What you will find on this page: Saga City (video); fundamentals for change; energy/emissions management; carbon management principles; council divestment guide; greening urban environment; canopy cover; tree benefits; heat island effect; green roofs (video); urban forestry strategies; localising food production; creative urban farming; urban planning – how long to change direction; Local Govt Planning Scheme; Municipal Strategic Statement; council strategic document;Council Plan; Municipal Health & Wellbeing Plan; and then there’s more; getting people out of cars; public transport; innovative waste management; also refer to pages population & consumption, food & water issues, people stress and downsizing plan B as the issues are closely related
Urban planning has great effects on collective choices that contribute to climate change. By defining the shape of a community, urban planning determines part of its energy consumption, and thus, the quantity of greenhouse gases released by dwellers. Nevertheless, it remains largely out of the general debate on this issue. SAGA CITY invites you to learn more about these stakes through to story of the city of Colvert. Source: Vivre en Ville
Municipalities throughout Victoria and Australia, have a key role to play in not only adapting and building their community’s resilience to the impacts of a changing climate but also in decreasing the greenhouse gases that their community’s emit. Primarily the greatest risks to council operations and their community come from council and community exposure and vulnerability to:
- a carbon constrained economy
- intensification of climate change impacts
- damage from extreme weather events, including bushfires
To address these risks of exposure and vulnerability, and to systematically increase community resilience and decrease carbon emissions there are some fundamental actions that can be implemented, these being:
- Energy/emissions management
- Urban planning for a more consolidated landscape
- Greening the urban environment
Municipal Association of Victoria (MAV) provides access to councils who are increasing their capacity to deliver environmental sustainability and climate change adaptation programs and actions. Read More here
Through the development of a “strategic carbon management strategy
” councils have the ability to manage their exposure to climate risks and also take advantage of the growing opportunities that will arise as communities “decarbonise”. The basis of any carbon management strategy is the implementation of a step-by-step continuous improvement framework to manage greenhouse gas emissions, known as “Carbon Management Principles“.
A carbon management strategy for council’s would focus on:
- Reducing emissions through improving performance of facilities and fleet through energy efficiency measures. Including: retrofitting buildings to make them more efficient, switching to less emission intensive fuels, simple staff behaviour change measures etc.
- Use renewable energy, either directly through installation of solar power, bioenergy or co/tri-gen systems in Council facilities, and/or through purchasing green power;
- Offset remaining emissions, preferably within the municipality.
Such a strategy has the capacity to:
- Decrease direct energy costs (gas and electricity)
- Increase diversity of fuel sources which willlessen reliance on fossil fuels
- Increase opportunities for income generation through diversion of waste into recyclable streams and reuse within the region
- Decrease costs associated with waste and landfill management
- Increase opportunities to utilise new energy efficiency/renewable energy technologies as they become available
Measure: You can’t manage what you can’t measure — what are you emitting?
The first step in managing carbon emissions is to develop a greenhouse gas (GHG) inventory to measure your carbon footprint. Your carbon footprint is the total set of GHG emissions caused directly and indirectly by your business. Understanding your carbon footprint will help you identify your major sources of GHG emissions, and manage and reduce them over time. Best practice carbon footprint measurement can be made using the World Resources Institute/World Business Council for Sustainable Development’s Greenhouse gas protocol corporate accounting and reporting standard. It is best practice to have your inventory verified by an independent third party, to ensure reliability and confidence in the data. An increasing number of companies are publicly reporting their GHG emissions to demonstrate transparency.
Set objectives: What do you want to achieve?
A key step in your carbon management strategy is to set goals or targets to manage GHG emissions.Develop your goals by assessing the carbon risks and opportunities for the council. This will give you a starting point on what goals are appropriate for you. Set clear and measurable short or long-term goals in line with your council’s strategic objectives. Use your emissions inventory to report and track progress towards your goals. Compare your emissions profile to others in your sector. Benchmarking will help you identify best practice and provide the opportunity to strategically position your company as a leader on climate change.
Avoid: Can you avoid generating emissions?
The best way to reduce your carbon impact is to avoid generating GHG emissions directly from your site and indirectly from energy use. Avoiding GHG emissions also helps minimise other environmental impacts and reduce energy and other resource costs. It also may help to reduce carbon exposure and business risk. You may be using energy or emitting GHGs unnecessarily. Look for opportunities to turn off equipment when it is not in use. Consider walking instead of driving, and videoconferencing rather than travelling to meetings.
Reduce (modify–recover): Can you change your activities to reduce emissions?
After measuring your carbon footprint and determining objectives, identify actions that can reduce your GHG emissions. Steps that reduce emissions while also reducing costs can be found in most areas of operations, from building design to employee behaviour. Your approach to emissions reduction will depend on your circumstances. Modify processes or equipment to ensure they run efficiently. When buying new equipment look for high efficiency ratings. Recover energy or GHG emissions from a pre-existing process. For example, reuse heat for co-generation or capture methane from landfills.
Switch (renew-exchange): Can you switch energy sources so they are less greenhouse-intensive?
