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Urban greening in high density environments

Creating 'Vertical Forests' in high density residential developments

Gift Ideas for the Planner or Urban Designer in Your Life

by Danielle Cull

What’s better than a card game where you can win with a smashed avo? And for free! Or a piece of jewellery showing your fave city or brushing up on your Urban Design Essentials? Check out these gift ideas for Christmas for the Planner or Urban Designer on your list:

1. Cards against Urbanity ($ Free)

2. UnGRIDDED Notebooks ($8.00)

3. UnGRIDDED CITIES Coloring Book ($25.00)

4. The Art of Urban Sketching: Drawing on Location Around the World ($25.44)

5. Melbourne Necklace ($40.00)

6. Utopia on DVD – Season 1 & 2 boxset ($34.99)

7. Essentials of Urban Design ($95.40 e-download)

8. Lego Architecture Series ($ Various)

The 300mm width eave…2017’s new weather protection.

By Jonathan Halaliku.
(Source: Good Housekeeping).
The anticipated ambiguity around the calculation of the garden area stemming from VC110 is now coming into fruition. Whilst the Tribunal is still another 3-4 months away from considering the garden area requirements in earnest, we are now starting to see the breadth of variations in interpretations between by Responsible Authorities. What we are seeing is worrying.

We have been engaging in numerous running discussions with RA’s in relation to what constitutes a roofed area for the purposes of calculating the garden area provision. We are being informed that any area under an eave cannot be calculated as part of the garden area – why? because it is regarded as a ‘roofed area’.

Whilst this may seem harmless in the overall scheme of things, it can be, and is becoming, a moot point which detrimentally impacts development footprints. The current definition within the VPP’s for garden area is:

An uncovered outdoor area of a dwelling or residential building normally associated with a garden. It includes open entertaining areas, decks, lawns, garden beds, swimming pools, tennis courts and the like. It does not include a driveway, any area set aside for car parking, any building or roofed area and any area that has a dimension of less than 1 metre.

To me, whether a literal or purposive approach to interpretation is taken in the calculation of a garden area, the area under the eave must be included within the calculation. I am confused by the exclusion of the area under eaves from the calculation.

For example, an uncovered outdoor area normally associated with a garden, includes open… (insert examples) and it does include ‘a driveway’ (because you cannot plant on a driveway), it does not include an area set aside for car parking (because a car cannot[1] park on a garden), or ‘any building’ (because you cannot plant in a building[2]). Also, it does not include ‘an area less than 1 metre’ (because this sized area traditionally cannot by planted with significant landscaping that can contribute to “The green open character of our neighbourhoods”).[3]

It does not include a ‘roofed area’ [4] because[5];

a) Planting under a roof is generally not visible to the wider area
b) Planting under a roof is limited by i) species, ii) size iii) visibility (and therefore contribution to the character of the area), and;
c) According to the Collins Dictionary[6]:

The roof of a building is the covering on top of it that protects the people and things inside from the weather.

In our mind, whilst you can source variations of roof definitions the key to defining if a horizontal overhang or eave constitutes a roof, is the extent of enclosure and protection. A standard sized eave does not provide enclosure and only negligible protection from the weather. We further note;

d) Planting under an eave remains commonplace and can continue[7]
e) The eave is an aesthetic extension to the main roof structure
f) An eave does not, on its own, constitute a roof for the purposes of reasonable protection from the elements to the area directly below it.

The discrepancies within the garden area requirements, and particularly what constitutes a roof area in the absence of a definition within the VPP’s have been identified early by many planners and lawyers alike. Identification of this issue is old ground, but the impact and results of incorrect interpretation is a new phenomenon which we are observing and the implications on approvals and permit conditions is frustrating to say the least.

Why is it that we as an industry need a Tribunal ruling or Practice Note to iterate the obvious? I am not surprised by the disparity in interpretations, more so disappointed. It is nonsensical to regard an area under an eave to be a) roofed and b) not normally associated with a garden area.

The keep it simple question is; if you stand under an eave, can you get wet?

I have come up with a very simple, but telling test. At the equinox I will stand under an eave of my house (trampling the unkept agapanthus) with my son. If it rains, I will ask him if he is wet. If he says, ‘yes dad I am wet’ I will simply reply– no you are not son…we are standing under a roofed area.

