Australian Lefty on Politics, Governance, Science and Info Management

Decentralization, environment and planning

Posted by Dave Bath on 2007-05-30

A danger of decentralizing, increasing the population of provincial centres, is a decrease in land available for production, if newcomers use the cheaper land to buy larger housing lots.

The environment is ill-served by people swapping from low-density housing, so far away from shops you need a car to get milk and sausages, to even lower-density housing, so more people drive further to get their milk and sausages.

Local councils should be given large incentives to limit the growth of their urban areas, develop medium-density (and a little high-density) housing with significant common parks and recreation areas, and decrease the per-capita cost of providing infrastructure.

One suburban sprawl is the same as any other: there is no chance for development of character, the character that naturally builds up in an area where enough people live close enough to a reasonable shopping strip to walk to a cafe for breakfast on a Sunday morning, creating the walk-by traffic to support shops and employment that cannot survive but for reasonable numbers of people who live in walking distance.

While a provincial centre has fewer congested roads, doesn’t have the problems of fumes billowing out of cars stuck in traffic jams, a growing provincial sprawl takes up more land per person for roads, more wire and transmission losses for electricity.

With enough people in walking distance of services, land that would otherwise be needed for carspaces becomes available for playgrounds, greenery, and other common spaces that can create a sense of community.

The attraction of living in a provincial city is the feeling you get when you recognize the faces of most people on the street, even if you do not know their names.  This does not happen if people bring their "drive to shops and rush off home mentality" with them from the big smoke.

Decentralization has many advantages for both the economy, the environment, and social well-being if done correctly.  Foward-looking town planning can go a long way to making sure that decentralization works well.

Having lived in a unit one residential block from the main strip of Warrnambool, I can assure you it’s a brilliant lifestyle)


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