Last stop: “Concentrated de-concentration” in the Netherlands.
June 12, 2015 4 Comments
The final country we visited on the study tour was the Netherlands which had a great urban planning philosophy here that can in part be neatly summarised by the phrase “concentrated de-concentration”.
This is relevant to Perth because it is close to opposite of the kind of de-concentrated urban sprawl that is currently happening on our fringe, with the only concentration of investment and activity in the Perth CBD. Instead of low density suburbs smudging over surrounding bush, in the Netherlands they build a series of dense activity centres (or medium sized cities) surrounded by agriculture fields and bushland. These new centres were once again well linked with high quality public transport. We got to visit a few but my favourite was Amersfoort, a prosperous historic town with a population of around 145,000, has developed three new settlements on its outskirts to provide over 20,000 new homes. Peter Hall focuses his book on the redevelopment in Vathorst which aimed (along with Kattenbroek and Nieuwland) to set new standards in affordable housing and exemplary design, whilst maintaining high standards of social and environmental sustainability. Vathorst has furthered Amersfoort reputation as ‘one of the greenest cities in Europe’ and has won international acclaim as a sustainable, liveable city, for a number of reasons:
Low carbon city
Valthorst has set itself a target of 10% below the rate set by the Government for emissions and energy consumption. The developments make use of durable materials and energy resources, including district heating by means of an waste to energy, solar panels, efficient use of space (clustering of amenities) and high-quality architecture. Rain water is retained on site. Underground waste storage is an innovative Dutch practice that encourages recycling.
Strong transport choices
Vathorst sustainability credentials include the centre been made car free, with local services and public transport links within walking distance of every new home and a strong focus on cycling as a viable alternative to the car. Cars are banned from the city centre and are restricted in the new developments, to reduce car dependency. High quality cycle and footpaths intersect all neighbourhoods. To encourage the use of public transport there is a maximum walking distance of 400m to bus stops from every house. The Dutch Government with the development authority even paid for an upgraded railway station in advance of the population needed to support it.
Strong affordable housing policy
According to Hall: “Amersfoort also pioneered the principle that now applies throughout the Netherlands: that there should be a complete balance of housing, in terms of values, in each of neighbourhood of 500 units to avoid polarisation. For every 500 houses there is a mix of types of housing, 30% which must be affordable/subsidized and 60% which must be for social rent.”
In my final post on the trip I hope to draw everything we have seen into a key lessons learnt.