18/02/2019 - 15:52

New policy brings design to the development forefront

18/02/2019 - 15:52

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New rules will soon apply to high-density developments across the Perth metropolitan area, including minimum apartment sizes, guidelines around tree retention and natural light, and how projects integrate with the wider neighbourhood.

New policy brings design to the development forefront
Rita Saffioti says the new guidelines give developers greater flexibility to produce positive outcomes. Photo: Attila Csaszar

New rules will soon apply to high-density residential developments across the Perth metropolitan area, including minimum apartment sizes, guidelines around tree retention and natural light, and how projects integrate with the wider neighbourhood.

Planning Minister Rita Saffioti today unveiled the first stage of Design WA, a new state-wide planning policy intended to result in improved outcomes for infill development and avoid community unrest over proposed developments.

The guidelines, which have been tailored to integrate with the state government’s Metronet public transport policy, apply to large-scale structure plans and major public works, as well as private sector projects.

Design WA, which will come into effect in late May, will replace part six of the existing residential design codes (R-Codes) and apply to areas coded R40 and above, mixed-use developments and developments in activity centres.

Ms Saffioti said the policy was guided by 10 principles of design: context and character; landscape quality; built form and scale; functionality and build quality; sustainability; amenity; legibility; safety; community; and aesthetics.

“Design WA is founded on performance-based controls which offer much greater flexibility and promote positive development outcomes,” Ms Saffioti told a crowd of around 500 today at a function hosted by the Urban Development Institute of Australia in collaboration with the Western Australian Planning Commission.

“It acknowledges simply controlling a range of inputs does not guarantee good outcomes, and that we need to provide planners and councils with the ability to deliver excellence.”

WA state government architect Geoff Warn, speaking as part of a panel discussion on the introduction of the guidelines, said the introduction of a state Design Review Panel (DRP) would play a crucial role in the implementation of Design WA.

The state DRP will review projects under the guiding principles of Design WA, which will also apply to local government authorities that already have DRPs in place.

“Projects will go through a review panel at the discretion of the local authority, and the number of reviews will depend on the complexity of the project and the particular site and the issues that are being addressed,” Mr Warn said.

“We have recognised that there is a considerable advantage of having more than one review.

“Having two or three reviews can be very supportive to the development, particularly if the building reviews are early in the process, so that developers and their designers and architects don’t commit too much effort or money to a project before the basic principles are correct.

“It enables proponents to be a bit more adventurous and a bit more flexible in their approach.”

UDIA WA chief executive Tanya Steinbeck urged the state government to release the subsequent stages of Design WA as soon as possible, particularly the guidelines relating to medium-density development.

“We see this is where some of the poorer outcomes are emerging, particularly in infill areas,” Ms Steinbeck said.

She said UDIA was also concerned that affordability was not addressed by any of the 10 principles guiding Design WA.

“That is concerning given that there are a raft of requirements in the apartment design guide that are going to add additional costs to apartments,” Ms Steinbeck said.

“We need to make sure that we are keeping in mind the NSW experience, where research has shown that when a similar policy was introduced, it added an average of $150,000 to the cost of an apartment.

“That is just not fair or viable for many new home buyers.”

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