Amenity lives here

I reckon urban planning is the main profession that focuses directly on the amenity, character & livability of places, where people live, work, visit & play.
City Lane, Townsville: planning created this.

My colleague and good friend, Ian Wright, referred me to a recent report from the Bureau of Infrastructure, Transport and Regional Economics, which identifies amenity as a key factor that has shaped the success, form & development of Australian towns. It was a search for amenity that drove (no pun intended) people to the suburbs in the second half of the twentieth century, and it is amenity that is bringing them back to our inner cities in droves now (see what I did there?).

Planning is the profession which is founded in fostering amenity. It arose from dealing with the worst excesses of the industrial revolution, which really eroded the amenity and liveability of cities.

Planning is a public interest profession, based on ensuring the development of our communities benefits the whole community above individual interests. It recognises that there is no guarantee that each individual acting in their own interest will deliver these outcomes, and that intervention in the market is squarely on the agenda to ensure the liveability, amenity and character of our communities along with their economic vitality and environmental performance.

Gold Coast Light Rail: planning made this happen

Planning is the discipline spanning the need to think through our geographical balance and mix of jobs, housing, transport and urban form in a way that promotes the quality, amenity & character of places where we live, work, visit and play. Doing this creates more prosperous (economic), liveable (social) & sustainable/resilient (environmental) communities.

Southbank, Brisbane. A planned place.

It aims to create communities that are fairer (more equitable access to opportunity), and more likely to make us individually and collectively happier & more satisfied with our lives.

Suter Brook Village, Port Moody outer Vancouver. A planned place.

This brings with it risks, and we can probably all quote examples where this agenda has been taken over by vested interests, when groups use the planning system to protect their lifestyle at the expense of better public outcomes. The tension between suburban and urban densities is an obvious case in point. But nonetheless, it is the job of planning and planners to help communities and their leaders work out the best balance on these issue.

So to you who work in the urban planning area and are reading this, take this as a timely reminder that you work where amenity lives! You can do great things to ensure better futures for our communities.

Greg Vann
November 2014


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  1. Ash Parajuli says:

    Great read. Planners can do a lot of great things but are often limited in what they can achieve due to clients having different expectations and trying to convince them to go one way can be difficult.. and there’s always a fine line between managing clients expectation and achieving best outcome.

    • vanndemon says:

      Thanks Ash. Those are all other considerations for sure. They can be managed, as good ideas well expressed have the power to change up the dynamics of negotiating things with other stakeholders. Important not to start with the view that others won’t “get it”, as they often do!

  2. Pingback: Planners just have to outsmart the market. And voters. | briztreadley

  3. Corey says:

    Oh if only you knew what we’re up against. Engineers who care only about vehicle speed and flow, fire departments that care only that their oversized trucks can access the smallest residential area, and finally, politicians who care only about avoiding any and all change to please the squeaky wheels.

    Creating amenity is, first and foremost, about championing change in our communities. This needs strong leadership and the ability to say “no” to people who don’t understand the amenity that planners are trying to create. Creating amenity too often falls victim to political expediency.