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Home and Building, Volume 18 Number 1 (June 1955)

University Chair of Town Planning

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University Chair of Town Planning

Mr. Sanderson holds the Diploma of Town Planning and Civic Design of the University of London, where he studied under Sir Patrick Abercrombie, creator of the Greater London Plan.

As an architect and consultant town planner, Mr. Sanderson believes that only the widespread recognition and adoption of accepted town-planning principles can save New Zealand's cities from the effects of chaotic development.

Mr. Clifford Sanderson discusses various points that should help us to understand what the establishment of a school of town and country planning can do for us.

The intention of the Auckland University College Council to establish a chair of town planning in Auckland with the aid of a gift of £7200 from a member of the council, Mr. N. B. Spencer, has aroused interest in architectural and local government circles.

"The school to be established in Auckland will provide a focal point for town planning, a centre for the dissemination of information. As a people we are unfortunately not planning conscious, though town planning should be everybody's business. The school should help the public to learn something of this very important subject. And it could give valuable advice to Government departments, local authorities and planning organisations — independent advice.

It will also provide a centre for research into town planning, where problems peculiar to this country can be studied.

Although domiciled in Auckland it will be a national school for the benefit of the country as a whole, and while not appearing to be parochial about the matter, Auckland should also reap some benefit, as it undoubtedly has from its School of Architecture."

"We Must Plan"

"Many people," he says, "believe that what they call the 'planning mania' has been overdone, but if we consider the matter for a moment we must realise that to do anything at all properly we must plan in some shape or form.

The education of our children is planned, courses of study for careers must be planned, the farmer must plan his year's activities before putting them into operation, the business man must plan. In short, planning in its wider aspect is something of which we all have first-hand knowledge.

Why should we apply such measures to towns? Our forefathers seemed to get along very well without them, or so it may appear at first sight, but if we are curious enough about it we shall find that most, if not all, of our present-day city problems are the result of bad planning, or of no planning at all, in the past. Most of our difficulties of transport and traffic, wafer supply, drainage and electricity supply can be traced back to lack of adequate planning.

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Complex Science

We are a country which is not 'planning conscious.' We have failed to plan boldly and to learn from the mistakes which the older countries of the world hove been endeavouring to rectify for the lost century.

The science of town planning is complex, and besides the designer, or master mind, co-operation is necessary from the economist, the geographer, and the sociologist. The first problem is to decide where the populated areas should go and how big a part of the country they should be allowed to occupy in relation to the open spaces.

The planner will lay down the types of roads for fast-moving, long-distance traffic between the centres, the size and location of the terminals within the centres and the widths of the roads linking the different sub-centres, down to the smaller access roads to the homes of the people. The location of aerodromes, railway terminals, etc., will be fixed and they will be linked with the network of the town roads.

Curved Roads

It is the roads which determine the pattern of a town, the shapes of the sections, whether the town will be a monotonous grid of right-angled streets or one of curves and differing angles, says Mr. Sanderson. Where contours permit, most New Zealand towns have been set out on the right-angled or chessboard pattern. Modern planners have adopted a much more interesting street system by the introduction of curved roads which permit of differing views of buildings and vistas not possible with the rectangular system.

The use to which land is put is one of the most important aspects of planning. For example, in New Zealand our national economy is based largely on our farm lands and these must obviously be preserved if our present type of economy is to prevail.

Through lack of effective planning and control much of our farmland and land used for market gardening is being swallowed up by urban development — the so-called urban sprawl so familiar round Auckland. It has been calculated that if our present rate of growth continues in the same manner as in the past, namely, single-unit houses standing on their own plot of land, much of our farmland will be absorbed into residential areas and the country's production capacity reduced accordingly. It is obvious that some sort of plan is necessary and it is here that the experienced planner can help us.

The time is long overdue for the preparation of a detailed national plan, showing the use of all land throughout the country and into which all the local town-planning schemes may fit.

But in the areas already built up and which have not been adequately planned the planner's task is much more difficult. Some of the major problems are created by the enormous increase in the use of motor vehicles, traffic flow and car parking. Costly schemes have to be undertaken to facilitate the flow of traffic by redesigning bad intersections, widening roads and providing alternative routes, and we all help to pay for it.

It is the costly mistakes which the planner today seeks to eliminate by a

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study of all the known facts to produce a solution which will function efficiently.

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Focal Point

All these considerations should help us to understand what the establishment of a school of town and country planning can do for us, Mr. Sanderson continues. It will provide a centre for the training of the planners who are urgently required in this country. Most of our qualified town planners have attended schools overseas in order to qualify. More planners are needed if we are to make any serious bid to overcome our backwardness in town planning and reach a level approximating that of most overseas countries.