WITH just a few days until the end of 2010, Urbanalyst will reach a milestone in its first full calendar year of operation. Its humble beginnings saw a handful of visitors each week but this number has rapidly risen to a few thousand visitors a month and continues to trend upwards.
Urbanalyst began with an aim to provide comprehensive coverage of urban planning, development and transport news and issues. While this has been no small challenge, I certainly hope that Urbanalyst has made steps towards achieving its aim.
When Urbanalyst first started, the task of creating a 'one-stop-shop' for all things planning seemed relatively simple and straightforward. Planning is a relatively small field. Planning doesn't make a huge media impact. People aren't that interested in planning.
These assumptions were (thankfully) wrong. There has been a growing awareness and recognition of the importance of our cities and the environments we live in. Planning issues regularly attract media attention and public scrutiny.
Planning has an impact on where we live and how we live. It impacts current and future generations. Therefore, it seems vital that there be resources that provide up-to-date, timely and accurate reporting and analysis of urban issues outside the traditional media channels.
Until recently, such resources were relatively scarce in Australia. Urbanalyst is one such resource that aims to fill the void. The Melbourne Urbanist <http://melbourneurbanist.wordpress.com/> and The Planning Boardroom <http://www.theplanningboardroom.net/> are two other recent websites that aim to meet this demand for planning information and demonstrate the growing interest in the area.
While Urbanalyst is unashamedly focused on planning issues, it does try to cover housing, transport, property and development issues as much as possible. However, it would be impossible to cover all issues that impact upon planning.
The ability for Urbanalyst to provide a geographical balance of news is generally dependent upon the availability of, and ease of access to, information. For example, with regard to government news and announcements, ACT, New South Wales, Queensland, Victoria and Western Australia provide news and media releases that (in my view) are far more accessible than Northern Territory, South Australia and Tasmania.
Does this mean that the latter States place less importance on planning issues? It may be a lack of resources or perhaps I simply have not been looking in the right places. However, enabling ease of access to information should be a priority to ensure that the public is informed and to allow for meaningful and thorough discussions and debate.
Perhaps reflective of the fact that Urbanalyst is based in Victoria, the top ten most read articles on Urbanalyst relate to Victoria:
- 1. $286m Springvale homemaker centre development fast-tracked
- 2. Vic Government fast-tracks Aldi and Woolworths hardware stores
- 3. Parliament approves plan to expand Melbourne's growth boundary
- 4. 2009 Victorian Bushfires Royal Commission final report released; includes 18 recommendations for planning and building
- 5. 38 storey Box Hill development fast-tracked
- 6. Vic Govt. releases details of major transport projects
- 7. Victorian Integrated Housing Strategy released
- 8. What's in store for planning in Victoria?
- 9. Bunnings says Woolworths hardware stores are thwarting planning laws
- 10. Interim response to Victorian Bushfires Royal Commission released
The 'fast-tracking' of projects by former Victorian Planning Minister, Justin Madden, was a recurrent theme. In the name of job creation and investment, the Victorian Government fast-tracked projects, including the Springvale homemaker centre (scheduled to open late-2011), a 30 storey mixed-use building in Box Hill (subsequently refused) and Woolworths' expansion into the $24 billion hardware sector.
The 2009 Victorian Bushfires Royal Commission made the top ten list with two articles. The Commission emphasised the important role of planning in managing and reducing the impacts of bushfire. Its final report included 18 recommendations for planning and building.
While older articles tend to have more visits than more recent additions, this is not always the case. 'What's in store for planning' is number 8 on the list, indicating a strong interest in what the future holds for planning following the election of the Liberal National Coalition in Victoria.
The controversial expansion of the urban growth boundary in Melbourne by the former Labor Government was number 3 on the list. With the new Coalition Government signalling that it intends to consider 'logical inclusions' within the UGB, as well conduct biannual reviews, it seems likely that the expansion of the UGB may continue in the future.
Australia top five most read articles:
- 1. Bunnings says Woolworths hardware stores are thwarting planning laws
- 2. Gillard reiterates sustainable approach to population growth; focuses on regional cities
- 3. The population debate: to grow, or not to grow?
- 4. New KPMG report assesses capital city planning systems
- 5. Australian Government releases discussion paper on national urban policy
NSW top five most read articles:
- 1. Plans to establish the Sydney Metropolitan Development Authority approved by Cabinet
- 2. Huntlee New Town project declared 'potentially state significant'
- 3. NSW Councils urge government to reverse decision to cap developer contributions
- 4. NSW release new transport plan; axes CBD Metro
- 5. NSW Planning Department releases population projections
Queensland top five most read articles:
- 1. Woolloongabba UDA to feature transit oriented development as part of draft structure plan
- 2. Qld government to fast-track housing in Roma, Moranbah and Blackwater
- 3. Queensland Government calls-in Milton train station development
- 4. Qld Govt. announces details of Albert St underground station
- 5. Qld government endorses Coomera Town Centre plan
Western Australia top five most read articles:
- 1. WA Planning Minister announces review of Residential Design Codes
- 2. Draft Newman Revitalisation Plan on exhibition
- 3. Developers sought for East Perth Riverside development
- 4. New planning visions and direction for Perth and Peel released
- 5. WA government releases new activity centres policy to support Directions 2031
Next year, it is hoped that Urbanalyst can expand its coverage to comprehensively cover other states and territories.
The operation and development of this website has been a constant learning experience. I hope to continue improving and expanding the website. Stay tuned for newsletter subscriptions in the near future and you can now follow Urbanalyst on Twitter.
2011 looks to be an exciting and interesting year. The Australian Government will release its National Urban Policy, followed by a comprehensive population strategy. Following its election, the Victorian Coalition Government looks set to shift the direction of planning in Victoria, while New South Wales will hold its own election early in the new year.