16/03/2020 - 14:34

Density debate reaches the ’burbs

16/03/2020 - 14:34


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SPECIAL REPORT: Flashpoints over increased density are reaching the urban fringe, with local community groups in outer suburbs resisting change as much as their inner-city counterparts.

Duane Cole says understanding a place’s history and what it means to the community is key to avoiding conflict. Photo: Gabriel Oliveira

Flashpoints over increased density are reaching the urban fringe, with local community groups in outer suburbs resisting change as much as their inner-city counterparts. 

Land developers need to change the way they consult with the community to facilitate mixed-use development and higher densities along the urban fringe.

That’s the call from Roberts Day director Duane Cole, who says developers and the community alike need to focus on outcomes that provide a positive and sustainable long-term legacy.

(click here to view a PDF version of this special report)

Mr Cole told Business News that moving away from traditional urban fringe development of large blocks and providing medium-density product in outer-urban areas was a big contributor to conflicts emerging between community groups and the development industry.

“We’ve become accustomed to a certain pattern of suburban development along the fringe, which is really causing a lot of angst and concern at a local government level,” Mr Cole said.

“We know that type of development doesn’t support itself and I think what we need to challenge in the planning system is how we do development in that space differently, and how we think about it differently.

“Potentially something we need to address is how we can try and encourage other forms of development on the fringe, beyond what you would expect in a suburban pattern.

“Mixed-use, walkable catchments are where we have a sense of sustainability. Whether that be from a social perspective or an economic perspective, that’s what we should be encouraging.”

Mr Cole’s commentary comes against a backdrop of recent flare-ups between developers and community groups in the metropolitan area, one of which has emerged in Port Kennedy.

Singaporean-owned developer Western Australia Beach and Golf Resort has been planning to create a $425 million beachside estate in Port Kennedy for nearly three decades, with a local structure plan recently released for public comment.

The development is centred around The Links Kennedy Bay golf course, with the proposal to comprise around 900 residential lots, a redeveloped clubhouse and a new town centre precinct.

Port Kennedy Progress Association chair Dirk Mulder said the local community was particularly concerned around the size of the blocks to be developed at Kennedy Bay, as well as the capacity of the local road network to handle the increased density.

“From a density point of view, we don’t have a problem with it because there will be people that want density,” Mr Mulder said.

“But it is sprinkled throughout the estate rather than concentrated around the town centre that they’re planning.

“Port Kennedy, as an outer coastal suburb, is a place where families come to have space, not to sit in [small houses] next to each other without any transport or other links.

“If you want to lift it out and stick it in Subiaco or West Perth, you could actually see some merit in that, because it makes sense. But where it is in Port Kennedy, it is just wrong.”

The Kennedy Bay estate is designed to provide better access to an underutilised pocket of coastal land. Photo: PKPA

While Mr Mulder claimed the local community had not been engaged prior to the plan being released for public comment, the project’s proponents say there had been a long history of consultation prior to the formulation of the plans.

Responding to the criticism, a spokesperson for WABGR said the developer had worked closely with several community groups to formulate its development plan, including Mr Mulder’s PKPA, the Friends of Port Kennedy and the Kennedy Bay Community Association.

The spokesperson said that consultation had resulted in a development plan to create a coastal destination attractive for tourists and visitors as well as the local community.

“A mix of activated spaces, strong recreational services, medium-density housing and a thriving local economy is integral in ensuring this outcome,” the WABGR spokesperson said.

“At its heart will be a new local centre, with walkability and visual connection to the beach front at its fore.”

Meanwhile, in the Perth Hills, Satterley Property Group is facing stiff opposition from resident groups over its Stoneville North project, which has been proposed to be built on land owned by the Anglican Diocese of Perth. 

Satterley has proposed to deliver around 1,400 lots at Stoneville, a plan that locals claim is a planning disaster because the existing road network could not handle such an increase in density. 

In August, the Shire of Mundaring recommended the Western Australian Planning Commission not approve the Satterley plan, on the grounds that it would increase the risk of properties being lost to bushfires and cause traffic management issues.

Satterley, however, maintains that the estate is necessary to increase the housing choice in the Perth Hills area, and to create job opportunities throughout its construction phase, as well as future jobs once a new town centre is developed.

While not willing to comment on specific developments, Roberts Day’s Mr Cole said many conflicts around density had arisen because of a lack of understanding around the consequences of change.

“The more engagement you have with the community up front increases the likelihood that you will future-proof the pathway through to approval,” Mr Cole told Business News.

“We have got projects that have chosen not to do that and we have challenges securing the approvals. 

“It’s really important that we have the buy-in on what we are trying to do by all stakeholders, including the local community. So that collaboration is absolutely crucial.”

Mr Cole said Roberts Day’s placemaking approach to planning was helping to assuage community concerns in many instances.

“Places are complex and they are very difficult for people to understand and they don’t understand the planning system either,” he said.

“So it’s important that we break away from the planning systems and really talk about the place in the first instance to get everyone on the same page. 

“Once we’ve done that we’ve broken down a lot of barriers, and that enables us to have the hard discussions around matters of planning, urban design and what’s necessary to fulfil that expectation.

“At the end of the day, we are technicians, and when we go to a project there is no-one that knows a site better than the locals. 

“So we want to tap in to that intelligence because that can actually make your project far more robust than if we were to do that in isolation.”


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