Sarcasm aside, our take is that weather (sic) a certain method of statutory interpretation or simple common sense prevails, the golden rule of application is one which avoids absurdity.

[1] Should not.
[2] Well, you can, but that planting cannot contribute to the neighbourhood characteristic as is perceived to be the purposes of the garden area provisions.
[3] Reformed Residential Zones,
[4] Which is notably grouped with a building in the definition i.e. ‘…building OR roofed area”
[5] This list is by no mean exhaustive but the obvious which we are increasingly in need to point out.
[7] Common sense informs us that a garden bed can continue to be planted under an eave. Common sense also tells us that an eave forms part of a roof but does not protect the area from elements directly under the eave as per the area under the ceiling joist and rafters on the inside of a wall.

WAR ON....bicycles??

By Julia Moiso.

Cycling; it’s a common thing! And it’s been around for centuries. Almost everyone at some point in time in their life has ridden a bicycle. For some people, it may bring back sweet childhood memories, and for others it’s an element of everyday life. Bicycles are an alternative, sustainable and cheap mode of transport, a fitness and healthy lifestyle tool, a competitive sport and a popular recreational pastime. So why is there so much stigma against cyclists?

Recently, bicycle sharing systems have become more and more apparent in Australia, following successful European trends, as global companies like O-bike and ReddyGo have begun rolling out their dockless bicycle sharing system on our streets. And whilst you can practically hear the erupting applause from avid cyclists, environmentalists and planners - it appears that some others have very different outlooks on the matter, and not the good kind.

O-bikes have been a hot topic in the media recently and not for the positive reason you’d wish we would assume. O-bikes have caused controversy within metropolitan waterways, on public transport and have been subject to vandalism and other vilified activity.

A wild brawl has shocked commuters on a Melbourne train last weekend after an argument turned sour over a group of young men transporting their O-bikes on the train, when an older man aggressively confronted them in a violent and physical manner, as he was concerned that the bike would go “flying” if the train “suddenly slammed on the brakes”. Of course, it is known within the state that bikes are allowed on the train permitted they avoid the first carriage and also avoid travelling during busy peak hour times.

Similarly, closer to home here in sunny Sydney, groups of pranksters have managed to stack a large pile of the shared bikes in different locations around Sydney, particularly within the eastern suburbs and surrounding local parks and waterways over the past three months. And whilst a number of Councils in Sydney remain supportive of the bike scheme, it is causing headaches for managing Council authorities as Councils are now starting to enforce suggestive circumstances such as fines and stricter regulations like secure parking stations.

Figure 1: Stacked bicycles near Bondi Junction in Sydney. 
See, this is why we can’t have nice things!!

It’s clear that people have turned O-bike disposal into a sport of all sorts, with many currently resting at the bottom of the Yarra River, and others placed in decidedly inconvenient spots like perched up in a Sydney park tree.

Figure 2: O-bike perched up in a Sydney tree near Coogee Beach. 
But, with all things, crisis and opportunity are two sides of the same coin. And if I may restore both humour and faith in urban humanity, some absolute genius has managed to suspend an O-bike on a power line hovering mid-air in a laneway off Brunswick Street, sporting a rogue boy and his ethereal mate as passenger.

Figure 3: O-bike suspended mid-air replicating a scene from E.T the Extra Terrestrial.
Yes, this is exactly what it looks like, this is an ode to the iconic bike riding scene in E.T the Extra Terrestrial, an 80’s Speilberg CLASSIC.

This changes the bicycle sharing game, as baffling as it may be. I believe such schemes have contributed in myriad positive ways in creating a mode of accessible, cheap, reliable and sustainable transport to the public. But with that being said, there is still a concerning amount of non-acceptance of the shared bicycle system as demonstrated above.

Could it be that planners and government authorities alike need to push for more cycling public infrastructure like segregated bike lanes, more frequent parking stations, or grants or a rewards system for people who choose to travel sustainably via cycling?

Should Planning Mandate Public Art?

By Brodie Blades.

