Urban, Regional and Local Planning

Planning has traditionally been an activity carried out in “back rooms” by presumed “experts”. Even the ranks of independent experts the media runs to for comment on planning matters have all the appearance of a closed shop. Yet in the potentially democratising backwaters of the World Wide Web, interested amateurs invest significant personal effort developing long term plans, none more so than for rail transport, raising ideas that professional planners would not dare mention in developed countries like Australia. One great obstacle the amateurs face is the lack of access to the expensive commercial tools which are the standard working kit of those employed as planners at all levels of government, agencies, institution and consulting companies, so the amateurs have to labour considerably to produce even basic planning maps.

Of course, many good things have been delivered by the planning oligopoly. The politically conservative Lord Mayor of Melbourne has enthusiastically adopted the human-centric approach to urban planning of Danish architect Jan Gehl, making a commitment that “great streets make great cities” and seemingly moving on from a half century of planning for the comfort of cars and the view from aircraft. The Victorian government put its Planning Maps Online, giving anybody who wants it access to all the zoning and planning overlay data that should be taken into account in what has been a generally workable process for approving proposed developments on private land. The only downside there is the historical accident that Victoria delivered ahead of Google Maps providing a soon dominant model for how ordinary people learnt to utilise online maps which is far from the way the Victorian planning layers are accessed.

The Kororoit Proponents have a broad interest in the whole process of planning for public land use, public infrastructure corridors, venues and public services in general. As mentioned under Community Consultation, we are all too familiar with the great weakness in that process as practiced but optimistic that this is an area where the democratising potential of the internet has the most potential to make a real difference. We particularly take on board the potential coexistence in the virtual world of very long term strategic planning alongside detailed planning for impending works in local precincts, all informed by a strong body of accessible contextual knowledge. Guided by the success of the open source software model in delivering the infrastructure of the internet itself and many other things, we see planning processes moving into the same open domain, being particularly optimistic because software and planning share the characteristic of clear validation criteria.

Our “Putting Community Knowledge in Place” Special Session at the November 2010 Melbourne Knowledge Cities World Summit examined planning issues at levels from a local environmental trail network in the heart of Melbourne’s west to our major cities’ heavy rail networks.