Definition of Urban Consolidation
Accesses to transport services, land prices as well as distribution of employment are among the factors that determine the people’s choice of residential areas. Urban consolidation has always been seen as a means of reducing the quantity of land needed to constructed houses for the urban population. The main aim of urban consolidation is to reduce infringements in terms of urban developments in cities.
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Urban Consolidation refers to a various sets of planning policies which are meant to maximize the use of the present urban infrastructure through encouraging development of buildings and infrastructures in the urbanized areas so as to limit urban sprawl (Smith 1997, 1).
It entails building more houses in the existing urbanized zones so that to intensify the usage of the available social facilities and utilities so that to minimize environmental degradation on those places (Smith 1997, 1). Economic and social reasons usually form the basis for need for developing the residential areas in the outskirts of metropolitans.
Urban consolidation can be achieved under three models. The first one is the market-led consolidation that entails redevelopment of the existing suburban zones. It also entails development of the non-residential areas by buildings more houses than those that are already established in higher density zones as compare to the urban standard.
The other approach is the transit-oriented development which involves mixed-used buildings in high-density residential in activity centers. The final approach requires that new developments on periphery of the metropolitan areas be at higher average than the existing averages for the urban areas (Smith 1997).
Social Benefits of Urban Consolidation
Urban consolidation gives residents a wider range of housing options to suit their unique needs as well as different households. It therefore allows residents to move through an array of housing types as situations of their households change. Besides, it may also help to achieve a more sociable as well as cooperative society. Urban consolidation also helps in providing better quality and plentiful housing closer to people’s workplaces.
Urban consolidation is associated with good infrastructures that greatly enhance communication. When buildings are concentrated in one place, it becomes easier for the government to provide the residence with appropriate infrastructure and sewage system than when house are scattered everywhere (Bishop & Syme 1981, 235).
Social Disadvantages of Urban Consolidation
Consolidation may be limited without redevelopments in that vacant buildings could occur on empty land before the need to redevelop the area is realized. Potential residential areas which have no current residents could lead to dislocation in the town. Besides, if persistent inconveniencies exist on the population that resides in the area to an extent that they can no longer tolerate, they may be forced to migrate.
However, the problem arises when there is no place for temporary resettlement while redevelopments are ongoing. Again, delay in state-provided services like hospitals and schools may cause public complaints which are normally directed at the local government especially when there is no platform for addressing the issues.
General high costs of living in the areas considered to be green-field development that result from urban consolidation may cause those of low socio-economic status to migrate to slums thereby leading to expansion of the slum areas. It should be noted that population growth and levels of employment are always not equitable. The rate of population will always surpass the rate of employment creation. Slums as usual, are bound to come with increase in social crimes in urban centers.
According to Byrne and Sipe (2010, 1) urban consolidation may lead to concentration of social disadvantages and could also undermine social cohesion especially in situations where the urban planners have failed to properly manage urban consolidation thereby compromising residential amenity. Again there is the possibility of losing public open space due to high concentration of buildings.
Creation of compact cities also discourages owner occupancy. Since the government aspires to maximize the existing urbanized area, there is no space for building single homes as the government aims to enable efficient use of the existing services and land. Those who would want to live in the suburban areas are limited by the provisions of the laws governing urban consolidation (Bishop & Syme 1981, 231).
Economic Benefits of Urban Consolidation
Urban consolidation enhances the efficient use of the existing infrastructure especially in situations where there is surplus capacity of the infrastructure or in situations where the infrastructure is old and needs replacement. This enables the government achieve economies of scale.
Old industrial sites and buildings as well as non-residential areas that exist in urban centers can be redeveloped into new residential areas. It allows for subdivision of corner blocks thereby permitting dual occupancy development and a range of residential accommodation both in the residential and business zones.
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Urban consolidation can help minimize the capital expenditure costs that are incurred in developing urban infrastructure as it leads to efficient use of the existing infrastructure and land.
Reduced space for developments as well as decreased travel times that result from urban consolidation leads to energy and economic savings. This implies that urban consolidation has the capacity to minimize lost time on productivity. The high density population which is created by urban consolidation results to efficient use of the available transport (Smith 1997, 4).
Urban consolidation also helps control urban expansion into the rural areas, thus protecting recreation, heritage as well as tourism resources. This enables the country to conserve its sources of revenue.
Economic Disadvantages of Urban Consolidation
Consolidation policies are usually adopted at the expense of potential new gree- field development areas leading to an increase on property prices in the redeveloped areas. Again, demand for business district properties would rise due to urban consolidation leading to increased values of office buildings. This would in turn increase the rental payments for corporations and individuals.
Thus, not many people would be able to afford to pay the cost for occupying the new houses leading to development of slums. Generally, people would always want to minimize their expenses but live comfortably. Some people would therefore be forced to look for residential areas in other parts of the urban centre. According to Smith (1997, 4) economic savings tend to be more intuitive than real as most people tend to perceive the cost of maintaining as well as upgrading the inner city infrastructure to be very expensive.
Environmental Benefits of Urban Consolidation
Urban consolidation enables planning which reduces the impacts of urban developments on the sensitive ecological systems. Planning urban developments helps control unplanned urban expansion thereby reducing air pollution that result from such situations (Smith 1997, 3). Urban consolidation is founded on the idea that compact urban centres tend to use less fossil fuels and as such, emit lower greenhouse gases into the atmosphere.
