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Australian Rural Planning
A View From The Edge
Issues in Rural and Metropolitan Fringe Planning

Ian Sinclair,
Principal Consultant, Edge Land Planning
Rural and Environmental Planning Consultants

As published in New Planner, The Magazine of the Planning Profession in NSW
Number 34, April 1998
The Importance of Preparing Strategies for Local Planning
"Failing to plan is planning to fail." "Planning is not about predicting the future but being prepared for it." and "If you don't know where you are going, you might end up somewhere else". We have all heard these sayings and, to me, they cut to the essence of what we do as Planners. The one thing that all of these have in common is the fact that we should have a plan for the future so that the residents of an area know what is going to happen, how and when.
This is nothing new or revolutionary to the Planning profession. The Department of Urban Affairs and Planning have been encouraging Councils to prepare Strategies for the future of areas for some time. The preparation of a Strategy gives the Council and Community as well as the State Government a vision for the future. There are two broad types of Strategy - one that provides guidance for the development of an area and one that provides a philosophy and policy direction for a specific issue. Examples of the former are town expansion strategies or rural residential strategies. Examples of the latter are Sustainable Agriculture or Heritage.
Preparation of Strategies
The preparation of Strategies has major importance for Rural and Fringe Metropolitan areas as these areas are under increasing pressure to alter the land use and to permit more subdivision for rural residential and urban housing. It is important not to "rush in" and rezone land without first considering the wider implications of the development and outlining a process for it to occur. As discussed in a previous issue, we should be doing our planning in a holistic sense and look at the impact on the entire catchment rather than piecemeal subdivision of land.
The preparation of a Strategy allows you to do this. A Strategy can give an indication of the future use of the land. It can also identify the steps that are needed to achieve that land use change. Strategies can outline the issues that have to be considered in a LES as well as the likely further studies and timing of the release of the land. The Strategy should also conform to a structure and hierarchy of other Strategies. For example, a Growth Management Strategy for Wollondilly Shire, being a local Strategy has to conform with the Regional Strategies such as the Metropolitan Strategy as well as the Sydney to Canberra Corridor Strategy. It should also conform to the Council's own Corporate Strategy. It is important for this to occur because there is a need for all players to share a common vision and work toward that vision as it affects the specific circumstances of the organisation. Once prepared, the State Government should endorse the Strategy so that it is implemented consistently.
Importance of Community Acceptance
Any Strategy needs to have the acceptance of the community so that they understand and abide by it. The Community should be involved in the process from the start. It is also important to have a lengthy exhibition period with a number of information forums.
The success of any Strategy depends on the ability to have it implemented. It must provide sufficient information to enable people to envisage, for example, the future development pattern. It should also give an indication of the issues that have to be looked at for the development of the land. It is also important to stick to the broad concept of the Strategy whilst allowing for minor changes of direction as the Strategy is being implemented.
A Strategy should also give an indication of a Council's corporate philosophy and how it will deal with land use issues. It is more than an objective in a LEP. The LEP merely gives advice on the submission and assessment of a development application. It does not give an indication of the Council's attitude to a particular type of development. A Strategy does. Examples of this range from Tourism to Industry to Agriculture to Heritage. All issues that affect the assessment of development applications but which should also be in a Council's Corporate as well as Development Assessment Planning instruments.
Strategies that give an indication of the future land use should be included in the development assessment process. A new intensive agricultural development should not be approved in an area designated as future rural residential in a Strategy because it is very likely to cause rural land use conflict. This can be done either formally by introducing it as a head of consideration or informally by using it to augment the assessment heads of consideration.
The preparation of a Strategy gives the Council an indication of the future use for an area or the philosophy for a particular issue. It will lead to community acceptance and good development. After all isn't that what we as planners strive for?
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