The Garden Guide

Book: Landscape Planning and Environmental Impact Design: from EIA to EID
Chapter: Chapter 11 Urbanisation and growth management

Site appraisal for new towns

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Property appraisal for new towns

Good decisions rely on good information. Vitruvius recounts that our ancestors checked on site characteristics by sacrificing cattle and examining their livers. A modern technique is to live on site, preferably at intervals spread over four seasons, preparing surveys, studying local history, talking to those who know the area, sketching, photographing, studying the existing fauna and flora, talking to local inhabitants. Patrick Geddes made use of this method when working on the town expansion competition for Dunfermline, in 1903ï¾­4, and again when preparing plans for Indian cities between 1914 and 1922 [Fig 11.7]. He wrote that: 'It is a great day for the student of a city, when, after the long and repeated peregrinations which are necessary, he begins to feel acquainted with the general and detailed aspect of the great town throughout its many quarters' (Geddes 1918: 1). Geddes agreed with Humphry Repton, who wrote that 'the plan must be made not only to fit the spot, it ought actually to be made upon the spot' (Loudon 1840: 500). If one considers the capital invested in a new settlement, the cost of employing planners to live on site for a year is utterly trivial. A thorough knowledge of the site should help to prevent the production of standardised plans. Whyte complains that, for new towns all over the world, 'There is really only one plan. The kind of geometrics favoured may differ, but whether linear or concentric or molecular, the plans end up looking so alike it is a wonder such large staffs are deemed necessary to draft them ' (Whyte 1970 edn: 259). They are based on vehicular circulation plans and insufficiently adapted to site characteristics. To make better towns, we need 'many plans' instead of 'one plan'. They should be based on 'many appraisals' and prepared from 'many points of view', including those of topography, morphology, climate, public open space, earthmoving, rivers, lakes, vegetation, and communications. All are important and there is no particular order in which the data should be gathered or the plans prepared. Motor vehicles should not take precedence.