Public Street Art (Source: WeekendNotes).
There is an interesting juxtaposition between public art and traditional perceptions of town planning. On one hand, public art (at its most basic level) is typically perceived as a fluid and creative expression of humanity whose contribution to the built environment and quality of life of residents is intangible. On the other, town planning is typically perceived as analytical, process driven and rigid, and capable of making highly measured and anticipated contributions only to human environments. Yet at the intersection of these two extremes is the reality that each is necessary for the creation of the very best public urban environments, and it is at this intersection where the question arises as to whether town planning should seek to systemise urban art by mandating its creation.

The forms and benefits of public art within the built environment are obvious and numerous. One only has to walk through the streets of Melbourne's Fitzroy or London's Shoreditch to gain and immediate sense of the placemaking and character contributions made possible by local artistic communities through graffiti, murals and wall art. Or stroll through Barcelona in present times (with its political graffiti and draped Estelladas) to gain a small insight into the social tensions of a community divided. Likewise, sculpture and statues play an important part in recounting the historic narrative of a city and the forebears of its population, and performance spaces allow for the organic exchange of social capital and the reinterpretation of space and place. The contributions and possibilities of public art really are as profound as they are endless!

Whilst almost all (if not all) local and state governments in Australia recognise this and have active arts programs and policies to guide and foster public art contributions, I'm personally intrigued by the notion that public art is something that can be 'required' within development through planning policy. Take the below example from a current planning control in Melbourne for example (one example of many):

Far from this article being a subjective exercise in what has worked well and what has not in this particular Council area, instead I am equal parts fascinated and challenged by the prospect of whether mandating public art contributions through development assessment can ever be done truly successfully. Can something as complex and organic as art really be confined, measured, articulated, captured in policy and then assessed as another 'box to tick' within a statutory town planning development assessment process, and still achieve meaningful and high quality public realm outcomes? Or does this type of approach simply steer our public realm on a collision course toward a future congested with tokenistic box-tick contributions conceived as meaningless responses to process only?

Perhaps the approach should be to not translate a uniquely social expression of humanity into legislation and planning requirements, but to instead consider the unique and organic nature in which public art contributes to our built environment and respond accordingly. Incentivising funding contributions to local artistic communities in exchange for minor planning concessions could be one approach, as could deliberately fostering incidental and organic public art within new development through built form design that strategically encourages this whilst still responding to CPTED principles.

The irony in all this, of course, is that a significant proportion of Australian capital city development typically contributes to the gentrification of areas and the displacement of the artistic communities most capable of making the types of contribution sought by policies such as the one above, which suggests that the fundamental planning issue is one that transcends traditional development assessment processes and rests at a far more ‘strategic’ level.

What do you think? Do you think planning processes should require public art contributions? Have you stumbled across any particularly successful outcomes in response to such policy? Share your thoughts in the comments below!

'Rising' Seafronts

By Jaime Parsons.

I must confess that I have a morbid fascination for dystopian urban environments and fantasy architecture, even when I would rather not have to live in these imagined spaces. But there is a strong possibility that many of us will actually experience a powerful shift in the form and experience our built environment because of climate change and its scion sea level rise.

Following on from Must See Films for Urban Planners and Designers in last month’s newsletter and in a severe case of Blade Runner 2049 visual hangover and heartbreak it dawned on me that in the next few decades a significant percentage of the global population may find itself displaced or behind massive sea walls.

Figure 1. Blade Runner 2049 (source: Blade Runner trailer by Warner Bros Pictures)
 It is estimated by the United Nations that approximately 40% of the global population is within 100 Km of the coast and, with most of the largest metropolises and urban mega-regions located along the coasts of China, Japan, USA, this percentage is likely an underestimation. This means that the impact of sea level rise will likely alter our urban civilisation indelibly.

Closer to home many Melbourne suburbs will be either under water or constantly affected by tidal flooding, as the worse case scenario put forth in a 2017 report, is a rise of 2m by 2100 the result of the melting ice caps of Greenland and Antarctica.

Our great global cities are likely already suffering the consequences as increasing storm surges are severely affecting our infrastructure and communities. We probably all remember how the great city of New York was brought to its knees in 2012 during Hurricane Sandy, with powerful images of Manhattan ‘drowning’. But that will pale in comparison with the effects of a 2m sea level rise which will completely submerge lower Manhattan including the economic powerhouse of Wall Street.

