In part one of this debate, I looked at the drivers, arguments, problems, and some solutions for combating urban sprawl. In the second half I will turn my attention to what the Victorian Government has recently announced on this matter.
What was announced?
In summary there were three main developments
- The Growth Corridor Plans were finalised and released.
- Six precinct structure plans were approved.
- 5958 hectares were added to the urban growth boundary due to the completion of the ‘logical inclusions’ process and report.
The Growth Corridor Plans
This document is a broad strokes strategic planning document similar to Melbourne 2030 but in this case only pertaining to Melbourne’s four identified growth corridors. To me this document seems quite fluffy. It has plenty of obvious statements and great ideals but is fairly low on measurable content.
There is, however, one principle that jumps out of the report as being elevated in its emphasis; local employment creation. This is a very good thing. Many of the problems discussed in part 1 revolve around the distance of travel that outer suburbs require. Greater employment locally is a good objective to have. In order for this to work, density will need to be kept tight. Not in the apartment high rise sense but in combinations of terrace housing, semi detached and detached dwellings.
There is no point zoning land for a local shop, if the low surrounding density makes the business not financially viable.
Precinct structure plans
Precinct structure plans identify a vision for how a local community will be developed. They are used in areas where significant change is anticipated to help guide that change. Combined into the announcement last week was the approval of the Diggers Rest, Lockerbie, Lockerbie North, Manor Lakes, Merrifield West and Rockbank North precinct structure plans.
These new suburbs are all either north or west of Melbourne. As I said in part one, as we reduce our reliance on low density housing, we should be focussing on the North and west, where we have the most chance of reducing those long travel distances. There is no benefit in increasing the already ridiculous south east corridor which now extends beyond Pakenham.
The logical inclusions process was initiated in May 2011 and as the name suggests attempts to even out and rationalise what is happening at the urban fringe. This process is a very long and incredibly bureaucratic one which has been run by a specifically set up advisory committee. The inclusions on this list were progressively culled via input from various government bodies. Local councils, the Growth Area Authority, the Advisory Committee and the Planning Minister all had input before the final ratification from an Act of Parliament. This to me shows how unlikely it is that corruption or even ‘political contributions’ from developers could change this process. As for what has finally been decided it amounts to 5,958 Hectares which in the scheme of things is only a ‘small tweaking’. A comparison to the previous adjustment of 43,000 Hectares in 2010 under the Labor Government, shows that this is a mere 13% of the size. Hopefully this will be the last change for a long time. I fear however, it will not be.
Links between health and planning
Finally as last word I return to the links between health and outer suburban planning. In Part 1 of the urban sprawl debate I highlighted these seemingly obvious links. It is therefore with a great deal of astonishment that I found this on the Growth Areas Authority website.
“Commentary that blames growth area planning for incidents of obesity is ill informed and misleads the public on a number of levels.
Age, diet, lifestyle choices, income, education and genetics are all known to be key factors in determining a person’s weight.”
http://www.gaa.vic.gov.au/ 25 May 2012
This statement is provided by a government body which has a vested interest portraying the creation of outer suburbs in a positive light. The statement is spin and here is why.
Firstly, within any community diet, lifestyle choices, income and education are all themselves affected by planning. Secondly, lifestyle choices in particular go to the heart of the issue. It is possible to make a lifestyle choice to walk five kilometres each way to a bus stop in your daily commute. A 400 metre walk however is much more likely to become a daily event. Low density housing and long commute times reduces the opportunity to make healthy lifestyle choices.
Just because you’ve found some key factors, doesn’t mean they’re the only factors and it doesn’t rule out other things contributing to those factors.
In addition, the statements by the GAA ignore the other health issues associated with low density outer suburbs. These include
- Mental health issues.
- Hospital and ambulance services being further away
- Reliance on motor vehicle transport increasing the risk of accident trauma.
The Growth Areas Authority does however seem aware of these criticisms, as it has also announced a five year study by Vic Health. Let’s hope that in five years time this report provides strategies to combat the health impacts of living on the fringe.
Architecture is for everyone