Urban Australia: Planning issues and policies

Urban Australia: Planning issues and policies

Book reviews bishment. Scant attention has been paid to the wishes of the local population, and the result has been the destruction of their families...

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Book reviews

bishment. Scant attention has been paid to the wishes of the local population, and the result has been the destruction of their families with consequent mental illness. In many countries, and certainly in the UK, priority for rehousing has been given to the physically ill rather than to those suffering from mental illness. The probable reason for this is that it is easier to identify and quantify physical illness on the points scale. Therefore, if for no other reason, this book is a welcome addition to the shelves of institutional and private medical libraries and, hopefully, also to those of architects and town planners. It is edited by a psychiatrist who practises in one of the most underprivileged areas in England. As well as his own valuable contribution, there are chapters from authors in other professions and disciplines. Each one is an expert in his own field and the chapters include references to other authoritative and seminal papers. As well as the references at the end of each chapter, the Ilames of all these authorities are included in a comprehensive index at the end of the book. This book deals primarily with Western Europe and the Americas, but the addition of the problems from the Far East, in particular Hong Kong and Japan, would have been an added bonus. In these countries, as in the PR China, the population density far exceeds that of the Western World and rebuilding is proceeding rapidly. It would have been interesting to learn of the emotional problems they have encountered. Economic factors could also have been given wider coverage. In industrial countries, urban redevelopment has been followed by an increase in unemployment and, in the newly developed areas, the cost of living is often higher than elsewhere. Increases in rents for newly-built shops leads to higher prices for food and household goods. The break up of the extended family necessitates additional travel which is a further expense. The chapters on specific mental illness and emotional problems are well written and comprehensive. In the chapter on rural-urban differences there is only a brief mention of drug prescription but experience is showing

CITIES November 1987

that on the new housing estates and in the new towns, drug abuse is a major problem. The demand for tranquilizers and antidepressants is higher in these areas, and unless the doctors are prudent in prescribing such drugs the situation can soon get out of hand. It is very difficult to explain to patients that all the tablets in the formulary will not alter the e n v i r o n m e n t . Whether this type of drug misuse leads to hard drug abuse is debatable, but it is common knowledge that heroin, and now cocaine, addiction is more prevalent in these areas. The final chapter, written by an architect, may almost have been added as an afterthought, although architectural and desgin faults can be responsible for a large proportion of mental illness and, to lesser extent, physical illness. For example, the Parker Morris standard for house building which prevailed in the 1960s and 1970s, combined with open-plan living areas, resulted in a tack of privacy for children doing their homework and for the elderly who wanted to get away from the noise of record players. Conducted hot-air central heating systems, in the absence of adequate ventilation, are responsible for a higher incidence of respiratory infections. Crowding and territoriality (! do not like the latter term) is very well covered and identifies many of the causes of mental illness. More attention could have been given to flats and flat dwellers. Different nationalities have different attitudes to this type of living, and the underlying differences

may have some relevance as to why families are still unhappy after being rehoused from one room with no sanitation and in a poor state of repair to a brand new flat with all modern conveniences. Perhaps unhappiness is not strictly a mental illness, but it is often a precursor of it. I have picked on some of the minor deficiencies but this should not detract from the excellence of this book. It should be read by general practitioners, especially trainees who work in these underprivileged areas; by hospital doctors who will treat patients coming from these homes which they may never see; and by community physicians who are responsible for the public health of the communities. It is essential reading for architects and town planners to make them appreciate the consequences of their misguided work. It is the next best thing to making them live in the areas they have developed and the houses they have designed. Covering data for Europe and North America, it can be recommended universally to anyone who cares about improving the quality of life of less privileged members of society. Although some of the articles include technical terms, this will not prevent the reader gaining an insight to the problems discussed.

Mervyn Goodman, GP Chairman of the Liverpool Local Medical Committee Liverpool, UK

Australian urban scene URBAN AUSTRALIA: PLANNING ISSUES AND POLICIES edited by Stephen Hamnett and Raymond Bunker Mansell Publishing, London, 1987, 192 pp, £28.50 The contents of this book did not come entirely as a surprise as five of the nine chapters were previously published in a special issue of Built E n v i r o n m e n t in mid-1985 and three of

the others have also appeared elsewhere. Nevertheless, the contributors include some of the better known (and prolific) writers on the Australian urban scene and there is considerable merit in making such articles accessible to a wider local and international readership. The collection is primarily intended for student use and deals with a diverse selection of urban planning issues, including: an overview of urban growth (Maher); development and change in Sydney (Rich, Cardew


