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Designing For Revival Through ‘Town Pride’: Success Stories from the UK and Australia

Rod Duncan

Senior Planner, Department of Infrastructure, Victorian Government
P O Box 775 Geelong VIC 3220 (03) 5225 2539

(UK-based International Professional Exchange, 1998-99.

including ‘Regenerating Small Towns and Villages’, Local Economy Policy Unit, South Bank University)


  • Overview of recent British initiatives for rural communities.
  • Particularly design-based perspectives supportive of local intiative.
  • ‘Village Design Statements’
  • Emerging features, trends and methodologies with applicability for Australia.
  • Recent Australian (Victorian) examples and initiatives.
  • ‘Lessons’ and techniques that seem useful.

Some British initiatives for rural communities

Rural Partnerships

  • Central government support (with English Partnerships agency) for cross-sectoral initiatives “transforming areas of need into quality places for people to live and work” through organisational expertise and funding support or identification. Works flexibly with public, business and community sectors for:
  • job creation and investment opportunities
  • environmental improvement (esp. land reclamation - mine sites, etc.)
  • area regeneration strategies
  • community development.

Action For Market Towns

  • National self-help and lobby group to:
  • Promote vitality and viability of small towns.
  • support and assist small towns in tackling the challenges they face.
  • provide a national focus for action on issues affecting small towns.
  • Produced ‘New Life for Small Towns: A Handbook for Action

Town Centre Management

  • Urban centre strategies adapted for smaller towns

‘Design in the countryside’

  • Origins in:

• Rural White Paper (c. 1995)

• ‘Quality in Town and Country’ Urban Design initiative (1995)

• (Tory efforts to retrieve declining support in traditional constituency)

  • ‘Design in the Countryside’ (Countryside Commission / Agency)
  • Village Design Statements
  • Countryside Design Summaries

• at District (LGA) level

• informed by ‘Landscape Character Assessment’ (Draft 1999)

General Features Of Uk Initiatives And Trends

  • Strong non-government, non-profit and community sector (including philanthropic trusts, NFP bodies, aristocracy, charities).
  • Cross-sectoral partnerships (prerequisites for most Govt. programs).
  • Elevation of design quality as vital component - broad recognition of value to image, confidence and prosperity.
  • Comprehensively inclusive in formulation and implementation of initiatives.(“ ‘Participative’: something you are, not something you do.”)
  • Strong local ownership and control; with access to external specialist skills and government support.


  • Convergence of professional disciplines:

• economic development, strategic planning, urban design.

• (through ‘regeneration’ industry?)

  • Growing “Joined up solutions to joined up problems” attitude to policies and public programs.
  • Sustainability objective central to all policies; not an ‘add on’.

Village Design Statements

“Making local character count in new development”

  • Central government encouragement and support for local initiative.
  • Analysis-based. (c.f. Urban Design Framework methodology.)
  • Community-led (with strong encouragement of local ownership).
  • Product multi-functional:

• local character and identity articulated

• option of statutory force (SPG ~ local policy)

• improving prospect of retaining character and identity

• increased local awareness and self-confidence -> local pride

• by-product local networks, self-reliance, legitimise involvement.

  • Mixed Messages: Lack of clarity or explicit intent as to motivation. Aimed for ‘sensitive change’?; tendency to ‘draw-bridge’ resistance.

Australian Examples And Initiatives

Incidental examples.

Emerging from programs such as:

- Pride of Place

- Creative Village and public arts

- Rural towns initiatives (DSD/DSRD)

- Street Life

(Programs tend to be works-based, rather than strategy-based. Funding and timeframes limit ‘considered’ evolution of integrated approach. Limited ‘cross-discipline’ opportunities or ‘partnerships’.)

  • Meredith public arts initiatives.
  • ‘Town Place’ Plans, Golden Plains Shire.
  • Noorat: identity and focus in a marginal centre.
  • Fish Creek: a tourist’s experience.
  • Hypothetical.

Some Lessons

  • Design-based approach:

Analytical + Strategic objectives -> Options


  • ‘Participative’ locally-led process
  • Skilled professional support (responding, not advocating outcomes)
  • Inclusive of ‘traditional’ core of community + ‘newcomers’

Beware of conservatism stifling essential evolution.

(Glastonbury; Port Fairy - ‘new role’ now mainstream)

  • Provide ‘Framework’ for local voluntary energies, public capital works, private capital. (Co-ordination enables efficiency.)
  • ‘Joined-up’ approaches: economies, synergies, efficiencies.
  • Sustainability: critical to survival and viability; avoid retro. costs.
  • Good for Locals: so attractive to tourists / newcomers. (Lifestyle not sacrificed in quest for inward investment.)
  • Stimulus for local structures and networks, facilitating self-help; self-reliance.
  • Positive self-image -> confidence -> investment.
  • Celebration of local character and identity, rather than importing standardised solutions that erode distinctiveness and relevance.
  • Equipped to convert adversity to opportunity. (e.g. Closure can provide cheap asset for new uses. Secure before it erodes.)

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