Conference paper


Functionally, regional towns cannot be the city states of history. By necessity, whilst regional towns exist as a centre for the catchment area that sustains it, they are nonetheless subject to and rely upon the patronage of the ‘centre’ that the town ‘relates’ to. In return for this patronage regional towns are bound by the laws made at the centre. These laws have the capacity to both help and hinder the economic development of a regional town. Viewed through the prism of power, regional towns are necessarily in an inferior relationship to the centre upon which they depend. The life force of the town can be drained by both deliberate and inadvertent decisions made at the centre. This suggests that for regional towns to prosper they must develop an effective relationship with the centre. The corollary is that a dysfunctional relationship will lead to a town being blighted. An aspect of dysfunctionality is the potential impact of planning laws made at the centre which inhibit the flow of capital into a regional town. Is it time to question the effectiveness of the bureaucratic planning model? Regional towns need a people, a place and an economy. Without all three the town will not survive. The task of Planning Laws should be to promote participation in the economy of the town. Participation does not mean facilitating noisy public meetings to denounce development. Participation means having some skin in the game. Without participation of that sort there can be no progress for the town. Instead, senescence, decay and history will be their doom. To succeed in this challenging environment regional towns may need a different type of support from the centre. Maybe regional towns don’t need planning laws at all? Now that is the sort of radical idea that could lead to a revolution.

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