27/01/2015 - 11:04

Missing the mark on urban infill

27/01/2015 - 11:04

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Local governments are making little headway in hitting the state government’s goal that 47 per cent of new housing development be made in existing areas, according to a progress report on the planning framework, Directions 2031.

Missing the mark on urban infill
BUILD UP: Urban infill is a feature at Cockburn. Photo: Attila Csaszar

Local governments are making little headway in hitting the state government’s goal that 47 per cent of new housing development be made in existing areas, according to a progress report on the planning framework, Directions 2031.

The report card, released late last year by the state government, showed just two of the 32 local government areas that have infill targets – Fremantle and Kwinana – could be considered to be ahead of the target.

Fourteen others are currently ‘tracking towards’ the target, while 16 are considered to be in the early planning phase.

While acknowledging the Directions 2031 document, and the 47 per cent infill target, was a 20-year plan, managing director of developer and property investments manager, Momentum Wealth, Damian Collins, said the early returns were less than encouraging.

“Certainly the chances at the current rate of hitting the 47 per cent infill target are negligible,” he said.

“We’re a long way behind and there’s nothing proactive happening to make it look like we’re going to get there.”

Local government areas significantly lagging behind include Subiaco, Melville, Cambridge, Nedlands, Canning, South Perth, Victoria Park and Mundaring, among others.

However, Urban Development Institute of Australia WA chief executive Debra Goostrey said there were significant challenges inhibiting infill development.

“One of them is infrastructure,” Ms Goostrey told Business News.

“For some of the projects they have to do major upgrades, particularly electricity infrastructure, and that can be expensive.

“Getting appropriate sites to be able to do large-scale projects is also an issue, because just cutting up a standard suburban block and putting three units on it is not going to reach the targets overall that we need.”

Ms Goostrey said the councils that were performing well in terms of urban infill were generally those with previous experience dealing with large-scale multi-residential projects.

“They know what they want, they are able to clearly articulate it and the developers can then make an informed decision about whether their project will get through the system,” she said.

“For developers, it’s the indecision and lack of clarity that are the real killers for projects."

Mr Collins said councils across the board needed to take further action to alter planning schemes to facilitate more dense development, moves which typically took years, rather than months, to take effect.

“Some of the local councils have done zero, they’ve not done anything, although this has been out now for four years,” he said.

“The merger of the councils has put it on the backburner again, and a lot of councils aren’t really even addressing it at the moment.”

Mr Collins said the negative feedback that inevitably came through the community consultation process when councils sought to change their planning schemes was also a major contributor to councils missing the infill targets.

He said there was still a significant part of the community that resisted the proliferation of more dense development in their suburbs.

“The state government has put the strategy in place, but when it gets to the local level there is just no appetite for local councils and local communities wanting higher infill,” Mr Collins said.

“There is still a lot of resistance to infill development.

“It’s the old thing, if you ask 100 people if they think urban sprawl is good, most will say ‘no’, and then you’ll say ‘we need higher density’, but they say ‘not in my backyard, somewhere else’.”

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