Climate change is worsening an already delicate situation and yet the Northern Victorian city continues its sprawl based, largely, on principles that were appropriate last century, when water seemed plentiful and inexhaustible.
The principles of good urban design revolve around people and how the built environment will serve them, but many escape to the long held ideal that first you build the project making it convenient in every sense for motor vehicles while assuming that people will integrate as the project is finalized.
Good urban design ensures that all developments are as walkable as possible with public spaces being beautiful, and so inviting. Those public spaces can be, besides being attractive, restful and inviting, a plausible alternative to the spacious and palatial houses now being built in Shepparton’s new estates. Those same public spaces can be designed and built in a way that makes them a resource for the entire community – and yet scant users of water and so largely drought tolerant. Shepparton, like most other Victorian cities of a similar size, continues its development in a mode that had currency a few decades ago, but the times have passed it by – we now wrestle with drought and climate change, and together they demand a different way of living.
Few live in the heart of Shepparton, many live in older nearby residential areas and an increasing number (thousands) are moving into the new subdivisions on the city’s edges. Those same subdivisions are frequently five and more kilometres from the city centre, public transport is less than good, making the use of cars imperative and so, in a global warming scenario, absolutely the wrong approach. Most of the new homes have generous sized gardens and despite the fact that the occupants seem water conscious, they still demand large expanses of lawn and complex plantings of various flowers and bushes.
Although the inner-city area, designed and built correctly, could not accommodate half those people, it could still constructively contribute toward the creation of a city in which the urban designer was the first port of call for anyone contemplating a development project.
Beautiful public spaces ease the need for people to create what are effectively mini-botanic gardens in private yards and so improve the city’s broader water economies. Those same public spaces make living where you live more satisfying and so resolve the need, largely, for people to travel extensively to inject some new colour into their lives.