BATHURST should be thinking about reference points rather than height restrictions as it grows.
That's the view of urban planning and regional economic development expert Professor Ed Blakely, who addressed Bathurst Regional Council senior staff recently about the city's challenges as its population booms.
"Height should match the situation," Professor Blakely told the Advocate. "So, for out here, I would probably have no building in the city higher than the top of the court house building.
"Just like Washington, DC. Washington, DC has a lot of big buildings, but none are higher than the capitol."
If Bathurst used a hub and spoke model for development, where the city is the hub and the surrounding villages are at the end of the spokes, Professor Blakely said the court house would remain the reference point.
"If I'm going to build a tall building, I better be sure I can see the top of that [court house] building," he said.
He said he was not a fan of prescriptive height restrictions.
"When I go out and look at buildings, I always ask what is the precinct plan," he said.
"And the architect says 'well, we were only asked to do a building'. No, you were asked to help build a city. So how does this fit?"
Professor Blakely - who is best known for overseeing recovery management in New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina, but who also worked on the Whitlam government's decentralisation program in the 1970s - said Machattie Park feels unfinished to him because it is separated from Kings Parade.
"I feel very comfortable in it, but it's not complete," he said. "And I wonder why."
The Klyde Warren Park in Dallas, Texas, which opened in 2012 after being built over a section of freeway, transformed that city, he said.
"It was a divided area like this. And then they put eating stands there, outdoor libraries; it's a place that almost everybody goes once a day for lunch, for an evening concert, for meditation," he said. "It becomes the heart and soul of the city.
"And you have the asset here that's got bitumen on it."
Professor Blakely said Bathurst should be making plans for the city now that look ahead for well beyond 100 years.
"Shorter than three generations is too short a way to think," he said.
"So that means 150 years or more. Bathurst should be thinking about 150 to 200 years."
Contacted by the Advocate after Professor Blakely's presentation to council, mayor Graeme Hanger said Bathurst Regional Council "has strategic plans in place for the next few decades, and has a high level of confidence in those".
Regarding planning for 100 years or longer, Cr Hanger said this was "something that is outside the statutory planning requirements of council, and well outside the usual planning horizon of most governments, but Professor Blakely's advice is worth considering so that short-term decisions do not compromise long-term goals".
Professor Blakely has written around 20 books on urban planning and development.