Gareth Hughes

Is urban sprawl inevitable?

by Gareth Hughes

Advocates (like Steven Joyce) of removing Metropolitan Urban Limits and allowing lots of low density growth around our cities like to present their case as if urban sprawl is the natural result of market forces.

Their narrative is pretty much that people like to live in spread out suburbs with their own back yard and since the advent of the automobile urban sprawl has been inevitable.

But is that actually true or do our own planning regulations encourage our cities to grow and sprawl?

Since I took the transport and housing portfolios I’ve been doing a lot of reading around this topic and listening to planners and experts.

Here is what Joshua Arbury, who is a planner and writes the Auckland Transport Blog has to say about planning regulations in Auckland and whether/how they contribute to sprawl:

This is because planning in Auckland is completely and utterly broken. Try to build a Ponsonby these days with narrow streets, houses close to each other and close to the street, no off-street parking and so forth and you don’t have a hope in hell of getting resource consent.

Try to build a soulless Dannemora and the planning rules are unlikely to be a problem at all. Massively wide and pedestrian unfriendly roads are actively encouraged, so are as many off-street carparks as possible, so are massively oversized standalone houses on lots of a size that’s really more suitable to terraced housing. Soul-destroying car-dominated ‘town centres’ like Botany, Manukau City and Albany do not exist despite our planning rules, they exist entirely because of our planning rules. It’s actively encouraged to build this:

Building a walkable town centre like Mt Eden or Ponsonby Road would be impossible these days – largely due to the stupidity of requiring huge numbers of parking spaces for every new development.

I don’t always agree with Josh but in this particular post I think he’s right on the money. What do you think?