Look for opportunities to ensure that the primary energy source you are using is being delivered in the most GHG-efficient way. This can be delivered through renewable sources, or by exchanging fuel sources to minimise GHG intensity. The three primary areas are:
- direct renewables, such as installing solar panels at your home, office or facility
- purchased renewables from an accredited electricity retailers through the GreenPower scheme
- exchange a fossil fuel energy source for one with a lower carbon content, e.g. switch from coal-fired electricity to natural gas.
Sequester: Should you consider sequestering your emissions?
Another component of carbon management can be to reduce atmospheric GHG concentrations through natural or artificial GHG (usually carbon) sequestration. Bio-sequestration is the natural absorption and storage of carbon by plants, and can be a business opportunity for farming enterprises. For most councils, however, these projects will involve purchasing offset credits through offset providers. Carbon capture and storage (CCS), or geo-sequestration, involves direct capture of carbon dioxide from the combustion of fossil fuels or from industrial processes and the long-term storage of these emissions beneath the earth’s surface. This technology has not been applied commercially in Australia to date, but it is being tested at demonstration scales for application in the stationary energy sector. While CCS also has the potential to be developed for other industrial processes that emit GHG gases, it is likely to have limited application in the short to medium term outside the stationary energy sector.
Assess: What are your residual GHG emissions? Determine whether you have reached your goal.
Now that you have gone through the process of reducing GHG emissions onsite and from activities associated with your business, refer back to your original objectives. If you are not meeting your objectives, there may be reduction opportunities you have not considered.
Offset: Can you offset your residual GHG emissions?
A carbon offset is any project that indirectly ‘reduces’ GHG emissions at one source by investing in GHG emissions reductions elsewhere. Offset products most typically involve projects that invest in renewable energy, energy efficiency and reforestation. Offset credits should be purchased from an accredited offset scheme provider. Before purchasing carbon offsets, organisations should conduct appropriate research to ensure that products have been appropriately verified as delivering the environmental outcomes claimed. Key considerations when choosing offsets include: additionality; permanence; leakage; double counting; timing of emissions reductions; monitoring and verification; co-benefits.
Review: What can you do differently?
Carbon management is not a static process. Regular review is essential to ensure you make the most of new practices and technologies as they emerge over time. Energy and other costs (including the cost of offsets) will change over time, necessitating regular review and continuous improvement of your carbon management strategy. As the implementation of avoidance and reduction actions increases, the need to sequester or offset your GHG emissions should decrease, increasing environmental and business benefits with time.
Source: EPA Victoria
Cap and Trade – an additional suggestion
As councils have multiple sites under their jurisdiction the following might also be appropriate for them
FROM EPA: In 2009, as part of EPA’s commitment to achieving real reductions in greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions, EPA ran an internal carbon cap and trade scheme between its seven sites. A carbon cap and trade scheme is a model of emissions trading that involves setting a limit, or cap, on the amount of GHG participants can emit. This cap is reduced over time consistent with an overall GHG emissions target. Whilst alternative options existed for driving GHG emission reductions (such as performance management processes), significant additional benefits were gained through the design and implementation of an internal carbon cap and trade scheme. These included:
- engaging all staff in discovering cost-effective ways to reduce our emissions
- being able to assist other organisations by learning first-hand about emissions trading and managing the impacts of a price on carbon
- enhancing our reputation though an innovative program to reduce our own GHG emissions and demonstrate best practice.
At the beginning of the scheme we anticipated an overall reduction of 3 per cent. The program proved to be significantly more successful, and EPA achieved a 24.5 per cent reduction across emission sources covered by the scheme, and an average of 22 per cent across the sites involved.
Aligning Council Money With Council Values A Guide To Ensuring Council Money Isn’t Funding Climate Change. 350.org Australia – with the help of the incredible team at Earth Hour – has pulled together a simple 3-step guide for local governments interested in divestment. The movement to align council money with council values is constantly growing in Australia. It complements the existing work that councils are doing to shape a safe climate future. It can also help to reshape the funding practices of Australia’s fossil fuel funding banks. The steps are simple. The impact is huge.The guide can also be used by local groups who are interested in supporting their local government to divest as a step-by-step reference point. Access guide here
Changing the way councils manage their “tree” assets
Trees in cities are a major component of the green infrastructure, the natural resources upon which the City relies. The management of this green infrastructure is now changing rapidly from the traditional approach that focused on:
- Trees as ornaments
- Focus on individual trees
- Trees treated with low priority
- Trees have no monetary or economic value
- Focus on smaller and ornamental species
- Individual tree maintenance
- Aesthetic based design only
- Legal boundaries determine tree management
This is now being replaced by the modern urban forestry model which focuses on:
- Trees viewed as critical infrastructure
- Focus on overall canopy cover and forest
- Trees have equal priority to other urban infrastructure such as roads and services’
- Economic value of forest is recognised and valued
- Focus on larger longer lived canopy trees
- Overall forest management
- Ecological based design
- Urban forest seen as a continuous resource regardless of ownership boundaries
Urban forestry is broadly defined as the management of trees, shrubs and other vegetation in urban areas. It focuses on the “forest” or larger population of trees rather than individual trees along streets, in parks and open spaces and within commercial, industrial and residential properties. The development of an Urban Forest Strategy assists a council in managing the conceptual shift from dealing with trees on an individual basis, to managing the vegetation as a collective and integrated canopy.
