Sunday, May 26, 2024

New placemaking guide gives SA councils a planning edge

South Australian councils can now access a brand-new, best-practice guide to help build better public spaces, thanks to a university-led project funded through a local government grant, the state’s Local Government Association announced today.

The Placemaking Guide for Local Governments – developed by University of South Australia – outlines placemaking benchmarks which give councils specific, actionable advice for strategic and operational planning of public spaces, fostering continuous improvement.

Supported by the LGA SA through $38,000 in Local Government Research & Development Scheme funding, the project used input from 19 South Australian councils to create a placemaking index detailing the key factors local governments should consider for place management.

UniSA Program Director for Tourism & Event Management, Dr Sunny Son, who authored the guide, said proper placemaking is critical for councils as it helps foster well-connected, welcoming and socially engaging spaces within communities for both locals and visitors.

“Well-managed public spaces can achieve positive economic and environmental outcomes such as increased retail sales, job opportunities, expansion of the night economy, reduction in commercial vacancies and improved visual attractiveness,’’ Dr Son said.

“When public spaces are managed thoughtfully, both local and non-local users’ experience, behaviour and perception towards the area can be changed positively, making it a more attractive destination where people want to visit and spend more time.

“These changes foster a deeper connection and affinity towards the place which, in turn, empowers local communities to feel a sense of responsibility for the area, its environment and its development.’’

She said public spaces have become essential hubs post-COVID, with more people working remotely from home and engaging more frequently in activities like shopping, dining and exercising closer to where they live.

The benchmarks established within the Placemaking Guide provide councils with reliable data to assess how their public spaces perform compared to similar councils, ensuring placemaking projects meet sector standards, community expectations and justify investment.

“This enables local governments to identify operational areas that could benefit from improvement and make evidence-based decisions for planning,” Dr Son said.

“Recognising each council approaches placemaking and allocates resources differently, and are at different stages of their placemaking journey, the guide can be used differently for individual councils.”

For councils at an early stage, the Placemaking Guide establishes effective systems and processes, laying a foundation for successful placemaking, while for those already excelling in placemaking it serves as a valuable tool for confirming best practices and identifying opportunities for further improvement, ensuring ongoing success.

LGA SA Chief Executive Officer, Clinton Jury said the project was another example of the Local Government Research & Development Scheme supporting initiatives which benefit all councils across the state.

“This type of research helps councils deliver best outcomes that connect diverse communities, increase economic development, and enhance health and wellbeing in local areas,” Mr Jury said.

“Some of the biggest placemaking difficulties for councils identified through this study is balancing the conflicting needs of communities, managing expectations, and coping with limited spaces and resources.

“Without projects like the Placemaking Guide, some of these challenges may go unnoticed – it’s only when we identify and address them, through research like this, that we can begin to find workable solutions that benefit all councils and communities in South Australia.

“That’s why the LGA is committed to supporting these types of initiatives through the Local Government Research & Development Scheme and it’s why we strongly encourage eligible organisations to apply for funding when rounds open.”

The 2024-25 Local Government Research & Development Scheme grant round will open on Monday 17 June.

Download the Placemaking Guide for Local Governments.

More information about the Local Government Research & Development Scheme is available on the LGA SA website.

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