2.1 Integrated Land Use and Infrastructure Planning
Integrated land use and infrastructure planning is a powerful tool which can influence the shape, structure, and economic, social, and environmental performance of a city. Population growth creates demand for more homes, and new residents require access to utilities, roads and public transport, employment opportunities, shopping, entertainment, and health, education and community services. New infrastructure and growing communities also attract businesses and employers, creating demand for further residential, commercial and industrial construction. Better aligning land use and infrastructure planning can improve Victoria’s urban development, creating a sense of place that improves social outcomes, sustainability and adds economic value.
Integrated approaches promote higher productivity, greater social interaction and a more sustainable urban footprint. Planning land use and infrastructure together encourages development in places that can accommodate growth and where the required services and infrastructure can be delivered.
Integration means planning together
Integrated land use and infrastructure planning can better manage change in communities and unlock greater benefits. It can deliver a shared aspiration for a city or region and help coordinate investments and policy reforms to achieve that vision.1 A more integrated approach promotes higher productivity, greater social interaction and capital, and a more sustainable urban footprint. It supports better local outcomes for communities by providing the right infrastructure at the right time, including essential social infrastructure and transport connections to the things people need.2 It can also support protection of sensitive areas such as water catchments.
Integration means collaborating to achieve common objectives for urban efficiency, sustainability and equity.3 It requires different governments and agencies to understand the multiple objectives each are trying to achieve and to transparently observe, understand, contribute to, and support one another’s plans. Each organisation can incorporate this knowledge in revisions to their plans to better align their efforts.
In the past, Victorian governments have been reluctant to publish long-term plans which commit them to infrastructure projects. However, the benefits of publishing these plans outweigh the risks. Being transparent about the planning process builds community, business and local government confidence, allowing them to make decisions and investments that align with and enhance government plans.4 Publication increases opportunities for collaboration between agencies, with other levels of government, and with the private and not-for-profit sectors. Planning land use and infrastructure together means development is encouraged in places that can accommodate growth, and the required infrastructure and services are delivered sequentially when needed.
As Victoria grows and changes, building and modernising infrastructure will become more complex. Land in large cities is scarce and expensive, and development and construction become more complicated over time. Integrated planning identifies underused infrastructure, reveals opportunities for co-location,5 and considers how infrastructure upgrades can be combined to lower costs and limit disruption.6
The Victorian Government’s infrastructure pipeline provides many opportunities for better integration with land use and between infrastructure sectors. The Level Crossing Removal Project has integrated open space into its delivery and provides other supporting transport solutions. For example, the Caulfield to Dandenong rail project adds 17 kilometres of continuous pedestrian and cycling paths along with open and community spaces.7 The Suburban Rail Loop project also seeks to better connect people to jobs and services, and will require inter-agency and inter-governmental coordination to plan for land use changes and different future infrastructure demands.
Victoria can learn from examples elsewhere
Victoria is not alone in grappling with integrated land use and infrastructure planning. Around the world, governments face challenges in planning infrastructure for populations that grow, change, and move over time. Leading examples of better integrated planning use similar processes and practices, even in places with radically different institutions.
Common governance arrangements include strong laws that mandate collaboration, transparent decision-making and published plans, strong community consultation and engagement, and a public-facing coordinating institution that facilitates inter-agency cooperation.
For example, Metro Vancouver is a federation of 21 municipalities, one electoral area and one Treaty First Nation that collaboratively plans for and delivers regional-scale services.13 Metro Vancouver 2040 is the region’s growth strategy, pursuing land use policies for regional development and efficiently providing transport, regional infrastructure and community services. It is legally required to ‘promote human settlement that is socially, economically and environmentally healthy and makes efficient use of public facilities and services, land and other resources’.14 An update of the plan is currently underway alongside a regional transport strategy update.15
Similarly, legislation requires the Mayor of London to develop a spatial development strategy, known as the London Plan, alongside a transport strategy, a housing strategy and an environmental strategy.
Similarly, legislation requires the Mayor of London to develop a spatial development strategy, known as the London Plan, alongside a transport strategy, a housing strategy and an environmental strategy. All strategies are publicly available and required to be consistent. The London Plan details how ‘housing, social, economic, cultural, environmental and transport policies tie together to achieve maximum impact’.16
In Australia, the New South Wales Government set up the Greater Sydney Commission to coordinate and align planning to shape Greater Sydney’s future. The Greater Sydney Region Plan17 identifies three integrated and connected cities to rebalance Greater Sydney and place houses, jobs, infrastructure and services within easier reach of more residents. It was prepared alongside the NSW Future Transport Plan18 and the NSW State Infrastructure Strategy.19
Victoria can learn from these examples, and others, to improve the integration of its land use and infrastructure planning and delivery.
Around the world, governments face common and unique challenges in planning infrastructure for populations that grow, change and move over time. Victoria can learn from the examples of other jurisdictions to improve and inform their planning and delivery.
A new approach can overcome current challenges
Fragmented decision-making, ambiguous responsibilities and undisclosed plans hinder integrated planning. Taking an isolated, sector by sector approach ‘can lead to siloed planning and infrastructure decision-making, inconsistent outcomes, and unintended consequences for places and communities’.20 The absence of effective collaboration arrangements and transparency means that plans often only achieve narrow agency goals, and miss opportunities to deliver broader benefits. It can also duplicate effort, cause extra disruption and generate unexpected changes in communities.
Integrated land use and infrastructure planning has been a Victorian Government goal for some time. For example, it is specifically mentioned in the Transport Integration Act 201021 and Victorian planning strategies such as Plan Melbourne. However, it is still not always evident in practice.
For instance, Plan Melbourne was developed without a corresponding transport plan. The Victorian Auditor General’s Office has identified many other examples where better integration could have delivered better results. These include delivering better transport infrastructure in growth areas,22 better delivery of maternal and child health, kindergarten services and related infrastructure,23 and fewer delays, frustrations and risks.24 Inadequately integrated planning can also mean revenue is not available for services or to fund infrastructure construction and maintenance. Infrastructure in Victoria is funded from different sources, including user charges, infrastructure developer contributions, and Australian, Victorian and local government budgets.
If infrastructure construction, operation and maintenance is not properly costed and revenue sources identified, it can have unexpected impacts on the Victorian Budget, and potentially conflict with the Victorian Government’s fiscal policies and objectives. Good integrated planning means identifying funding and revenue sources so enough funding is available when it is needed.
New technologies and software combined with shared data and mapping can also assist in streamlining planning processes and integrating land use planning and infrastructure. For example, ‘Digital twins’ are a virtual representation of a system and can combine datasets from transport, utilities, property, planning and the environment to help foresee potential infrastructure barriers to development, and forecast impacts of development proposals. The Digital Twin Victoria program is seeking to support better integrated planning and decision-making, facilitate co-design of scenarios to inform decision-making, avoid duplication of effort and data, streamline approval processes and reduce the costs of maintaining assets.25 Infrastructure Victoria has conducted detailed research into better ways to improve infrastructure and land use planning in established areas for growth and renewal. In this research, we focused on population-serving infrastructure provided by the Victorian Government, local governments and the private sector. This includes schools, libraries, community facilities, open space, sports grounds, swimming pools, social housing and utilities. More detail on this research is available in the technical paper Growing together: The case for better integration of land use and infrastructure planning in established areas.
Recommendations to support integrated land use and infrastructure planning
Infrastructure Victoria makes the following recommendations to help integrate land use and infrastructure planning. We also make specific recommendations about integrating land use and infrastructure planning in established suburbs (see section 2.2) and growth areas (see section 3.4).