A note regarding the current COVID19 crisis:
This pandemic is horrifying in so many ways. It is also forcing the world to change its behaviour. It is waking us up to the fact that what we had before was just a story and that we are quite capable of writing a new one.
And we absolutely need to write a new one. It is really important that we build on the changes in behaviour that we are seeing now, so that something good and long- lasting can come out of this.
We must not return to the real estate and developer driven economic system that we had before. There is no place for a concrete driven economy that is responsible for 40 percent of emissions and forty percent of waste whilst thousands continue to struggle to find a decent home.
We must have a new approach to development as part of a de-growth society that places emphasis on self betterment and ecological regeneration.
A wider movement for change will surely develop but Town Planning Rebellion and its ten areas of focus (as well as its calls for collaborative mutual aid) to tackle the climate and ecological emergency, must be part of that wider movement.
Please start your own branch of TPR or if you do not agree with everything that we stand for, start a different group, or join a different group. I only ask that you reach out and connect with us on those areas where we share common ground.
It will we be a movement of movements that creates the paradigm shift that we require as opposed to a single movement. There is too much diversity in ideology and opinion for it to be otherwise. But a willingness to collaborate is what will get us through. Feel free to download and share the TPR booklet from this page and please share this page with all and sundry.
Please connect with your local residents groups (etc) and also encourage them to connect with us. Lets reach out and build an all inclusive and all encompassing movement for change.
What is Town Planning Rebellion?
Town Planning Rebellion was set-up to highlight the critical role that land – use planning must play in combatting the climate and ecological emergency. While we share the same three demands as Extinction Rebellion (XR), Extinction Rebellion does not necessarily share our views. In our opinion it is important that XR do not stray from their three demands and to leave the more nuanced discussion to the Citizens Assemblies, which of course is their third demand.
This is why TPR is calling for regular Citizen’s Assemblies on Urban and Regional Planning. These forums will be a space where we can put across our ten points of focus as well as providing a space for others to put their perspectives forward. TPR does not see itself as having all of the answers. Our areas of focus are part of a wider ongoing conversation.
Why have a Town Planning Rebellion?
“The global construction and real estate industry is often referred to as the 40 Percent Industry – as they are responsible for roughly 40 percent of emissions, 40 percent of waste, and 40 percent of energy, materials and water expenditure.”
This doesn’t factor in the environmental impact of building on farmland and natural habitat. It also doesn’t factor in the short lifespan of many of the buildings that are going up now and that will not be fit for purpose in a few decades time. Moving our focus away from ‘development’ (from the concrete economy) must be a central part of our urgent transition to a low carbon society.
Urban and regional planning must play a critical role in mitigating the climate and ecological emergency and TPR intersects beautifully with movements around green energy, regenerative farming, reducing car usage and biodiversity preservation.
For example, food miles are increasing due to development on the food bowls of our urban fringes. Urban development is also encroaching into habitats of iconic native animals such as the koala. Sustainable planning will play a crucial role in mitigating many of these issues in combination with reducing food miles and ending old growth logging.
Our organisation is dedicated to ensuring that changes to the way we approach urban and regional planning is placed as a matter of priority and that Citizens Assemblies or similar forums are put in place to ensure that there are fundamental changes to the way we approach planning.
We have a list of ten focus points that we will take into these assemblies (and beyond). These come with the understanding that the outcome will be much more nuanced and far reaching than the focus points we are putting forward. We understand that we are one part of a much larger conversation.
Holistic Activism, Extinction Rebellion and a Movement of Movements
This approach is part of TPR’s recognition that a new approach to a more holistic approach to activism is required – one that understands we will not reverse the climate emergency with the same behaviour that led us into it.
We also recognise the importance of systemic change and that as long as we continue to operate under an economic system driven by development, we can only ever make cosmetic changes with negligible long term results.
TPR is therefore a signatory to the Holistic Activism Movement of Movements, which includes the need for behavioural and systemic change as two of its principles. This Movement of Movements also includes the three demands of Extinction Rebellion (XR).
The intention is that we intersect with XR but this does not mean that XR necessarily endorses our views or that we will always endorse everything that XR does. What it does mean is that we can work with XR in terms of creating Citizens Assemblies (their third demand) while ensuring that town planning based assemblies are part of that process. They can also choose to endorse our protest activities when it feels right for them and vice versa.
Town Planning Rebellion Ten Points of Focus
We firmly believe the role that sustainable town planning should play in mitigating the environmental emergency has been understated and that this needs to change as a matter of urgency.
It is critical that we return to localised decision making processes while ensuring that those processes are non discriminatory. Importantly the mantra of think globally, act locally (as well as sharing knowledge and rescources through mutual aid) is essential.
