville etc) mayor, had been pitched out in council election, in favour of Kirsten Alexander, one of our small number protesting the “Rann-dalism”!
    11,000 plus people had thought about the issue(s), kept their silence, then voted at the local government election for our cleanskin, in a rebuff to established “business as usual” local government and the Labor right machine, that has controlled politics here for so long.
    The system wants you to feel isolated, but beleive me, perservere and you to may be in for a pleasant surprise, after all.

  14. Debbieanne

    I want to live in a medium density townhouse type environment. But my house in a suburb close to the Ipswich CBD is worth less than new town house developments. Children are gone, hubby hates looking after yard (i have physical limitations) but in no way can we afford to increase our mortgage. IPswich is spreading out like you would not believe and it is rather frightening for a sustainable future. They have been talking about extending rail links for over 5 years but nothing yet. Would hope that new communities, like Ripley, will have higher density living,small or no yards and lots of shared parks.

  15. Nancy

    In cities across the world, choices other than ultra-high-density and sprawl are important. I’d like to see worldwide competitions to change the game through innovation in design. Creativity captured, translated to a business model, and brought to scale can bring us out of this mess.

    Ultra-high-density doesn’t work for everyone. Some people can’t tolerate the physical and emotional stresses of living in close proximity with others. So while I’m very much a proponent of high density transit-oriented development and mixed-use development, these developments can’t house everyone.

    We know that sprawl is financially and environmentally inefficient, and frequently ugly to boot.

    So it’s up to us to find a middle way that gives the illusion of privacy, provides real safety, allows open spaces for calming the nerves from living in medium-density situations, and produces only a light ecological footprint. Are we up to the challenge?

  16. Fran Barlow

    Count me as very much on the side of those supporting increased population densities close to the CBD (and by “close” I mean within about 25km).

    As others have rightly noted, higher density need not entail stacked shoeboxes. It seems to me that not only the building but the whole surrounding development ought to be part of a development plan that creates gradations of space quality from fully public to fully private — a kind of cultural topgraphy if you will. Some of the better housing projects around the world (I was looking at one in Dayton Ohio a while back) make use of notions of qualified access and shared space so as to preserve a sense of “ownership” by users of non-private space and this tends to have the effect of underpinning their amenity.

    I’d like to see out major conurbations aim to reach population densities of around 80 people per ha (in Sydney it’s currently about 30). This could be achieved through a better mix of medium and high density developments.

  17. Alan Carpenter

    I was researching this subject not so long ago and came across this cracker of a paragraph from Lewis Mumford. …..in 1956 for goodness sake.

    “The blind forces of urbanization, flowing along the lines of least resistance, show no aptitude for creating an urban and industrial pattern that will be stable, self-sustaining, and self-renewing. On the contrary, as congestion thickens and expansion widens, both the urban and the rural landscape undergo defacement and degradation, while unprofitable investments in the remedies for congestion, such as more superhighways and more distant reservoirs of water, increase the economic burden and serve only to promote more of the blight and disorder they seek to palliate.”

    I actually believe urban designers, engineers and architects have more or less got it figured – how to achieve increased density with improved amenity. What is needed is political leadership. But from the sound of it the Victorian Liberals have learnt nothing. Houston in the South it will be. Deep South I reckon.

  18. John D

    The CBD is an interesting artifact of the pre-internet era. Much the same could be said for the mega city. Yet somehow, a discussion on planning seems to assume that the percentage of people working in the CBD and traveling at peak hours will remain the same as it is now. It assumes that almost everyone will continue to want to live in the big city and that technical developments will make little difference to that.
    Yet it is worth asking where we would want to live and what sort of community we would want to live in if we were not constrained by where we had to work. It is worth asking too what else ties us to the big city and how often we actually use it.
    It is worth thinking too the extent to which developing technology can remove the desirability of living in a particular place for either work or quality of life reasons.
    I have next to me the information sheet on the SE Qld 25 yr transport plan. A civil engineers answer to the symptoms of current problems – not an exploration of possibilities.

  19. Liam

    I think part of the solution might be to get developers and local residents in the room first, rather than the adversarial process that we currently have where developers put in an arbitrary claim, residents object, and we end up in the AAT

    Maybe, but you’re still just transferring the location of the class war by which property owners ensure the State constantly protects their appreciating assets. You’re never going to reach much of a consensus when this kind of planning’s an inherently zero-sum game between have-properties and haven’ts.
    As for me I’d be satisfied with a few incorruptible Representatives on Mission to terrorise inner-city real estate agents with the swift undelayed justice of the people—but that’s an interim measure, obviously.

  20. VivKay

    Howard Cunningham, you are WRONG! “NIMBY syndrome may well be one of the worst aspects of Australians, much like Americans and debt reduction”. We need a nation of nimby’s to stop the trend towards high density living. A study by ACF consumption atlas says that high-density living, despite possibly less car use, was a threat to rising per capita greenhouse gas emissions, maximum water wastage, higher use of power, lack of solar panets, rain water collection, lack of garden space, trees and maximum city heat. Suburban houses with gardens are much more sustainable, and liveable. The real problem is we are forced to “manage” our boosted population growth. It is actually a political choice, made undemocratically in consultation with business groups, not the public.

  21. Matilda B

    Nancy says: “We know that sprawl is financially and environmentally inefficient, and frequently ugly to boot”. The sacred cow, or elephant in the room, is unsustainable population growth at a time of depleting natural resources. It is easy cop-out to condemn the symptoms, but the cause, politically-driven population growth, is the root cause. Architects, developers, mortgage industries are propping up our economy, but they depend on population growth, boosted by high immigration rates. PC and shunned “nimbys” creates socially engineered silence. Time to “cull” the sacred cow and adjust to an oil-scarce sustainable future.