The application of new urbanism towards sustainable urban development : a case study of Umhlanga Ridge, Durban.
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Currently, the global agenda of sustainability and sustainable development have become the yardstick to which human activities are measured. The concept of sustainability is known to contain directives, when implemented will ensure that resources are used in ways that can benefit current and future generations. The ways in which spatial planning and urban development occur have also become relevant in this respect. Within this premise, urban form has also become relevant to the urban sustainability. Umhlanga Ridge Town Centre is a private development modeled on the concept of New Urbanism. The concept of New Urbanism is known to contain elements which respond positively to current urban challenges such as urban sprawl, increased pollution from automobile dependency and socio-economic polarization. In essence, New Urbanism purports to contribute towards urban sustainability. The main objective of this research has been to ascertain the extent to which the current developments in Umhlanga Ridge satisfy the principles of New Urbanism and urban sustainability. This included the identification of appropriate indicators of a sustainable urban form. Emphasis was made on how the indicators of urban form had manifested in the development of Umhlanga Ridge Town Centre and the impacts they have had on identified urban challenges in the Ethekwini Municipality. The rationale was that sustainable urban development must be able to address local urban challenges and promote sustainable practices within the private and the public domain. The methodology for this research included the use of secondary and primary sources. Interviews were conducted with Tongaat Hulett Development in their capacity as a land owner and planners of the Umhlanga Ridge Town Centre. The Ethekwini Municipality was also interviewed with respect to what impacts this development had had on their overall long-term development strategy. Three renowned planners who had adequate knowledge of urban development trends in the Ethekwini Municipality were also interviewed. A questionnaire survey was undertaken with users of the Umhlanga Ridge Town Centre to gain their perceptions on urban form in relation to their needs. The research revealed that the application of New Urbanism in the development of Umhlanga Ridge Town Centre was partly an investment initiative for profit-maximisation as well as a response to sustainable practices in urban development. Being part of a major investment node in the Ethekwini region, it had contributed towards job creation and enhanced the economic base of the region. However, it was found to have partially fulfilled the principles of New Urbanism used in the assessment. It was concluded that the application of New Urbanism in urban development was not adequate to achieve urban sustainability but provided lessons which can be learnt such the use of high densities to enhance compaction and the creation of a living environment which supported non-motorised forms of transport. Private sector participation and buy-in into the long-term vision of regions had also become necessary to enhance the adoption of sustainable practices into the future.