Urban forests play a vital role in the health, social framework and economic sustainability of a city. An abundance of research shows that trees improve our air, soil and water quality; they improve mental health and well-being, reduce anger and aggression, provide a sense of place and enhance property values. Canopy coverage over paved surfaces is a cost-effective means of mitigating urban heat islands, reducing emissions of hydrocarbons involved in ozone depletion, controlling stormwater run-off, and increasing pavement longevity. The overall objectives of developing an Urban Forest Strategy are to:
- Improve the quality and quantity of the City’s urban forest
- Provide and integrate strategic / systematic planning processes to maximise the benefits of the urban forest; and
- To educate and promote the benefits of the urban forest to the community.
Canopy cover is a key element of any Urban Forestry Strategy. Canopy cover is simply a measure of the physical coverage of the combined tree canopy cover over the land. Square metre measurements are taken periodically to determine how the canopy cover has changed over time, including its location and what progress has been made to achieve a Strategy’s directions. In 2002, American Forests (a branch of the United States Department of Agriculture – USDA) identified canopy cover targets by land use. They recommended the ideal canopy to maximise the benefits canopy provides (depending on climate and land use patterns). The recommended canopy cover is:
- 15% in central business district and industrial areas.
- 25% in urban residential and light commercial areas.
- 50% in suburban residential areas.
Canopy cover targets are now being developed by many Councils and municipalities throughout the world. This is due to the recognition of the multiple social, ecological and economic benefits of urban forests and the obvious links to other policy initiatives including climate change, air quality and public health. It is also increasingly recognised that formal adoption of tree canopy targets – including institutionalising these in tree by-laws,regulations and comprehensive planning efforts – is critical to realising urban forestry objectives. Importantly, direct comparisons cannot be made between different cities existing canopy cover and their targets. Each city has different factors affecting their urban forest, with key differences being history, planning and establishment,surrounding land use (central business district, residential,rural), climate (rainfall, temperature), soil types and maintenance budgets. Measuring the existing canopy coverage is an essential first step in understanding the extent of a City’s urban forest, as this data will then be used to guide the strategic directions –including setting canopy cover targets.
The use of trees and vegetation in the urban area has multiple effects:
- Reduced energy use: Trees and vegetation that directly shade buildings decrease demand for air conditioning.
- Improved air quality and lower greenhouse gas emissions: By reducing energy demand, trees and vegetation decrease the production of associated air pollution and greenhouse gas emissions. They also remove air pollutants and store and sequester carbon dioxide.
- Enhanced stormwater management and water quality: Vegetation reduces runoff and improves water quality by absorbing and filtering rainwater.
- Reduced pavement maintenance: Tree shade can slow deterioration of street pavement, decreasing the amount of maintenance needed. Shading in parking lot medians can provide extensive shading coverage.
- Improved quality of life: Trees and vegetation provide aesthetic value, habitat for many species, can reduce noise and improve property values.
The term “heat island” describes built up areas that are hotter than nearby rural areas. Elevated summertime temperatures in cities increase energy demand for cooling. Research shows that electricity demand for cooling increases 1.5–2.0% for every 0.6°C increase in air temperatures, starting from 20 to 25°C, suggesting that 5–10% of community-wide demand for electricity is used to compensate for the heat island effect. Where water evaporative cooling is used increased temperatures also mean an increase in water use and disposal through the units. Heat islands can affect communities by increasing summertime peak energy demand, air conditioning costs, air pollution and greenhouse gas emissions, heat-related illness and mortality, and water quality. Increased Urban heat islands increase overall electricity demand, as well as peak demand, which generally occurs on hot summer weekday afternoons, when offices and homes are running cooling systems, lights, and appliances. During extreme heat events, which are exacerbated by urban heat islands, the resulting demand for cooling can overload systems and require a utility to institute controlled, rolling brownouts or blackouts to avoid power outages.
Benefits of decreasing heat island effect
The extent to which urban areas can benefit from heat island reduction strategies depends on a number of factors—some within and some outside of a community’s control. Although prevailing weather patterns, climate, geography, and topography are beyond the influence of local policy, decision makers can select a range of energy-saving strategies that will generate multiple benefits, including vegetation, landscaping, and land use design projects, and improvements to building and road materials.
Trees and other plants help cool the environment, making vegetation a simple and effective way to reduce urban heat islands. Trees and vegetation lower surface and air temperatures by providing shade and through evapotranspiration. Shaded surfaces, for example, may be 11–25°C cooler than the peak temperatures of unshaded materials. Evapotranspiration, alone or in combination with shading, can help reduce peak summer temperatures by 1–5°C. Trees and vegetation are most useful as a mitigation strategy when planted in strategic locations around buildings or to shade pavement in parking lots and on streets. Researchers have found that planting deciduous trees or vines to the west is typically most effective for cooling a building, especially if they shade windows and part of the building’s roof.
