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 67, September 2006
Settlement Hierarchies
One of the key issues that we have to deal with when preparing considering the future for rural areas is the settlements in the LGA and how they will be managed. It is one of the key components of Growth Management.
In order to understand the relationship between the settlements and to provide a strategic context for them, it is appropriate to adopt a hierarchy of settlements. This should be based on the facilities provided in the settlement and the role that it plays, rather than purely a population number. The shopping facilities that are available 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;
  • Weekly shopping is for the basic food and household 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
A hierarchy of settlements can be based on this as well as other factors such as the presence of schools, community facilities and health services. The levels in the hierarchy are outlined below and it is important to note that the highest order centre (Regional Centre), may not be in your LGA. It is also important to note that the relationship is both up and down as both need each other to be sustainable.
  • Regional Centre.This provides a wide range of employment, entertainment and recreational opportunities, a full range of local services as well as higher order services such as Major Hospital, TAFE College as well as a high school and major indoor recreation facility and often has a University campus. It also has regional offices of State Government Departments and Council offices. It has a large mixed commercial area providing service, retail and office uses with a large chain supermarket and a discount department store. It caters for convenience, weekly and comparison shopping. It draws its catchment from the surrounding LGAs.
  • District Centre.This provides a range of employment, entertainment and recreational opportunities, a full range of local services and some higher order services such as high school and hospital as well as a major indoor recreation facility. It has a large mixed commercial area providing service, retail and office uses with a large chain supermarket. It would cater for convenience, weekly and limited comparison shopping. It is the principal centre of the LGA as well as having the Council Chambers. It should be noted that not all areas will have a District Centre - it is used where the Regional Centre is not part of the LGA.
  • Town.This provides a range of local services and variety of employment opportunities in tourism and retail but relies on the District Centre for other opportunities. It has shopping for weekly and convenience shopping. In the absence of a district centre, it may have some professional offices. It may also have a Council branch office.
  • Village.This provides only for convenience needs and typically has only a general store / post office. It may have a primary school.
  • Rural Centre.This is a focal point for the surrounding community and usually has a community hall or bushfire shed. There are generally no shopping facilities or other services in this area.
The adoption of this hierarchy will help to ensure that the community understand where each settlement relates to the other. It will give a level of certainty for the future as well as providing the Council and State Government agencies with certainty for the provision of services and facilities. The photo shows a hierarchy for some of the settlements around Taree on the NSW mid-north coast. In this LGA, Taree is the Regional Centre, the towns are Old Bar - Wallabi Point and Wingham (not shown but inland of Taree), villages are Harrington, Manning Point and Cundletown and rural localities are at Oxley Island and Croki.
Settlement Hierarchy

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