ABSTRACT: For decades, Australian planners generally have accepted the conventional position that increasing the density of urban settlement on the urban fringe will reduce the quality of suburban living but achieve negligible land savings (Bunker 1986, Braby, 1989, McLoughlin, 1991, Gutjahr, 1991, and Lewis, 1999). McLoughlin, for example, argued that increasing outer urban density would not significantly restrict outward urban growth because the amount of land required for roads and utility infrastructure, retail and service centres, schools and other community facilities and public open space must remain constant regardless of the area devoted to residential dwellings and the population. This paper analyses this conventional position, related policy positions of Australian governments, and current practice. It analyses the assumptions and values inherent in the position and shows that the amount of land required for non-residential purposes is not a constant. The paper demonstrates that increased residential densities and a reduced area devoted to non-residential purposes may improve residential amenity and save significant amounts of land. The issue of residential density is once again an important issue in strategic land use planning in Australia. Most major cities have completed or are completing new strategic plans. These generally seek to increase residential densities. The paper examines the relationships between density and other components of urban form and the relationships between these elements and the notion of sustainability.
The paper reviews the approach advocated in the Melbourne strategic plan, Melbourne 2030, to planning for outer urban development in Melbourne. It analyses governance and current policy, and places the Melbourne 2030 objective of increased outer urban densities in the context of best international practice and historical approaches. It also provides a critique of the Victorian government’s attempt to redirect a proportion of outer urban development to mixed use activity centres in the established residential area of the city; provides details on land supply and reviews current development practice in each outer urban growth corridor, and in Melbourne generally; examines the impacts of the introduction of a legislated urban growth boundary for Melbourne; and demonstrates the land savings from different scenarios of increased residential density and urban design.