Figure 2. Google and NOOA (National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration) sea level rise modelling
Not only cities but whole islands and nations are being swallowed by the sea. In the case of the Solomon Islands, one of our northern neighbours, at least five reef islands have already been lost to sea level rise and coastal erosion. But for some people it may even mean the loss of their whole country, as is the case with the Marshall Islands, where sea level rise is likely to engulf the whole nation in the years to come and create a new caste of climate change refugees.

Figure 3. Coral island submerged by sea level rise (source: The ABC)
Maybe there is a better option than mass resettlement and living behind the new ‘prison’ walls of massive sea walls, disconnecting us from the sea that has brought us so much bounty and exchange throughout history. 

Many built environment designers around the world are attempting to creatively address this looming human catastrophe. One of the most powerful responses has been to create liminal buffer spaces between the sea and the places of habitation and business that are more than just sea walls. Such spaces are not conceived as barriers but as true public spaces that bring multifaceted community benefits.

Architect Bjarke Ingels has proposed one of the most ambitious of all climate change resilient projects with the 10 mile long Dryline. A long string of parks, paths and public open space interventions along the jagged edge of Manhattan partially reclaiming private docks, sea and a wild assortment of existing vulnerable infrastructure.

Figure 4. Dryline plan by Bjarke Ingels Group (source: The Guardian)

This all presented with a seductive narrative and visuals by London visual maverick’s Squint Opera. But behind it there is one of the seeds of the necessary re-conceptualisation of the built environment that we will need to have to address climate change.

The Dryline is but one project of an emerging trend of how to do more with less in a time of ever greater changes. Have parks that are also provide flood mitigation, link hereto separate areas of the city in a cycle and pedestrian friendly manner and connect back to the sea.

The range of design responses is as varied as the cultures and character of the cities they are responding to. The recently completed, in 2013, sea promenade along the Avenue of Ribeira das Naus in Lisbon is an unlikely gathering place but that is what is has become. The project provides a series of inclined steps along a sea wall that dissipate the energy of the ever increasing sea waves and, equally important, also provide a gathering space for locals and visitors to view the estuary of the of Tajo/Tagus River as it flows into the Atlantic Ocean, an ocean intimately tied with Portugal’s rise a maritime power in the 16th century.

Figure 5. Ribeira Das Naus, Lisbon by João Nunes (source: Skyscraper City)
Flooding does only affect urban seafronts; other waterfronts are also increasingly affected by the massive urban infrastructure pressures that completely reshape their floodplains. One of the more striking projects is that by Chinese landscape architecture firm Turenscape in the Chinese city of Jinhua. a remanent riparian wetland is preserved from greater disruption and brought into the awareness of the community by creating public park close by and access through pedestrian bridges. The whole park is submerged during the annual flooding brought on by the Monsoon rains but the colourful wavy pedestrian bridges remain above the water level provide good connectivity throughout the year. It is precisely this environmentally aware and responsive design thinking that will need to be used in the coming years and decades.

Figure 6. Yanweizhou Park, Jinhua city, China by Turenscape non- flooded state (source: Landezine)
In a recent project that I led as the Planning and Urban Design Advisor at the Ministry of Lands, Housing and Survey of the Solomon Islands we applied similar thinking but on at a much humbler scale. 

In doing the strategic planning and statutory controls for the town of Auki as part of the Physical Planning team of the Ministry it become apparent that the seafront provided a strong community focus that now mostly taken over by ad-hoc private interests. The traditional landowners felt a strong affinity with the seafront but had mostly lack a cohesive vision to articulate their desire for regaining its traditional role as a place of community exchange. Furthermore, the increase flooding brought on by cyclones and tropical storms are a serious and growing risk. It was also a place where the emerging tourism industry could provide some early impetus.

In light of the socio-cultural significance of the sea front and the need to address climate change weather pattern shifts we produced a concept design for the Auki seafront. It is also a mandated buffer to mitigate the worst effect of sea level rise to protect to habitable buildings that becomes an linear park in its own right. It provides a continuous pedestrian and cycle link from the new port facilities to the Kwaibala River shore increasing the permeability of the town centre and linking existing and proposed nodes of activity. It turns out that we tapped into a strong sentiment as there was a nearly universal political and community backing for the proposal, probably because it reconnects the people of Auki with their nurturing sea.

