Edition 3: November 2023
It takes a village…
Keynote speaker at the NCA launch was Steven Burgess, Australasia’s leading voice regarding people-focused urban movement systems and places. He spoke about place-making – what makes a place great, what challenges planners face and how to begin the process of finding solutions.
Steven’s expertise is based on 30 years of experience as an engineer and urban strategist. His passion is for creating cities for people that can be sustained by vital local economies.
He is a practitioner all over the globe, a published author and a popular
and experienced speaker.
As the population rises, and our policy makers are challenged with
re-thinking our approach, Steven offered some insights into what our
streets could look like. Melbourne’s north is faced with myriad
challenges and there needs to be a holistic approach that includes
transport options and connecting precincts.
Following is a summary of the key points he made during his speech.
When people think about places that are great, there are several themes that are consistent. Their favourite places
are active and walkable. There is little or no car use. Visitors have access to a ‘third place’ or a village.
And there are local services nearby, including medical and pharmacy services, childcare, fresh food, affordable schools
and cafes/hospitality establishments. Importantly, there is greenery and areas to gather.
Neighbourhoods struggle when houses are too far away from services, and there is a high reliance on cars with no walking, no street activity and no housing diversity. In the outer suburbs, residents who believe they have no choice other than driving to their destinations head to the CBD for key services. Bike riders and walkers sometimes feel threatened by motorists, which dissuades people from choosing active transport options.
Melbourne’s north has significant advantages, which include population diversity, a range of different urban settings, jobs and job creation levers, and access to the CBD. But there are opportunities for improvement, particularly in housing diversity, oversupply of road space, and public and active transport. Local government can play a role in solving these issues by building centres, instigating land use options and advocating for transport improvements.
It's important to remember that people traffic and car traffic are diametrically opposed in their needs and requirements. People only spend money and meet other people when they get out of their cars.
To get value from existing villages and centres, they must be car-lite, clean, green and safe. They need to feature medium density and have no minimum parking rate. In fact, the less parking overall, the better they work. Councils should plan for elite quality streets.
To get value from new villages and centres, they need to offer basic services such as medical, fresh food, childcare, banking and postal services. Again, they should be elite streets with little or no parking.
Streets are for people, not machines. Street making is about making shops, offices and houses work better. Places need to be connected. Ideally, there will be frequent transit from suburban villages to urban centres, and rapid transit from urban centres to the CBD. Housing diversity, transport choices, new investment and demographic changes will bring about positive outcomes.
Councils don’t have to resign themselves to a future of low-density housing and driving, but there is no professional guidance available. It’s up to Councils to choose to initiate the improvements required to make great streets.