Australia is one of the most sparsely populated countries in the world, with a population density of just over 3 people per square kilometre of total land area. However, the majority of Australia’s population is concentrated in a few large cities mainly on the east coast.
Major capital cities like Melbourne and Sydney are growing at a much faster rate than the rest of the country, with capital city growth accounting for yearly 80% of population growth, according to the ABS. This means that Aussie cities must continue to grow to accommodate our growing urban population. And that makes urban planning incredibly important to Australia’s future.
What is urban planning?
Put simply, urban planning (also known as town planning) is about creating a sustainable union between people and their surroundings. This means ensuring that people’s and the environment’s needs are met, and everyone can live safely in good health in a community that is sustainable.
In order to achieve this ideal union, an urban planner or town planner will consider how people interact with an area. This can include how and where people work, live and enjoy recreational time. The urban planner can then ensure the area is developed accordingly.
Town planning brings together a lot of disciplines to ensure the best possible result. This includes architecture, politics, engineering and social sciences. Therefore, a town planner has a lot to do. They may be a specialist in these disciplines or consult experts in these fields.
The specialisations required can also be determined by the area and the community’s needs. For instance, the development of public transport or community spaces, may be critical. Thus, experts in these areas may be necessary.
How urban planning affects everyone
Town planning is important as it provides a framework to efficiently manage the urbanisation of cities and towns, as well as smaller communities. And as environmental issues continue growing in prominence, town planning must also focus on how to create sustainable spaces.
As residents in these communities, we benefit greatly in five key ways.
- Improved quality of life
When communities are designed, you can expect to see a better quality of life. Residences are generally appropriately sized and spaced, allowing people privacy and comfort. Similarly, there will be adequate community spaces to socialise and relax.
Additionally, access to services can be made to fit the local demand, including supermarkets, schools, retail stores, medical professionals and public transport. The easier the access to these services, the better quality of life as essential services are more easy and convenient to access.
- Improved local economy
Successful town planning can also stimulate and grow the local economy. For instance, with easy access to stores, residents are more likely to shop closer to home. This can then provide nearby employment opportunities and increase the growth of nearby businesses, including cafes and supermarkets.
- Improved infrastructure
Infrastructure can affect a lot of aspects of a community, including quality of life and economy. Communities that have naturally developed can sometimes suffer from poor infrastructure. If roads or public transport aren’t properly planned, areas can be difficult to access and can become isolated from other population centres.
Alternatively, these communities may be easy to access if you drive and have sufficient facilities for the residents. However, they may have no or poor public transport and facilities may be poorly placed. This can make it difficult for many residents to move around or use the area as intended. They may also struggle to leave the area for work or to access services beyond their community.
Therefore, a planned community will have the necessary infrastructure to support the residents. The urban planner will need to carefully weigh up the needs of the community and ensure residents can access everything they need.
- Improved sustainability
With increasing demand for sustainability and green choices in every aspect of our lives, a planned community can better meet this demand. For instance, local natural features, including creeks and green spaces can be preserved and cared for. Similarly, space can be designated for renewable power sources, like wind or solar, to create a greener community.
Sustainability also refers to the longevity of the community itself. If a community’s needs are not met, the community itself could start to suffer. For instance, if everyone has to travel a long distance to access basic services like supermarkets, you can imagine that the temptation to move beyond this community is great. Eventually, fewer people will move into the community and many will move away.
- Improved consistency in messaging
You likely have preconceived notions about different suburbs and communities. For instance, you may associate an area with boutique stores and another for a vibrant nightlife. Many aspects of town planning affect this association, including how commercial space is designated, the number and types of green spaces around and even the size of residential properties.
A skilled town planner will know how to cultivate an image that is appropriate to the community. And if they do it right, it should attract people who will further contribute to this association.
For example, if you value independent retail, you may choose to move to a community where there are many small retail businesses. Your regular patronage would then stimulate the local economy and allow for other small businesses to open. This cycle may then continue to repeat with other new and existing residents, and the area becomes known as a haven for local businesses.
All five of these benefits are the direct result of town planning. This is largely because urban planners think ahead and approach potential problems logically. This is more cost effective than reacting to problems as they occur, ultimately making a community more prepared and resilient.
Without town planning, many cities, towns and communities would not be as remarkable as they are today. And as individuals, we can expect brighter and healthier futures because of skilled urban planners.