Role of Planning
That main question driving planning in theoretical debates is ‘what is good planning?’ The under lying issues which add to the scale of the question include such questions as; what results in good planning? Urban form? The procedure? Power? Justice? Equity? All of these questions are the foundation for the extensive research and thought that has gone into planning theory.
Planning as a profession does not have any set in stone guidelines for process/decision making etc. As a profession planning is wide ranging and diverse in nature. Because of this openness, there is a lot of room for interpretation of existing ideologies and many theories interlink and overlap making the process of understanding ‘what good planning is’ become difficult to pinpoint and more importantly defined to town planners in the profession.
Planning is the profession, which links the community with the government through urban form. Due to this ideas of equity within urban planning have increasingly become more dominant at a national level (Alexander n.d.). The prominence of planning to the community is outlined by Alexander;
Increasingly, a citizen’s real standard of living, the health of himself and his family, his children’s opportunities for education and self-improvement, his access to employment opportunities, his ability to enjoy the nation’s resources for recreation and culture…are determined not by his income, not by the hours he works, but by where he lives (Alexander n.d.).
Urban planning, which theoretically guides development and overall layout of the metropolitan area has direct responsibility for a persons welfare and standard of living even though they have no link with a persons personal finance (Faludi 1973).
There has been an emergence of three main streams of planning theory; the urban form debate, the procedural debate and the analytical debate. All theories have a basic foundation on the way in which planning is practiced and trying to understand what constitutes ‘good planning’ (Yiftachel 1991). The most relevant theory to urban sprawl at this point is procedural theory. Procedural theory is the characterisation of planning decision making, it is a focus on the decision making process. Procedural theory must be the ‘envelope over substantive theories in practical operation of planning’ (Faludi 1973). This debate is linked with the other planning theories and these links can become clear whilst analysing the process of decision making from a theoretical point of view. The procedural debates due to their vastness in nature does not only apply to planning theory, it stems into other academia such as the ‘field of decision making theories.’ (Yiftachel 1991).
Within the procedural debate, there are several decision-making theories, which play a significant role in theorising planning from this perspective. One of which is the design process. This theory is based on inspiration as an over arching guidance role that constitutes and results in good planning. The backbone of this approach is the idea advocated by Geddes; ‘survey before plan’. This dominated planning until the 1960s (Yiftachel 1991). The validity of this approach was weakened throughout the 1970s when wide ranging effects that planning decisions have on the wider community was recognised and accountability to the general public was increasing (Yiftachel 1991). This approach was adopted by the 1930 plan in Western Australia (Yiftachel 1991).
The second is the rational comprehensive planning approach. ‘A good planning process is rational, scientific and comprehensive (Yiftachel 1991). It is based on clear objectives, which are based on public input/interest. This approach represents an evolution of the design approach. There has been a lot of criticism of this type of approach but it has been the most dominant and most used by planners in the field (Yiftachel 1991). This was the basis of the corridor plan and the Stevenson and Hepburn plan 1955 (Yiftachel 1991).
Further on in related theory comes the mixed scanning approach. This approach is based upon compromise between comprehension and incrementalism (Yiftachel 1991). It is a compromise between great attention to detail and the broad brush type of approach. The areas, which require great attention to detail, need to be identified in this approach for the desired ‘good planning’ process to be reached.
Other approaches include the transactive planning approach, which is based on client/ customer service/focus (Yiftachel 1991). The Advocacy planning approach which sets out that disadvantaged groups needed to be assisted then it can push general planning in a better direction (based on the ideas of equity) (Yiftachel 1991).
It is clear that from this procedural focus on planning methods that there is a great diversity in ideologies within the planning profession and there are many options for planning authorities to try to achieve the basic foundation of the profession which is achieving good planning.
