Government benchmark creates discussion

Samantha Reece of PropertyESP attended the recent Property Council breakfast which launched the Greater Perth Councils benchmark report on Statutory Planning Performance.

This review covered 29 Councils in the Perth metropolitan area and rated them on:

  • The age of the Council’s Local Planning Strategy (LPS),
  • Number of amendments to the Local Planning schemes,
  • Delegation of planning approvals, and
  • Timeliness of processing planning applications.

There were certainly some very telling results.

For example, the City of Nedlands had not reviewed their local planning scheme in 31 years and had made 201 amendments in that time.

Peppermint Grove had also not reviewed their scheme in 20 years – but unlike other Councils they had made no amendments to their plan.  It was also the only Council out of the 29 Councils that failed to delegate planning decisions to their staff.

Looking at an overall score, Melville achieved the highest rating (21.7/23), followed by Belmont (20.1).

However what the score card failed to consider was the level of action taken by a Council.

So City of Fremantle, which has recently approved a swathe of apartments for its CBD, scored just two points higher than Peppermint Grove because it did not have a current LPS.

There is no doubt that this report could certainly have taken into account a few more elements to measure real performance, but overall it was a good starting point and with the Property Council advising they will be conducting this review annually, I am sure that we may see a level of frenzied activity from some Councils over the forthcoming 12 months.

This report was intended to highlight where there are deficiencies in the planning system. As a result the Department of Planning did not come off lightly either, acknowledging that they had 18 LPS awaiting review by their own staff.

Overall there is room for improvement and that is the real focus of the Property Council’s report.

Let’s hope that in 12 months’ time we are not looking at the same results – but rather a series of Councils who are now focused on providing an LPS that suits the needs of their current community (and not that of their community circa 1980’s).

A full copy of the report can be viewed at http://www.propertycouncil.com.au/Web/News/Articles/News_listing/Web/Content/News/WA/2016/Majority_of_Local_Governments_Miss_the_Mark_in_Planning_Performance_.aspx

Dare to change

PropertyESP attended the Committee for Perth lunch last week which was delving into the topic of density.

The guest speakers were Emma Booth from North Sydney Council and Associate Professor Julian Bolleter from the Australian Urban Design Research Centre at The University of Western Australia.

North Sydney Council has just undertaken a significant town planning exercise to commence urban renewal in St Leonards, which is just a ten minute train ride from Sydney CBD.  Currently the St Leonards area has a mix of high rise options ranging from 2 through to 16 storeys.

I thought one of the most interesting points raised by Ms Booth was that the Council had been so fearful of community backlash over density during the 1980/1990’s that the area in fact had stood still, to the point that the current community perception was that this locale was slightly dirty and dull.

When a neighbouring council approved a 34 storey redevelopment on the St Leonards boundary, this catalysed the Council into action and they identified potential sites for renewal which were outdated and felt to be an eyesore.

The resulting urban rejuvenation identified 3ha of land and the Council took a bold step by agreeing to a design which saw the infill start at 3-6 storeys before then stepping up to 12-16 storeys and then finally 18-40 storeys.

The Council was keen to ensure that these developments were a mix of residential and commercial so there would be sufficient population to sustain the businesses.

In conjunction with this increased density, the Council undertook to upgrade parks and community infrastructure, and introduce other elements such as innovation hubs and day care centres.

There is no doubt that there were many WA Councils in the room hanging onto Ms Booth’s words because they too are about to undergo urban rejuvenation as a result of Colin Barnett’s mandate.

And we can all identify areas, such as Scarborough, that are long overdue for urban rejuvenation but which have stood still because of the fear of community backlash.

Infill is part of WA’s future – and at some stage we are going to have to be bold about how we move forward otherwise our communities will turn on us – in part because they feel their areas are outdated and dull!

As the saying goes, you can’t make an omelette without breaking some eggs.  The question is – are our Councils or Government prepared to get in the kitchen and start cooking?