PLACE | Blighted!

Posted on 16/04/2011

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I don’t tend to use PlaceBlog to write about my local area but I do reflect on issues affecting suburban areas and communities. In reality, suburban development occupies the largest area of cities and it’s extraordinary that they continue to be marked by degrading practices that strip and shred character and amenity. Today I noticed that the tree and ground growth had been hacked away and poisoned next to a remnant of Little Cabbage Tree Creek on Gayford Street, next to Clive Peeters and the Aspley Hypermarket. Pretty much everything that has been done to that creek in that general vicinity is horrific and the impact is further reflected in the poor health of the creek system generally. However, with big boxes, roads and carparks dominating the ‘town centre’, the spray of greenery offers some slight reprieve and breathing space, as well as just closes and re-scales some of the large bereft bleak spaces. It’s not hard to do things better – say, an aesthetic shift comprising a community mural running along the wall next to the path, with a renaturalised and landscaped creek bank featuring integrated public art. This denuding actively produces and affirms blight. Obviously, Clive Peeters wasn’t sufficiently visible from the road and the trees (measuring 3-5 metres, maybe more) needed to be cut back because portable illuminated signs would enhance the appearance of the concrete edifice much more effectively than some careful landscaping. Wood chips, all that remains of the lost trees, are heaped on the site and there does not appear to be any indication that any landscaping will be undertaken.

I would assume protection of the waterway was a condition of development on these sites. The stripping and poisoning of growth can only result in further degradation of the creek, as remnant habitat and catchment connected to a larger and vital network of creeks in Brisbane’s north. Scanning the surrounding carpark and other spaces, I note that much of the original landscaping has disappeared – removed, allowed to perish and never replaced. Is the strategy to run down what might be construed as the public realm to encourage driving and drive people indoors, to reproduce endless consumption and ways of living devoid of connections to place?  Perhaps these shopping centres and big box stores should be held to account for the kinds of blight they produce – they need to take more responsibility for the protection, enhancement and rehabilitation of community, built environment and natural assets. If their approach is to remove and ruin , then there’s a question about whether these businesses really have a ‘licence to operate’ in this community.

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