Melbourne’s open space system spans property boundaries over public and private lands, and provides key social and ecological services. With significant population growth predicted over the next 50 years, high levels of infill housing will be required. Increasing house sizes and infill development practices are directly modifying the quantity and quality of private open space in inner and middle belt suburbs. The distribution of public open space in Melbourne is uneven, with most inner municipalities, and 6 of 13 middle municipalities, having a shortage of public open space per capita.
Australian cities are some of the lowest density and most car-dependent on the planet: intensified urban development and improved public transport to meet the imperatives of population growth and a low-carbon future is a major challenge. Despite decades of compact city policy there has been little change to the practice of ever-expanding suburban fringe development and freeway building that entrenches and exacerbates car-dependency. One of the major blockages to transformational change has been a lack of design vision that can capture the public imagination for more sustainable urban futures. In 2010 we commenced an ARC Linkage research project called 'Intensifying Places: Transit-Oriented Urban Design for Resilient Australian Cities'. This project seeks to analyse the potentials for Australian cities through developing visions for transit-oriented futures that can achieve broad community acceptance in a democratic framework.
Despite the frequent production of metropolitan strategies in recent years, there has been little examination of how successful they have been in guiding urban growth and change. This is curious considering there are many common features among these plans in pursuing the orthodoxy of the compact city. An examination of the available evidence on the progress and performance of the plans indicates some messy, inefficient, partial and uneven headway. The response of governments to these signals is to make another long-range plan, although a change of government is also a reason for doing this.
One reason for this disjunction is suggested to be the gap between planning proposals and the reality and dynamics of urban development identified when the first of these plans was produced in Melbourne. There is growing recognition of this gap and the need to bridge it. The paper ends by suggesting a couple of current initiatives that could help to do so. Integrating urban research and planning practice may lead to a change in the metropolitan planning process itself and in the nature of the plans.
Urban consolidation has been featured in Australia for over twenty years as a growth management tool to accommodate an increasing population while reducing urban sprawl and preserving open space on the fringes. Although infill development (also known as dual occupancy) has long been possible, and over the present decade, encouraged under new urban consolidation policy, monitoring of the inevitable changes in residential urban form has not occurred. Thus decision support teams in strategic planning cannot offer detailed advice on the implications of the changed patterns of either changed population densities or changes to access to existing infrastructure and services. We report here the results of applying a data integration framework and tool for systematically detecting infill pattern changes, land parcel by land parcel, first devised and applied to data from the City of Monash. The synthesis presented here refers to infill mapping in different local government areas in the Middle and Outer regions of the Melbourne Metropolitan Area (MMA), including Monash, Knox, Casey, and Whittlesea local government areas. Thus the utility of infill mapping for urban development monitoring and urban planning can be discussed in reference to the MMA as a whole.