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Conference paper

Integrating logics in strategic spatial planning: a case study of the Melbourne urban growth boundary

Sustainable urban growth Strategic planning Urban planning Melbourne

Planning is a complex endeavour involving competing objectives and interests. This research aims to expose some of the higher tier thinking that goes into strategic choices. Through analysis of Melbourne’s Urban Growth Boundary (UGB) as a case study, the research aims to explore how narrative frames influence the integration of social, environmental and economic objectives (or logics) in strategic spatial planning. As components of what is normally defined as urban sustainability, these ‘three pillars’ are considered alongside other aspects of equity, needs and environmental limits. 

This case study analysis explores policy processes including that which produced Melbourne 2030 (Department of Infrastructure, 2002), bringing the UGB into Melbourne’s strategic planning lexicon. Changing its location around five times in its first decade of existence, and despite the presence of policy and regulatory control measures, the continued expansion of the UGB provides a useful illustration of the ways strategic planning is influenced by complex institutional and governance settings, and pressures of urbanization. A blistering critique (McLoughlin, 1992), reiterated decades later suggesting the “effective abandonment of the UGB” amounted to “serious failure” (Buxton, Goodman, & Moloney, 2016, p.91), points to a persistent lack of awareness of private sector dominance in planning, city dynamics and research insights, appropriate controls and tools, and awareness of citizen needs, interests and desires. 

In exploring the intersection between different stakeholder objectives and logics, this research poses a central question: “Why did the UGB change so much within the first decade of its establishment?” Supporting research questions focus on how different logics are articulated at critical decision points in contemporary strategic planning process, at which point logics take shape, whose logics are prioritized, and ultimately what is good and bad about this story? (with reference to normative values of planning and urban sustainability). 

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