The COVID-19 outbreak has cemented the importance of ample, high quality public space. People who may have taken open space and green space for granted previously are now acutely aware of its influence on their health and wellbeing. John Brockhoff, national policy manager at the Planning Institute of Australia, says that COVID-19 has served as a “pressure test” for urban planning trends, and highlighted deficiencies. Up the top is high density development that doesn’t have enough open space for everyone to enjoy safely and comfortably.
So will green space get more of a look-in when all of this is over?
There’s no doubt public health will feature more prominently in planning decisions going forward. Top of Brockhoff’s wish list for more resilient cities is for community infrastructure to secure a spot further up the value chain. “We should look at community infrastructure like we look at pipes and roads, and not something that’s second class for when there’s a bit of money and space leftover.”
For this to happen, there will need to be more sustainable ways of raising money and spending on social infrastructure. There will need to be holistic reform on the funding forces used to get green and community infrastructure in place, including development contributions and the broader public purse. “To put it on the same footing we need to open the whole game up,” says Brockhoff.
Brockhoff is most concerned about people who are most likely to end up in those high-density areas without enough parks and open space. “We have an obligation to see that amenity is there for those people. It’s so important if you live in high-density areas that you have access to a whole range of benefits beyond your own four walls.”
This is an abridged version of an article that appeared in The Fifth Estate. Read the full article here.