Planning in India

The Planning Issue has been a bit quiet lately, but thought we would put this up, as it is interesting to consider the challenges for urban planning in countries such as India.

According to the Census projections, between 2015 and 2030, India’s urban population is going to jump from 428 million to 606 million. That means over the next 15 years, India needs to build 22 more cities of the size of Bangalore to accommodate the new urban residents.  The question before us is whether India wants to urbanise in a planned or unplanned way. Does it want rapid urbanisation to turn its cities into growth engines and lift millions out of poverty as was done in China? Or does India want the drift to continue and let the teeming millions turn its habitats into ghettos of deprivation?

The number  of urban planners in India is microscopic. Britain has 38 planners per 100,000 people. In India, the figure is just 0.23. There are several urban local bodies without a single qualified urban planner. There are hardly twenty planning schools. Barring the top two or three, the rest are highly understaffed and the syllabus archaic. The institutional structures of planning are weak and are dominated by an engineering bureaucracy, whose world view frequently hovers within the ambit of ‘tender-contract- project cycle’, with hardly any scope for long-term strategic thinking.

It wouldn’t be surprising if India is not the only place caught with an engineering dominated bureaucracy, that operates on a project-by-project basis, rather than facilitating and resourcing long-term strategic thinking. Hopefully we can see better training for new planners and recognition that planning is critical for rapidly expanding urban areas together with the renewal of existing cities.


World Town Planning Day Online Conference 4-6 November 2015

World Town Planning Day online conference

Register now for the World Town Planning Day Online Conference 4-6 November

Check out the exciting Program for the World Town Planning Day Online
Conference (4-6 Nov).  A team of passionate planners from around the world
designed this online conference 7 years ago to have a ‘truly global’
celebration of World Town Planning Day (8 November).

Hear from more than 50 speakers, from over 25 different
countries and talk about issues related to housing regeneration.  As an Online
Conference, it’s easy to join, and you can access the 44hrs of continuous
presentations, either live-streaming, or catch up on the recordings that
all registrants can access at the conclusion of the conference.

We have an exciting array of speakers including our keynotes:-

– Emeritus Professor Patsy Healey – one of the world’s leading planning
– Ali Grehan – Dublin City Architect
– Honorable Minister Rob Stokes – Minister for Planning NSW, Australia
– Banashree Banjaree – India
– Dr Antonio Azuela – Mexico

Our long list of speakers will be speaking on all topics related to the
theme of Housing Regeneration – governance, legislation, 3D buildings, tiny
houses, delivery of housing, managing informal settlements, adn many, many

Why attend the conference? An online Conference is another opportunity for
you to connect to planners from around the world.  It’s as easy as
register, receive an email, click on the link, and the Conference will open
up on your own computer screen.  No special video equipment or software
required.  Anyone can do it.

How to Register?
Individual Registrations fees start at $10US for students and
$20-50US based on the World Bank Gross National Income Levels Categories.
It’s easy to register by following the instructions on our REGISTRATION

More Information
Email –

The light rail genie is out of the bottle, but how many cities will get their wish?

On track for the future… if enough cities can find the money. 

AAP Image/Dave Hunt

Article by Peter Newman, Curtin University

The federal government’s rekindled enthusiasm for public transport has sent state and local governments across the country scurrying back to their light rail plans – even those that many of us thought would never see the light of day.

It now looks as if the two-year effective moratorium on rail spending under Tony Abbott will be just a relatively brief hiatus. Besides the Gold Coast and Perth, the light rail revival could also involve Newcastle, Parramatta, Bendigo, Canberra, Cairns, Darwin and Hobart.

All have drawn up plans that they hope could emulate the success of light rail in European and American cities (not to mention Melbourne, home of the world’s largest tram system) as a focal point for urban development.

The main reason that so many Australian cities have been trying to copy this model is that it works. Europe has been using light rail as a major tool of urban regeneration, especially in France where many smaller towns have been very successful. In the United States between 1993 and 2011, public transport use grew by 23% (and light rail by 190%), while car use growth peaked.

The key reason for this seems to be the extra speed and capacity created when light (or heavy) rail goes around, under or over traffic that has been getting slower and slower in every major city (see the table below). Meanwhile, urban regeneration around light rail corridors allows people to end their automobile dependence, helping cities grow inwards faster than outwards.

Tony Abbott forced the genie back into the bottle by following through on his 2013 pre-election decision to drop all federal rail funding. The move showed scant regard for how modern cities attract talented people to live and work in the knowledge economy jobs that are so necessary for innovation.

