Planning in Canberra is coming of age. Planners and urban designers no longer just carve up greenfield sites on the fringes, but also have to consider issues associated with urban renewal.
The City West Master Plan, released recently by the ACT Planning and Land Authority (ACTPLA), begins to address the key issues facing Canberra’s city centre by encouraging employment; revitalising ageing, poor quality building space; increasing the residential population; and improving traffic, parking, cycling, public transport, legibility and accessibility.
City West is located between the Australian National University (ANU), Lake Burley Griffin and City East. City West has the potential to become a vibrant place in the tradition of Lygon Street and Newtown, where business thrives and a special character develops between the city and university. The plan brings ‘town and gown’ together by building on cultural, economic and social opportunities that are present.
From the outset, the plan and the approach to its development were conceived to be different to continue the planning experiment. It was important that the plan provide a framework for decisions, rather than a ‘blueprint’. The plan had to take account of the fourth dimen-sion that brings changes in political processes and economic cycles. The plan is an attempt to create a robust urban form based on commun-ity, design and planning values that are timeless.
The plan was prepared in collaboration with the community and government agencies, and involved substantial expert input from a team of specialist consultants, and a taskforce of locally and nationally recognised urban designers and planners. Through this process, three goals were developed to guide the revitalisation of City West that aim to: make the area a model for sustainable urban development; build an identifiable community spirit; and demonstrate ‘leading edge’.
Principles form the organising or spatial framework of the plan. The principles: reinforce the essential elements of Griffin’s design; establish a street and block structure that is permeable and legible; create a hierarchy of open spaces; strengthen the character of the distinct land use precincts; ensure the built form reflects the street pattern and precinct characters; and ensure development is sustainable in design and management.
Guidelines set out the urban design qualities required of future development for each precinct, and a minimum level of sustainable performance. The guidelines will assist upfront: with preparing lease and development conditions; expediting site release; designing buildings, precincts and open spaces; and assessing development applications.
Key initiatives in the plan will be taken up in the Central Canberra Implementation Program. ACTPLA successfully secured capital works funding for upgrading the public realm of the Childers Street Precinct near the ANU to create an ‘eat street’ character and venue for events. The revamp of the precinct will establish a new paradigm in the way public spaces are designed, used and managed. The plan can be viewed on the ACTPLA website.
Gay Williamson (Manager) and Trina Stiff (Senior Urban Planner) are from the Urban Design and Projects Team of the ACT Planning and Land Authority, Canberra.