Theory in Perth
Planning in Perth has been based on two early urban planning schemes. The Stephenson/Hepburn plan 1955 and the Corridor plan 1970. Later the Metropolitan Region Scheme has been the evolution of these two earlier plans. The Stephenson Hepburn plan was based more on professionals than the general public. The 1955 plan in its process recognise the importance of consensus (Yiftachel 1987) but it was not focused on the public. The way in which the plan was evaluated was by professionals and politicians to give parliament feedback about the document before it was gazetted. Stevenson Hepburn plan involved a lot of influential figures in plan preparation in order to gain more support. Even at the time public consensus was recognised as beneficial to the planning process but it was never really achieved (Yiftachel 1987).
The planning commission was dominated by technical professionals: three engineers, two architects and a surveyor were amongst the commission’s eight members (Yiftachel 1987). Many people supported the ‘professional’ dominance of the decision making body because it denied political intrusion. It was seen by many, that for the planning profession to operate effectively, politics needed to stay out of planning. It was seen that highly skilled professionals, (planners) should not be influenced by a non- professional body (Yiftachel 1987). It appears as though planners were again in the difficult position of being an unbiased, neutral professionals mediating amongst opinionated and often uninformed groups/people (Yiftachel 1987). Again in this instance the role of planning and planners was unclear and debatable with only theories to guide them.
The fairness and equity that was achieved in both the corridor plan and the 1955 plan is again questionable. Both plans could be seen as ‘basically responding to the requirements of capital and successfully implemented only when in accord with capital forces’ (Yiftachel 1987). Inequity was addressed only to a small degree and this contradicts the notion that planning is fundamentally a social reform mechanism. It is noted that planners generally come from a middle class background and therefore have middle class values (Yiftachel 1987). There was a belief throughout the preparation of both plans that any macro economic improvement would have a ‘trickle down effect’ on the community (Yiftachel 1987). This means that all classes would feel economic benefits if the society did as a whole. There are many flaws to this theory such as imbalances in resource allocation, place of residence, unemployed etc. The 1955 plan had a general priority to cater for the industrialists, while the corridor plan facilitated for the real estate investors (Yiftachel 1987).
The corridor plan claimed to be fully guided by its procedure while there were elements of procedure in the 1955 plan (Yiftachel 1991). The 1955 plan showed elements of rational and comprehensive decision making when it focused on future etc ‘pre-occupation with the urgent problems of the present tend to prevent rational thinking about the future (Stevenson and Hepburn 1955). However the plan showed no alternative solutions or identifying the impacts on various groups (Yiftachel 1991).
The corridor plan provided studies that showed that the corridor plan was the best option for the Perth metropolitan region (Yiftachel 1991). The corridor plan although claimed to be focused on the public, like the 1955 plan it only focused on bureaucrats and only exposing the plan to the public after its completion (Yiftachel 1991). The corridor plan was the real basis for the sprawling nature of the city. The corridor plan, although showed process as the basis for decision making lead to four corridors promoting sprawl and car dependence in the future. However it got a lot of support from influential characters because land investors benefited greatly from the nature of the plan. Taking up more land for more housing developments, thus increasing the value of land on the urban fringe.
There has been an inherent lack of public participation in the history of urban planning in Western Australia, which has lead to shaping the metropolitan region today. The main result of these plans has been a sprawling metropolis which is very car orientated. It has now become clear in planning that urban sprawl in unsustainable and has become an issue, when does it stop? The latest initiative by the planning body (WAPC) has been dialogue with the city. Dialogue with the city occurred in 2003 and 1,100 people participated in what is claimed to be the ‘biggest interactive consultation ever held in the southern hemisphere (DPI 2007). And it appears to be focused very strongly on process. It was focused on building a new plan ‘Network City’ and was focused strongly on transport issues and creating the most liveable city (good planning). Some main findings included:
- 80% of people wanted to decrease car dependency
- 75% wanted to the government to invest more money to tackle car dependency
- 80% wanted to live in single detached dwellings (DAP 2007)
There is a contradiction in the public findings here. They want to decrease car dependency, maintain low density development, and protect the environment, all of the issues of urban sprawl yet they definitely did not want an urban growth boundary or any real action to slow urban sprawl. This shows the downfall of high levels of public participation, a contradiction in objectives was achieved and planners will need to work with this in attempt to achieve a desirable plan.