Cool roofs can lower cooling energy use, peak electricity demand, air pollution and greenhouse gas emissions, heat-related incidents, and solid waste generation due to less frequent re-roofing.Cool pavements can indirectly help reduce energy consumption, air pollution, and greenhouse gas emissions. Depending on the technology used, cool pavements can improve stormwater management and water quality, increase surface durability, enhance nighttime illumination, and reduce noise.
The importance of green roofs & living walls is increasing worldwide, because it is an efficient & effective way to moderate the negative impacts that densely populated urban areas have on the natural environment. A greater concentration of urban greening is possible by replacing ‘Grey Infrastructure’ with ‘Green Infrastructure’ planning. Green roofs, walls and facades are some of the City of Melbourne’s latest tools in the work to adapt our city to climate change. They help cool hot cities, reduce storm water drainage, provide a layer of soil-like material and plants, and help insulate buildings all year round. Having green roofs, walls and facades enhances our urban landscape, creating social and leisure environments.
The video below come from the Melbourne School of Land and Environment who developed Australia’s first research green roof and have now built The Burnley Green Roofs Project. Source: University of Melbourne
25 June 2015, Melbourne City Council, “HOW TO GROW AN URBAN FOREST A ten-step guide to help councils save money, time and share practical knowledge” was unveiled in Melbourne in bid to increase Australia’s green spaces – Australia’s first comprehensive guide to growing and maintaining tree populations in urban areas was launched today by the City of Melbourne, the Victorian Government, and the 202020 Vision. Chair of the City of Melbourne’s Environment Portfolio, Cr Arron Wood, said How to Grow an Urban Forest is a 10-step guide to developing and maintaining urban tree populations. ‘This guide will provide a vital resource for urban councils across Australia. It will help them strategically plan for and develop healthy urban forests to create liveable and climate resilient cities and towns,” Cr Wood said. ‘The guide was inspired by the City of Melbourne’s Urban Forest Strategy, which aims to increase our canopy cover from 22 per cent to 40 per cent by 2040. ‘We’re planting 3000 trees in Melbourne every year to increase the resilience of the urban forest and cool our city by four degrees Celsius. We’re proud to share our knowledge and help increase shade and greenery in towns and cities across Australia.’ The guide includes case studies from cities that have successfully implemented Urban Forest Strategies such as the City of Melbourne, the City of Adelaide, the City of Port Phillip, and Christchurch City Council.
Melbourne City Council Urban Forest Strategy: Melbourne’s tree population is vast – they have 70,000 council-owned trees, worth around $650 million. Trees are a defining part of Melbourne but the trees are now under threat. More than a decade of drought, severe water restrictions and periods of extreme heat, combined with an ageing tree stock, have put their trees under immense stress and many are now in a state of accelerated decline. As a result, they expect to lose 27% of the current tree population in the next decade and 44% in the next 20 years. Combined with this loss, Melbourne’s urban forest is facing two significant future challenges: climate change and urban growth. The City of Melbourne’s Urban Forest Strategy seeks to manage this change and protect against future vulnerability by providing a robust strategic framework for the evolution and longevity of Melbourne’s urban forest. The strategy aims to:
- adapt the city to climate change
- mitigate the urban heat island effect by bringing the inner-city temperatures down
- create healthier ecosystems
- become a water-sensitive city
- engage and involve the community.
They will achieve this by:
- Increasing canopy cover from 22% to 40% by 2040.
- Increasing forest diversity with no more than 5% of one tree species, no more than 10% of one genus and no more than 20% of any one family.
- Improving vegetation health.
- Improving soil moisture.
- Improving biodiversity.
- Informing and consulting with the community.
Other councils’ Urban Forestry Strategies
- City of Belmont
- City of Port Phillip
- City of Sydney
A Centre for Urban Greenery and Ecology Publication: Adapting Urban Forests to Climate Change: Potential Consequences for Management, Urban Ecosystems, and the Urban Public: Impacts of Climate Change on Urban Forests While models predict that different places will experience climate change differently, there is almost universal consensus that climate change will lead to increased levels of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere, higher average temperatures,…. These changes are likely to have immediate impacts on the urban forest. Storm damage can lead to trees being uprooted and the loss of limbs (Jim and Liu 1997). Floods, droughts, and sea level rises will lead to tree mortality and a reduction in the benefits provided by trees that are not well adapted to new conditions. Longer-term effects will include changes in plant phenology (which refers to the timing of seasonal events, such as flowering and leaf unfolding) (Gordo and Sanz 2010), and most importantly changes in species composition (Kendal et al. 2012; Ramage et al. 2012). It must be acknowledged that there may also be some positive effects of climate change; some tree species will be better suited to future climates, and increasing levels of carbon dioxide have a generally positive effect on plant growth (Drake et al. 1997). Temperature is a major driver of the species composition of natural (Woodward and Williams 1987) and urban (Kendal et al. 2012) forests. While there is likely to be some plasticity in the response of established trees to a changing climate, even small increases in temperature are likely to result in some species declining or becoming more difficult to establish, to be replaced over time by other species that perform better in warmer climates (Fig. 2). These changes in species are also likely to lead to “trait shifts”..
