Compact Cities: Sustainable Urban Forms for Developing Countries

By Mike Jenks; Rod Burgess | Go to book overview
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Part Three

Responses to Compaction at Low and High Densities

Introduction

Up to now, the book has emphasised the importance of the metropolitan region, processes of rapid urbanisation, concentration and decentralisation, and the meaning and symbolism of some compact city ideas. A number of the key issues of urban compaction have been discussed, particularly urban intensification, the impact of peripheral urban sprawl, and how it might be contained. This part takes a more pragmatic stance. It presents case studies showing responses, plans and policies to achieve compaction or sustainability at two extremes of the spectrum—South Africa (containing some of the world’s lowest density urban development) and Hong Kong (arguably the world’s highest density city).

The experience of three cities in South Africa is presented—Cape Town, Pretoria and Durban. A different perspective is given on each, although all have the same characteristic of low-density peripheries resulting from apartheid policies. Dewar, an early advocate of compact city concepts, puts forward the case for urban compaction in the South African context. Noting the problems caused by low densities and fragmentation, he argues that problems of employment, and accessibility by foot and public transport could be improved through compaction. He raises an important aim to achieve equity of access to urban opportunities. A structural development plan for Cape Town is analysed in some detail, which sets up a hierarchy of access to urban facilities, from pedestrian access to transport at its lower level, to transport interchanges with associated facilities at its highest.

Drawing on data from Pretoria, Schoonraad, while not opposing the compact city concept, takes issue concerning its feasibility. She raises three key questions: that the urban poor would not be able to afford to live in a compact city; that it might not be possible under current planning frameworks and market forces; and that anti-urban values would be an obstacle to its achievement. However, her conclusions point to possible ways forward. Todes et al. provide an analysis of the issues and plans in Durban, and show that compaction can be partly achieved, but that compromises have to be made. In practice, urban sprawl has been curbed, and some coherence and physical compaction achieved. They show that a wider range of policy instruments is needed that includes transport improvements, social

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