Figure 8. Auki Waterfront Master Plan (source: Auki Local Planning Scheme and Structure Plan)
Ideally, we should contain greenhouse gas emissions to a level that keeps global temperature rise below 2 0C but this may not occur. As designers and planners we may not be able to stop climate change and sea level rise but we can influence how we shape our towns and cities to respond to our ‘rising’ seafronts otherwise I feel we may yet all have to live in the stark, bleak future of Blade Runner 2049.

Gift ideas for the special Planner or Urban Designer in your life

By Danielle Cull.

What’s better than a card game where you can win with a smashed avo? And for free! Or a piece of jewellery showing your fave city or brushing up on your Urban Design Essentials? Check out these gift ideas for Christmas for the Planner or Urban Designer on your list:

Planning for Adaptivity - A Council Planner’s Nightmare

By Sam Palma.

It is no secret that Melbourne is under constant pressure to accommodate the increase in population growth and balance urban consolidation with the efficient use of our land and the supply of affordable housing stock. ‘Plan Melbourne’ and State Planning Policy identify the need and desire to introduce innovative and diverse housing options for future generations, while also outlining the importance of sustainability and orderly development.

We are already seeing a shift away from large blocks with big backyards which we previously identified as the ‘Australian Dream’ to more compact living through a dominant trend and supply of apartments and townhouse living by the private sector. Shifts in our lifestyle, employment and family trends have introduced new terms such as ‘time poor’ and ‘contemporary living’, real estate agents constantly promote the notion of ‘low-maintenance’ and furniture retailers such as IKEA are experiencing phenomenal sales due to their compact and diverse range in products. First home buyers who have become a generation affiliated with smashed avocado brunches and university debt are now faced with the pressures of housing affordability in a property marked heavily influenced by overseas purchasers, developers and investors. The reality of housing options afforded to first home buyers within the current market climate reveals few options, with location and pricing being obvious factors restricting opportunities which are coupled with the standardised supply of housing tenure. 

Currently, large blocks that have been identified and earmarked to accommodate substantial change accommodate apartment developments, with townhouse developments the leading option for suburban residential re-development. This trend is fine and will continue to provide growth in housing supply and diversity. However, is there scope for Melbourne to implement innovative housing tenure to further balance the pressures of affordable housing and population growth? What do some of these options mean for Urban Planners?

Option 1: Flexible Apartment Floorplans

The concept of flexible apartment floorplans introduces the notion of moveable walls, allowing apartment floorplans to change depending on the occasion or requirements of a resident. This innovative and adaptive concept makes efficient use of spaces and caters for the individual needs of the occupier, promoting sustainable, affordable and diverse housing stock. \

This particular design response would result in a statutory nightmare for Council planner’s who would be required to assess an adaptable/changing floorplan against the ‘Victorian Planning Provisions’ (VPP) and the newly implemented ‘Better Apartment Design Standards’ introduced via Planning Scheme Amendment VC136. The necessities for carparking, minimum bedroom sizes, living room dimensions and solar access would become blurred through requiring variations to most Standard’s under Clause 58 (which already proves to be difficult under current systems with Responsible Authorities often enforcing discretionary Standards as mandatory controls).

Option 2: Moveable/prefabricated housing stock.

Prefabricated and moveable dwellings are not new concepts to the housing/construction industry, with many companies and universities pioneering a shift in thinking to more sustainable and affordable dwellings that accommodate the shifts in socio trends and economic and environmental pressures. The Kokoon as pictured below is a three-storey wooden dwelling created in Finland that has the potential to be constructed within 24 hours with the preference to have the materials prefabricated. 

The Kokoon. (Source: Business Insider).
Many examples of portable and prefabricated homes are emerging with growing popularity given the pressures faced worldwide to adopt and encourage sustainable housing models. 

The Koda; solar powered movable home. (Source:
Similarly to the flexible apartment floorplans, the practical implementation of movable homes poses to complicate the Responsible Authority’s job in assessing the appropriateness of prefabricated dwellings within the context of the VPP’s and neighbourhood character. Although there is the potential for these innovative concepts to be sited in rear yards of existing dwellings and classified as dependant persons unit (ie except from requiring a planning permit), as soon as we consider having two on the same site, it is subject to requiring a planning permit.

