greening Bowden

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The suburbs west of the city of Adelaide and the parklands, such as Hindmarsh and Bowden,   were earmarked as industrial areas prior to 1945 because they  were  in the vicinity of the road and rail links between Adelaide’s CBD and Port Adelaide. The industrial origins in the 19th century lay in the small cottage industries supported by both residential and industrial expansion.  More noxious industries moved into the area  in the early 20th century and the wealthier residents began to move out.

Though it was still a residential area,  with many  post 1945  European migrants  (Greek, Italian, Yugoslav) being attracted to the area because  of the low cost of housing,  industry expansion quickened  after the 1940s.By the 1980s the official view of  Bowden-Brompton was that these suburbs were  old industrial areas and that industry expansion was premised on purchasing adjoining residential property.

These properties were seen as being on congested sites, to be outworn and obsolete,  as having reached the end of  their economic and useful life,  and  that their low property values encouraged the intrusion of factories and businesses. The substandard  housing was only worthy of demolition. The depressing character of sub-standard dwellings combined with noise, odours, dirt, smoke pollution and heavy traffic meant that  Bowden was defined as a Adelaide’s slum. Slum meant an incidence of disease and delinquency.

The concerns of the  people who lived in the slum  for  better living conditions for themselves could be ignored.

Gibson St, Bowden
Gibson St, Bowden

Even though there was limited room for industrial expansion in Bowden, and  industry was moving to Adelaide’s northern and north western suburbs,  the  old Hindmarsh Council, which had been captured by industry, had little  interest in greening the suburb, the quality of the environment  or  urban renewal. The state government had no conception of urban infill with higher density housing.    

For the council the urban redevelopment of the land in Bowden meant  redevelopment for economic purposes which, in turn, meant industrial expansion. That meant  opposition to Bowden becoming a more liveable urban area. The market ruled and, consequently, there was little understanding of the social purposes of human cohabitation through supporting a community that saw Bowden-Brompton  as home.

The conflict arising from citizens in opposition to government and business was a central feature of rebuilding the Bowden-Brompton area. The initial spark was the US inspired  1968 Metropolitan Adelaide Transport Study (MATS) . This proposed circuit of freeways  requiring major property acquisition identified Bowden-Brompton as the potential site for the four-level spaghetti central freeway interchange with many flyovers   The second spark  was  the zoning of  Bowden-Brompton as an  industrial   zone in 1972. Both  decisions  inferred  that the  residents were dispensable.

No 40
No 40

The acceptance of the MATS plan by the state Liberal government resulted in the  compulsory purchase by the Highways Department of over 300 houses. These houses were destroyed or allowed to fall into disrepair as the  MATS plan was fought then shelved by the Dunstan government in the 1970s, elected on the opposition to the MATS plan.  The urban freeways became  ‘transport corridors’, the land in Bowden was sold around 1980,  with  much of the housing in Bowden-Brompton  annexed by industry.

The conflict between residents and government over industrial expansion only started  to ease when there was a convergence of community and government concerns in the 1980s through rezoning the Hindmarsh council area  as residential, noxious large scale industry being relocated, and the promotion housing co-operatives. Parts of Bowden continued to be allocated to industry for the long term,  whilst  existing  industry was allowed limited expansion in Brompton.

South Rd, by default,  became the North-South Corridor. The old non-stop north-south freeway of the MATS  plan would be built by stealth through  constant upgrades to South Rd (tunnels and overpasses) over a long period of time.   The  motor vehicle  and suburbia  has  underpinned urban and transport planning for the past 40 years.  Personal mobility is equated with motor vehicle use.

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