Around the world, cities compete on walkability and public transport, because these things make it less likely that young, creative workers will leave for London, Paris or New York. A recent report from Smart Growth America found that in Boston, 70% of young people working in the knowledge economy live in highly walkable areas. Their jobs typically require them to come together with lots of different people in an urban situation, and they don’t have time for long commutes.

So the knowledge economy needs spatial efficiency. Public transport, cycling and walking are spatially efficient; freeways, traffic jams and urban sprawl are not.

Enough to go around?

This is precisely the phenomenon on which Turnbull has picked up, by stressing innovation and freeing up infrastructure funding for light rail projects. The genie is out again, but obviously there will not be enough money to make every city’s transport wishes come true. So how can we proceed?

Cities now need to make a strong case for their light rail projects, based on the benefits of urban regeneration as well saving commuters time. The best way to do this is to attract private funding as well as taxpayers’ money, by bringing private investors on board with the financing, who then earn a return on the increased land values generated by rail development. This is called “land value capture” and still has not been done in Australia, although it’s common in the United States and Asia.

In fact, one could argue that the federal government should only release Commonwealth funding if these funds are multiplied many times over by the private sector. So cities could begin by calling for expressions of interest from private companies to design, build, finance, own and operate the light rail link and, crucially, make sure this includes land-development options (rather than letting in outside developers to gain windfall profits instead of directing the money into paying for the light rail).

Government would need to contribute a base grant and an operational fund that could be more specifically focused along the areas where the biggest benefits are felt in the corridor itself, where land values will go up most. Private expertise will ensure that the best sites are chosen for the light rail route.

These land-value increases will flow through taxes into treasury and can be set aside in a dedicated light rail fund for ongoing operations or for raising further finance. This way, with a bit of economic magic, the light rail genie could grant more cities their wishes.

Peter Newman, Professor of Sustainability, Curtin University

This article was originally published on The Conversation. Read the original article.

The Conversation

Australia Urban Design Awards 2015

PIA has announced the winners of the 2015 Australia Award for Urban Design.

Winners include:

Brookfield Place, an inner-Perth city block takes out the main gong – the award for a large scale delivered outcome. The project transformed a block left vacant for 30 years into an inviting and engaging public realm.

The Hart’s Mill area in Port Adelaide South Australia takes the award for small scale delivered outcome, and revitalises the wharf surrounds of former milling buildings.

A Melbourne-derived potential smartphone app Home:LIFE takes the award for large-scale concept, representing a cutting-edge collaboration between industry and academia, alongside the Sunshine Coast Light Rail plan that wins for large-scale policy, aiming to integrate public transport into linear coastal urban development.

Fremantle’s Victoria Quay Enabling Precinct Plan takes the award for small-scale policies, programs and concepts, aiming to unlock the potential of the quay, station and park precincts of Fremantle Port to transform them into commercial destinations.

PIA CEO Kirsty Kelly, says she is proud most of the winning urban designs relate to the innovative reuse of spaces for public use, or as is the case with one winner, an innovative web-based planning tool:

“Good urban design creates more attractive, enjoyable and vibrant places for people to live, work and play. High quality urban design is important to improve the liveability as density in our cities increases.” Ms Kelly says, “The economic contribution of urban design is well documented – quite simply, people prefer to spend more time and money in places that are well designed. These awards recognise a range of places that are adding significant social and economic value to their communities.”

“I would like congratulate everyone involved in the projects we celebrate tonight, and thank all those that entered,” Ms Kelly said “By holding the Award each year we remind the community of the critical importance of planning, design and innovation in our ever-changing built environment.”

Delivered Outcome – Large Scale

Award – Brookfield Place

Project Team – HASSELL, Fitzpatrick + Partners & Brookfield

Commendation – Sydney Light Rail Inner West Extension

Project Team –HBO+EMTB Urban Landscape Design, Transport for NSW & Aurecon

Commendation – Dandenong Civic Centre

Project Team – rushwright associates; Lyons Architecture & Material Thinking

Delivered Outome – Small Scale

Award – Port Adelaide Renewal: Hart’s Mill Surrounds

Project Team – Aspect Studios, Mulloway Studio & Renewal SA

Commendation – RMIT University A’Beckett Urban Square

Project Team – Peter Elliott Architecture + Urban Design, Arup, Taylor Cullity Lethlean & DCWC

Commendation – The Jewell of Brunswick

Project Team – Moreland City Council, Victoria Police, Department of Justice & Melbourne Water

Commendation – Sydney Water Mural Program

Project Team – Sydney Water

Policies, Programs & Concepts – Large Scale (Two awards given)

The committee felt that this category divided into two groups – concepts and policies without physicality and those related to place. Two projects were awarded.

