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Save Our Sydney Suburbs (NSW) Inc.
News Release August 2005

The Chief of Sydney's planning

Hi SOS Members

THE STORY SO FAR

A year ago we attended the inaugural professorial address of the new head of Sydney University's Planning Research Centre, Professor Ed Blakely from the United States. Bob Carr had appointed Professor Blakely as chair of the Reference Panel for the Metropolitan Strategic Plan. In this address, we expected to hear of properly researched initiatives that Professor Blakely believes might be applied to solve broad planning problems experienced by large cities. All we got were pretty overhead projections of various individual buildings and nothing about how to approach the planning of a great city.

Professor Blakely's subsequent seminars have continued with the projection of these pretty pictures, accompanied with the implication (but never an explanation) of how the detested high density "centres" policy would solve Sydney's traffic congestion problem, enhance housing choice and make Sydney "sustainable".

Last month I had an article published entitled "Pipe Dreams: The Shortcomings of Idealogically Based Planning" in which I challenged the reality of claims by the high-density advocates that high density policies will improve Sydney in this way.

YESTERDAY'S SEMINAR

This seminar at Sydney University's Institute of Transport and Logistic Studies featured Professor Blakely speaking on "Metro Plan and Transportation". Once again the same pretty pictures were projected. But surprisingly, gone were the claims that the high density policies will reduce traffic congestion or make Sydney more sustainable. During question time I pointed out that since the introduction of the urban consolidation policy, journeys by public transport in Sydney have plummeted from 13% to 9%, completely contrary to what had been prophesied. I asked what this public transport percentage is projected to be as a result of the "centres" policy (surely fundamental to the whole policy). Professor Blakely replied that there is no estimate of how public transport will be effected! I responded that surely some quantitative estimates must have been made to provide some justification for this hated policy, some sort of cost/benefit analysis. He said no, this had not been done. I persisted, surely such a policy that is being bitterly opposed by sections of the community must be based on facts. He replied there are plenty of facts, too many, he said. But he could not produce any. The only problem seems to be that neither he nor anyone else can tell us what they are!

In these hands lies Sydney's future.

However there were signs that the academic community is waking up. I was encouraged to hear most of the subsequent questioners adopt a critical rather than the sycophantic tone characteristic of previous such seminars. The seminar ended with Professor Blakely inarguably on the back foot.

Tony Recsei

President, Save Our Suburbs

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