Urban consolidation adversely impacts liveability by increasing noise, and is the biggest concern and impact. Noise affects both amenity and health. It comes from a range of sources including ongoing new construction or renovation, dogs and peak dog walking hour, peak hour train traffic, air conditioners, pool pumps and garden appliances.
Previous articles aspects of urban consolidation in the Whepstead precinct have discussed:
The series continues by examining impacts of urban consolidation of liveability.
Noise and livability
As there are more houses and they are closer and closer together, there is more and more noise. The noise impinges on the livability of neighbourhoods and planning fails to take this into account.
Dog barking is typically the single biggest cause of noise complaints in urban areas, with Brisbane City Council recording 6,400 complaints in 2013. Seventy-five percent of homes now have air conditioners and about 15 percent have pools. Most now have several petrol powered garden appliances including mowers, trimmers, blowers and chain saws. Not long ago it was mostly a mower and a rake.
In addition, cats roam freely day and night and there are fewer visits now by honey-eaters as noisy miners predominate and chase other birds away. Then as trees disappear, while at the same time traffic and dogs increased in number and urban noise gets louder and more frequent.
These are all threats to koalas.
Has urban consolidation kicked any goals?
So has all this infill achieved any of the goals of urban consolidation such as increasing population density, stopping urban sprawl and reducing energy consumption? Regarding urban sprawl, our precious farmland just down the road continues to be rezoned for housing. As for population density, the population has increased in this area since urban consolidation policy really started in about 2000.
In the precinct I estimate that dwellings increased from 189 houses, including 8 units (about 546 people) to about 262 dwellings, including 42 units and about 690 people in 2015. This is a 26 percent increase in population. But I think it is arguable if this has had any great benefit on either increasing train use or reducing car pollution. This is because the population of Wellington Point as a whole has increased far more rapidly from about 8,000 in 2000 to over 12,000 today (i.e. by 50 percent). Any small benefit of higher train patronage is largely offset by a much larger increase in car trips in general.
My findings are supported by the Redland City Council Transport Plan 2016 (adopted in 2003) which projected only about 12,400 trips by train by 2011, compared to 389,000 trips of all kinds, mostly by car. Wellington Point station only handles about 20 percent of all train trips in the City. So the number of people using the train is still very low compared to car use. What has happened however is that residents of Whepstead precinct now suffer increased traffic, noise and emissions at peak train use times.
Regarding the energy efficiency of the building stock, detached housing has got bigger with Australian homes (excluding units/townhouses) now the biggest in the world. They have many more appliances, even since the 1990s. I know this from my many home energy audits over the years and government reports.
Large houses require more energy, particularly for heating, cooling and lighting.
Air conditioning is used in most houses and pools are common. These are big energy users. As well, while houses since 2003 have to meet minimum energy efficiency standards, these standards have been poorly applied and most of these homes are still large energy users. This was confirmed by recent CSIRO projects that I worked for, assessing the energy consumption and efficiency of homes less than 10 and 4 years old (Ambrose et al, 2013).
Does this make me want to move?
No, because I have made some great friends and it is still a beautiful part of the world.
But it does make me want to work to improve things via education and cooperative relationships with neighbours. The problems arising from urban consolidation point to a need for a better urban planning and that there are real impacts from consolidation that need to be factored into the planning regime.
Neither the new City Plan nor the new SEQ Regional Plan seem to meaningfully appreciate or address the adverse impacts of urban consolidation.
I will explore some positive measures that could address some of these issues in future articles.
Written by Trevor Berrill