Easy or bland, outdated or ordered: what’s it like to live in a planned city?

Perth really is about as bland a built environment as you could imagine, luckily set on amazing natural beauty. But its planning is still rooted firmly in 1950s style suburbia and auto dependence. Car ownership is one of the highest in Australia, which nationally is one of the highest in the world. Vibrancy is lacking, community occurs despite, not encouraged by, the built environment. Walking is hardly done, and the streets of suburbia are deserted as everyone drives. Perth has a fetish for new buildings and the culture here is to knock down houses once they get to 30 or 40 years old and build new ones. Apart from the seriously unsustainable aspects to this, it creates a city perpetually 40 years old. Sense of place doesn’t have time to be created and root itself. So Perth has a look of a city that sits on top of the natural environment, not part of it. To a visitor it’s quite beautiful and they find themselves feeling jealous of Perthites. But the reality of living in the most isolated [regional] capital city in the world is that it is limited in design, vibrancy, expectation and culture. Anonymous Milton Keynes is comfortably the easiest town or city I’ve lived in – not the prettiest, or the most interesting, but certainly the most pleasant to live compared with other traditional British urban landscapes. You quickly realise why visitors will struggle to warm to it while residents love living here. On first appearances it’s all fast roads, roundabouts (yes, yes) and housing estates. Very easy to dismiss, just another post-war new town. Spend some time among those odd highway intersections and you’ll discover the hidden pockets of preserved villages, rivers, canals, woodlands that were very carefully integrated into the modern network. And let’s stop describing it as a sea of concrete – there’s more grass, shrubbery and vast swathes of trees wherever you look. On a mundane level, it has most of what young families, young professionals and retired people could want – a strong local economy, fast travel connections, good amenities and numerous leisure facilities. But these are what makes it work as a place to live. Everything is so easy to access that you could forgive it its faults. For a town so meticulously planned there still exist the usual issues of crumbling housing, over development and a poor provision of local public transport in a town that is so enamoured with car ownership. Nevertheless, after having lived here for a decade, I’m a full convert to the cult of MK. Jules Rye, 37 While the city itself is old, the vast majority has been built over the past 20 years. It certainly comes with a lot of conveniences and wonders, but people living here often find things to complain about. You never have to ask how far someplace is, though; unless you’re going downtown, pretty much everywhere is 20 minutes away, wherever you are. Arad, 18 Shannon is the only planned town in Ireland. Because of the presence of the airport it was far more cosmopolitan than any other town or even city in Ireland at the time. I had Danish and Swedish classmates and Aeroflot had a base here which meant signs in Cyrillic in the local bank. Everything was in walking distance and to this day Shannon has the highest rate of children walking to school in Ireland. On the negative side there was no high street at all in the town, just a dispiriting shopping centre in the middle of town. Restrictive planning meant two pubs in the whole place. Anonymous Islamabad is now over 60 years old. Even though it is a planned city, much has now been growing without any vision or direction. Due to the rapid growth of population, demand for housing skyrocketed which led to the development of urban sprawl and of private housing societies. To this day, the authorities have failed to address housing and commercial needs. Businesses and schools are forced to operate within residential areas illegally due to a lack of zoned areas for their activities. I find it perplexing that I live in a premium gated housing society and can enjoy a lifestyle comparable to living in Dubai located right next to the mud huts of rural migrants. Ammaz, 23 I was brought up in Harlow from birth. It was great until adolescence, with lots of open space, we had a great council house with a huge garden and purpose-built primary and secondary schools. There were also lots of jobs in the 1960s and 70s. But in adolescence it was rubbish because of the huge distances between neighbourhoods at a time when you wanted to be out roaming around. Public transport was poor and pricey. You could cycle but the bike paths became badly maintained and threatening over time. I left at 19 and never returned. Michael, 60 I moved from Sydney when I got tired of my three-hour commute and the prospect of choosing between living with my parents or paying a third of my salary in rent (at a minimum). Here, I’m considered to live “far” from my workplace, which still only translates to a 20-minute drive in peak hour. I love the orderliness and ease that makes things comfortable, not boring. In Canberra, my biggest problem is deciding between multiple arts events in a night. Our relatively high rate of public housing peppered evenly throughout (although diminishing) also makes the city feel safer. Caitlin, 29 Follow Guardian Cities on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram to join the discussion, catch up on our best stories or sign up for our weekly newsletter

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