Measurement for today’s tree management: i-Tree Australia: i-TreeECO was developed to help managers and researchers quantify urban forest structure and functions based on standard inputs of field, meteorological, and pollution data. This software was originally developed by the United Stated of America Forestry Service and has been calibrated for Victoria. This is a free software program for everyone to use. The Cities of Melbourne and Sydney have been heavily involved in its development.
biodiverCITIES: A Primer on Nature in Cities: Biodiversity considerations should be the business of everyone committed to building more sustainable cities. We can no longer view biodiversity as a compartmentalized concern, an unnecessary luxury or even a constraint to economic development. Rather, urban biodiversity represents a foundation upon which greater social and economic sustainability can be achieved. When biodiversity considerations are integrated into all aspects of city building—urban planning, transportation, energy production, recreation, waste management, health and well-being, and so on—we can start to realize our shared sustainability goals and strengthen the resilience of our communities.
28 May 2015, Future Directions International: Urban agriculture is becoming an increasingly prominent topic in discussions on food security in Australia. More than 90 per cent of Australia’s population lives in urban centres and depends on a decreasing agricultural workforce to meet increasing food demand. Long food supply chains, although economically efficient, lead to poor nutritional and environmental outcomes for society. The re-localisation of food production will support and enhance Australia’s food system and has the potential to increase access to nutritious, affordable food for the most vulnerable.
Australia produces enough food to feed 60 million people, yet economic barriers leave an estimated 2 million Australians dependent on food relief annually. Foodbank Australia is reportedly struggling to meet demand; it turns away as many as 60,000 people each month due to a shortage of food. To enhance food security, efforts need to be focussed on overcoming the increasingly volatile food prices that are expected to occur as a result of increased production and energy costs and the effects of climate change.
There is a strong consensus amongst academics and policy makers that urban agriculture is a viable means of increasing domestic food security. Urban agriculture has assisted communities in both developed and developing nations to cope with food insecurity, by ensuring local availability of nutritional and affordable food. Greater support, however, is required from the Federal, State and Local governments, to ensure that benefits can be realised within Australian cities. Read More here
Because a growing proportion of food is not grown where it is eaten, city dwellers often fall victim to “food deserts” where they have little or no access to affordable, high-quality, fresh food. By the year 2050 close to 80% of the world’s population will be living in urban centers. With the growth of mega cities, our current farms mandate a paradigm shift to environmentally friendly and efficient urban food systems to support the population in a sustainable way.
Urban farming presents a unique opportunity to grow crops on land that is vacant or unused. These crops can also be grown in huge skyscrapers, abandoned lots and even in used shipping containers. It is up to the farmer to be as creative as s/he wishes. One of the largest benefits of urban agriculture is the reduced distance of shipping crops from farmer to buyer. Often produce in the United States, especially during winter months, is grown in far away places where the weather is still warm enough to support fruits and vegetables and is then shipped to grocers throughout the United States. The amount of gas guzzling delivery trucks and airplanes that deliver all of this food could drastically be reduced with a shift to urban agriculture. City farms could provide urbanites with easier access to fresh and local produce. Article includes: Frieght Farms; Vertical Farms; closed loop systems; garden pool conversions. Read More here
20 July 2015, FoodTank: 28 Inspiring Urban Agriculture Projects: Around 15 percent of the world’s food is now grown in urban areas. According to the U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), urban farms already supply food to about 700 million residents of cities, representing about a quarter of the world’s urban population. By 2030, 60 percent of people in developing countries will likely live in cities. At Food Tank, we are amazed by the efforts of hundreds of urban farms and gardens to grow organic produce, cultivate food justice and equity in their communities, and revitalize urban land. Urban agriculture not only contributes to food security, but also to environmental stewardship and a cultural reconnection with the land through education. The Urban Food Policy Pact (UFPP), to be signed on World Food Day, will address the potential of cities to contribute to food security through urban agriculture. A technical team of 10 members organized physical and virtual workshops with many of the 45 cities participating in the Pact, and drafted a Framework for Action that includes 37 provisions covering the themes of governance, food supply and distribution, sustainable diets and nutrition, poverty alleviation, food production and food and nutrient recovery. Check out these inspiring projects, and find even more links to urban agriculture projects here
Here’s another one….Fenway Farms
For any major change in direction away from the traditional status quo, decision making at the local government level can be long and convoluted . Even when firm decisions are made the actualisation of such decisions on the ground can be many years in the making – often well past the term of office of the council that made them and therefore susceptible to modification and distortion.
Nothing happens quickly and therefore it is important for community members wanting to see strong local leadership in these times of uncertainty and the pressing need to start adapting to a changing climate that they understand the planning structure that governs local decision making.There is a multi layer of legislation and regulation covering various time lines and each influencing each other. For the mere mortal much of it is a hard slog to read through but by understanding the significance of these documents they can become the tools which can drive the change required.
What are these multi layers that provide the backdrop to decision making at the local council level? (I will use City of Ballarat as an example)
Local planning integrates and balances economic, social and environmental needs and aspirations of the local community to provide an orderly approach to land use and change. They focus on land use, development, infrastructure and valuable features of an area. Planning refers to the decisions that change the environment and affect everyday life. These decisions might be about new public transport, the size of a new shopping centre, the location of parks, a bike path or a new road. These planning decisions may influence how we get to work, where we shop and what we do in our spare time.
