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. Speaking to The Fifth Estate, John Brockhoff, National Policy Manager at the Planning Institute of Australia, said that COVID-19 had 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.
Brockhoff would like 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.” Brockhoff is especially concerned about people who are most likely to end up in 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.”
A report from the Australian Housing and Urban Research Institute echoes that view. Its authors call for an increase in local government funding so that adequate public space can be built to improve the lives of low-income earners living in high-rise apartment buildings. “Having access to local facilities and spaces, such as libraries, community centres and parks, is essential for apartment residents on lower incomes as they are less likely to be able to afford to use other commercial spaces such as cafes,” said lead author Associate Professor Hazel Easthope. “What COVID-19 has done is given a taste of what it’s like to not have access to those
facilities for everyone.”