Artist impression of Greening The Greyfields. Image: Maroondah City Council,

Greening the Greyfields

A newly published book, Greening the Greyfields: New Models for Regenerating the Middle Suburbs of Low-Density Cities, tackles the perennial and growing issue of how to achieve better, infill higher density development – and do it with the benefits that a precinct scale can deliver.

A newly published book, Greening the Greyfields: New Models for Regenerating the Middle Suburbs of Low-Density Cities, tackles the perennial and growing issue of how to achieve better, infill higher density development – and do it with the benefits that a precinct scale can deliver.

This free book is published by Springer and authored by Peter W Newton, Peter W G Newman, Stephen Glackin, Giles Thomson. Palgrave Macmillan. Following is an excerpt from the preface

Greening the Greyfields integrates two strands of research pioneered by the senior authors of this book: ending automobile dependence and accelerating the supply of more-sustainable, medium-density infill housing in greyfield suburbs at precinct scale.

The issues that drive this collaboration are the patterns of disconnected land use and transport development and the dysfunctional model for urban regeneration in the middle suburbs that continue to characterise the rapid growth of 21st Australian cities (as well as their international counterparts).

Greyfields are the geographic focus of the new planning models outlined in this book: the ageing, occupied residential tracts of suburbs that are physically, technologically, and environmentally obsolescent and that represent economically outdated, failing, or under-capitalised real estate assets.

They are typically located in the low-density, car-dependent middle suburbs of cities developed in the mid to late 20th century.

They are rich in services, amenities, and employment, compared to the outer and peri-urban suburbs, and are becoming the focus of significant but suboptimal suburban re-urbanisation pressures.

Despite these pressures, there is a lack of appropriate planning models for urban regeneration.

Urban regeneration is required to shrink the unsustainable urban and ecological footprints of “suburban” cities as well as deliver environments that are more resilient, liveable, and equitable for future city populations.

In light of COVID-19, urban regeneration also needs to be aligned to a restructuring of the work-residence relationship of cities, re-localising urban places and increasing their self-sufficiency as “20-minute neighbourhoods”. This presents a grand challenge for the 21st century.

Precincts emerge as the most appropriate scale for tackling urban regeneration. They are the building blocks of cities: the scale at which greenfields continue to be developed; and the scale at which brownfields are being redeveloped.

At present, however, there is a deficit in precinct-level planning models appropriate for sustainable urban development in the greyfields.

Greyfield precinct regeneration(GPR) represents that missing class of planning model. In this book, we outline the genesis of the concept and its two sub-models—place-activated and transit-activated GPR—and the broader framework for their targeting and implementation, which involves a new concept and process: district greenlining.

This strategic process enables state and municipal agencies to identify the boundaries of larger districts where retrofitting plans and timetables for next-generation physical (energy, water, waste, and transport) and social (health and educational) infrastructures, as well as nature-based services, are developed in an integrated manner, providing the spatial context for better identifying and specifying place-activated and transit-activated GPR projects.

Assembling larger land parcels for precinct-scale renewal is one of the components in establishing a pathway towards realising the United Nations Sustainable Development Goal 11 of “inclusive, safe, resilient and sustainable” urban development—a critical objective of GPR.

GPR requires demonstration of additionality: the multiple benefits that reflect more comprehensive, design-led, integrated land use and transport approaches to planning, compared to business-as-usual fragmented, small-lot infill.

Given the increasingly pervasive and pressing nature of the greyfield regeneration challenge, all levels of government need to become engaged in developing a strategic response.

Establishing greyfield precinct regeneration authorities in major cities, involving partnerships with all major urban stakeholder groups and led by the national government in a Better Cities 2.0 program, would represent an important catalyst for driving urban regeneration in the greyfields.

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