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Urban Design – A Brief

Describe about the Developing an Urban Design Plan.

This paper undertakes the scope, utilisation and impact which Urban Designing can make to an urban development project. The Lama Yeshe Village being planned in Bendigo VIC is one such project and the discussion in this paper takes a look on this project’s use of Urban Designing concepts through a five step process.

Urban Design – A Brief

Since cities and towns in Australia are based on the country’s culture patterns, it becomes essential that they keep evolving and ensuring the sustainability of their economic and social future[1]. In this context, Urban Designing can guide the evolution of Australian cities, while keeping in view the changing cultural values. A sustainable Urban Design can be used for maximising public benefit by ensuring that development is assessed in context of its long term outcome. Thus a viable Urban Design shall ensure that improved sustainability is associated with every initiative which effects the physical changes to a city[2].

As Urban Design is research based, subsequent design processes and its analysis shall support the everyday interaction of society with the urban environment. Moreover, Urban Design also takes into consideration the inter-relationship between the prevailing domains in private and public sectors. The private sector remains diverse, changing and individual in character, whereas the public sector remains interconnected[3], is continuous and permanent in character. Although the private sector remains dependent on public sector, any development of the private land can be best derived when it has inter-relationship with the public sector[4].

Although urban design does not find much attention in legislation planning, three important legislations are worth mentioning. The Development Act, 1993 first made reference to ‘urban design’ in context to experts whose knowledge could make them suitable for membership of the Development Assessment Commission. This was followed by The Housing and Urban Development (Administrative Arrangements) (Urban Renewal Authority) Regulations, 2012, which included the objective, and I quote “to develop and implement policies and strategies that encourage excellence in the design, planning and delivery of housing and urban development” unquote. In the recently promulgated Housing and Urban Development (Administrative Arrangements) (Urban Renewal) Amendment Act, 2013, it was implicitly referred that the principles and practice of urban design are helping build future cities[5]. Under this Act, it was recognised that establishing the Design Review Panels for projects which required masterplan details could include urban design features. Apart from this, legislations with limited jurisdiction on urban design have also been formulated, such as the Sustainable Planning Act, 2009 (Qld) which makes restrictive references to the benefits of ‘urban design’[6].

Legislative Framework


This projects is as per the national level Urban Design policy and uses the practice programme for creating awareness about urban design as to how this can increase the economic, social and environmental sustainability of the future cities.


Provision of appropriate resources have been made for the implementation of Urban Design practice while promoting this new public-private sector project.

Lama Yeshe Village, Bendigo VIC 

The proposed village shall comprise of the main Stupa, two small stupas along with 62 residential 2 storey dwellings in the style of detached and attached dwellings. The design of the layout is in accordance with the LGA’s recommendations based on the ecological assessment of the area[7]. The houses, being built using the urban design concept of terrace, are placed in blocks of six dwellings each. Such an urban design has proven quality of insulation for the interiors. Maintaining environmental sustainability, the key features of these houses will be solar panels and double glazed windows[8]. It is estimated that the exterior of the Great Stupa itself will be completed in about three years, although the interiors will take much longer. These new dwellings are attracting a lot many buyers, especially from retirees and their families, although the buyers will not own the land after they move into this Buddha City but will just own the house.

Discovering the grand vision behind the Great Stupa

Ian Green, a great devotee of Buddha, is the main driving force behind the project, although he does not think that the city will be finished in his lifetime. The project is being managed by a steering group of local stakeholders, which includes the residents, the local government authorities, business houses, financial institutions, the local community and certain special interest groups[9]. This group, which is overseeing the core construction team, has the executive authority of taking the project towards completion. At present Ian Green is acting as the project manager/team leader and is carrying the prime responsibility of co-ordinating and delivering the entire project[10].

Specific Planning Objectives

The following are the planning objectives for this Community Residential-cum-Praying Complex.

Facilitate a comprehensive range of houses which will meet the needs of a wide cross-section of the society.

Promote a ‘sense of community living’ through a definition of a neighbourhood area devoted to conservation and visual landscape.

Promote a residential amenity having particular regard to environmental safety, convenience and visual attractiveness.


