BRISBANE 2032, OPPORTUNTIES FOR AN OLYMPIC LEGACY. Article 8: City Regions, Development Strategies and Connectiveness

Published: August 4, 2022Categories: Urban Design Policy & IntegrationTags:


An exposition of the city regions as key sites of economic development and prosperity, and waves of industrial and technological development. The most successful city regions have diverse and mixed economies, are connected spatially, have some representation of new industries, but also continue to produce older goods and services. Spatial regional planning is the framework for attempting to manage these and balance growth and environmental and cultural features and history.

About the Author

Here John Montgomery draws on his long experience as an urban and regional planner working in regional economic development in London and South East England, and working and writing on city regions internationally.




In his 1992 book 100 Mile City[i], slightly controversial at the time, Dejan Sudjic argued that cities were growing into city regions extending over larger and larger spatial areas.    He was thinking of London which had already an economy of great diversity: this extended from London out to East Anglia and Cambridgeshire to the North East, Kent and Sussex to the South, along the M4 Corridor to Bristol and as far North as Northampton and Coventry via the railways and the M1. This trend, or trends, was noticed by writers, regional economists and planners and academics such as Peter Hall and Mike Breheny[ii], Robin Murray and SEEDS[iii], Mike Brehany and Doug Hart [iv] [v]. What had been a minority interest in the early 80s became an important policy area in relation to spatial development, transport planning and economic development.

Jane Jacobs[vi] had earlier pointed out that countries of themselves are not a single economy, but rather an aggregation of dynamic regions based around cities, by-passed places and laggard regions. Successful economic regions, based around prosperous cities, are places of complex variety where new work is added to old work to produce new products, processes and services. Such cities export, but they also import and replace imports with new businesses, some of which in turn become exporters. The important measurement of economic growth is not aggregate levels of GDP across a country, but rather the economic health of key growth cities and their regions.

Successful city regions achieve self-regenerating growth, building up networks of businesses and an ongoing capacity for innovation[vii]. The more successful a city economy becomes, the more its geographical sphere of influence spreads over surrounding rural areas and settlements, such that these too become part of the growth pole. Such cities have been growing into city regions extending over larger and larger spatial areas.    London is today a city region economy of great diversity.

By the mid-1980s relationships between spatial development, transport planning, economic development and growing industrial sectors were understood. Economic growth was occurring in central London to be sure, but growth industries were taking hold across a large variety of locations. There was the aerospace sector around Bristol, pharmaceuticals around Stevenage[viii], the Cambridge Phenomenon, and new and expanding office sectors for  financial services – out to Northampton, Basingstoke, Milton Keynes and Norwich, and in Docklands.  There were older industries that were restructuring, things like broadcast television, film and the media[ix] and electronic industries. There was an initially small renaissance of seaside towns and market towns, the retention of some food processing, brewing and a lot more. Industries, such as confectionary, emerged in towns like Kings Langley. An example is the Ovaltine Factory.

And this has continued on apace.  In many ways it echoes the great growth of the 1900s to the 1930s and the subsequent boom in housing construction that was underway by 1932[x].

New industries in the 1910’s: Marconi’s new factory near Chelmsford

In transport alone, very substantial investment went into, for example, the M11, M4, M3, M40 and M25, and the extension and interconnection of the rail network – especially around, across and under London. The Channel Tunnel was built from 1988, opening in 1994. Airport expansions occurred at Heathrow, Gatwick, Luton and Stansted. In large part these major routes and facilities were built to serve a growing regional economy, not simply an increasing population.

Growth of Commercial Aviation, West London, Report by Greater London Council: At Park Royal and Alperton, along the Great Western Road and in Ealing, new industries grew up from the 1920s through the 1960s.

Growth industries were taking hold across a large variety of locations. We had the aerospace sector around Bristol, pharmaceuticals around Stevenage[xi], the Cambridge Phenomenon, and new and expanding office sectors for   financial services – out to Northampton, Basingstoke, MK and Norwich, and in Docklands.  There were older industries that were restructuring, things like broadcast television, film and the media and electronic industries, food production, brewing. There was an initially small renaissance of seaside towns and market towns.

New industries 2020: Technology and Biomedics, the Oxford-Cambridge Arc.

By the mid-1980s, a development wave was well underway in London and the South East. This has continued apace and now includes identifiable geographical areas such as the Oxford-Cambridge Arc and the Thames Gateway in North West Kent. This brought an altogether different approach which sought to match new and upgraded infrastructure to economic development, the location and expansion of industry sectors, and the accompanying changes to population and housing. This would be taken up in the 1990s by SEEDA, one of the Regional Development Associations.

