Can you create liveable cities without planning controls? Lessons from Denver, Colorado



24 June 2014


Public forum

Planning reform is a key part of making New South Wales number one. Strategic, integrated, and effective urban planning is a critical part of the state's economy, society, and environment. As we seek to improve the integrity and performance of the planning system in NSW, it is worthwhile to consider lessons from our Trans-Pacific neighbour. At this public forum American urban design and planning expert Peter Park discussed these issues.

The shift that Denver saw from rigid planning controls to visionary, inclusive and fluid planning guidelines successfully incorporates all stakeholder concerns to put the need for high-quality outputs first. Denver’s planning mentality is now focused on making Denver a city that is liveable for its people; and this framework guides planning city wide. Whether creating plans on a small or city wide scale, Denver’s goal is to achieve a balanced, multi-modal transportation system, land use that accommodates future growth, and open space throughout the city, without the need to conform to strict planning controls. Without planning documents that apply blanket rules and restrictions, Denver was free to create a cityscape that looks and feels great for its people to live, work and play and can offer many lessons for cities in New South Wales.


  • Peter Park
    Adjunct Associate Professor, College of Architecture & Planning, University of Colorado, Denver

    Peter J. Park was a guest of the US Studies Centre's Future Cities Program in June 2014. Park is a city planner who has led innovative private and public sector practice for over 20 years. He served as the Manager of the Community Planning and Development Department for the City and County of Denver and was responsible for Denver’s planning, zoning, construction permit and inspection services. Prior to his post in Denver, Park served as City Planning Director in Milwaukee.