Local government planning schemes describe a council’s plan for the future direction of a particular local government area and can span 20 years or more. Planning schemes provide a detailed direction for the area focusing on community planning and aspirations, whilst ensuring the needs of the state and the regional community are incorporated. Planning schemes are the legal basis on which a Council makes its decisions.
Planning schemes control land use and development, and ensure the protection and conservation of land in Victoria in the present and long-term interests of all Victorians. These schemes are developed in line with planning policy and strategy and contain planning policies, zones, overlays and other provisions that affect how land can be used and developed.
Planning schemes consist of maps, which show how the land is zoned and overlays affecting the land; an ordinance, which sets out the written requirements of a scheme, including local policies and the types of use or development which needs a permit; and incorporated documents – such as the Code of Practice for Private Tennis Court Development. Zones reflect the primary character of land, such as residential, industrial or rural, and indicate the type of use which may be appropriate in that zone.
Sometimes, local areas have special planning controls (known as overlays), such as areas of significant vegetation or special heritage significance. These controls are in addition to the zone controls and ensure that important aspects of the land are recognised.
Councils may amend planning schemes to achieve a desirable planning outcome or to support a new policy direction. For example, if a council wanted to protect the character of a residential area that demonstrated heritage significance it would amend the scheme to introduce a Heritage Overlay to the area. Amendments to the scheme have significant planning implications and affect the wider community because they change the way land can be used or developed, and change the basis for making planning decisions in the future. Access Ballarat’s Planning Scheme here
Local Planning Policy Framework which contains the Municipal Strategic Statement (how many years does it cover? Must be reviewed every 3 years. How long does it take from the start of the review and final adoption? Life of the Planning Scheme? Until it is amended – 3-6 years?)
The strategic foundation of each planning scheme is made up of two components: the State Planning Policy framework (SPPF) and the Local Planning Policy Framework (LPPF). The LPPF sets a local and regional strategic policy context for a municipality. It comprises a Municipal Strategic Statement and specific local planning policies. Section 12A(1) of the Planning and Environment Act 1987 (the Act) requires every municipal council which is a planning authority to prepare an MSS. The MSS must further the objectives of planning in Victoria and contain:
- the strategic planning objectives of the planning authority
- the strategies for achieving the objectives
- a general explanation of the relationship between the objectives and strategies and the controls on the use and development of land in the planning scheme.
The MSS establishes the strategic framework for the municipality and should show how it supports and implements the SPPF. The SPPF and MSS together provide the strategic basis for the application of zones, overlays and particular provisions in the planning scheme. The MSS provides the broad local policy basis for making decisions under a planning scheme. Acting as a planning authority or responsible authority, a council must aim to achieve the objectives and follow the strategies set out in the MSS. The MSS should be continually refined as the planning authority develops and revises its strategic direction. The MSS must be taken into account when preparing amendments to a planning scheme or making decisions under a scheme. The role of an MSS is different from the role of a Local Planning Policy.
The framework identifies long term directions about land use and development in the municipality; presents a vision for its community and other stakeholders; and provides the rationale for the zone and overlay requirements and particular provisions in the scheme. Every 3 years councils are required to review their municipal strategic statement (MSS) and it is now time for that review. Access Ballarat’s Planning Scheme here and the MSS is covered in clauses 21.00 to 21.10
For over 12 months the Ballarat Council has undertaken an extensive community consultation process to feed community expectations into their latest Ballarat Strategy. This will be the foundation document which will determine the wording of the revised MSS and set in motion amendments to the Ballarat’s Planning Scheme to bring it into line with aspirations of the community. It will place these aspirations into a legal framework to guide future Council decision-making.
The new strategy will put in place a long term spatial strategy for Ballarat that will underpin land use decision-making for the next 30 years. Its purpose is to: guide future growth to the most efficient locations with the highest net community benefit (measured broadly including economic, environmental and social); provide certainty for the community and the development industry on development areas and forms; help infrastructure and service providers, including City of Ballarat, to meet the needs of the growing population in an efficient manner; include an implementation plan that delivers the spatial strategy and supports
follow-on work such as neighbourhood planning. Access latest draft of the Ballarat’s Strategy here
Council is legally required to develop and adopt a Council Plan by 30 June of the year following a general election. The Council Plan must be accompanied by a Strategic Resource Plan that details the financial and non-financial resources required to deliver the outcomes of the Council Plan. Council is also required to produce an Annual Report at the end of each financial year – an important element of this document is the report on the level of progress in delivering on the Council Plan’s priorities and projects
The Council Plan is a high-level aspirational document that sets the strategic direction for an elected Council. It includes the values and commitment of the Councillors and their service delivery promises to the community. It outlines the projects and priorities that Council has identified as crucial for its four-year term in office, how those projects and priorities will be delivered and how progress is measured. How a Council Plan is delivered is mapped out in Council’s Action Plan each year. Council Plans include the following, as required by the Local Government Act: strategic objectives of Council; strategies for achieving the objectives for at least the next four years; strategic indicators for monitoring the achievement of these objectives.Access Ballarat’s latest Council Plan here
All Victorian Councils are required to produce a Municipal Public Health & Wellbeing Plan which is reviewed every four years, in line with Council election cycles. The purpose of the Municipal Public Health & Wellbeing Plan is to protect, improve and promote the health and wellbeing of people living in Ballarat. The Plan is required under an Act of Parliament (the Public Health and Wellbeing Act 2008). For the period 2013-2017 the City of Ballarat applied to the Secretary of the Department of Health for a formal exemption from producing a Municipal Public Health & Wellbeing Plan. The Council has as an alternative produced a fully integrated Council Plan which addresses health and wellbeing priorities across all departments. Refer to above link to Council Plan
There are often a plethora of other major and minor policies and strategies all with their own timelines and emphasis and all impacting on how the city will develop with i transitioning climate. How do they connect? Which ones take precedence? Which ones sit on the shelf? For the City of Ballarat here a few such documents:
The Economic Strategy 2010-2014 (yet to be signed off) sets out a 20-year vision for the Ballarat economy. It outlines the role of Council, businesses, industry, government and other stakeholders to achieve this vision. Note: it is now 2015.
