Melbourne 2030 - Planning Rhetoric versus Urban Reality
Russell Degnan

Ch. 1 - Looking Back, Looking Forward: Urban Policy for Metropolitan Melbourne

While we had a short discussion of this book when it was released a more in depth look is required. To the extent that Melbourne 2030 is an important document - and that is debatable - this critique is almost the only major analysis of the core assumptions relating to population growth and the changes in dwelling types that the plan would require. For this reason I want to analyse the arguments made properly, chapter by chapter. Some are good, some are bad. Either way, they must be addressed by either the advocates or opponents of Melbourne 2030.

The first chapter has no argument to make. It does, however, lay out the assumptions guiding the book, some explicitly, and others less so. Firstly, the authors identification of Melbourne's liveability as:

"The prevailing streetscape with the predominance of low slung bungalows, dense tree and shrub canopy and resultant green ambience, along with local open space for recreation, gives the city its sense of place and identity"

That is to say, low density is a goal in and of itself, because it makes for better streetscapes.

This informs the second assumption. Namely that infill housing, the type which removes backyards and reduces the overall tree canopy is bad. They are less negative on apartments in activity centres - though no doubt not in their imagined Melbourne - particularly because they see the goal of Melbourne 2030 as directing density into a few areas, and not the suburban streetscape.

Thirdly, that planners have taken on the goals of new urbanism in a way that makes them antagonistic to suburban living:

For many of its proponents, it is a crusade that incorporates into its urban planning objective a social reform agenda which shows little respect for conventional suburban communities"

The problems with these assumptions will tease themselves out in later chapters, but one I want to address now. One of the key arguments put forth in support of the assumption on Melbourne's liveability is that it is a choice by people in suburban areas. Both because of the historical trend towards this type of development, and because of the strong opposition to infill development by residents. Both of these arguments are rubbish. Firstly, because the trend towards infill development, despite the costs to applicants negotiating the planning scheme, is a clear indication of shifting preferences. Secondly because opposition to infill is based on similarly faulty reasoning by existing residents. As we'll see, contrary to the authors arguments, infill, good infill, is not incompatible with good streetscapes. Equating the two is either disingenuous or misguided, and it ignores the myriad of other reasons that people choose to live where they do.

Next: Activity Centres

Finer Things 11th May, 2005 01:28:51   [#]