06/11/2007 - 22:00

Review may bring policy shift

06/11/2007 - 22:00


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A planning review of the state government’s Metropolitan Centres Policy could lead to changes in the way shopping centre growth is managed from next year.

Review may bring policy shift

A planning review of the state government’s Metropolitan Centres Policy could lead to changes in the way shopping centre growth is managed from next year.

Western Australia’s biggest retail stakeholders are being consulted as part of the review, which is considering whether retail floor space limitations are effective in guiding centre development, and examining the broader role centres play in providing employment, housing choice and community amenity.

The existing policy is widely considered to be out of touch with current demands of the retail industry because of the way shopping centres are classified according to size.

Department of Planning and Infrastructure executive director urban policy, Martin Richardson, said the review was part of a wider examination of policies under the government’s Network City planning strategy.

Mr Richardson said suggestions from a recent industry workshop included removing the classification system, relaxing floor space limits in exchange for greater support for non-retail development, and the introduction of developer contributions for infrastructure, among other initiatives.

“There probably will be some changes,” he said.

“Good commercial centres are not just about the quantity of retail floor space.

“The retail industry recognises the need for land use diversity, including high quality residential development, and a range of facilities and services.”

Mr Richardson said the policy needed to be expanded to guide the growth of industrial centres, transport hubs, major health and education facilities, and tourism nodes.

Property Council of Australia (WA) executive director Joe Lenzo said the centres policy was five years out of date and a new, more flexible policy had to be created that provided investors and developers with surety.

Mr Lenzo said owners had committed significant capital expenditure based on government development parameters, and an absolute free-for-all was not supported.

“The idea of setting the maximum size of a shopping centre based on a number of square metres is no longer valid,” he said. 

“The government must free that up to allow for current demand.”

The traditional definition of a centre under the policy was no longer relevant, according to Mr Lenzo, and should be widened to include more mixed-use development, with incentives introduced to encourage good design. 

“In their purest sense, all developer contributions do is increase capital costs which are eventually passed on to the retailer or tenant. There are, however, opportunities for innovative planning ideas to be funded by developers like if a proponent wants a main street, then that road will be funded by them,” Mr Lenzo told WA Business News.

The government’s push for main street-style retail development has also raised concerns with regard to its suitability to WA’s climate and requirement for a large supporting population.

“Many will argue it’s much more comfortable for them to go into an air-conditioned big box, but there’s also those who enjoy the outdoor, main street experience,” Mr Richardson said. “Shopping centres should be able to balance the two.”

A position paper and draft centres policy outline will be released for further discussion in three months, with a draft policy available for final comment before mid-2008.


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