There are ten points of focus that we are carrying forward. These points are general summaries. The finer details will need to be determined through citizens assemblies and other areas of focus will likely emerge in those assemblies. They attempt to accommodate a number of different approaches to urban living within the context of reaching net zero missions in the fastest time possible.
Importantly, they cover a number of different housing needs to suit different demographics. This, combined with a strong emphasis on low cost housing, coupled with a wider strategy of de-growth (and beyond) will ensure that we properly tackle homelessness as well as any fluctuations in population. We need to work towards an outcome where nobody is left behind.
Our principle focus is to ensure that uninhabited houses and units in our cities and towns are habited. In Melbourne alone, there are currently up to 82,000 empty homes. It is essential that the process of filling our existing uninhabited living spaces is in place before considering future development.
Our second focus is to end all housing development on or beyond the urban fringes of our towns and cities. Exceptions should be made for developments that are part and parcel of a wider project to draw-down carbon into the soil, either through regenerative farming practices, re-wilding (in cooperation with First Nations people), biomass planting projects or bush regeneration.
Any such housing projects would endeavour to use recycled materials as well as carbon neutral and/or carbon negative building materials such as hempcrete, as part of the wider carbon drawdown project of which it is a part.
Our third focus is to embrace David Holmgren’s retrosuburbia model as a means of accommodating increased densities and increasing food security in the existing built form. The idea is that existing buildings and gardens are predominantly repurposed rather than being demolished or destroyed to make way for new structures.
Our fourth focus is a new approach to the construction of higher density housing within residential areas our cities and towns. This is known as urban consolidation and it does have benefits if it is done right and if it is not used as a green light to raze entire neighbourhoods to the ground or to build sub-standard developments for the investment market.
Therefore, any new development that does take place must not be at the expense of buildings that are robust and retrofittable (see the third focus). Housing stock that is not deemed salvageable can be replaced, but only with higher density co-housing style developments that are preferably run as cooperatives.
This is very different from the current model where entire neighbourhoods are zoned for higher density development. This forces up land prices, pricing people out of neighbourhoods while enabling robust housing to be demolished.
By removing the policy of zoning and replacing it with selective, well designed densification projects across all areas for the purposes of affordable housing, we can prevent the gentrification that comes with upzoning. Additionally, we avoid the environmental expense of losing housing stock that could benefit more from being retrofitted and better utilised.
Existing gardens would (as much as possible) be incorporated into any new developments and those gardens could be a resource for the new communities that are created.
Our fifth focus is on transport. All existing proposed new road building projects will not proceed unless there is very good reason. Our focus from hereon will be almost entirely on improving and interconnecting walkability, public transport networks and bicycle pathways.
Our sixth focus is to look at retrofitting the existing built spaces that are currently not used for housing, such as converting double garages into habitable units (there are a lot of them in the relatively low- dense outer suburbs) and converting disused office space. This will help to increase densities without the need for additional development.
Our seventh focus is to embrace the growing demand for alternative types of living such as yurts and tiny houses to add to the housing mix. These have the advantage of being able to be slotted into existing communities with minimal impact on the land and on surrounding flora and fauna… and a growing number of people are choosing this lifestyle choice.
Our eighth focus is on redeveloping ex-industrial land (and land that was once utilised for other purposes). This is known as brownfield site re-development. It is a slow process but it can have positive net benefits if done well. This should only occur in addition to the above seven points and only if there is a human need for this additional development and/or if it can be achieved without having an impact on our urgent need to draw down carbon. Many brownfield sites are currently owned by land speculators who hold onto sites in the hope that they will go up in value. This practice will have to end. If done well, this kind of development can reintroduce nature into urban areas and be showcase for building with recycled materials and carbon neutral building techniques.
Our ninth focus is to ensure that passive solar and energy efficient design as well as the utilisation of carbon neutral or carbon negative building materials is intrinsic to all future developments.
Our tenth focus is to reduce future development in high bushfire risk areas by compensating people who own vacant lots with a plot of land in a small number of newly built eco-townships on land that has already been cleared. These townships will be built to be easily defended in bushfire scenarios and will be built around permaculture principles.
This will protect large areas of bushland from future development while providing security to people who would otherwise live in high bushfire risk areas. The offer will also be extended to people who have lost their house in a bushfire and to those who would rather leave their existing residence and see it returned to bushland.
Our role in a broader global movement
Our response to the climate emergency must involve working both at the local level and at the international level. Of course, radical town planning policies will need to be a central component of that approach.