According to Woodburn (2005, 16) urban consolidation helps reduce fuel consumption thereby lowering pollution as it enhances the use of more environmentally-sensitive vehicles. It also enables the government to consider introducing alternative forms of truck haulage into the urban centre. Besides, the government is able to develop environmental and social policies which can be easier to implement in consolidation centres (Woodburn 2005, 16).
Planning through urban consolidation enables conservation of agricultural land as well as water catchment areas. Urban consolidation allows for the creation of greenspaces which help protect the habitats as well as to preserve biodiversity (Byrne & Sipe 2010, 9). Industries’ capacities to respond to environmental regulations are also enhanced. Infrastructure for directing effluents from the industry is well developed and hence industries find it easier to comply with the rules.
Disadvantages of Urban Consolidation on the Environment
High population density created by urban consolidation may increase pressure on the existing and already environmentally sensitive land thereby increasing susceptibility to negative environmental influences (Craig 1989, 46). Besides, state as well as regional environmental plans may conflict with the local environmental plan as the two levels pursue different environmental objectives.
Consolidating houses on one place is likely to increase pollutions in that area. This is because of an increase in activities. For instance, it is likely that the rate of pollutions in such an area will amplify due to an increase of pollutions from the exhaust fumes from motor vehicles.
Consolidating Australian Cities
Smith (1997, 1) states that Australia’s population has significantly increased. Sydney alone requires about 520,000 more new housing units to sustain its population’s needs from the period of 1991 to 2021 (Smith 1997, 1). This has prompted the Australian government to respond to these projections by adopting urban consolidation policies.
The government repealed state government policies governing the urban consolidation in 1995, therefore making urban consolidation in Australian cities more feasible as compared to the past. Councils were given the opportunity to develop policies and goals that would meet the requirements of urban consolidation and that were in line with the vision of the government (Smith 1997).
These policies were integrated with the State Environmental Planning Policy and the Metropolitan Residential Development. Earlier on, attempts by the government to allow for the development of medium density housing in 1982 had been met by strong opposition from the general public as they felt that councils were likely to pursue their own initiatives (Smith 1997, 7). These steps that have been taken by the government make urban consolidation in Australian cities feasible.
In Sydney, urban consolidation was gazetted in 1991 leading to the zoning of non-residential sites that were no longer used for their original purposes. This facilitated the redevelopment of these areas into medium density housing (Smith 1997, 8).
According to Glazerbrook and Rickwood (2009, 1) previous researches have indicated high population density, shifts in travel behaviors as well as a mix of land use in Australian cities which call for the need for alternative urban planning policies which would enhance higher density development particularly in areas such as public transport nodes. However, such policies have not received equivocal support from the general public.
Urban consolidation in Australian urban cities could be motivated by the high population densities in the cities, geographic constraints caused by the city shapes as well as transport infrastructure, the cultural and economic practices in the respective cities and the cities’ populace wealth.
According to Byrne and Sipe (2010, 1) Australian cities have transformed in the recent years to ensure that the built environments achieve environmental sustainability as they adapt to the changing demographic trends. Australian city planners and decision makers are focused on protecting green-fields.
They are therefore directing the growth of urban centres away from the green-field sites which occur at the metropolitan fringe to the already existing developed environments, thus increasing the population density in those areas. According to Byrne and Sipe (2010, 1) some stakeholders argue that densification and the associated population increase in urban open spaces as well as green spaces may pose challenges that are beyond the capacity of the Australian planning systems.
Urban consolidation could be feasible in Australian cities as most stakeholders including the political class are of the view that urban consolidation would offer opportunities for enhancing and interconnecting public spaces. This would enable improve the provision of social amenities within urban areas.
Most cities in Australia such as Sydney, Melbourne, Brisbane among others which are have adopted urban consolidation are either aiming to improve service delivery to citizens, protecting the nearby rivers or rivers passing through the urban centres, protecting the existing parks around the urban centres, facilitating and enhancing active recreation as well as healthy lifestyles among others.
Australia is a home for heritage tourism and relies heavily on tourism and therefore protecting its heritage remains a key factor in the development of its urban centres (Byrne & Sipe 2010, 1).
In the wake of increasing need for more houses in the 21st century, the Australian government is coming up with better urban consolidation strategy. These include; increasing compact cities using less urban land as well as existing infrastructure; expanding the cities within linear corridors; redeveloping the public transport as well as controlling urban expansion into the rural areas. This will greatly enhance the housing process in the country (Smith 1997, 9).
Bishop, B., J., & Syme, G. J., 1981, The social costs and benefits of urban consolidation: A time budget/contingent valuation approach. Journal of Economic Psychology, 16(2): 233-245. Amsterdam: Elsevier.
Byrne, J., & Sipe, N., 2010, Green and open space planning for urban consolidation: A review of the literature and best practice. Urban Research Program, Issue Paper 11. Brisbane: Griffith University. pp. 1-9. Web.
Craig, B., 1989, Health costs and benefits of urban consolidation versus suburban expansion in Adelaide: A literature review. Canberra: The National Library of Australia. P. 46.
Glazerbrook, G., & Rickwood, P., 2009. Urban structures and commuting in Australian cities. Urban Policy and Research, 00(0): 1-18. New York: Routledge.
Smith, S., 1997, Urban consolidation: Current developments. Briefing Paper No. 23/97. Parliament of New South Wales. New South West Parliamentary Library. pp. 1-9. Web.
Woodburn, A., 2005, Overview of consolidation centres for urban and specialist use. BESTUFS II – First Workshop (January 13-14 2005). University of Westminster. P. 16.