As Strathfield celebrates a century and a quarter as a municipality, an urban planning expert has peered into the crystal ball to see what life might be like in the next 125 years.
His vision: it will be denser, smarter and more diverse, buzzing with personal vehicles that fly, peppered with second homes for international citizens – and possibly closer to the coast.
Professor Peter Phibbs is an urban planner with an international reputation in the area of housing studies. Formerly the Associate Dean in the Faculty of Architecture at the University of Sydney, he is now Co-ordinator of Academic Programs at the Urban Research Centre at the University of Western Sydney.
He says while planners love to make predictions, or rather, educated estimates, deciphering what Strathfield might look like in 125 years “is a stretch".
But Professor Phibbs does see some current trends that point the way to the future and top of those is tighter urban density.
“Strathfield is going to have a lot more people,” he says. “The projections are that by 2036, its population is going to double in size – that’s by 50,000 people. I think that’s a very likely outcome.
“What is going to happen is that parts of Sydney that have good access, like Strathfield, are going to have a lot of pressure to increase densities. They will be popular places to live.”
And central to that popularity will be Strathfield’s key asset of being a major rail hub. “That’s just going to become more valuable in time,” says Professor Phibbs.
“Petrol is going to get more expensive so places with good public transport access will become more popular. In the longer term we’ll be driving hydrogen-powered cars or some other kind of car. Technology will take over from oil, in which case some of the constraints around travel might change a bit, but certainly in the short term, access is going to be such a big issue for Strathfield.”
While Strathfield’s cultural face has changed dramatically in recent times, from the Anglo-Saxon and European predominance that characterised it for most of the 20th century to a more Asian-centric mix, Professor Phibbs expects there will be further changes to that.
Professor Phibbs says Sydney and indeed, Australia generally is going to become more popular, so the whole population needs to start getting used to the idea of higher density. “
He believes a notable attraction for Sydney will be its “blue sky”. As pollution worsens in many cities, he predicts that may mean people in cities with less clean skies may choose Sydney, and moreover, Strathfield, to have a second home from which to enjoy our relatively clean environment.
“In a lot of parts of Asia you will see people who will probably have some property in Sydney or parts of their family in Sydney, so you’ll see a lot more people living in several countries, especially as air transportation improves.”
As that begins to occur, Professor Phibbs believes Strathfield will be a natural choice for many.
“That’s because of the transport hub, but also because it’s got cultural mix so a lot of people coming from different places will be comfortable with that. It’s got access to good parkland, it’s got sporting facilities, it’s got a lot going for it. It’s got a good housing mix, some pretty spectacular housing, it’s got history – for all those reasons it will do pretty well.”
Professor Phibbs also believes climate change may have an impact on Strathfield.
“The other thing that could happen, if you look a really long way out, is that part of the eastern suburbs could possibly end up under water – so there’ll be surf shops in Strathfield.”
He is joking about that, but adds, “It will definitely be a shorter trip to the coast (with sea levels rising). Strathfield probably won’t be the coast, but as people get more nervous about climate change, they’ll choose places accordingly.”
And Strathfield’s schools are likely to also be a draw.
“The world’s just going to become more competitive so people will be even more focused on education. The clever country will become more popular a concept. We’ll be seeing some pretty intense global competition.”
And yes, says Professor Phibbs, it’s entirely possible that in 125 years we may be driving those Jestsons-style hover cars.
“People are going to do anything they can to get out of Sydney’s traffic. To get above it is the logical step.”