What is important is that we share our knowledge with the rest of the world as part of a wider program of mutual aid where ideas, resources and knowledge are shared freely across borders. This will enable communities across the world to be best equipped to create resilient, regenerative communities that draws down carbon and enables the re-wilding that is required to help reverse the sixth great mass extinction.
We will share our ideas on sustainable town planning as part of an ongoing conversation on the global stage. It is essential that the world works together by sharing ideas and resources but it needs to be very different to the way it was done in the past.
In other words we need to decolonise aid and instead approach it as a sharing of ideas that will lead to the creation of ecologically resilient communities across the world that can fully embrace everything from regenerative farming, First Nations approaches to rewilding, and permaculture through cooperation and not coercion.
Therefore TPR will be pushing for mutual aid as one of its key demands as well as Citizens Assemblies as well as our ten points of focus and the five principles of the Holistic Activism Movement of Movements. The idea is that this will allow us to develop a holistic and intersectional pathway forward.
How TPR will intersect with other movements
TPR’s ten focus points intersects with many other movements in the broader movement that is required to create a degrowth based post-carbon society. This is why town planning is such an important component of reversing the climate and ecological emergency and why we hope to connect with many other campaigns as part of a broader movement for change.
For example, our focus on ending sprawl and its encroachment onto wildlife habitat feeds into the movement for preserving biodiversity and it therefore fits nicely with campaigns to end old growth logging.
Ending sprawl together with embracing David Holmgren’s retrosuburbia movement will also help to ensure that we reduce food miles by preserving the food bowls on the fringes of our cities as well as growing more fresh easily perishable food items in the long established gardens across the suburbs.
We also intersect with the green energy movement with the knowledge that green energy can only have net benefits if it underpinned by sound town planning and design and that solar panels are not a cosmetic afterthought in a growth based development driven society.
First Nations Sovereignty
Town Planning Rebellion recognises the sovereignty that First Nations people have over the lands that we call Australia and we recognise that those lands were never ceded.
We strongly recognise the need for treaties to be signed with First Nations people, not only to start to heal the immense traumas perpetuated through colonisation but also to ensure that First Nations culture is central to the path that we collectively take forward.
TPR recognises that indigenous culture and knowledge is crucial to healing the decades of damage caused by colonisation. We also understand that what we have to say is one part of a wider conversation that must include the representation of First Nations people and for it to be on their terms.
It is disingenuous to discuss the future of development and town planning without making reference to population growth. In Australia, population growth happens because people are living longer and because of migration (our fertility rate is around replacement level). Any policy around migration is inherently discriminatory and it shuts out far more people than it can ever let in.
This is especially true in the current neoliberal society where the driving force of migration is primarily to grow the development based economy. The goal of helping to create socially and environmentally resilient local communities across the globe through mutual aid (one of our key policies), will over time, likely reduce the need for people to migrate. Also, the empowerment of women that happens through this process will enable couples to make informed choices about the number of children that they wish to have.
In terms of future migration, we must ensure that the movement of people from one place to another is not used as an excuse to increase ‘development’. Instead we will focus on a different kind of development that is retrofitting empty and under-utilised buildings and appropriately redeveloping pre-developed spaces. This will include everything from filling the 82,000 empty homes in Melbourne (and potentially hundreds of thousands of empty bedrooms) all the way to filling entire ghost cities in China.
We will also look towards housing increased populations through all ten of our points of focus. Based on this premise, we also expect that any migration policy would positively discriminate in favour of refugees and in favour of people who feel that their role in healing the earth can be better served in Australia.
In conclusion, migration policy should not be tied in with a ‘development’ driven agenda as it is now. Instead it must be tied in with creating low carbon communities based primarily on utilising existing built infrastructure and this should be accompanied by a program of mutual aid that works to empower communities across the world.
Joining Town Planning Rebellion
If you connect with what we have to say, we warmly invite you to join us and to play as large or as small a role as you see fit. We really want to grow this movement and we are at the very beginning… and time is short. If you strongly connect to this movement, feel free to embrace a larger role.
We are an ongoing conversation and there are many ways that it can be carried forward. We have no time to lose. If we do not change the way we approach planning and development we will not stand any chance of overcoming the ecological emergency.
At this stage the plan is to reach out to individuals, local residents groups, academics and planners to create a comprehensive movement.
We will use this momentum to create citizens assemblies, conversation cafes and other similar forums as well as initiating protests and joining other protests under the Town Planning Rebellion banner.
We will not shy away from being heard and we will work towards connecting with as many other movements out there as possible that are working towards creating a post-carbon society, as well as degrowth and a holistic approach to activism.
To join us please go to https://holisticactivism.net/contact and put TPR at the top of the message. We also have a facebook group: Town Planning Rebellion (TPR)
We look forward to hearing from you and we value your feedback.