Promote and create a structure with urban design which makes efficient use of land and provides open space, community facilities and recreational opportunities, along with fulfilling the spiritual needs of the community[11].

Step Two: Appreciating the Context

The contextual appreciation begins with suggested developmental potentials and the working ways associated with urban designing. It is important to analyse the information regarding the needs of the project on the basis of a SWOT analysis (see below)[12]. One of the important component of such an analysis is identifying any contextual physical constraints attached with the future land use which may impact the development potential of the project.

The two gold buildings near the Great Stupa are stupas of other Buddhist traditions. The small, white buildings are houses.


Lama Yeshe Village Indicative Layout

Lama Yeshe Village Indicative Layout


Actual Site Photographs of Lama Yeshe Village


Community Open Space

In the contextual sense with regard to the use by the community, an open space comprises of all the Open Space which will be commonly held under public ownership and will form part of the within the LGA’s Designation of open Spaces. A hierarchy of the Open Space elements, each with different size and role is to be envisaged for the residents. These major Open Space elements should be linked, wherever found possible, with the linear open spaces, including the streets, walkways and road reserves in order to form an Open Space System which will provide to the users access to a wide range of open space experiences[13].

Objectives for the Open Space System

The objectives to be fulfilled by the Open Space System are to:

  • Ensure that the residents have enough public open space to meet their sporting, recreational and environmental needs.
  • Provide enough land for open space in accordance with the urban design functional hierarchy which reflects the needs of the residents.
  • Ensure that the open space system creates links through linear pathways and local street networks all key community and recreational facilities with the residential areas[14].
  • Ensure that all the vegetation areas are properly conserved by incorporating them into the Open Space Network.
  • Provide a park system which is safe to use by the residents.
  • Preserve all areas having significant visual and scenic attributes.
  • Provide, wherever possible, multiple functional use of the open space system.
  • Preserve all sites and areas which are of significant cultural heritage[15].


The project is:

  • Close to both inner city and out-of-city travel.
  • Close to other residential, institutional and commercial areas.
  • Using the urban designing concepts to provide scope to future residents by allowing a street friendly elevation which also enhances street level interaction.


The Project has:

  • Little distinction between the public and private domains.
  • Parking provisions which are restricted because of zoning laws.


The Project makes:

  • Use of urban design techniques makes optimum use of the site.
  • Use of services which complement those offered in the downtown areas.
  • Use of Urban Design for future street enhancement and revitalization of the surroundings.


  • The Project has potential security concerns[16].

For a project that aims at future evaluation, the best way forward is the necessity to agree on its assessment criteria. The project requires to combine the urban design principles with the needs of the community, its economic viability and engineering feasibility. It is important for the implementation of the urban design to adopt a strategy that follows the design intentions and not vice versa[17]. Whenever found necessary, a revisit to the design layout should be taken so as to achieve the highest quality and the most economical solution. The creative design process and constant design development are iterative processes and must involve constant and frequent reviews of the issues as more information is gathered[18]. A Development Framework, commonly known as the Masterplan, becomes the likely output of workings at this stage and this can be enriched by referring to more detailed urban design guidelines and future indicative ideas for the project[19].


Infrastructure and Community Facilities

Water Supply


Electricity and Telephone

Urban Storm-water Management

Community Facilities

These requirements are to be dealt as per the Infrastructure Agreement. Reference should be made to those provisions of the Infrastructure Agreement which are relevant for incorporation in the Structure Plan[20].

A detailed design largely depends on the delivery mechanism and the implementation programme adopted by the management, especially the Project Leader. Ian Green has closely considered them, right from the beginning and keeps reviewing them, with consultation of other stakeholders[21]. Those mechanisms which have been confirmed at this stage are:

  • Management and supervision of all public areas, including community parks and children’s play areas, as these form a key component of ensuring that the project’s physical and social quality of the environment is regularly maintained. The Project Leader is of the opinion that these will be constantly subjected to detailed discussions, from time to time, not only with the residents’ groups and associations but also with the local authorities[22].
  • Adoption and maintenance of common areas, streets and parks.
  • Management of construction quality by adopting the relevant planning regulations, covenants and applicable legal and financial agreements.