Considering the growing investment into these types of sustainable, ecofriendly and cost-efficient homes, relevant questions I believe worth contemplating include:
  • Should these forms of innovative dwellings be held to the same standards as regular dwellings when assessing its context against neighbourhood character and the VPP’s?
  • Does the Responsible Authority have the statutory mechanisms to consider and approve such innovative and adaptive forms of housing? 
  • What areas/municipalities are most suited to accommodate and consider these types of housing options?
  • What mechanisms can be adopted by the Responsible Authority to reduce potential ‘red-tape’?

Designing Social Housing Renewal

By Mark Sheppard. 

Figure 1: Designing Social Housing Renewal
DLA is currently assisting both Victorian and NSW governments with the renewal of a number of social housing estates. We have developed a series of urban design principles to guide the master planning of social housing precincts to supplement general urban design principles for urban renewal (such as responsiveness to the context, placemaking, permeability, legibility, mixed-use, public realm quality, amenity and so on) and social planning principles associated with housing estate renewal (such as social : private housing mix).

Our best practice urban design principles for social housing estate renewal fall into three categories: normalise, enhance and integrate.


Historically, public housing has been concentrated in estates which stand out from ‘conventional’ urban fabric by virtue of their design. In many cases, public housing estates have been used as ‘guinea pigs’ for experimental architectural ideas which have been failures. This exacerbates the stigma associated with such estates, and deters non-residents from visiting or passing through them, further reinforcing their social isolation.

Several of the unconventional design ideas adopted in public housing estates have resulted in uninviting and unsafe environments. For example:
  • The circulation network within many public housing estates is impermeable and illegible. This deters through-movement, which reduces passive surveillance and, consequently, personal security, as well as social integration.
  • The open spaces within public housing estates are often ill-defined, poorly surveilled, sometimes in secluded locations that are disconnected from main movement routes, and poorly looked after, discouraging their use and lessening their safety.
  • The base of public housing buildings often lack activation, passive surveillance and a sense of address, reducing the appeal and safety of the surroundings.
  • The external design of public housing towers often has a bulky form, repetitive façade treatments and poor quality materials, resulting in unattractive buildings which contribute to the stigma of the estate.
In order to tackle these problems, new buildings, streets and open spaces must be indistinguishable from ‘conventional’ urban streets, public open spaces and buildings. They must be ‘sector blind’. This leads to the following principles:
  • Normal streets—create a permeable and legible network of conventional local streets, clearly defined by building frontages and containing footpaths, street trees and kerbside car parking.
  • Normal parks—create local open spaces that lie along local streets, are clearly defined and addressed by building frontages and well landscaped and furnished.
  • Normal buildings—design buildings to address the public realm (particularly at ground level) and to look the same irrespective of whether they contain social, affordable or private housing.

The amenity of public housing estates is often poor. In many cases the housing itself is in poor condition, not suited to contemporary household formations and does not meet modern standards of amenity. In addition, the quality of public open space, community facilities and streetscapes is often poor.

This not only reduces the amenity of the estate for residents, but also exacerbates its stigma.

This leads to the following principles:

  • Better quality housing—build new, fit-for-purpose homes.
  • Better quality parks—upgrade or create new, high quality public open spaces.
  • Better quality streets—upgrade existing streetscapes and ensure new streets have high quality design.
  • Better quality facilities—upgrade or create new shops and community facilities.

Public housing estates are often barriers to through movement, either because of a lack of routes through the estate, or because those routes are indirect, illegible, uninviting or unsafe.

The renewal of a social housing estate can enable the creation of direct through routes to better integrate it with the surrounding urban fabric. This will encourage through movement, bringing passive surveillance and social integration. This leads to the following principle:
  • Through routes—create thoroughfares through the estate that provide direct routes to key destinations
Public housing estates often contain shops, open spaces and other communal facilities ‘buried’ within the estate, where they are only used by residents from the estate. This reinforces their separation from the surrounding community.

The renewal of a social housing estate can enable the creation of new community facilities located where they may be used by people from outside the estate, to contribute to integration. This leads to the following principle:
  • Shared facilities—locate shops, parks and community facilities at the edge of the estate
In order to deconcentrate social housing, it needs to be physically mixed with private housing. How finely social and private housing are mixed is a question of policy and market economics. However, the layout of a renewal area can facilitate mixing by enabling a wide range of different mixing scenarios.

