21 Apr 2020

South West Sydney has plans to make the most of its unprecedented population growth, protect its bushland and build resilience to a range of environmental challenges.

Campbelltown City Council has big plans for its central business district, the driving force behind the entire region.

Key to a new masterplan for the township, Re-imagining Campbelltown’s CBD, is the rejuvenation of the Bow Bowing canal that runs through the CBD and into neighbouring centres in Macarthur and Leumeah.

While it doesn’t look like much at the moment thanks to “remnants of 70s engineering”, says Urbis director Madonna Locke, breathing life back into the waterway is a long-term project.

Locke, an urban planner involved in the project, told The Fifth Estate that areas surrounding the canal will be revegetated so that the waterway can serve as a blue-green spine running through the region.

Plenty of cities around the world have restored waterways close to their natural state. But it’s not easy to do and it can have negative side affects such as increasing flood risk, which is why planners need to proceed cautiously.

Urban heat islands a key concern

Redefining Campbelltown’s CBD green infrastructure should help mitigate what is likely the biggest environmental challenge facing the region, the urban heat island effect.

Expansive green space will help address heat issues, with 62 hectares identified for new open space along the canal and elsewhere.

Green façades on buildings might also be used to mitigate heat and increase biodiversity, helping to justify the case for a recycled water system to feed the plants.

Locke says water-sensitive design features prominently in the master planning process.

Bushfire risk is also being addressed, with Campbelltown planners seeking advice from bushfire experts.

A place-based approach

Locke says the master plan, developed by Urbis in collaboration with the council, is unique because it includes liveability components, such as open space, that can improve employment, lifestyle and sustainability outcomes.

“For me, cities have always been measured in economic terms, according to their performance. But a theme that has emerged in the last few years is measuring liveability in cities,” she says.

“This masterplan puts the liveability evidence with the economic evidence so that the value of place is realised.”

Managing growth

Ensuring long-term liveability and sustainability for the region hinges on managing growth. The Greater Sydney Commission estimates that the Western Parkland City will have to accommodate more than 1.5 million people by 2036.

Fortunately, the region has the room and resources to accommodate at “least 80 years of growth capacity,” and good bones to work with.

The original settlement was selected for its valley location between scenic bushland hills, a feature the locals are fond of.

“They want to know what we can do in terms of shaping the future while still maintaining the idea of a city in the valley,” says Locke.

Campbelltown has a train line to Sydney’s CBD but it is difficult to get to other job and retail centres, such as Parramatta, by public transport.

As a result, the Campbelltown centre is still largely dependent on roads that are becoming increasingly congested. Also, governments have yet to commit to the construction of a rail connection to the new Western Sydney Airport.

But even if transport links to distant job centres were improved, it would be better for many locals to be employed locally.

Creating a thriving centre

The masterplan has identified the kinds of jobs that would leverage the region’s strengths, such as in the health, education, innovation and technology sectors.

Locke says momentum is building in the Macarthur and Campbelltown region, including a newly-announced Macarthur Medical Research Centre and the recently started Campbelltown Centre of Sport and Health Excellence.

The plan is to keep the local economy growing by focusing on key strength areas, including sport, medicine and the natural environment.

This article was originally published by The Fifth Estate