Award – Home:LIFE Making Livable Affordable & Sustainable Housing Choices

Project Team – SJB Urban & RMIT University

Award – Sunshine Coast Light Rail: Shaping Our Future

Project Team – Sunshine Coast Council & HASSELL

Commendation – Better Apartments Policy

Project Team – NSW Department of Planning and Environment

Policies, Programs & Concepts – Small Scale

Award – Victoria Quay Enabling Precinct Plans

Project Team – CODA, Fremantle Ports, Allerding & Associates & Creating Communities

Commendation – A Performative Landscape

Project Team – Schored Projects


For more information on the winners and commendations (including citations) click here


Utopia: Series 2 coming soon!

man with broken leg on chair

Series 2 of our favourite satirical drama Utopia will be screening soon on ABC TV. Starting on Wednesday 19 August at 9pm, we hope this series exceeds our expectations. With the tag line: “The multi award-winning satirical comedy about a group of people charged with building this nation – one white elephant at a time” surely it will be a winner!

To see the trailer click here.

Life in a windowless box: the vertical slums of Melbourne

By Ralph Horne, RMIT University and Megan Nethercote, RMIT University

Australia’s apartment boom is in full swing. Nationally, 40% of new dwellings are now apartments or units, and building approvals outnumber those for houses. Melbourne and Brisbane are the most extreme cases, but these trends are national; and they are fundamentally reshaping the future of urban Australia.

In Melbourne, for example, the inner city is being flooded with 1-2 bedroom micro-apartments set in increasingly tall towers (+30 storeys). Almost half are under 50 square metres – not much bigger than a generous double garage. These would be outlawed in other world cities, including Sydney. The Property Council of Australia and much of the industry acknowledges the problem. Victorian Planning Minister Richard Wynne has now released a discussion paper, and there is a plan for new guidelines next year.

The differences between a small one bedroom 42 m2 apartment and a standard one bedroom 50 m2 apartment.
RIBA Homewise – The Case for Space: The size of England’s new homes. Included in Future Living, City of Melbourne, 2013

The market is not delivering what families need, and as a result, future liveability in Australian cities is in jeopardy. Much of the commentary is about size and density. An urgent discussion is also needed about quality and the market.

Reports of “vertical slums” are not entirely unwarranted. Apartments can be great homes – why are ours so mismatched with families and affordability concerns? For working families in the city who need access to services and work, there are few affordable alternatives.

Quality vacuum – a race to the bottom

Many new apartments have bedrooms with no windows, low ceilings and inadequate storage. They have poor access to natural light and ventilation, and underperform on environmental efficiency. Internal amenity of apartments is comparatively under-regulated. Apartment bedrooms without windows, for instance, are illegal in New York, Hong Kong and Vancouver.

An example of the features included in a ‘poor’ housing development.
Future Living, City of Melbourne 2013

Current regulation is failing families and future Australians. Building Code of Australia (BCA) and National Construction Code (NCC) requirements, borne out of original concerns with safety, are seemingly inadequate to the delicate task of ensuring quality while enabling innovation. Even the Guidelines for Higher Density Development (DPCD 2004) fail to provide specific and measurable outcomes, with high-level objectives that are evidently easily bypassed in practice.

Melbourne’s apartment construction boom continues unabated

Marketing airspace – unconstrained towers

A recent report unfavourably compares Melbourne’s high-rise rules to those of world cities. Developers in Melbourne can build at four times the densities allowed in New York, Tokyo or Hong Kong. Moreover, inner city developers are generally under no obligation to contribute to essential public infrastructure, such as affordable housing and community facilities, through density bonus systems. The findings are nothing short of damning, not least for a city that prizes itself, year on year, as the “world’s most liveable city”.

Market-driven urban development “logic” is rarely questioned, but there’s evidence of wholesale market failure. Much of our high density, high-rise apartment stock caters to the local and overseas investor market, enticed by favourable taxation and regulatory regimes. Putting aside concerns about the potential impact of tightening regulations on foreign property investments, many new apartments seem basically unaligned to households’ and families’ changing needs.

Two priorities emerge: for reform, and for understanding changing housing needs.

Reform or regret

Hodyl’s report makes a case for urgent market reforms to establish density controls; density bonuses to link development to public benefit, including open spaces, affordable housing and community facilities and an enforceable tower separation rule to mandate the minimum distances between towers. It also argues that Melbourne would benefit from apartment standards.

