Protecting the landscape values of urban open spaces in the face of significant change to the surrounding urban structure highlights a particular tension between two apparently conflicting goals for more sustainable development. On one hand the compact city agenda seeks to increase the density of cities and on the other, large tracts of urban open space, left undeveloped for its scenic quality, conservation or recreation values, provide innumerable ecosystem services. The apparent tension is that these landscapes can contribute to the dispersed urban structure. Despite the innumerable ecosystem services these landscapes offer, they contribute to the dispersed nature of the city and are costly and difficult to manage.
This tension is further complicated when these urban landscapes are gazetted as part of a national significance narrative and remote from the municipal challenges of delivering a more sustainable urban form. For the capital cities of Australia and Canada, this has resulted in a complex set of policy issues that highlight the challenges of planning and managing urban landscapes.
This paper explores the history of open space systems gazetted by national governments in Ottawa and Canberra, the respective capitals of Canada and Australia. It examines how these cities have approached their metropolitan planning strategies and comments on the way landscapes have been accommodated in future urban growth through strategic plans and policies. In doing so it identifies the challenges faced when urban open spaces, deemed to be locally or nationally significant, compete for increasingly scarce government resources and face increasing pressures from urban consolidation.