Home Opinion The Government’s Cul-De-Sac Ban a ‘Game Changer’ for Good Urban Design

The Government’s Cul-De-Sac Ban a ‘Game Changer’ for Good Urban Design

A cyclist on the quiet streets of Habersham, SC. Source: CNU
A cyclist on the quiet streets of Habersham, SC. Source: CNU

The Queensland Government is proposing a new model code for neighbourhood design to improve the health and wellbeing of people throughout the state.

After public consultation, the government could mandate that all new residential developments in Queensland have more walkable street layouts, better connectivity, footpaths with street trees for shading, and better access to parks and public open space.

Queensland currently has no neighbourhood design guidelines that mandate walkable neighbourhoods, with a large majority of new residential communities featuring cul-de-sac-like street systems instead of a grid-based street system.

A common misconception by many is that cul-de-sacs help promote healthy, interconnected communities and a safe place for kids to play, however in most cases cul-de-sacs do virtually the opposite.

Cul-de-sac street design is known to create social barriers and unintendedly restricts fast access to parks, shops or other amenities, forcing people to drive, or choose not leaving the house over socialising outdoors.

Built To Last by Congress for New Urbanism

Minister for PlanningCameron Dick said the new standards could become compulsory for new developments.

The plan also aims to increase the number of trees and shade in new residential communities. There currently are no provisions for providing this for new Queensland residential communities.

“We live in a hot climate and in a recent Department of Transport and Main Roads survey 24 percent of Queenslanders said lack of shade and shelter along their walking route was a major barrier to walking in Queensland.

“This code is about getting the fundamentals of new development right, creating walkable, grid-like street layouts, better connectivity, footpaths with street trees for shading, and better access to parks and public open space.”

Example of a walkable grid design vs inaccessible curvy road design
Example of a walking-friendly grid design vs inaccessible car-friendly road design. Source: Creating healthy
and active communities – Qld Government
Proposed mandatory provisions
Proposed mandatory provisions – Qld Government

Mr Dick said elements of the model code could be become mandatory by the end of 2019.

“While some councils and developers are exceeding the benchmarks we are setting, we want to make sure all new development meets community expectations,” he said.

“This will provide greater certainty for the development community about what is expected of new development and ultimately provide better designed communities for home buyers and renters.”

Elements of the code which could become mandatory by the end of the year include:

  • Grid-like street networks with fewer cul-de-sacs
  • Footpaths complemented by street trees on both sides of most streets
  • Street blocks no longer than 130m with longer blocks having mid-block pedestrian breaks
  • Parks and open spaces within comfortable walking distance of every dwelling.

Heart Foundation Queensland CEO, Stephen Vines, said walking-friendly neighbourhoods were needed to get residents more active and address the state’s growing obesity crisis.

“Too many Queenslanders are missing out on the physical activity they need for good heart health, so we must find ways to encourage residents to get moving and leave the car at home more often,” Mr Vines said.

“Neighbourhood design plays an important role in building healthier communities, and we’re pleased to see this model code includes Healthy Active by Design principles from the Heart Foundation.

Eco housing concept by ADEPT
Eco housing concept by ADEPT

“There is a great deal of research that proves better designed communities provide health and economic benefits by encouraging physical activity and reducing heart disease – our biggest killer.”

Urban Development Institute of Australia (UDIA) Queensland CEO, Kirsty Chessher-Brown, said it was important the industry worked together to ensure good health outcomes for all new communities.

“The design of new communities can have an impact on how healthy and active people are so it’s important we all play our part to support healthier communities,” Ms Chessher-Brown said.

“The UDIA supports measures that seek to provide healthy and active communities across the state and supports the development of model codes which encourage the provision of walkable environments.”

Mr Dick said this was a policy for the community and feedback would be sought on how best to make our communities more active, connected and safe.

“Whether you live in an inner-city suburb or a remote part of Queensland, this is a policy with benefits for every Queenslander,” he said.

This form of ‘New Urban’ design is nothing new, it was the only form of neighbourhood design before cars took off. Neighbourhoods were walkable, friendly, there was less traffic congestion and less driving in general.

The Kathryn residential community based off New Urban principals by StreetLights Residential
The Kathryn residential community in the United States an example of New Urban principals by StreetLights Residential

Consultation is open until 1 September 2019. To find out more and to have your say visit qld.gov.au/healthycommunities.

To view the new model code go to: https://planning.dsdmip.qld.gov.au/planning/better-planning/state-planning.


  1. Please ensure that there is a footpath at the end of any cul-de-sacs to encourage easy access for pedestrians and cyclists!


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