Irresistible force and immovable objects: Challenges faced by local councils in increasing residential densities whilst maintaining urban flexibility and amenity

helen1Australia’s population is increasing and the NSW government has a stated aim to increase the supply of housing in urban areas.

Local communities have voiced strong concerns about declining amenity and liveability in the face of increasing urban densities. And local councils are caught in the middle. Local councils are required to increase the housing supply in their LGA, whilst still maintaining character, amenity and liveability.

Planning for social, technological and economic change within an existing urban fabric is their core business. But it does not happen in a vacuum and cannot be reduced to cause and effect processes. But history is littered with examples of past cultures that, as a result of conservative attitudes and/or lack of creativity and innovation, have failed to retain flexibility and amenity in line with population growth and have ultimately failed, both socially and economically.

Councils are well positioned to understand the relationship between increasing residential populations, urban inertia, social change, amenity, liveability and economic productivity. Yet the rate of supply of new housing throughout Sydney has been slowing. Have councils reached the limit of what they can achieve within the existing paradigm? They are constrained in their implementation of flexible strategic planning by rate capping, disconnectedness between regional infrastructure programs and local processes, ambiguously defined compulsory community consultation, and local and state government politics.

Dr Wilkins will discuss select examples from the perspective of someone who is both an urban planner, architect and local councillor on Warringah Council on Sydney’s northern fringe. With a population of 145 thousand, a constrained geography, a vocal and active community, and a local state member who is also the Minister for Planning and Infrastructure, Warringah exemplifies some of the challenges faced and some of the ways these challenges have been overcome.

Dr Helen Wilkins, Councillor on Warringah Council will be speaking at the 5th International Urban Design Conference – Hilton on the Park in Melbourne 10th – 12th September 2012

The FULL PROGRAM is now available on the conference website

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