It wasn’t only London, of course, that moved to a new form of city regional planning.  Copenhagen had embarked on its farsighted and innovative ‘Finger Plan’ in the 1950s[xii]. This planned the city spatially along key transport routes out from the centre, an approach still being followed. After the Second World War, West Germany sought simultaneously to regenerate its economy, through the Wirtschaftswunder as devised and implemented by Ludwig Erhard, and in rebuilding its ruined cities[xiii]. Milan came to see itself as ‘The Infinite City’, extending into widening areas of supply regions, particularly for the fashion, clothing and accessories industry.  Paris would build La Defense in the 1980s, part vanity Grand Projet under Mitterand, and part a very serious attempt to create space for the financial sector to grow.  Randstadt[xiv], around Rotterdam, saw its future as a region of mainly urban centres, operating to a polycentric spatial model. Regional spatial planning at the level of the city region had become du jour.


These changes need to be understood at the level of the city region. It is important to understand what regions are, how investment and prosperity develops and where, why and how regional economies develop and prosper[xvi].  Ongoing economic development occurs in successful city regions. These have old specialisms but they also constantly develop new specialisms, produce exports, and become more diverse. They develop new work through a process of drift, and the key to this is the entrepreneur and the investor. This process builds on itself and so wealth creation is a process of investment and production, or supply, in city regions.[xvii]  It is important to understand why this investment occurs (or does not) and which sectors are growing and expect to grow. The important thing is to understand the make-up of an economy sector by sector.[xviii] [xix]

This process builds upon itself over decades and centuries. Old work can continue profitably, but new work comes mainly from waves of technological change. Economic development is not linear, it does not proceed in a predictable, orderly manner. Rather it grows and falls back in leaps and bounds. It is cyclical. These cycles follow closely waves of technological change, and so every 50-60 years or so a new cycle of prosperity begins[xx]. The period we are now living in has been termed the ‘Carrier Wave’ by Sir Peter Hall[xxi] and others. Although the early inventions date back further, from Stockley’s transistor to Microsoft and Apple, the commercialization of these technologies builds slowly to begin with and then suddenly it grows like topsy. We can posit that the Carrier Wave as an episode of wealth creation dates in a commercial sense from the mid-1990s, leading to what Carlota Perez[xxii] called the Dot Com ‘feeding frenzy’ and bust of 1999.

The most successful city regions – London, Milan, Boston, Copenhagen, Prague, Austin, San Francisco – all include the new wealth-creating technologies and industries. In some places these dominate the economy just as cotton did for Manchester or shipbuilding for the Clyde. Yet the most successful have other industries too, and these are not all Tech or biotech but the seeming less glamourous pursuits of food production, clothing, electronics, car manufacturing, boot-making, banking, brewing…. We also have office-based work, commercial property development, professional services and broadcasting.  And for many regions and cities tourism is an export economy, earning export dollars. These diverse economies support consumer services such as retailing, hospitality, the nighttime economy, the arts and entertainment. These economies are dynamic and self-generating rather than mono-sectoral. This can be helped by sensible, informed regional spatial planning.


South East Queensland as a City Region: Brisbane, the Gold Coast, the Sunshine Coast and Toowoombah, Ipswich and Logan

Not much of this sort planning occurred in Australia, except at Elizabeth near Adelaide where much of Australia’s car industry was grouped. Sydney grew rapidly and the lack of regional planning is a problem still, although work by the Committee for Sydney[xxiii] has recently proposed a three city structure across Greater Sydney. Brisbane, back in the 1990s, had no obvious need for regional planning: it was a small city, not yet a city region. Nearby places like Logan or Ipswich or Southport or Caloundra were mostly left to their own devices.

This began to change in the early 21st century.  The Gold Coast adopted a growth strategy, including the building of very tall buildings and a tramway, new retail developments and hotels. New development occurred around Robina and Varsity Lakes. Brisbane also opted for high rise development to a bigger scale than previously, notably in the CBD but also some inner urban districts, for example Newstead and South Bank. By around 2012, Brisbane was moving firmly towards more development and at higher densities. The talk was of Brisbane as a ‘New World City’. This was seen as necessary to accommodate an increasing population (migration from overseas and other parts of Australia), new investment and new industries.

The Queensland State Government published its own SEQ Regional Plan in 2009[xxiv]. This mainly focuses on the spatial distribution of future development, and in controlling development with growth boundaries and environmental designations. The key themes can be summarized as follows:

  1. Sustainability and climate change
  2. Natural environment
  3. Regional landscape
  4. Natural resources
  5. Rural futures
  6. Strong communities
  7. Engaging Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples
  8. Compact settlement
  9. Employment location
  10. Infrastructure
  11. Water management
  12. Integrated transport

The plan allocates all land in the SEQ region into one of three regional land use categories, as follows:

  • The Regional Landscape & Rural Production Area – identifies land with landscape, environmental, rural production or other non-urban values and protects these areas from inappropriate urban and rural residential development;
  • The Urban Footprint – identifies the land necessary for urban expansion and development up to the year 2031 and covers existing settlements and greenfield areas.
  • The Rural Living Area – identifies areas designated for rural residential development under local government planning schemes and where further such development is permitted.

