Some of those at the day-long workshop were from Shepparton-based consulting firms, others were town planners from the Greater Shepparton City Council, one was from Goulburn in New South Wales, another from Ballarat and another represented the nearby Strathbogie Shire. Peter Boyle, introduced the workshop noting that being a planner in a town or city was a little like working in a living laboratory. Another of the Department’s designers, Lyn Harrop, talked about town centres and the analysis of activity to ensure design elements produced a better outcome. Amanda Millis, also a designer with DPCD, discussed design strategies that lead to and ensure a safer environment.
A bus tour of the city allowed participants to see first-hand many positive examples of design they had earlier discussed and, of course, a few less than ideal design solutions. Shepparton’s new Aldi store in Wyndham St was looked at during the tour as it stands as a good example of urban design, with its large windows fronting the passing street allowing people to see both in and out.
Importance of passion, enthusiasm
The Shepparton workshop was another example of something I always experience at such events. Most, if not all, of those at the workshop had nothing overtly personal to gain from helping their towns or cities become better places in which to live. So it is always with surprise and delight that I watch as they bring passion, dedication and enthusiasm to the idea of urban design. The excitement that urban design seems to engender among people with disparate interests in the betterment of our towns and cities was again evident at Shepparton.
Many scribes unleash a host of adjectives as they describe the enthusiasms of crowds at sports events, but nothing I have ever seen compares with the considered zeal, albeit quieter, of those committed to making our towns and cities beautiful and inspiring places. The urban designers I know seem to stand toe to toe with the mercenary forces of this world to show the broader community, when and where they can find a better way to live, a more expansive way to enjoy their towns and cities.
Shepparton residents are presently considering a strategy proposal for the city’s CBD, assembled and proposed by consultants Planisphere. Had the broader population of the city listened to and understood the workshop, it would have been much better placed to judge, and decide on, the ideas put forward by the Melbourne firm.
In a broad sense Planisphere is eager to re-invigorate the CBD, claiming it back, in some sense, from the motor car to return it to the pedestrian and making it a living and inspiring place to be. However, some, traders in particular, are having trouble in seeing beyond the bottom line and only recently it was reported that many people, primarily traders, were opposed to those aspects of the strategy that seemed, at first glance, to make the CBD less attractive to shoppers.
Sweeping research has shown that when areas are made more attractive, interesting, and friendly to the lives of people, they become a place where people naturally seem to gather. Rod Duncan, who is overseeing the re-shaping of Bendigo’s CBD, recently returned from a tour of many impressive towns and cities in northern Europe, where good public space equates with a healthy economy. It is that message that needs to be heard in Shepparton.