Intermittent Commonwealth initiatives have included the former Prime Minister’s Urban Design Task Force and its policy manifesto, Urban Design in Australia, 1994, the National Urban Design Education Strategy, 1996, the Australian Local Government Association’s guide to local government, Designing Competitive Places and a Commonwealth Training Manual for Designing and Implementing Performance Based Residential Development. PIA’s Education and Employment Inquiry 2004 identifies a need for improved urban design skills amongst planners in local government, and European experience points to the need for a focus on implementation.
The New Zealand Urban Design Protocol emphasises the importance of training and building capacity at the local government level and some cities such as Wellington are workshopping ways of integrating urban design in local government. The UK Government provides a range of advisory documents on urban design in the planning system: its value, guidance on frameworks, development briefs and master plans, community strategies, local development frameworks and action plans. A recently released Draft European Standard on Urban Design and Safety goes further and suggests that organisational steps are required, including setting up multi-disciplinary working groups of stakeholders, consultation mechanisms and monitoring actions.
So what are we doing?
Closer to home the Victorian, South Australian and NSW governments, through partnerships of Attorney-General and Planning, have developed training kits in Urban Design and Safety including integration into local government. Paul Keating stressed that the focus of our urban design effort should be the public realm. Local government asset and project managers play the greatest role in new and renewed streetscape, parks, squares and footpaths, with recent initiatives of Asset Managers engaging the community in this process.
Urban design charters, frameworks and guidelines require new skills and new processes. Adelaide City Council has trialled such a process with the Urban Design Department collaborating with City Projects, Asset Management, Community Services and Traffic Management to find a way of achieving cross-disciplinary collaboration in scoping, preparing briefs, and project managing public realm projects. The process is more responsive to social, cultural and environmental settings and the range of disciplines that should be involved:
- Land use
- Urban design
- Environmental management
- Movement and access
- Asset management and
- Economic development. A new ‘Scoping Process’ was adopted to assist in the delivery of the City’s Capital Works projects:
- Project identification from a number of city strategies eg a Skate Park from the Social Development Strategy
- Scoping Objectives for a variety of users, economic, social and environmental forces
- Scoping Process with all stakeholders to achieve a model brief
- Development of Concept Plans in consultation with stakeholders.
Interpreting the relevance of strategies to the scope of a project eg Movement Strategy, Art in Public Places Strategy and Social Development Strategy, requires negotiation and conflict resolution to balance traffic flow management with an increase width of footpaths, increased demand for car parking with more green space for the City, to break through the ‘silo-mentality’, and train staff.
In summary, organisational change is required to achieve cross-disciplinary collaboration, stakeholder engagement, a comprehensive scoping process and changes to budgeting and project prioritisation.