The Upside of Social Distancing and the need for more Green Space

COVID-19, and social distancing in particular, demonstrate the need for well-designed public open spaces and have highlighted our reliance on green infrastructure. It is well documented that access to greenspace is good for our health and wellbeing.

And whilst it is good to know that every LGA across Sydney maintains parks and outdoor recreational and sporting grounds, as Sydneysiders well know, green and open space is not evenly distributed throughout the region.

According to ABS data, Sydney’s inner-city councils have some of the highest urban densities in the country and areas such as Burwood, the Inner West and Waverley have the lowest amount of green open spaces.

So, it is no surprise that the NSW Government is working closely with local governments to create temporary wider public footpaths to accommodate social distancing and encourage walking.

Moving forward

The call to rethink current investment in major infrastructure projects is audible.  Should we revisit our city’s transport and mobility priorities and take stock of our ‘shovel ready’ projects and what will be the likely impact of staggered or delayed population growth? 

Local communities are calling for investments in “green” infrastructure projects to kickstart their local economies.

It has been reported that the NSW Planning Minister is keen to repurpose disused public spaces and carriageways as inner-city councils shout out for more open space and connected pedestrian walkways and dedicated cycleways to support active transport.  How quickly can State agencies move and what can local governments do to speed up the process?

In Government News (4 May 2020) the NSW Transport Secretary, Mr Staples said that local governments should be given more power to determine when and where cycleways can be built in their LGAs. The recently announced Streets as Shared Spaces grant, which aims to increase the amount of public space and improve local streets and paths as shared spaces for people and transport, is a great start.

Leading academics and the Committee for Sydney are also calling on the State government to fast-track its planned cycleway network to better connect the city, citing that “Australia lags behind other cities such as Paris”.

 

With Work from Home set to continue well into the future we should be buoyed to hear that our urban planners and city architects are taking a new look at urban development.

This is good news for businesses and residents. Mike Day (Government News 9 April) paints a pretty picture of future neighbourhoods with wider footpaths, more cycleways, better pedestrian access, fewer cars and more greenspaces.

Perhaps there is an upside to social distancing!

For further information about this article contact: Julie.mcalpin@rdasydney.org.au

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