Historical background: shifting planning approaches
The history of metropolitan planning in Perth dates back to 1955, when the first metropolitan plan for the city was completed, the Stevenson and Hepburn Plan of 1955, (Hedgcock & Yiftachel 1992 p. 132). The plan advocated a fairly compact urban form with a focus on a single large city centre and a secondary centre in Fremantle (Hedgcock & Yiftachel). Originally strong rail and bus services were to be developed to service the centres. The plan recommended that Perth’s new suburbs expand at an average density of twenty dwellings per hectare (compared to today’s average of about eight dwellings per hectare) (Hedgcock & Yiftachel 1992 p. 132).
By the year 2000 Perth was expected to reach its ‘ultimate physical size’ beyond which further growth was to be channelled into other urban centres, such as Joondalup, Rockingham, Armadale and Midland. However in the 1960s with the growing dependency of car ownership the Stevenson and Hepburn plan was translated into Perth’s first statutory metropolitan plan, The Metropolitan Region Scheme of 1963. (Hedgcock & Yiftachel). Following this the Corridor Plan departed even more markedly by four main counts
- Advocating a decentralised city which could channel indefinite physical expansion into four main corridors;
- A control on city centre employment growth;
- The establishment of subregional centres to function as city centres in the corridors and
- Increased facilitation of the automobile at the expense of public transport, particularly the rail system.
The problems with the Corridor plan have exposed a serious flaw in the structure of Perth’s Metropolitan planning system where Perth’s metropolitan planners are unable to effectively control the form, structure and function of the metropolitan region. This is predominantly due to Perth having 26 local authorities, however no real concern for metropolitan issues. It is argued that under the current system, metropolitan planning has in many respects ceased to exist. The weakness of the system, as described by Yiftachel and Kenworthy, is inadequate legislation, intra-governmental conflicts, a lack of political will and a lack of leadership in metropolitan planning from state bureaucracies, plus growing local opposition to many of the directions mapped out by metropolitan planners (Hedgcock & Yiftachel 1992 p. 137).
Outcome of Sprawl
Sprawl is unhealthy because it is destructive to agricultural land and precious habitats, its non-porous surfaces increase run off, which damages waterways, and its freestanding homes are inefficient with regard to energy and infrastructure costs (Arkley 2006, p. 18). Sprawl is car-dependant with increasingly long commutes, which in turn adds to global warming (Martinuzzi, Gould & Gonzalez 2007). Sprawl leads to social problems because it isolates people, a majority of whom are obese, like urbanism itself (Moran 2006). It lacks culture and community because it lacks density and a sense of place (Mc Gregor & Garbutt1990). Additionally the cost of sprawl is borne not by the sprawlers but by the whole population. Most importantly it is argued that the ecosystem and the infrastructural system cannot support the predicted increases in population if that population sprawls (Arkley 2006, p. 32).
The case for sprawl is politically underpinned by economic liberalism and a suspicion of any regulatory planning that inhibits individual rights vested in land. Additionally, if one accepts conventional economic modelling, sprawl is cheap to build and thus democratically enables people to enter the real-estate market (Arkley 2006). In his 2004 book ”Car Wars”, historian Graeme Davidson describes how, in the post war era, Australian suburban landscape was ”systematically remodelled to accommodate the car” (Davidson 2004, p. 24). According to Professor Peter Newman, director of the institute of Science and Technology Policy at Perth’s Murdoch University, there is a ”widespread consensus” that we need to curb our addiction to the car. He says that ‘…worldwide, motor vehicles are responsible for around 13 per cent of the greenhouse gases produced by human activity… the annual cost of traffic congestion is estimated to be $13billion, rising to $30 billion by 2015, and transport emissions are forecast to increase by almost 40 per cent over the next 20 years…” (Furguson 2000, p. 12).
