Town Planning Review

Planning control and the politics of soft densification

Town Planning Review (2020), 91, (3), 305–324.


Increasing the density of existing urban areas can support urban regeneration and environmental sustainability by limiting urban sprawl and linking housing to transport infrastructure. However, making space for ‘soft densification’ – small-scale incremental densification – poses challenges in managing development with the cumulative aesthetic, social and infrastructural impacts of such change. We highlight tensions between residential interests in maintaining existing housing densities and arguments for greater urban density. The paper demonstrates the importance of active management of soft densification and the challenges of reconciling competing interests, arguing that soft densification needs to be taken more seriously by politicians, planners and urban theorists.

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