Bonuses needed for good design

28/05/2008 - 22:00


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Bonuses needed for good design

When Central Park was completed in 1992, Perth's commercial building industry operated under a substantially different planning code.

Back then, developers could get a 20 per cent plot ratio bonus for new projects, as they can now, plus an extra bonus - granted at the City of Perth's discretion - if they provided extra public facilities.

It was an avenue that allowed some of the city's tallest buildings - including Woodside Plaza - to get out of the ground, and created some high-quality public spaces in the CBD.

However, the city's planning scheme was amended in 2004, removing the general variation clause which had allowed the city to grant bonus plot ratios above the 20 per cent maximum.

Those in the planning sector believe this has impaired the scope of building design in the CBD, and placed too many restrictions on developers.

"Prior to 2004, the city could negotiate good outcomes for design. Post 2004, it can negotiate good outcomes to a certain point, but there's been a limit put on it," TPG planner Peter Simpson told the WA Business News forum.

"Now the stringent rules have come in and...[that's] creating sort of a squat, fat city."

For example, Brookfield Multiplex's City Square project, on the Westralia site, is one building that could not proceed under the current rules.

It was approved before the 2004 scheme was adopted but did not go ahead at the time, and required a scheme amendment to get the extra plot ratio, which took 12 months to obtain.

Under the current rules, the City of Perth wouldn't be able to grant an extra plot ratio to reflect the cafes, heritage restoration and other public benefits of the project.

According to Cox Howlett & Bailey Woodland director, Steve Woodland, the old system provided a commercial incentive for developers to aim high, whereas the current statistical planning mechanisms do not.

"There's no sense that they're going to produce a good product," Mr Woodland said.

''In fact, quite often the best developments break every conceivable rule on the page.

"On the other side, there are things that comply with every statistical rule and are awful."

Mr Woodland said the current planning rules had become inflexible, and the system needed to be able to offer incentives to developers.

"At the end of the day, it's that kind of mechanism that is the best leverage that we as a community have over a developer, to get them to do the right thing," he said.


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