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Planned derailment for new urban futures? An actant network analysis of the “great [light] rail debate” in Newcastle, Australia

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Abstract


  • With urban and economic restructuring, facilitating urban regeneration for rundown post-

    industrial cities has become a central urban planning policy objective in Western cities since

    the late twentieth century, leaving some centres in prolonged social and economic decline. This

    chapter explores one example of planning policies seeking to regenerate an urban centre. Our

    focus is Newcastle, approximately 160km (100 miles) north of Sydney, Australia. Newcastle

    has a long history as an industrial city, dominated by manufacturing and coal-mining in the

    surrounding Hunter Valley. The port of Newcastle remains the world’s largest coal export port.

    In 1999, BHP closed the Newcastle Steel Mill, triggering industrial restructuring and

    catalysing significant urban transformation. Despite a flurry of planning activity, regeneration

    of the central business district (CBD), waterfront and brownfield industrial sites has been

    slow. The most recent round of planning for the Newcastle CBD saw the release of the

    Newcastle Urban Renewal Strategy

    in 2012 (

    2012 NURS

    ) (DPI, 2012) and its revision in

    2014 (

    2014 NURS

    ) (DPE, 2014). Arriving two years after the original, the

    2014 NURS

    presents a significantly different urban future, premised on ceasing the heavy rail services into

    Newcastle CBD, to be replaced by light rail (among other developments).

    We explore these strategies aided by the Actor Network Theory (ANT) concept of

    translation. Planning documents convene social actors and define the relationship between

    material and non-material (physical) actors (Rydin, 2013) creating new meanings that build

    from both the social and physical characteristics of places (Bylund, 2013). They work as

    intermediaries and mediators that circulate to create and maintain urban change networks

    (Rydin, 2013). In adopting an ANT framework, our approach is ‘strategic and illustrative,

    rather than comprehensive’ (Jacobs et al., 2007: 609). The decision to truncate the heavy rail

    line disrupted the

    2012 NURS

    , which sought ‘to recommend an integrated package of

    initiatives aimed at developing a solid basis for the long term successful renewal of the city

    centre’ (DPI, 2012: xvi). In exploring the central role of rail infrastructure in Newcastle

    planning, we adopt a socio-technical perspective that recognizes plans and transport systems

    as combinations of technologies, institutional arrangements, market processes, legislative frameworks, human agents and non-human actants. We trace the way planning in Newcastle has

    centred on the extent to which alternative socio-technical networks – different rail systems –

    can become stable, resist challenge and seek to define the future city.

    The first section of this chapter reviews ANT as a theoretical approach to planning and,

    drawing on this approach, the second section explores the planning process in Newcastle,

    focusing on the proposed replacement of the existing heavy rail system with a new light rail

    system.

UOW Authors


  •   Ruming, Kristian J. (external author)
  •   Mee, Kathleen (external author)
  •   McGuirk, Pauline

Publication Date


  • 2016

Citation


  • Ruming, K., Mee, K. & McGuirk, P. (2016). Planned derailment for new urban futures? An actant network analysis of the “great [light] rail debate” in Newcastle, Australia. In Y. Rydin & L. Tate (Eds.), Actor Networks of Planning: Exploring the Influence of Actor Network Theory (pp. 44-61). Abingdon, United Kingdom: Routledge.

International Standard Book Number (isbn) 13


  • 9781138886407

Ro Full-text Url


  • http://ro.uow.edu.au/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=3340&context=sspapers

Ro Metadata Url


  • http://ro.uow.edu.au/sspapers/2339

Book Title


  • Actor Networks of Planning: Exploring the Influence of Actor Network Theory

Start Page


  • 44

End Page


  • 61

Place Of Publication


  • Abingdon, United Kingdom

Abstract


  • With urban and economic restructuring, facilitating urban regeneration for rundown post-

    industrial cities has become a central urban planning policy objective in Western cities since

    the late twentieth century, leaving some centres in prolonged social and economic decline. This

    chapter explores one example of planning policies seeking to regenerate an urban centre. Our

    focus is Newcastle, approximately 160km (100 miles) north of Sydney, Australia. Newcastle

    has a long history as an industrial city, dominated by manufacturing and coal-mining in the

    surrounding Hunter Valley. The port of Newcastle remains the world’s largest coal export port.

    In 1999, BHP closed the Newcastle Steel Mill, triggering industrial restructuring and

    catalysing significant urban transformation. Despite a flurry of planning activity, regeneration

    of the central business district (CBD), waterfront and brownfield industrial sites has been

    slow. The most recent round of planning for the Newcastle CBD saw the release of the

    Newcastle Urban Renewal Strategy

    in 2012 (

    2012 NURS

    ) (DPI, 2012) and its revision in

    2014 (

    2014 NURS

    ) (DPE, 2014). Arriving two years after the original, the

    2014 NURS

    presents a significantly different urban future, premised on ceasing the heavy rail services into

    Newcastle CBD, to be replaced by light rail (among other developments).

    We explore these strategies aided by the Actor Network Theory (ANT) concept of

    translation. Planning documents convene social actors and define the relationship between

    material and non-material (physical) actors (Rydin, 2013) creating new meanings that build

    from both the social and physical characteristics of places (Bylund, 2013). They work as

    intermediaries and mediators that circulate to create and maintain urban change networks

    (Rydin, 2013). In adopting an ANT framework, our approach is ‘strategic and illustrative,

    rather than comprehensive’ (Jacobs et al., 2007: 609). The decision to truncate the heavy rail

    line disrupted the

    2012 NURS

    , which sought ‘to recommend an integrated package of

    initiatives aimed at developing a solid basis for the long term successful renewal of the city

    centre’ (DPI, 2012: xvi). In exploring the central role of rail infrastructure in Newcastle

    planning, we adopt a socio-technical perspective that recognizes plans and transport systems

    as combinations of technologies, institutional arrangements, market processes, legislative frameworks, human agents and non-human actants. We trace the way planning in Newcastle has

    centred on the extent to which alternative socio-technical networks – different rail systems –

    can become stable, resist challenge and seek to define the future city.

    The first section of this chapter reviews ANT as a theoretical approach to planning and,

    drawing on this approach, the second section explores the planning process in Newcastle,

    focusing on the proposed replacement of the existing heavy rail system with a new light rail

    system.

UOW Authors


  •   Ruming, Kristian J. (external author)
  •   Mee, Kathleen (external author)
  •   McGuirk, Pauline

Publication Date


  • 2016

Citation


  • Ruming, K., Mee, K. & McGuirk, P. (2016). Planned derailment for new urban futures? An actant network analysis of the “great [light] rail debate” in Newcastle, Australia. In Y. Rydin & L. Tate (Eds.), Actor Networks of Planning: Exploring the Influence of Actor Network Theory (pp. 44-61). Abingdon, United Kingdom: Routledge.

International Standard Book Number (isbn) 13


  • 9781138886407

Ro Full-text Url


  • http://ro.uow.edu.au/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=3340&context=sspapers

Ro Metadata Url


  • http://ro.uow.edu.au/sspapers/2339

Book Title


  • Actor Networks of Planning: Exploring the Influence of Actor Network Theory

Start Page


  • 44

End Page


  • 61

Place Of Publication


  • Abingdon, United Kingdom