Ballarat Regional Capital Plan (no date on publication or webpage) provides a strategic investment framework for accelerating the growth of Ballarat and the western region of Victoria.
Positive Ageing Strategy (2008 – 2013) The Strategy provides direction to Council by identifying the priority issues and needs of the Ballarat community; particularly those pertaining to senior members of the community. It outlines a plan of action for the next five years in response to these needs that Council, together with community and other stakeholders, will implement.
Municipal Early Years Plan 2015-2018. Producing a plan that specifically considers children and their families enables the City of Ballarat and Council to make informed decisions, and to develop and better evaluate early years services, activities and facilities delivered by local government.
Disability Access and Inclusion Plan (2011 – 2013) is to assist Council to both meet its obligations under federal and state anti-discrimination legislation, and to promote the right of people with disabilities to live and participate in the community on an equal basis. New plan being developed for 2015-17.
Emergency Management, Disaster Recovery and Community Preparation Council has developed and adopted these plans to assist within the event of an emergency.
Environment Sustainability Strategy 2012-2014. The Environment Sustainability Strategy is the City of Ballarat’s framework for a more sustainable future. Building on the foundation of the Council’s previous conservation strategies, this strategy provides a set of practical initiatives that will help deliver Council’s primary environment and sustainability commitments.
Council’s Waste Management Strategy 2013 Review. The City of Ballarat produced a Waste Management Policy in 2007, and the last City of Ballarat Waste Management Strategy was adopted in 2008. Since that time a number of legislative changes, federal and state government policy reviews, impact of carbon pricing and City of Ballarat policies have contributed to this review.
Where does this leave the community?
I would think a bit dazed and overloaded when trying to understand EXACTLY what all this means for their community. The main point however is that the Planning Scheme is supposed to map out a stable direction and is “the bible” for staff decisions and actions, for at least a couple of decades. But this document is actually a “dynamic” document that keeps rolling along with clauses added, deleted, amended in a random/as required way and therefore is always subject to change – it is NOT set in stone.
It is also stipulated that a major review of the MSS needs to happen every 3 years. And when does this magic 3 years start? When a previous review is reported to Council. Sounds fine but in fact it might take 3 years (or more) for a review to take place and therefore has the potential to overlap possibly 2 “new” councils that may have quite different views on the direction they see as a priority. There could be 6 or more years between a major review setting a new direction which then sets in motion various actions that in themselves may take many years to materialise – meanwhile councillors change and priority directions with them. Throw into the mix the changing influences of a decarbonising society and increasing climate change impacts and you have a rich environment of uncertainty.
Many a document can have the “right words” with excellent actions but unless there is the political “will” to ensure there are ample resources for the actions to be implemented, nothing will happen. It will require strong, consistent and regular reminders from an informed community.to reinforce the need to establish and embed the changes required to redesign our cities for the challenging times ahead. Remember that the planning of a road, a new suburb, a new zoning takes years to manifest and often when something actually starts happening on the ground it is several years too late to change it. Try to understand how a system works and then pick your battle and be vigilant! It would also be useful to have a look at the “communication” page on this site to understand how people’s beliefs may affect decision making.
Source: How many cars?
