Issues relating to urban form and density continue to fuel worldwide debate. Low-density urban sprawl is identified by some as a symptom of unsustainable urban development and various solutions aimed at achieving a more compact urban form have been offered, including: policies of urban consolidation, urban containment and urban densification. Others argue that there is little to be gained from higher urban densities. Central to the debate are issues such as residential density, since dwelling density occupies a central position in Western Australian statutory development regulation. Clearly, our understanding of the composition, complexities and functioning of urban systems could be enhanced by more detailed information derived from focussed research.
The Perth Metropolitan Region has been subjected to extensive and in-depth investigation and analysis using the WA Department for Planning and Infrastructure’s (DPI) modelling capabilities and DPI’s ESRI based Geographic Information System. The research includes: a review of the composition and relationship between diverse urban land uses; the determination of a short-term residential land-balance; and a detailed investigation of residential density. This paper summarises some of the results, including a finding that Western Australian planning policy has had a significant impact on existing land use characteristics, including population density, and discusses policy implications.