Delving into the mind of a NIMBY

Urban Melbourne recently came across an article published on Inheritance, a blog devoted to deriding all things development. Listed under the news section, the article provides insights into how and why individuals and communities maintain a certain disdain for urban regeneration and by default higher density living.

Published earlier during 2015, here are some of the dot points taken from the article titled 20 REASONS I HATE ‘URBAN RENEWAL'

  • Urban Renewal is the reason I have to sit in traffic for 25 minutes just to get from one side of my suburb to the other. By car.
  • Urban Renewal is the reason I have to stand on the edge of the road for 10 minutes and then play chicken to get from one side to the other.
  • Urban Renewal is why I am forced to look up at overbearing nondescript cheaply constructed boxes of up to 10 stories high in suburban growth ghettos with inadequate parking, natural lighting and open space. Meanwhile affordable blocks of land and perfectly good houses are being swallowed up and kids have to make do with honing their ball skills on Sony Playstations.
  • Urban Renewal is the reason my favourite row of Federation shops has just been chewed up by bulldozers and reincarnated as some ugly monolithic drab grey box with concrete cancer and render peeling off like snakeskin after only its first full year of inception.
  • Urban Renewal is a quick way of propping up the local and state economies by giving people the false impression that it is boom time in the building industry and consumers have got way too much money to burn on housing.
  • Urban Renewal is the reason there are no more backyards in my neighbourhood. No more trees, no front yards, no side yards, no sparrows, no fairy wrens, no caterpillars, no Green Grocers, no Brown Bakers, no Black Princes, definitely no Yellow Mondays and no butterflies. There is a lot of concrete though, and concrete cancer, and the odd dwarf shrub for border embellishment.
  • Urban Renewal is the reason property developers cruise my suburb in black Audi Q7s eyeing off their next blue ribbon investment that will make them another big brown envelope full of money.
  • Urban Renewal is a sweeping term that demands blanket slash and burn mentality. Nothing is left of my old neighbourhood – no heritage, no community, no environment, no funky warehouse conversions, no links to the past, no resonating cultural vibes, nothing.
  • Urban Renewal is the reason I try and stay away from driving anywhere on weekends now. It’s just not worth the effort.
  • Urban Renewal is why I am too scared to invest all my hard earned savings into the house of my dreams, as who knows what will be built next door to the house of my dreams the minute I move in.
  • Urban Renewal is a fallacy that would have us believe the only way to make our suburbs pretty and safe is to knock everything down and build everything new again, this time with dinky shops on the bottom and multiple stories of residential dwellings on top (and lots of basement parking to store our black Audi Q7s). That way we can all be proud of our suburbs. Give me a break.
  • Urban Renewal is probably the reason why I have to put my child’s name down three years in advance to get her into some overpriced childcare facility. Same with school. It’s probably why I have to get to the train station at 5am to get the only parking available. It’s probably why I have to stand in the train too. And wait at the pharmacy, and the ATM. And get to the park three hours early to reserve a picnic table on a Saturday morning. And line up ten-deep outside the Vietnamese bread shop that does those special pork rolls I like. In fact it’s probably responsible for every little part of my life that I find shitty and annoying.

Clearly this is one small blog espousing a certain amusing, fanciful, and disturbing point of view… and of course it is their right to do so.

But is what has been published above representative of what a typical 'NIMBY' ("Not In My Back Yard") thinks to be the case regarding urban regeneration, urban renewal and higher density living? I hope not. Using Inheritance as an example, providing increased housing via differing housing typologies to cater for an increasing population is the root of the world's problems.

Surrounded by much fluff there are actually one or two salient points in the blog. One needn't look too far past Melbourne's CBD to understand that even recently heritage buildings of stature have disappeared in favour of new and shiny buildings, and unnecessarily so. The key though is finding middle ground and having appropriate heritage/design controls in place.

The above blog to my way of thinking reinforces my perception that NIMBY's are an inflexible lot incapable of seeing past their own nose: no middle ground, no understanding of the bigger picture and ultimately just concerned about their own interests!

Is the blog in question merely the rantings of a misinformed person or nailing a pertinent issue on the head. You, the reader can decide.

Lead image courtesy Inheritance.


Illan Samuel's picture

Misinformed, selfish person.... Can't have it both ways, all the ease of the amenity of the inner city without the congestion of the outer suburbs (that lack amenity)! These articles/blogs/facebook pages are growing and local councils would be wise to try and educate residents on current planning controls to avoid wasted time, resources and a feeling of resentment against developers.

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Bilby's picture

Not entirely misinformed, though ... you only have to head out as far as Hawthorn to see Federation / Victorian shops are indeed being "chewed up" by multi-storey developments. As Mark points out - there is nothing "necessary" about this at all. We can have density and extensive infill development with very minimal impact on heritage. If councils simply did an audit of all heritage sensitive sites, and then pushed for amendments to the planning scheme that opened the way for taller / denser development on non-sensitive infill sites (and I mean non-sensitive in terms of built fabric), then we could achieve a much better balance of retaining the incredible old character of our heritage shopping strips, commercial, industrial and residential areas, whilst building tens of thousands of new dwellings nearby whose residents could then enjoy the benefits of that irreplaceable amenity.

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johnproctor's picture

Agree with that. Councils need to do a better job of protecting heritage assets in their area AND of allowing development where it's appropriate. Often those two things might happen literally on adjacent blocks.

Unfortunately developers want to build everywhere and many NIMBYs are just trying to stop any development (rather than genuinely protecting heritage or neighbourhood character or standing up against overshadowing)

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Illan Samuel's picture

Bilby - No issue with your points re heritage, I was more referring to development in the inner city, not removing heritage. You say it well "We can have density and extensive infill development with very minimal impact on heritage.". Council's do audits and it isn't easy to get a development up/past if there is any heritage merit to a site/building, but everyone has their own interpretation of what that actually is... I've seen fences have heritage value, and beautiful facades not...

John P - Fairly broad statement "Developers want to build everywhere". Keep in mind, you hear about all the projects that are going up, but do you follow all those that get knocked back? In the suburbs? Good developers don't want to build everywhere, they want to develop where appropriate - which will typically get council support. Bad developers get poor advice and ultimately those applications cause a rift in the community because those applications are poor! Like any profession... you have good and bad... but with development you can go one step further - anyone can call themselves a "developer".

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Melbourne_Fragments's picture

^ I think we're constantly seeing examples of how easy it is to get a development up despite heritage concerns, I can't think of too many examples of councils strongly rejecting developments based on heritage

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Bilby's picture

Yes, plenty of bad developments (re: heritage) get up all the time. A recent important test case would be the permit to demolish the 1912 Lyric Star Theatre on Johnston Street, Fitzroy, or the current VCAT case to demolish the National Theatre and facade the adjoining streamline moderne style London Baby Carriage Factory in Richmond. In the first instance, the Lyric is listed as 'Contributory' and has the most remarkable cinema ceiling, roof structure and intact structure of this era left standing in Melbourne. With it's openable 'starlight' roof, there isn't another one exactly like it anywhere in the country. In the second instance, both buildings are listed as "Individually Significant" (the highest heritage grading available at local gov. level). And yet, the developer has applied to knock them over. Even a "good" developer like Neometro recently demolished a rare 1920s motor garage on Smith Street, Fitzroy and an intact victorian warehouse on Little Smith Street - just before council completed a gap study to protect the rest of the strip between Gertrude and Victoria Street. And I could list hundreds of other examples ...

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