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 53, December 2002
Sustainable Growth Management for Sydney - the Issues
The issue of sustainable growth management for Sydney is one that has received a lot of discussion lately. This is the first of two articles dealing with this matter. This one will present the broad issues and the next one will outline the mechanisms that can be used to achieve sustainable and managed growth of Sydney.
First of all we must consider some of the facts about Sydney's population and growth. Sydney currently has population of 4 million people and is growing at a rate of 55,000 people per year. It is projected to reach 4.5 million by 2013. The average household size is decreasing. It reduced from 2.9 to 2.7 in the 15 years to 1996. This means that there will be more houses with the new population compared to the past growth. Western Sydney is the fastest economic growing region in the country. 30 percent of new houses are currently built on the fringe which is a change from 40 percent 5 years ago.
I will be looking at Sydney's growth from the perspective of the rural land and its future. The main question that I would like to pose is how do we manage the rural land on the fringe? Is it all to become housing estates or can we provide a mixture of some agriculture, some native vegetation and some rural living opportunities as well as some urban development? I am not saying that we should not have urban development on the fringe - merely that we should be providing urban consolidation in conjunction with the fringe development and that the fringe development should be balanced with the rural areas to provide a better landscape outcome than at present.
The residents of the inner parts of Sydney are saying that they do not want high or medium density development because of a loss of amenity, loss of open spaces and bushland, overshadowing and an increase in traffic generation and pollution. I would like to point out that they have existing infrastructure that can be accessed - something that is not present in the newer developing areas on the fringe. It has historically been provided after the development - particularly for transport and some social facilities and services.
The issues that have to be addressed can can be grouped into 2 broad headings of Environmental Opportunities and Constraints and Social and economic factors. Underlying all of the issues is the philosophy of Ecologically Sustainable Development (ESD) and Total Catchment Management (TCM). The arrows on the figure show that all of the issues are interrelated and one cannot be considered in isolation from the other. This is shown on the following figure.
Social and Economic Factors
The pattern of development, the density and its aesthetic appearance and urban design need to be considered.
The economic development of Sydney's fringe includes tourism as well as the traditional institutional, manufacturing and commercial uses. The productive agricultural land and the benefits of the climate also must be considered. This can be linked to the existing tourist uses and the success of the Hawkesbury Harvest and the increasing number of farmer's markets add to the importance of having some agriculture.
There is an increasing number of people moving to the fringe of the region living on "lifestyle" rural residential lots of 1 to 2 ha. These people are saying that they want to stay as they are and not have any of the contemporary urban development any where near to them.
Infrastructure must be considered and this includes roads, buses, trains and water and sewerage systems. Social facilities and services and the ability to provide quality of life for residents in the area is also an issue.
Environmental Opportunities and Constraints
The environmental opportunities constraints on the fringe of Sydney include the large amount of native vegetation and biodiversity habitat which must be conserved.
The quality of the waterways is important and needs to be continually improved. This is related directly to the use of the land.
The rural landscape and heritage values are an issue. This is something that is taken for granted - particularly the landscape and it is only when it has changed that people complain about it.
The natural hazards such as bushfires, flooding, salinity and acid sulfate soils need to be considered.
So it can be seen that the issues that need to be addressed are complex and need to be considered in a balanced manner. The mechanisms to provide for efficient growth management within the Sydney region are complex and need to be considered as a whole rather than a number of small parts. The next article will outline and discuss these mechanisms that can be used to achieve sustainable and managed growth of Sydney.
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