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 45, December 2000
Settlement Strategies
A lot of councils are currently undertaking the preparation of settlement strategies for their areas. The following are my views of the key issues that should be addressed.
So what is a settlement strategy? In my view a settlement strategy is a document that provides an overview of the settlements of the area and provides strategic direction on their interaction with other settlements in the area in a social and economic way. It also deals with the interaction with the environment surrounding them as well as the catchment. It will provide a context for the settlements and will identify which ones are to expand and which are to stay the same. It will give the residents an idea of the role of the settlement and its future.
When preparing a strategy it is important to recognise the concepts of Ecologically Sustainable Development (ESD) and Total Catchment Management (TCM). These are the key concepts to be considered. All of the issues to be dealt with by the strategy can be grouped under two headings:
  • environmental opportunities and constraints
  • social and economic factors
The figure provides a graphic representation of these. It is important to note that each of the four components must be considered together and that you cannot consider one part without looking at the implications on the others.
In order to understand the relationship between the settlements, it is necessary to provide a hierarchy of settlements within the area. This should be based on the facilities provided and role they play rather than purely population. The shopping facilities that are available in the centre are a good starting point. There are three basic shopping trips:
  • Convenience shopping relates to the daily shopping needs of bread and milk as well as newspapers and emergency purchases not done at other times. This is generally done at a general store.
  • Weekly shopping is for the basic shopping needs and is usually done in a chain supermarket.
  • Comparison shopping is the shopping trips done for larger items of household and personal items such as whitegoods, furniture and clothing.
Ideally, the hierarchy should provide for the following settlements:
  • Regional centre
  • District centre
  • Town
  • Village
  • Rural residential
It is not intended to outline all of the characteristics of each of these and it must be recognised that this hierarchy does not strictly apply to all LGA's. Not all areas will have a regional centre, but will have towns and villages. The basic difference between a town and village is the shopping trips. In a town, weekly shopping is available. In a village, only convenience shopping is present. The school is also a good delineator. Villages will have primary schools (some will have no schools) and Towns will have primary and secondary schools. Most LGA's will have a district centre and this can be a town. The major difference being that it will probably have the Council and State Government Departments as well as hospital and major community and recreation facilities. This list can be added to as we think more about it, but the important thing to note is the distinction between the settlement types. The rural residential areas will generally have no commercial activities and will be an area of residential uses on lots ranging from 4000 m2 to 4 - 10 ha.
The strategy should also nominate those settlements that have potential to expand and these should be nominated as towns. Criteria to be observed for the rezonings should be incorporated so that people know what is expected.
As with everything in rural planning, the broad concepts can be applied across the board, but will be slightly different as it is applied to each LGA. The important thing is to clearly identify the hierarchy of settlements and issues to be considered so that people who live there or are thinking of living there know what the future is to be. After all, that is the purpose of the strategy.
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