‘Perimeter blocks’, which comprise buildings aligned along street edges around the edge of the block, provide for public and private housing to be mixed in a number of different ways. For example, they enable multiple entries to the same building, abutting buildings in the same block whose entries face different streets, and private and social housing buildings facing each other across a street.

Perimeter blocks also ensure a well-defined and passively-surveilled public realm, and create privacy for private and communal open space in the middle of the block. This leads to the following principle:
  • Perimeter blocks—arrange buildings along street edges around the edge of each block

In summary, best practice urban design in relation to the renewal of social housing estates can be distilled to the following design principles:
  • Normal streets—create a permeable and legible network of conventional local streets, clearly defined by building frontages and containing footpaths, street trees and kerbside car parking.
  • Normal parks—create local open spaces that lie along local streets, are clearly defined and addressed by building frontages and well landscaped and furnished.
  • Normal buildings—design buildings to address the public realm (particularly at ground level) and to look the same irrespective of whether they contain social, affordable or private housing.
  • Better quality housing—build new, fit-for-purpose homes.
  • Better quality parks—upgrade or create new, high quality public open spaces
  • Better quality streets—upgrade existing streetscapes and ensure new streets have high quality design
  • Better quality facilities—upgrade or create new shops and community facilities.
  • Through routes—create thoroughfares through the estate that provide direct routes to key destinations.
  • Shared facilities—locate shops, parks and community facilities at the edge of the estate.
  • Perimeter blocks—arrange buildings along street edges around the edge of each block.

A Story from The Netherlands: Why People Cycle Everywhere and What We Can Learn from Them?

By Amy Ikhayanti.

The Netherlands, a country of 18 million people, is also a home of 22.5 million bikes [1]. This number doesn’t come as a surprise, considering that the Dutch cycle to everywhere: to school, to grocery store, to another city for a meeting, or even the short distance to the apartment’s communal garbage area. People also use bikes to transport children and goods: from small packages, suitcases, groceries bags, or even a TV. Once you’re used to be a two-wheeler, a bike can become an irreplaceable mode of transport.

Photo 1: Cyclists in The Netherlands
Source: Bike Citizens 

The story of cycling in The Netherlands doesn’t stop there. An integrated public transport and bike system allows commuters and travellers to carry their bikes to the trains, both on normal and peak hours. It doesn’t come free, though. A day ticket for carrying your bike into the train is 6.10[2]. However, you shouldn’t worry if you need a bike as part of your commute. A folding bike is free of additional train charge, but you have to make sure that you fold your bike properly once you’re inside the carriage. Or, if you are reluctant to bring your own bike, you can rent OV-fiets[3] from the train stations for only 3.85 per day[4].

When a cyclist arrives at the city centre, he or she doesn’t have to worry about finding a parking space, somewhere in the centre’s underground parking garage. Many Dutch city centres provide a basement parking for cars to meet the needs of car users, while maintaining car-free area on its shopping streets and squares. A cyclist can always find a parking space right in front of the shop, hop-off the bike and leave as soon as needed without being bothered by parking tickets. 

Going back home on a dark night, you don’t have to worry about the traffic either. There are extensive bike paths all around the city. Where there isn’t any, a cyclist should not worry about the vehicle traffic because bikes get priorities over cars. Nevertheless, you should remember to put on your front and back lights (helmet not mandatory). Otherwise, you may get fined 55[5] by the police!

Changing our setting to Melbourne - what can we learn from The Netherlands to promote cycling as a transport mode?

Photo 2: Cyclists in Melbourne
Source: Sportsbet

Both Melbourne and The Netherlands have a bike-friendly public transport system, along with its own bike share. Melbourne also has an extensive bike path throughout the CBD. However, it is not enough only to have a very good cycling infrastructure at one place. It is also important to have a robust cycling network to the surrounding areas to encourage movements to and from the CBD. It requires not only cooperation with the surrounding Councils, but also a bigger strategy to manage the whole structure, in the metropolitan area and also the whole state.

At the same time, it is also important to promote the advantage of cycling over driving cars. The Netherlands applies a higher tax for gasoline and parking tickets compared to Australia. At the same time, they invest heavily in bicycle infrastructure, from bicycle garages next to the stations to bike paths and bridges [6]. In other words, it’s necessary to create a conducive environment that encourages people to cycle.