In Sydney, guidelines and processes have long been in place to regulate minimum apartment sizes, maximum numbers of apartments per floor, requirements for window provision, minimum floor-to-ceiling heights and minimum storage sizes (SEPP 65).

Reforms towards “good design” pre-suppose an understanding of the future occupants of apartments and their housing needs. A recent study found “good design” is a reasonably uncontroversial concept: it is design that accommodates changing household comfort and needs, and contributes positively to the environment, health, wellbeing and safety.

A current study called the LATCH Project is underway to determine changing household needs and the everyday experiences of inner-city apartment dwellers, including families.

The research reveals the huge diversity of households – future apartment dwellers are not just single-person households and empty-nesters. They need daylight, functioning kitchen spaces, storage, nearby schools and open space. Things that currently fail to align with high-density developments across our cities.

The Conversation

Ralph Horne is Deputy Pro Vice Chancellor, Research & Innovation; Director of UNGC Cities Programme; Professor at RMIT University.
Megan Nethercote is Research Fellow at the Centre for Urban Research at RMIT University.

This article was originally published on The Conversation.
Read the original article.

Tactical Urbanism in Action

chalk rainbow Oxford St path

If you have not heard of tactical urbanism, you may be missing one of the latest urban trends.

Tactical urbanism refers to low-cost, temporary changes to the built environment, usually in cities, intended to improve local neighbourhoods and city gathering places. Tactical urbanism may also be referred to as guerilla urbanism, pop-up urbanism or D.I.Y. urbanism.

Place Partners in Sydney is a strong advocate of interventions that create better places for people and recently held a workshop to look at tactical urbanism opportunities in one of Australia’s best known urban streets: Oxford Street, Sydney (home of the Sydney Mardi Gras).

people at whiteboardpresentation on screen

A workshop facilitated by Kylie Legge of Place Partners and Ryan Reynolds of Gap Filler was held at the end of February. From this workshop three ideas for action were decided upon:

Bringing the Rainbow Up Oxford Street

chalk rainbow Oxford St Sydney

With Mardi Gras approaching, it seemed like a great time to bring back the much loved Rainbow Crossing to Oxford Street – but this time, in a much safer way!

The proposal was to colour a chalk rainbow on the black asphalt between South Dowling Street and the Verona Cinema on the City of Sydney side (we did not want to install on expensive bluestone that would put the Council offside). This was a great way to test a response – if it was well liked by the public, we may be in a better position to lobby for a more permanent installation. The project draws on the goodwill associated with Mardi Gras and would hopefully pull some people a little further up Oxford Street than they would otherwise go for a great photo opportunity, in a space of relatively low-patronage.

UPDATE: This project has been completed and was up for one week before the Council removed it after Mardi Gras. The photos and a summary have been sent to the City of Sydney to suggest a permanent installation (with paint) nearby. Please contact Chris at if you have any other ideas for projects elsewhere on Oxford St.

Shopfront Art Gallery

The Shopfront Art Gallery will be utilising shop windows to place some great artworks in otherwise overlooked spaces along Oxford Street. The project will collaborate with UNSW Art and Design to take care of insurance, liability, selecting the students/artist, hosting the website and the potential to sell work. The second step will be site assessment and contacting owners, including spaces such as the old box office at Verona, or the empty shop at Willow. Then… installation!

Manpower required: Some really great artists to put their hands up as well as people to help out with install. Three people on the team currently.

Timeline: Aiming to have talked to UNSW Art and Design and decided on formalities/project set up within one week. Aiming for at least 4 installations done within one month.

Contact: Please email Nam at ASAP to offer your time.

Oxford Street Story Telling

What would happen if Oxford Street had a voice? Rather than growling ‘For Lease’ or ‘Stop’, what if the street suddenly serenaded us with positive messages or inspiring quotes from literature, film and fashion? The aim of this project is to activate rundown walls and under used spaces on Oxford Street through the use of poetic, thought provoking, attention grabbing words. These will be applied to selected areas as pasteups.

Manpower required: We need people to help come up with the quotes, design, any of the graphics and help choose the location of installations. Any help would be appreciated! So far there are 5 people on the team.

Timeline: Aiming for minimum 4 installs within one month, hoping for 8. Send through your ideas to get this project moving immediately!

Contact: Please email Ariella at ASAP to offer your time.


If you are interested in being involved in any of these Sydney-based projects, please contact the people above, or email if you have an idea for another project.

We look forward to hearing more about the latest tactical urbanism installations in Sydney and elsewhere.