21/02/2014 - 10:06

Town planners hit the turbo switch

21/02/2014 - 10:06

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Western Australian town planners are working at capacity, with demand for their services being driven by an uptick of activity in land development as well as the state government’s efforts to boost urban infill.

Western Australian town planners are working at capacity, with demand for their services being driven by an uptick of activity in land development as well as the state government’s efforts to boost urban infill.

Roberts Day managing director Deon White said town-planning activity was at its highest level for the past 20 to 30 years, with the city going through what he termed a ‘maturing process’.

Roberts Day is the fourth ranked firm on the BNIQ town planners list, with 18 planners on its staff, and a total of 24 employees in WA.

Mr White said the company had reweighted its staff over the past few years to have an even balance of urban infill and greenfields development.

“We’re focused on aligning ourselves to where government policy for growth is going, and particularly with that urban infill, I think the legislation and the strategic focus have really helped free up that end of the market,” Mr White told Business News.

“Perth’s probably hit a point of maturity in that sense as well.

“From the market point of view, the policies are lining up and there is a lot of capacity within the local development and construction industry now, where people know what it takes to get stuff out of the ground, so it’s an interesting shift.”

Mr White said he expected the market to remain hot until around the middle of the year, then taper off in the second half. 

TPG Town Planning Urban Design and Heritage managing director David Caddy was more bullish, saying he expected the buoyant conditions to continue for the next 12 to 24 months.

Mr Caddy said TPG, which is the top-ranked planner on the BNIQ list with 29 planners and 39 total staff in WA, was currently operating at capacity, with a number of major projects in the metropolitan area as well as in regional centres.

“The focus is changing,” Mr Caddy told Business News.

“Two years ago, our major client base would have been centred in state government.

“Now that has changed because when we look at resource development, we are moving out of construction phase and into the operational phase, so the tenor changes there.

“We tend to be now working for the people who are actually providing the housing on the ground; obviously there is still a fair bit of Royalties for Regions work around, so we’re doing a lot more work with local government rather than state government in helping them to implement projects.”

Mr Caddy said another key aspect of the market was the number of graduates seeking to enter the industry.

He said TPG was receiving two or three resumes every day from graduate planners, a seismic shift from conditions 10 years ago when planners were few and far between.

“Things have changed quite dramatically,” Mr Caddy said. “We’ve moved to a situation in the last 10 years in Perth where we now have three planning courses instead of one.

“The eastern states market is also pretty quiet, in fact it is pretty much dead, so people will think ‘oh it’s better in the west’ and they’ll flick a CV through.”

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