The SEQRP 2009 does not permit urban development outside of the Urban Footprint, about 85% of the region. According to the plan, 50% of new dwellings in SEQ will be accommodated by infill and redevelopment in existing urban areas. Infill dwelling targets are identified for each local government area and these have to be planned for in local planning schemes. Higher density and mixed-use development are focused around ‘regional activity centres’ and high-frequency transit corridors, such as the Brisbane CBD, Ipswich, Maroochydore, Southport and Chermside.

In 2012, Brisbane City Council launched its economic development plan for the ‘new world city’[xxv]. This sets five strategic objectives, although these were not described in any detail spatially:

  1. Building Brisbane’s Global Reputationto strengthen Brisbane’s profile as a tourism and investment destination. This essentially is inward investment.
  2. Growing a Productive Economyto nurture local business growth and attract new business, focusing mainly on suburban locations.
  3. Attracting Talent and Connecting Globallyto offer diverse and growing employment opportunities, for example to international students who may wish to remain in the city.
  4. Enriching Brisbane’s Lifestyleto create more to see and do, including a focus on the Brisbane River and a better designed public realm.
  5. Leading and Engagingto deliver on the economic priorities for Brisbane.


We set about mapping SEQ as a city region. Some of what was mapped is already known or indicated, some is existing facilities, places and development. These are the ‘known-knowns’. We can also posit that likely future scenarios will include certain types of development and in identifiable locations. These are the ‘known unknowns’. Finally, there are the ‘unknown unknowns’, things that are only at the moment ideas, or indeed may not have been thought of to date.

  1. Proposed Venues and Infrastructure (Known)
    1. Venues (Known)
    2. Sports Events by Location
    3. Athletes’ Village
    4. Media Centre
    5. Existing Transport Connections and Termini (rail, buses, airports)

Brisbane’s Olympic Games Development Proposal, Venues and Stadia, as identified July 2021

  1. Developing Proposals (Known Unknowns)
    1. Additional transport infrastructure
    2. Dual-purpose venues
    3. Arts venues
    4. Visitor attractions
    5. Heritage landscapes and buildings.
    6. Employment locations and industries
    7. Housing developments
    8. Public Realm: new spaces large, smaller spaces, walking routes
    9. Parks and passive recreation areas
    10. Placemaking – centres, suburbs, districts, nodes, hubs
    11. Hospitality industry, café culture, nighttime economy.
  1. Possible Development Proposals: Regional Mapping (Unknown or ‘Blue Sky’):
    1. Additional transport infrastructure, for example a railway station at Maroochydore?
    2. Dual-purpose venues at places like Ipswich or Redlands
    3. Arts venues – Sunshine Coast?
    4. Heritage – towns, but also landscapes and aboriginal sites
    5. Visitor attractions.
    6. Events aimed at visitors but also locals, eg food, cuisine, arts
    7. Employment locations and industries – likely future
    8. Housing developments, including affordable schemes.
    9. Placemaking – centres, suburbs, districts (as in 2, extended)
    10. Hospitality Nodes
    11. Public Realm
      1. new spaces, large
      2. smaller spaces
      3. walking
      4. Parks


The Table consequently went on to consider some wider questions:

  1. Is Southeast Queensland a city region? Yes, and it is becoming more complex.
  2. Economic development and Industries? Which industries where? Are they clusters or simply co-located? This could be mapped reasonably quickly.
  3. Is Tourism a growth sector? Where? Are there new events that could be established? New hotels and visitor attractions? It seems highly likely tourism will grow, but where and what remains unclear as yet.
  4. Arts and culture: consume, produce, cultural tourism, creative industries, public art. Are there investments and projects that can be identified as part of new developments? There ought to be.
  5. Urban design: can the Olympics help establish stronger connected places and place types across the city region: Precincts, neighbourhoods and towns, city districts. Yes, this is a priority.
  6. Public realm: can we identify larger public spaces, parks and reserves to be included in regional and local plans? Collections of smaller spaces and good streets? Yes.
  7. Is there a need or opportunity to further develop the city region night-time economy? In certain locations, yes.