Book reviews~Recent poliQ' articles and Langdale), state planning in Victoria and New South Wales (Logan): urban consolidation policies (Bunker); housing (Paris): transport (Scrafton and Starrs); the declining industrial region of Wollongong, NSW (Sandercock and Melser); Queensland (Minnery): and a long case study of m e t r o p o l i t a n Sydney ( W i l m o t h ) . There are also short introductory and concluding sections by the editors. A collection which purports to cover urban Australia as a whole inevitably presents the editors with problems of what to leave out and how to achieve a balance among the great range of possible topics. The choice made is not entirely successful in this respect, tending to overemphasize a metropolitan bias and the city of Sydney. However, each contribution is of a high standard. Although they may only account for less than 20% of the national population, there are more than 500 small Australian towns experiencing a mix of planning problems distinctly different from the dozen large centres which usually capture most scholarly attention. It is extraordinary nowadays, for example, to find a general book on urban Australia which manages to ignore Aboriginal questions almost entirely. The fact that this omission is noted by the editors will cut little ice with Aboriginal people in small towns (and some city ghettos) across the country and it is small wonder that few of them are greeting the 1988 Bicentenary with enthusiasm (p 1). T he A u s t r a l i a n H u m a n Rights Commission has just released preliminary findings of an inquiry into the race riot at the Queensland border town of Goondiwindi in December 1986 when 22 car loads of NSW Aborigines smashed up two hotels (and many of their white patrons). The attackers were from a small town where very poor living conditions had made life intolerable. According to the Sydney Morning Herald of 27 June 1987: 'The commission found 390 people [in the town] shared 36 houses, four vans, two sheds and a hut'. Enough said. A recurrent theme which does come out strongly in several chapters is the importance of global economic restructuring in Australia, which has led


to resource developments in remote areas and macroeconomic changes affecting the urban system. Some of these are seen in the emerging dominance of Sydney and its strengthening financial links with countries on the 'Pacific Rim" (Chapter 1, Maher, and Chapter 2, Rich et al) and the decline of old industrial cities like Newcastle and Wollongong in NSW (Chapter 7, Sandercock and Melser). The farreaching implications of these changes demand radical solutions. In the words of the latter authors: any solution to the problems found in capitalist cities and regions must be broadly based strategy that addresses structural change in its e n t i r e t y . . . We are certainly calling f o r . . , a beginning for hard hcaded yet visionary and holistic thinking about coherent alternatives to the present mishmash of ad hoc responses to Australia's economic transformation (p 138). Among the more useful chapters for the student are the overviews of urban c o n s o l i d a t i o n policy ( C h a p t e r 4, Bunker) and housing (Chapter 5, Paris). Both successfully address comparative circumstances in different parts of the country and contain good bibliographies. Paris, in particular, manages to cover a century of change in lively and readable fashion and coins the most quotable phrase in the whole volume: Speculation and over-investment caused booms and busts as ever; by 1983 it was a common saying amongst real estate agents that the main difference between herpes and a Gold Coast unit was that you could give the herpes away (p 86).

Less well integrated with the other contributions are the chapters on transport (Chapter 6, Scrafton and Starrs) and Queensland planning (Chapter 8. Minnery). The former is a good analysis of contemporary conditions but says rather too little about the transport-induced inequalities of city living of the kind described bv Black (1977) n as "public inconvenience'. Minnery brings out well the d i st i n ct i v e planning e n v i r o n m e n t found in this part of the "deep north" but surprisingly chooses two case studies of rural land development (Moreton Island and the Daintree rainforest road) rather than the interesting circumstances of small-town planning in Queensland. The latter include mining towns, remote pastoral centres, expanding ports like Gladstone and declining settlements in the sugar-cane districts of the far north. Overall, this is a welcome, if incomplete addition to the Australian urban planning literature. The book is attractively laid out and will prove popular with a broad tertiary level readership. The hard cover retail pricc of £28.50 is a bit expensive for a collection of papers which have already been widely circulated and may restrict sales (especially in Australia) to institutional purchasers.

John Lea University of Sydney ~J. Black, Public Inconvenience, Urban Research Unit monograph, Australian National University, Canberra, 1977.

Recent policy articles General public provisions J.D. Perry and M. Simpson, ~Violent crime in a city', Environment and Behavior, Vol 19, No 1, January 1987, pp 77-90. J. Urry, 'Some social and spatial aspects of services', Environment and Planning D, Vol 5, No 1, March 1987, pp 5-26.

Planning theory and practice M. Ritzdorf, +Planning and the in-

tcrgcncrational community', Journal +~/ Urban Affairs, Vol 9, No 1. 1987, pp 79-911. M.O. Stephcnson, Jr, 'The policy ~,nd premises of urban development action program implementalion', J~Jurna[ of Urban Affairs, Vol 9, No 1, 1987, pp 19-36. C.J. Wirth and M.L. Vasu, qdeology and decision making for American city managers', Urban Affairs Quarterly, Vol 22, No 3, March 1987, pp 454-474.

C I T I E S N o v e m b e r 1987