It is important for people's good health that the community they live in is not only clean and free from rubbish, but that it is a comfortable and pleasant place in other ways. There is a greater chance of achieving these things if people plan the community layout before building starts. People should give a lot of thought to:

  • where buildings and other facilities should be located
  • what the buildings and their surroundings will look like

12.1 Environmental planning

Working out ahead of time where schools, playing fields, houses, shops and other buildings and facilities will be built in a community is called environmental planning.

This can be done by people in a community discussing their ideas and deciding together what they need and where the buildings and facilities should be located. However, in Australia, environmental planning is usually done by specially trained planners who are employed by local authorities or government town planning authorities.

Environmental planning can be done before anything is built in a new community or before changes are made to an existing community.

A good community plan provides for:
  • areas such as roadside reserves, playgrounds, gardens and parks which can be made more attractive by planting trees, shrubs and grass
  • plenty of good places to play and exercise
  • shady places in which to sit and talk
  • shops, public toilets, health centres and other important facilities which are easy to reach
  • roads, footpaths and street lighting which allow people to get around the community easily and safely
  • water and power supplies to every house and public facility
  • sewage and rubbish disposal systems which will meet the community's requirements
  • placing houses so that people have privacy but can mix easily with neighbours if they wish
Some of these facilities, such as rubbish tips, bores and sewage ponds require special consideration when finding a place to put them.

12.2 Benefits of environmental planning

For people who live in a well planned community, the benefits can be very great, particularly if the community:
  • looks after the buildings and facilities
  • makes sure that water and power supplies and hygiene systems operate properly
These benefits can include:
  • a clean and healthy environment
  • a nice, pleasant place in which to live
  • plenty of places to play and exercise
  • healthier people
  • people living longer
  • people feeling happy
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12.3 How to plan for a healthy community

Australian cities, towns and some Indigenous communities have a town plan. A town plan is like a map. It is a document which sets out where all the buildings, roads and facilities are to be located. It may also set out where and what kind of sewage and rubbish disposal systems are to be built, the width of the roads, the size of the playing fields, parks and gardens and so on.
Fig.  4.28: An example of a community town plan.
Fig. 4.28: An example of a community town plan.

These plans are usually prepared by a government department or local authority which has the power to make sure that people who live in the city, town or community follow the plan. This means that people cannot just put any kind of building anywhere they like. For example, they can only build a house in a place which has been specially set aside for housing.

Town plans are usually prepared before a town or community is built. When the town planning authority decides that a city, town or community needs to be changed, a new plan for the area will be drawn up. The local planning authority may also be able to assist.

Changes to cities, towns and communities usually come about because people see that there are better ways of doing things. For example:
  • people may find that the road layout is dangerous and is causing a lot of accidents and needs to be changed
  • a lot of people in the community may want a swimming pool or playing field
  • health authorities may want to have the rubbish tip shifted because it is too close to some buildings
When town planning authorities produce a new town plan, they usually ask people living in the town, city or community to look at it and give their opinions as to whether or not they are happy with it. When people do not agree with it, it is often changed to meet their needs.

If people in Indigenous communities think that their community needs changing, they should decide among themselves what changes they need. When they do this they might decide that:
  • the community needs one or more new buildings, such as a preschool centre, a community centre, public toilets or a new community health centre
  • some buildings would be better in other places. For example, moving a building away from the river to prevent damage during floods, or relocating communal toilets so that they are easier to reach
  • the community needs to be a more beautiful place, by doing things like planting more trees, making a park or putting in place better systems for managing rubbish
  • the community needs a new sewage system
They should then discuss the changes they think need to be made with the appropriate town planning authority. It would probably be best to discuss any changes to rubbish and sewage disposal systems and water supplies with the local EHO or the state or territory government department who can advise on what action needs to be taken.

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12. 4 Ideas to improve the community environment

There are many changes which can be made to a community to make it a much more pleasant place to live in. The community should make its own list of priorities.

Here are some suggestions:
  • build children's playgrounds
  • make sportsfields
  • provide BBQ areas
  • plant trees and grass or ground cover for shade and dust control in the community
  • paint houses and fences
  • organise community clean-ups
  • provide park benches
It is important to take steps to beautify a community and make it a more pleasant place. For example, planting more trees and taking care of existing ones makes a community a more pleasant place to be in. Everyone likes to be able to sit in the shade of a big tree. Trees around a house can help to keep it cool and they look good. Trees are also important because they give out oxygen which people and other animals need to survive.

Gardens are not just for flowers. They can also be for growing vegetables and fruit. The roots of plants help hold the soil in place during floods and strong winds.

If there is grass or ground cover it can provide a good place to sit or rest. Children can play on the grass or meetings can be held there. Grassed areas are good for playing on too. Sports such as basketball, football, softball and netball can be played there. Ground covers also help to control dust in the community.