Do ‘city shapers’ really support urban consolidation? The case of Brisbane, Australia

“Findings indicate that urban consolidation debates and justifications diverge significantly from stated policy intentions and are based on differing views on ‘good’ urban form, the role of planning and community consultation and the value of higher density housing.

We conclude that there is utility and value in identifying how urban consolidation strategies are influenced by the shared beliefs, myths and perceptions held by city shapers. Understanding these narratives and their influence is fundamental to understanding the power-laden manipulation of policy definitions and development outcomes.”

Cities all over the world have activated policy support for urban consolidation in recent decades. Rationales for urban consolidation focus on its perceived ability to achieve sustainability goals, including decreased automobile dependence, increased social cohesion and greater walkability. Despite this, there are few international examples of urban consolidation policy implementation that has achieved its stated aims.

This paper explores the nature and character of perceptions of urban consolidation held by urban planners, developers, architects and local politicians. The perspectives held by these ‘city shapers’ are integral to urban consolidation debates and delivery, yet the nature and character of their specific views are underexplored in urban studies literature.

This paper combines the theoretical lens of Social Representations Theory with the methodological approach of Q-methodology to understand the common sense understandings of urban consolidation held by city shapers in Brisbane, Australia. It identifies, synthesises and critically discusses the social representations employed by city shapers to understand, promote and communicate about urban consolidation.

Published in Urban Studies | Katrina Raynor | 2018