An important concept used at this point is Connectivity or Connectiveness. This operates at the city regions as well as within cities and between districts, suburbs and neighbourhoods. This is made up of different types of connection:

  1. Physical, being mainly transport routes and corridors; within cities walkability and permeability are important;
  2. Spatial, being the distribution of settlements across city regions;
  3. Socio-cultural-environmental: landscapes, form, rivers, mountains which is to say topography and features that create a regional sense of place;
  4. Temporal: the sense of history, time and heritage;
  5. Visual: views, important buildings, architecture and design.
  6. Psychological: do I belong here?

The three drawings attempt to catch some of this for South East Queensland, Brisbane, the Sunshine Coast and the Gold Coast. Necessarily impressionistic they try to capture the pattern of settlements, transport and landscapes. We conclude that South East Queensland is indeed a successful and prosperous city region with many unique features and landscapes. In planning for an Olympic Legacy, these characteristics  will need to be maintained, strengthened, supported and balanced.


In memory of Robin Murray.

Notes & References

[i] Sudjic, D (1992) The Hundred Mile City, Andre Deutsch, London

[ii] Michael J Breheny and Peter Hall (eds.) 1996. The people – where will they go? National report of the TCPA Regional Inquiry into Housing Need and Provision in England. Town and Country Planning Association.

See also: Michael J Breheny and Peter Hall (eds.) 1999. The people – where will they work? National report of the TCPA Regional Inquiry into Housing Need and Provision in England. Town and Country Planning Association.

[iii] Murray, R. and Montgomery, J. The South- South Divide, South East Economic Development Strategy (SEEDS), Stevenage. 1987.

[iv] Michael J. Breheny, Douglas A. Hart, Peter Hall 1986. Eastern Promise? Development Prospects for the M11 Corridor. Spatial and Economic Associates, Faculty of Urban and Regional Studies, University of Reading.

[v] Peter Hall, Michael J Breheny, Ronald McQuaid, Douglas Hart. 1987. Western Sunrise: The Genesis and Growth of Britain’s Major High-Tech Corridor. Unwin Hyman.

[vi] Jacobs, J. Cities and the Wealth of Nations, (New York: Vintage, 1984).

[vii] Montgomery, J. The New Wealth of Cities, (Aldershot: Ashgate, 2007).

[viii] Breheny, M., Hart, D., Howells, J. Health and Wealth: The Development of the Pharmaceutical Industry in the South East, SEEDS, Stevenage 1993.

[ix] Breheny, M.,  Doak, J., Hart, D.,  Montgomery, J.,  and Strike, J. : Bright Green: An Industrial and Environmental Strategy for Hertfordshire, Hertfordshire County Council, 1994.

[x] Priestley, J. B., English Journey, London, Victor Gollancz, 1933.

[xi] Breheny, M., Hart, D., Howells, J. Health and Wealth: The Development of the Pharmaceutical Industry in the South East, SEEDS, Stevenage 1993.

[xii] Henrik Vejre, Jørgen Primdahl, and Jesper Brandt:
The Copenhagen Finger Plan: Keeping a green space structure by a simple planning metaphor.In: Europe’s Living Landscapes: Essays Exploring Our Identity in the Countryside, Editors: Bas Pedroli, Anne van Doorn, and Geert de Blust, Chapter 19

[xiii] Jeffry M. Diefendorf  In the Wake of War: The Reconstruction of German Cities After World War II (Oxford University Press; Illustrated edition (1997).

[xiv] Clustering of Economic Activities in Polycentric Urban Regions: The Case of the Randstad (

[xv] Garreau, J., Edge City: Life on the New Frontier, New York, Anchor/Doubleday, 1991.

[xvi] Montgomery, J. Upwave, Ashgate, Farnham, 2011.

[xvii] Jacobs, J. The Economy of Cities, (London: Jonathan Cape, 1969)

[xviii] Robin Murray at the Greater London Council and SEEDS (the South East Economic Development Strategy)

[xix] Sabel, C Work and Politics (Cambridge University Press, 1982)

[xx] Montgomery, J. The New Wealth of Cities, Ashgate, Aldershot, 2007.

[xxi] Hall, P. and Preston, P.  The Carrier Wave: New Information Technology and the Geography of Innovation (London: Unwin Hyman, 1988).

[xxii] Perez, C. Technological Revolutions and Financial Capital: the Dynamics of Bubbles and Golden Ages, (Cheltenham: Edward Elgar, 2002).

[xxiii] Committee for Greater Sydney A Metropolis of Three Cities – the Greater Sydney Region Plan, 2015

[xxiv] South East Queensland Regional Plan 2009-2031. Brisbane: Department of Infrastructure and Planning, Queensland, 2009.

[xxv] Brisbane’s Economic Development Plan 2031, Brisbane City Council, 2012.