Performance Criteria and Compliance

The Local Governing Council of the LGA shall take into account, before granting approval to the project or before the promoters carry out development on the prescribed land, the following factors connected with the Conservation Criteria of the area.

  • The likely effects of all the developments, including clearing, on the flora and fauna which is found in the development area[23].
  • The likely effects of all the developments, including clearing, on erosion, slope stability and siltation of the watercourses in and around the development area.
  • The likely effects of all the developments, including clearing, on the disposal of sewerage effluent / wastewater and storm-water drainage in and around the development area[24].

The Local Governing Council of the LGA shall take into account, before granting approval to the project or before the promoters carry out development on the prescribed land, whether it is required to impose any conditions which are related to:

  • The height and location of the buildings.
  • The materials and colours used for the project, so as to ensure that all the buildings blend with the project’s surrounding landscape and are helpful in preserving and enhancing the scenic beauty of the area[25].

Objectives for the Conservation Areas

The objectives to be adhered to by the Project Leader for the conservation programme are concerned with the protection of:

  • features which have already been identified as being of significance for a particular habitat;
  • the diversity of all habitats for their flora and fauna;
  • the land of the area, particularly that which acts as the habitat connection area;
  • and preserving of sites and areas which have a significant cultural heritage;
  • and conserving all major water catchment areas;
  • those areas which are of scenic value to the area; and
  • visual amenity of all the prominent ridgelines of the area[26].

This project has devoted nearly 50% of the area to the Community Residential Development under the Structure Plan and the intention is to have predominantly residential development combined with most essential areas for retail, educational, community recreation and open space systems[27]. The anticipated number of residential dwellings as per the planning goal of this project is to ensure that the residential development is executed in a way so as to provide a safe and desirable environment to the residents, keeping in view their needs and optimise use of urban land resources[28].

Once the detailed designs are agreed upon, the stakeholders must start the process of implementation and management arrangements, such as:

  • The delivery schedule so as to ensure a range of development opportunities and accommodation benefits are available to the prospective residents.
  • The setting of a management and maintenance structure, especially in the areas of public utility, after the project is completed[29].


Earthworks and these include removal of vegetation, should only be carried out in those areas which are covered by the approved Area Development Plan or as authorised by the Infrastructure Agreement and only in compliance with the conditions imposed under the approved Area Development Plan or the approved Engineering Drawings. It is for the LGA and the Local Governing Council to impose such conditions as are necessary for implementation once approval for the Area Development Plan or the Engineering Drawings is given[30].

Removal of Vegetation

Step One: Getting Started

It would be imperative to remove certain portions of the vegetation for the proposed development as it will be necessary for reshaping of the project’s land surface. Prior to starting any such activity, the management will submit to the Local Governing Council a report which has been prepared by a professional engineer, providing details of the clearing. This report will also contain a proposed plan for the regeneration / restoration of vegetation for the approval of the Responsible Officer. The managing committee of the project will abide by the conditions, if any, imposed by the Responsible Officer in granting approval to the report such as the requirement concerned with pit burning or chipping of timber[31].

Cultural Heritage

The management cannot remove or destroy or interfere in any manner with any of the identified cultural heritage resources, which may either be of Aboriginal or European origin or of the Victoria Estate. It is essential for the Project Leader to satisfy the Local Governing Council that it will not indulge in the avoidance of any law or regulation as designated in Appendix-1 of the Open Space Master Plan and the Cultural Heritage Conservation Plan prior to the Council approving its Local Area Plans[32]. Such an undertaking will include all such lands which are identified as being of cultural heritage significance and are protected by the Environmental Protection Agency of the state.


The Local Governing Council will not allow any urban development, excluding parkland areas, below the notified flood level areas[33].

Noise Exposure

The proposed new urban development will comply with the Council’s directives with regard to the maximum noise exposure levels. It is for the Project Leader to maintain, where necessary, an appropriate buffer distance and other noise attenuation measures in the construction zone[34].


