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The Forum > Article Comments > In praise of accidental cities > Comments

In praise of accidental cities : Comments

By Ross Elliott, published 8/5/2014

The irony is that it is the accidental parts of our cities the parts developed during periods of the least regulation that we now seek most to protect.

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I agree that over-planned environments can be sterile and bleakly utilitarian. But accidental development also has some negative legacies, such as communities where homes and schools are adjacent to noisy and polluting heavy industry, to the detriment of both.

Micro management and over-regulation are often belated responses to the failure of real planning, which should be strategic and allow for the organic and inherently unpredictable changes in society and industry over long timeframes.
Posted by Rhian, Thursday, 8 May 2014 2:28:02 PM
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"Most of the built form we know as our cities of today was built before complex town planning regulations were developed. The irony is that it is the accidental parts of our cities the parts developed during periods of the least regulation that we now seek most to protect."

Sorry Ross, this is arrant nonsense. Efforts to regulate building go back almost as far as white settlement. Governors issued proclamations complaining about poor quality houses, encroachments and fire hazards as soon as people started building.

In 1810 in the Hawkesbury the Acting Surveyor was instructed to survey allotments to "enable the Settlers to commence with the least possible Delay the Business of erecting Houses ... to be either made of Brick, or Weatherboarded; to have Brick Chimnies, and Shingled Roofs; and no Dwelling-house is to be less than nine feet high.A plan of a Dwelling house ... will be left with each District Constable, to which each Settler must conform in the erecting his Buildings."

The first Sydney Building Act was passed in 1837 (when the colony was less than 50 years old) and covered materials, setbacks, encroachments, party walls etc etc. The 1837 Act is here: http://www.austlii.edu.au/au/legis/nsw/num_act/sba1837n7204.pdf

A big part of the Act concerned fire safety (not surprising when you read the newspapers of the time), but the built form of Sydney from that period is hardly "accidental".

We've had more than 200 years of building regulation, balancing (to a greater or lesser extent) public and private interests. Yet Ross portrays the results as an "accident". Strange that a representative of the development industry should ignore this history? Or maybe that was just an "accident"?
Posted by Johnj, Thursday, 8 May 2014 9:01:24 PM
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Well said Johnj.

A less developer favorable way to interpret our want to save older parts of our cities is that they did "development" much better back then than they do now. Not so many spivs and shonks I suppose.
Posted by mikk, Thursday, 8 May 2014 10:47:03 PM
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