Can and should Urban Sprawl be restricted further?
Burton has concluded that higher density urban form (the compact city) could have negative impacts on four aspects of social equity including less domestic space, lack of affordable housing, increased crime levels and lower levels of walking and cycling, but can offer benefits in improved public transport use, reduced social segregation and better access to facilities (Burton 2001). Housing costs appears to be a key influence on the demand for urban sprawl in two ways. Firstly, particularly in the urban core, being in an area of affordable housing was a frequently cited influence on choice. Alternatively amongst movers to the suburbs and periphery, ‘trading up’ was the most frequently cited reason for moving. The control of urban sprawl is one of the key issues challenging planners in many countries (Faludi 1973). The debate is often expressed in terms of urban containment and the search for compact cities. Controlling urban sprawl and encouraging urban regeneration remain, as some doubts as to how much further market forces can be directed towards the production of more compact cities (Couch & Karecha 2006). In Perth particularly market forces continue to represent a major challenge to policy makers in promoting the compact city (Couch & Karecha 2006).
Emily Talen and Cliff Ellis in the article ‘Beyond Relativism’ argue that the search for a theory of good city form should be given a more prominent place in planning theory alongside theories of planning as a process. Underlying planning’s diffident and cautious attitude toward normative theory are philosophies suggesting that facts are separate from values, beauty is subjective, there is no human nature, virtues cannot be identified or ranked, and in general ”we cannot tell a good city when we see one” (Talen & Ellis 2002, p. 36). The proposed resurrection of normative form theory will tend to encourage environmental determinism and the naï¿½ve belief that ”complex urban problems can be solved by the redesign of streets, buildings and public spaces” (Talen & Ellis 2002, p. 37).
The history of urban planning shows that one generations ”solution” to the problem, of metropolitan planning, often becomes the next generations ”problem” (Talen & Ellis 2002). The issues raised by Talen and Ellis, in more depth, reveal that the theories of good city form do indeed exist and are deeply relevant to current planning practice. The problem, however, is that such theories have been relegated to the level of urban design, viewed as stylistic or architectural solutions to peripheral problems. Such theories have therefore failed to become integrated as an essential component of mainstream planning theory alongside procedural, communicative, instrumental and other theories for planning (Talen & Ellis 2002, p. 38).
In the absence of a robust theory of good city form, planers have tended to rely on various environmental, economic, and social principles as the basis for pursuing particular spatial patterns (Harries 1997).
Architecture, Urban design and Urban Planning have a coterminous existence as praxis, yet they remain both theoretically and professionally isolated from each other. Urban design is arguably the worst off since it has no professional identity of its own. ”Anybody can claim to be an urban designer, thus opening the gate to charlatans of all description” (Cuthbert 2006, p. 1). Urban design becomes structured on the basis of personal and professional ideologies. Cuthbert argues that Urban Design theory is eclectic, lacking in substance, and indecisive as to its core values and meanings (Cuthbert 2006). In addition what passes for theory is largely divorced from any substantial foundation in the social or
Urban sprawl is a challenge facing many of the world’s cities today. Urban sprawl is not perceived as ‘good planning’ by both planning professionals and the general public (DPI 2007). The connotations for a city such as Perth with sprawling and car dependent attributes are unsustainable and do not contribute to ‘good planning.’ The management control for planners in Perth on this issue is metropolitan planning. The metropolitan plans (Stevenson Hepburn plan, Corridor Plan, MRS, Network City) have been generally procedural focused but have come out with little solutions for urban sprawl. The current metropolitan planning formation, through dialogue with the city, which was entirely procedural in nature, gave no planning solution to urban sprawl. Planners in Perth may have to attempt to combine or utilise other planning theories in an attempt to achieve ‘good planning’ because on a metropolitan level, Perth’s sprawling nature has too many environmental, economic and social downfalls.