Remember – if you are sitting in a traffic jam then YOU are also part of the problem. The following excerpts come from Patrick Condon’s book Seven Rules for Sustainable Communities: Design Strategies for the Post Carbon World. A guide for green planning. This is Rule Number 3 for sustainable communities: Locate commercial services, frequent transit and schools within a five-minute walk. Even though it a Nth American perspective it is quite applicable to the Australian scene. Source: The Tyee
It is now accepted that the higher the density in a service area, the more likely it is that residents will use transit. Evidence for this comes from analysis of real places. Almost everyone in high-density Manhattan uses transit; almost no one in low-density, sprawling Phoenix does.A density of 10 dwelling units per gross acre, or 25 residents per gross acre, is the usual minimum standard for frequent bus service. This guideline is borne out by transit ridership figures from the Vancouver region, where the average density is between 10 and 15 dwelling units per acre. Here, less than 50 per cent of all commuters use the single-passenger automobile to get to work.Conversely, in third-ring suburban locations, such as Coquitlam, British Columbia, where gross density is less than five dwelling units per gross acre, and despite the availability of express buses, more than 90 per cent of all commuters get to work in the single-passenger automobile.While density is the most important factor influencing transit use, other more subtle factors also have an influence. An interconnected street network, which helps users get to buses; the even distribution of commercial services along streetcar arterials, which makes trip chaining possible; and lots of jobs located on the corridor all play a crucial role, but have proven more difficult for researchers to definitively link to ridership. If the average density of a very large area – say, greater than 10,000 acres or 15 square miles – is 10 dwelling units per acre or more, and if this area is balanced with one job per household, and if there are convenient transit connections to the larger metropolitan region, and if a full range of commercial services is available in the district, then transit may be able to provide an alternative to the car. That’s a lot of ifs. Fortunately, many streetcar city areas already meet these criteria, and many suburban areas, as they mature, are approaching those thresholds as well.
Most U.S. and Canadian suburbs start out with average densities of between one and four dwelling units per gross acre. Newer suburban areas in many parts of the U.S. — Las Vegas for example — are higher, at about six dwelling units per gross acre.Other metropolitan areas are finding ways to add density to previously built low-density areas. Vancouver and Portland, for example, are adding density and jobs to formerly car-dependent areas in numbers that make it possible to provide additional transit service and anticipate viable commercial services within walking distance from most homes, in locations that could not previously support them.
10 August 2015, The Conversation, public transport is always greener on the other side. Australians have very high expectations of their public transport systems. They consistently prefer investment in public transport over investment in roads. State elections have been lost when politicians don’t meet those expectations. As a researcher in public transport, I am frustrated by a narrative I see time and again. It comes up in comments in focus groups and pops up at the bottom of news articles. It goes something like this: “I’ve been to London / New York / Tokyo and their public transport system is better / cheaper / more reliable than ours! Why can’t our public transport be that good?” Australia’s public transport systems seem shoddy compared to other countries for a number of reasons. These reasons make me question whether those comparisons are valid…..
In contrast, Australian cities – along with many American cities – did most of their growing in parallel with the explosion of motor vehicle ownership. Highways and cars facilitated the post-war suburban explosion, allowing millions to live the dream of quarter-acre blocks far from the city centre. Because of this legacy, Australian cities are enormously far-reaching. In most capitals you can drive for 100km and still be within the same city limits. Melbourne’s footprint is six times the size of London with half its population; Brisbane is 20 times the footprint of New York City with one-quarter of its population.
In Australia, public transport has to play catch-up constrained by an urban form designed by and for the car. This isn’t an impossible task, by any means, but it suggests that perhaps we’re comparing ourselves to the wrong cities. What if we made more realistic comparisons? For example Portland, Oregon, is around the same size and has about the same population of Brisbane. It is held up as one of the “best transit cities” in the United States. Yet Brisbane has more public transport trips per capita – around 70 per year – than Portland, which has 58 per year. If Australia’s cities were ranked alongside American cities in public transport trips per year, Sydney and Melbourne would both rank third behind New York and San Francisco, Perth would rank ninth (above Chicago) and Brisbane would rank tenth (above Philadelphia). Read More here
13 December 2013, The conversation, How cities of the future could see cars parked for good: Is a car-free city possible? In many European cities walking and cycling already account for more than half of all journeys. In Britain, the Sustainable Travel Demonstration Towns project between 2004-08 showed it’s possible to increase the number of people getting out of the car, encouraging sometimes up to nine times more journeys by foot or bike. A large study carried out by researchers at the Universities of Leeds, Oxford, Salford, Manchester, and East Anglia, Visions 2030 explored different ways to increase the amount of walking and cycling in the UK. This would improve public health, and considerably reduce the effects of carbon emissions in towns and cities by cutting traffic congestion, as stop-start traffic is the most polluting cycle of vehicle’s engines. Our current journey patterns reveal there is great potential for change, as nearly two thirds of trips are less than 8km in length (38% under 3km), while 6% of car trips are under 1.6km. Here the car’s efficiency is at its lowest, and the potential to easily swap it for other modes of transport is greatest. The rationale is partly to do with sustainability, but also improving the quality of life in our urban areas. Read more here
16 June 2015, The Conversation, Six things other cities can learn from Transport for London’s success: Complaining about public transport might seem as English as moaning about the weather. And it isn’t very British to shout about success. So what follows might seem odd, but here goes: Transport for London leads the way as an effective transport authority. There, said it. And it does so by building popular and political consensus around the importance and urgency of transport investment. Step by step, the city reliant on Victorian suburban railways and a Georgian underground railway increases its fitness to cater to the demands of a growing 21st-century city. Transport for London has succeeded by creating an integrated transport authority from the fragmented patchwork of services it has inherited piece by piece since 2000. Today, 30m journeys are completed on TfL’s network every day. A testament to the TfL model is that both Sydney and Auckland adopted many aspects of it. Here are six lessons from its success that other cities can follow. Read More here