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 48, September 2001
Rural Residential Development Impact
Rural residential development has both positive and negative impacts. It has to be said that the negative impacts outweigh the positive ones. However, it provides a choice of housing and therefore should be provided but in appropriate areas which do not take away good quality and productive farmland as well as areas of high biodiversity value.
On the positive side it provides for a lifestyle choice for a number of people. It also provides for a place of business for residents who run home offices and for tradespeople who need land to store plant and equipment as well as supplies. It can also contribute to the local economy.
The negative impacts can be broken into financial, community and environmental. These impacts become more problematical as the lots get smaller.
There have not been any recent studies into the costs of providing rural residential development in Australia. However, a study in the United Kingdom compared clustered and dispersed growth. This found that overall, the annual costs would be one third higher for the dispersed settlement pattern than a concentrated one. The study also found that, in terms of public costs, a scattered settlement pattern is 395% more expensive for capital and 236% for ongoing costs than a concentrated one.
There are community costs associated with rural residential development. They include the provision of services and facilities to the areas that are normally located some distance from towns and villages.
The environmental costs associated with rural residential development are connected with the initial development and ongoing use of the land. During construction of a rural residential area, especially rural urban fringe development, there can be clearing of native vegetation and soil erosion and land degradation.
The ongoing impacts of rural residential development stem from the onsite effluent disposal, soil and water management and domestic pets. Most rural residential development has onsite effluent disposal and this can be a concern if there is not sufficient land available for disposal. There is also a concern about the cumulative impact of having a large number of onsite systems in one are as can occur with rural urban fringe. There can be impacts on adjoining bushland from the nutrients coming off the site as well as from weeds. Native wildlife can be eaten by domestic pets.
The building of houses in the rural area can have an impact on the landscape, especially when the land is hilly. The introduction of a number of new buildings can detract from the landscape quality of an area.
Rural residential development can also cause rural land use conflict if it is located in close proximity to intensive agricultural uses. Siting the house too close to the agricultural uses can cause this.
The photo below of Orchard Hills in Sydney's west illustrates the issues. There is a rural urban fringe subdivision of 4000 m2 lots which is separated from the urban area which can be seen in the foreground. You can also see the houses interspersed with the agricultural uses and the proximity of the rural residential development to the creeklines and native vegetation..
Rural Residential Impact
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