06/03/2020 - 08:54

Placemaking a planning priority

06/03/2020 - 08:54


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Western Australia’s planning system is at risk of delivering vanilla precincts that are replicas of one another if it continues its focus on policies and processes.

Placemaking a planning priority
Developed by BGC Australia, The Westin Perth has been hailed as an exemplar in urban regeneration using placemaking principles. Photo: Gabriel Oliveira

Western Australia’s planning system is at risk of delivering vanilla precincts that are replicas of one another if it continues its focus on policies and processes.

That’s the view of RobertsDay director Duane Cole, who was recently appointed to the board of directors of industry association Place Leaders Asia Pacific.

PLA provides forums to allow for the sharing of information and intelligence around how great places are created across the Asia-Pacific region.

Mr Cole said his involvement with PLA would be to try to shift the organisation into a stronger advocacy role and influence policy change.

“One of the concerns many of us have is if our planning system continues to be policy and process focused, then we are at risk that the places we are creating are going to result in sameness,” Mr Cole told Business News.

“The whole focus of placemaking is to try and look at outcomes and what we are trying to achieve to ensure we don’t create that sameness.

“It’s about building confidence in the community about change, and quality of outcomes is always going to be a primary concern for them.

“Place is complex for people and you need to break down the various elements of place for them to properly understand it.”

Mr Cole said a key focus of placemaking in planning would be to ensure communities, developers and local councils were aligned to a common outcome.

“One of the things we are trying to do is to influence the way that local governments are looking at the challenges of the next decade,” he said.

“It’s about trying to get more focus at a strategic planning level and having place be a strong influencer of the way they are looking at challenges differently.”

Historically, Mr Cole said, WA’s planning system had been focused on development controls and what happened in the private realm.

Equally important in his view was how the public realm could be integrated with the private to create a place.

“It’s all the stories that come together to celebrate that integration,” he said.

“History of a place is important, because you can attach stories to that, you can build cultural awareness of what a place has meant in the past and what it means going forward.

“Those sorts of stories need to unfold in the public realm as much as possible.

“For local governments … they need to understand the importance of the public realm as to what it brings to creating great places and the fact that they have control over the public realm as well as the private realm.”

Mr Cole said discussions of placemaking needed to shift past simply activating a precinct, which while positive, did not address the myriad challenges facing many local governments.

He said strategic planning for local governments under financial stress was paramount, particularly considering the influence a properly planned precinct could have on revenue streams such as council rates.

“If we can swing that around we can arrest the divergence of expenditure and this flatlining of rate revenue generation to overcome financial stress, which means then that local governments can deliver on their promises to the community going forward and maintain the maintenance burden that they’ve got as well,” he said.

And while Mr Cole said WA local governments’ placemaking policies could be improved, the state was nevertheless a leader in the region in the takeup of the movement.

He said it was encouraging that the state government’s recently unveiled DesignWA principles were strongly shaped by placemaking principles, and more local governments were interested in engaging in the practice.

“The interest of PLA in WA is because of that, they’ve seen that we deliver good results,” Mr Cole said.

“We’ve got a history here over the last 10 years in Perth CBD where we’ve made some great inroads on the regeneration of space.

“The Westin hotel is a great example of that, Brookfield Place, even the Perth Cultural Centre, which was a dead space, has been revitalised now and economic dividends are coming out of that.

“These are all examples that other cities’ counterparts are interested in.”


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