3 Principles of The Canberra Spatial Plan

The key principles underpinning the Spatial Plan are:

  • Containing growth
  • Residential intensification
  • Centralising new residential areas
  • Locating employment
  • Protecting biodiversity
  • Good travel connections
  • Sustainable growth of the region

The rationale behind these principles is outlined in this section.

Containing growth

The Canberra Spatial Plan provides an urban settlement strategy that contains up to 50 per cent of the projected urban growth in the ACT and surrounding NSW within the existing urban area of Canberra. In addition, the Strategic Direction aims to contain up to 90 per cent of future urban development projected to occur in the 30 year time frame of the Spatial Plan to areas no further from Civic than the suburbs of Gungahlin (approximately 15 km).

The containment of the city within a 15 kilometre radius of the city centre reflects the aspirations of our community to restrain urban expansion. Containment will assist in maintaining a more sustainable city form in terms of the following:

  • Limiting travel time and distance — by minimising journey length between home, employment, education, retail centres, recreation and services. The alternative (as outlined in The ACT and Sub-Region Planning Strategy 1998) proposes future urban growth in the locality of Gooromon–Jeir to the north west of the ACT. Gooromon–Jeir was originally identified as a future urban area in the Y-Plan of 1967. The Y-Plan was based on significant levels of containment of trips within distinct urban areas (the districts around each town centre). Despite 30 years of planning, these levels of containment have not been achieved — for example, Tuggeranong (which is approaching completion) contains 25 per cent of the residential population of Canberra, but only 9 per cent of the employment, meaning that most of the people living in Tuggeranong must travel elsewhere for jobs. Similarly, whilst education institutions in the Government system and food based retailing are well distributed in each district so trips to these are largely contained, tertiary education is centralised in the city centre and Belconnen, and 30 per cent of retail floor space (the vast majority of the bulky goods retailing for the ACT) is located in Fyshwick. Further dispersement of the urban development to areas like Gooromon–Jeir is not likely to achieve any higher levels of containment (indeed, the trend is towards lesser containment as trips become more complex). Thus, by ensuring that new residential development occurs either within the existing urban area, or close to existing development, trip lengths are minimised.
  • Accessibility — Canberrans value the high levels of accessibility offered by the well planned layout of the city and its roads. Public transport access, particularly to the areas most distant from employment, is good by Australian city standards, but the time taken from origin to destination means that people relying on public transport do not have high levels of access. By containing the extent of future urban development to no further than 15 kilometres from the city centre, the high levels of accessibility the city currently offers will be retained and enhanced as more people are able to live close to centres of employment and services. A city structure that offers centralised employment, by district and in the central area, with retail and other services provided at the district level, optimises the operation of a public transport system while at the same time allowing for a distribution of private vehicle traffic that avoids congestion of trunk routes (as would be the case if Gooromon–Jeir was to be the next major area of development).
  • Increasing the vibrancy of the city centre — containing growth within a distance that allows easy access to the city centre, and encouraging significant additional residential development in and around the city centre will increase the vibrancy of that centre by creating 24 hour activity.
  • Biodiversity conservation and environmental protection — containing outward spread of the city so that the ‘footprint’ of the city on the landscape is minimised (whilst balancing it with the need to provide housing choice) assists greatly in protecting biodiversity. Containing urban development also minimises the impacts of urban growth on the environment by reducing the per capita production of greenhouse gases and consumption of energy.