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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 36, September 1998
Growth Management Strategies for Small Towns
In the April issue I talked about the importance of preparing strategies for local planning. However, it is easy to say and harder to do! Believe me I have been there and done that. So here are some observations of the issues involved based on experience gained from preparing Growth Management Strategies. Of course it is a rather complex issue and the following are some basic ideas.
This whole issue is linked to one of growth management. Growth can be vertical or horizontal. We call vertical growth management urban consolidation and horizontal growth management urban sprawl. In rural and fringe areas we are more concerned about the horizontal rather than the vertical growth. We cannot put up a "no vacancy" sign and have no growth. What is needed is managed growth and the preparation of local strategies allows for this to occur.
We all want to be in control of our destiny and by preparing locally based Strategies we can achieve this. We live in a democracy and the people affected must be involved in the decision making. It is easier to get consensus if you involve people. There is a saying that goes "Tell me and I'll forget, Show me and I may remember, involve me and I'll understand." I think this is an important thing to remember when preparing growth management strategies, especially for towns.
One thing that sticks in my mind from the University days is what I call the planners' idiom - Survey Analysis Plan. In other words, we need a good understanding of the land and issues before we prepare the strategies. So you should have as much information available as possible in the form of reports and maps etc.
To ensure that the community is involved you have to get a group of interested local people. This should be sourced from the Councillors, business, community and environmental groups as well as any other groups that may be around. This group will be the advisory group for the project and will be the voice of planning in the community. The group should meet at least monthly, more frequently if possible. It is used to explain the complexity of the issue and to be a sounding board for the various development scenarios and options prepared. To be effective this group needs to be aware of the issues facing the area and will have to spend some time in the field.
Options are then presented and discussed with the advisory group and a consensus reached as to the desired course of action. You must consider the implications of traffic generation and management, the commercial centre and all of the social and recreation needs of the future community. The final strategy will be in the form of a document and maps. The advisory group then presents the strategy to the Council. If possible, get a group member to do the presentation instead of the planner. The Council will be more convinced if someone presents it not on staff. I can't explain why, but it is true.
Then comes the fun and games - the exhibition. It is essential that you are prepared for this and have worked out a strategy with the advisory group before you go the Council for endorsement. This should include the production of a document, maps and a brief handout, which can be either in colour or black and white depending on the budget. But it has to include a map of the area showing the areas of growth as well as some instructions about making a submission. If possible, the information should also be put on the Councils Web site. The exhibition should be held in as most accessible places as possible - Libraries, shopping centres, and the Council Chambers. It is also important to hold an information forum in the area affected from the hours of 3.30 to 7.30 pm on a weeknight, or on Saturday morning or both (public meetings should be avoided). The planners as well as members of the advisory group should attend the forum. The benefit of an Information Forum is that it allows for individual attention to be given to members of the public and they can come when it suits them and not a predetermined time. Public meetings do not afford all people of the ability to have their say and ask questions.
Once the submissions have been received the advisory group who will make a recommendation to the Council on the final outcome of the document should first review them. Once finalised there is a need to publicise and make available the finished document. Funds and resources must be provided to allow for the speedy implementation of the Strategy so that it does not gather dust. It is also important to have the Strategy adopted by the Department of Urban Affairs and planning so that the delegations can be used to process the LEP's that will follow.
The preparation of Strategies allows for the community to share in a vision for the future of an area. It should include the community in the preparation and have a comprehensive exhibition. I'll warn you, this process is difficult, frustrating and complex. But extremely rewarding once it is finished.
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