Planning and Urban Design Controls

It should be the prime responsibility of all development agencies to adhere to the regulations of the Reform Planning Legislation so as to ensure appropriate development outcomes which are in support of the continuity of the nation’s urban culture and the projects are economically, socially and environmentally sustainable. Hence, the planners must follow the planning and urban design definitions provided in the legislations proposed by the Local Government Policy documents. It must also ensure that the urban design plans will provide a consistent, comprehensive policy to assist the community’s engagement with the development review process. Urban Design controls should be uniform throughout the nation and should provide appropriate controls which encourage architecture of high quality and also ensure that participation of the stakeholders in the approval process is focused on those issues which affect the public domain.

Step Two: Appreciating the Context

Continued Expansion of Cities into Hinterland

It is essential to keep a check on the continued expansion of cities into their hinterland if this is not sustainable by the environment. This becomes more important in those areas where density and amenity will be increased and will minimise the efficiency and sustainability of infrastructure[35].

Information on the Physical Characteristics

It is for the experts, knowledgeable business heads and developers in particular to ensure that an adequate co-ordination and access to such information about the physical characteristics of major cities is made available to all concerned. In view of this author such an access to the comprehensive information on the physical characteristics of the major cities must be made a fundamental requirement for promoting Urban Design practice. All data provided by the research connected with Urban Design, including data on the current and past composition of the cities and the evaluated processes of changes in relation to an increased sustainability factor over the years should be compiled for easy sharing among the concerned experts. All Local Government Councils are in the best position of securing such comprehensive research data so as to assist and promote Urban Design practice among those involved in the development of more cities.

Minimise further Expansion of Cities

Supporting the containment of major Australian cities is necessary but not at the cost of housing affordability, although such initiatives should be curtailed which increase the size of the cities disproportionately and compromise their sustainability.

Responsibilities of the Communities

Support of the communities is required to actively pursue the social, environmental and economic policies of their Councils, especially those policies which directly target the sustainable development of the area and by improvement in the public infrastructure. Advocacy for development which provides high levels of public and private amenity is the need of the times to make cities more sustainable. Hence, communities should support those development applications which although encourage diversity, are environmentally sustainable and have clear community benefits[36].

List of References:

Ashworth, Anthony. Contractual Procedures in the Construction Industry. Oxon: Routledge, 2013.

Bevans, Neal R. Real Estate and Property Law for Paralegals. London: Aspen Publishers Online, 2008.

Burn, Edward Hector, Cartwright, John and Maudsley, Ronald Harling. Maudsley and Burn's Land Law. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2009.

Cartlidge, David. Quantity Surveyor's Pocket Book, 2nd ed. Oxon: Routledge, 2012.

Erp, Sjef van and Akkermans, Bram (ed). Cases, Materials and Text on Property Law. London: Bloomsbury Publishing, 2012.

Goodhart, Charles and Hofmann, Bob. House Prices and the Macroeconomy: Implications for Banking and Price Stability. Oxford: OUP Oxford, 2007.

Hinkel, Daniel. Practical Real Estate Law, 6th ed. Boca Raton, FL: Cengage Learning, 2010.

King, Sarah. Beginning Land Law. Oxon: Routledge, 2015.

Lavender, Sam. Management for the Construction Industry. Oxon: Routledge, 2014.

Lester, Arthur. Project Management, Planning and Control, 6th ed. Oxon: Butterworth-Heinemann, 2013.

McFarlane, Ben, Hopkins, Nicholas and Nield, Sarah. Land Law: Text, Cases, and Materials. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2012.

Megarry, Robert, Wade, William, Harpum, Charles, Bridge, Stuart and Dixon, Martin J. The Law of Real Property, 8th ed. New York: Sweet & Maxwell, 2012.

Myers, David. Construction Economics: A New Approach. New York: Taylor & Francis, 2004.

Pratt, Davy. Fundamentals of Construction Estimating, 3rd ed. New York: Cengage Learning, 2010.

Sexton, Roger and Bogusz, Barbara. Complete Land Law: Text, Cases, and Materials. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2013.

Sherratt, Fred. Introduction to Construction Management. Oxon: Routledge, 2015.

Taylor, James. Project Scheduling and Cost Control: Planning, Monitoring and Controlling the Baseline. Florida: J. Ross Publishing, 2008.

Towey, Davis. Cost Management of Construction Projects. West Sussex: John Wiley & Sons, 2013.

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