March 5, 2013
In his review of Judith O’Callaghan and Charles Pickett's Designer Suburbs: Architects and Affordable Homes in Australia ---Why don’t we design better suburbs?---- Peter Spearritt says that there are five main reasons why can’t we design better suburbs:
Prospective homeowners give more thought to choosing a home and a locality than they do to how the suburb functions in a day-to-day sense. Architects, even when they do pay attention to the client, focus on external appearance, site location and internal layout. Investors focus on likely rents, rates of return and hoped-for capital gains. Developers have no interest in the environment beyond their cul de sac or model estate, other than for marketing purposes. And local council planners have such modest powers that they have to sweet talk developers and transport planners into trying to create a pleasant street environment where people can safely walk to shop, school or public transport.
The result is vast swathes of our outer suburbs that simply lack appropriate transport infrastructure, especially for those citizens without access to cars. We are now building new housing 50 or even 100 kilometres away from city centres in what amount to satellite cities such as Campbelltown (Sydney) or Melton (Melbourne) or the Sunshine Coast.
Governments have remained locked into a car-centric view of suburban transport and they have lost sight of pedestrian movement in the suburbs. Robert Nelson in The grass isn’t greener in the outer ‘burbs at The Conversation says that this outer urban sprawl is:
part due to the inner areas, which don’t want to accommodate more people. Protecting the low density of the inner suburbs of Australian cities, the outer suburbs have grown ever outward...Inner suburbs have made the choice for the outer city by jealously protecting their own low-density living...
A poorer life in the outer suburbs is the logical consequence of our collective mistake, namely to protect the sparsity of established suburbs that enjoy so many amenities