Nevertheless, it’s also important to remember that Melbourne (Metropolitan Area) is much larger in size compared to Dutch cities. Considering that many people commute to the CBD for work and study, riding a bike as the only mode of transportation for residents of the outer suburbs can be challenging. As such, a campaign to familiarise public with the use of multi-modal transport system with public transport and bike is crucial.

Looking back, Melbourne has possessed some of the supportive attributes to encourage cycling as a mode of transport. Knowing that, we are perhaps on the right track, anyway.

[3] Fiets is the Dutch word for bikes

Hop Off Pops

By Mark Sheppard.

Zucotti Park at night (Source: Wikipedia, 2017).

No, this isn’t a Dr Seuss rhyming story.  POPS stands for privately-owned public spaces.

POPS are not new.  We’ve had them in our shopping malls and office forecourts for decades.  But with the growing cost of land in our cities we seem to be increasingly relying on POPs rather than publicly-owned spaces to expand our primary public realm.

Does this matter?  Well, that depends on how you want people to act in your city.  If you think it’s really important to make sure everyone behaves within carefully confined parameters and doesn’t do anything that might be provocative (and pays for the right to be in the space by buying a coffee), then POPS are for you.  But if, like me (and John Robert Smith), you think public spaces are where people should be able to express themselves freely, exchange ideas and hang out regardless of their ability to afford frequent caffeine intakes—particularly in an era when digital communication is threatening our culture of face-to-face socialisation—then we should be concerned about the rise of POPS.

Guardian Cities reports that many local governments in the UK are refusing to reveal the extent of POPS and the restrictions on the rights of people who use them.  So not only is our public domain being privatised, but so too is information about that privatisation!

What do you think?  Should we insist that new public spaces are publicly-owned or at least have no additional restrictions on people’s behaviour?

LGBTQI Communities and Effective Planning Practice

By Amelia Zavattaro.

Oxford Street, Sydney (Source: Sydney Your Say)

The current Marriage Equality Postal Plebiscite is a contemporary issue on many of our minds with significant personal meaning for many of us.

Accordingly, it’s prudent to consider the intersection between planning practice and the LGBTQI community beyond the lens of hetero-normative planning discourse. This intersection is often ignored in planning literature and in practice as LGBTQI issues are rarely considered in the public planning process. (Doan 2015, 1)

Professor Petra Doan, a foremost scholar in this area specialises in research pertaining to the global trend towards the demise of identified ‘queer spaces’. Doan ascertains that there is a reluctance in the planning profession to include people within the LGBTQI community as a stakeholder within planning decision making processes. As a result, there is a paucity of data in relation to planning for queer spaces. Doan contends that whether this resistance is the result of explicit heterosexist bias, mere silence or planners’ reluctance to engage with the LGBTQI population, the demise of identifiably queer spaces and neighbourhoods is becoming pervasive. (Doan 2015, 1)

So, what are some contemporary issues facing the LGBTQI community arising from planning practice?

Doan asks us to consider moving beyond the limitations of defining queer spaces as designated neighbourhoods and to view the population as more diverse and mobile than previously perceived. This enables planners to respect existing histories while understanding the nature of the community at large.

The broader issue of social equity in terms of gentrification is another key concern. As traditional queer spaces are gentrified, displacement results for both residents of these areas and existing LGBTQI related services. Once displacement of these services occurs, identifiers of safe and inclusive queer neighbourhoods are removed, rendering it difficult for additional services to enter the area.

The LGBTQI community comprises vulnerable minorities whose needs should be taken into account in planning decisions, especially decisions affecting key areas that feature services and businesses for the community.

Overall as planners, in order to improve communities and our built environments, we need to listen to the social environment around us to understand how the communities that make up our cities live, experience and desire to use spaces.

Finally, this article seeks to raise points asserted by contemporary literature to get us all thinking about how we and others feel safe and use the built space around us. For an in-depth discussion about the role of planning practice and LGBTQI communities, see Planning and LGBTQ Communities: The Need for Inclusive Queer Spaces, ed. Petra Doan (2015: Routledge).


Doan, P (ed), Planning and LGBTQ Communities: The Need for Inclusive Queer Spaces. 2015, Routledge