Urban consolidation, strategic planning and community opposition in Sydney, Australia: Unpacking policy knowledge and public perceptions

Kristian J. Ruming*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

36 Citations (Scopus)


Australian cities are facing a number of challenges, including a significant growth in population, a growing housing affordability crisis, a greater concern for environmental issues (such as climate change), and shortfalls in transport and other urban infrastructure. In response to these challenges the promotion of a higher density built form has come to represent an urban planning orthodoxy promoted via metropolitan strategies across the country. Despite the dominance of the higher density ideal within policy rhetoric, its virtues remain the subject of significant debate. To date this debate has been played out in academic and policy circles, with limited recognition of the knowledge and perceptions of such policies held by the general public. Debate around public perceptions of higher density housing has been constrained within the not-in-my-backyard (NIMBY) discourse which works to position public opposition to higher density housing as either an illegitimate and selfish form of localised protest or a valid example of urban citizenship and democracy. This paper takes a step back from these localised debates around the value of higher density housing to explore public opinions of higher density housing at the metropolitan and suburb scales. Drawing on a survey administered across the Sydney metropolitan area this paper explores the extent to which the public is aware of policies at state and local levels which promote higher density development, the extent to which the public supports some of the underlying principles of higher density housing (such as sustainability, affordability and reduced urban sprawl) and the impact of higher density developments on their suburb. In doing so, the paper develops a typology of support/resistance for higher density housing and associated planning objectives/tools.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)254-265
Number of pages12
JournalLand Use Policy
Publication statusPublished - Jul 2014


  • Community opposition
  • Higher density housing
  • Strategic planning
  • Sydney, Australia
  • Urban consolidation


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