19/03/2019 - 14:13

Town planning evolution puts emphasis on place

19/03/2019 - 14:13

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An emphasis on placemaking has driven an evolution in town planning across Western Australia as developers and landowners strive to achieve a point of difference through activation and engagement.

Town planning evolution puts emphasis on place
Tony Paduano says community engagement has become a critical element in the success of property development across WA. Photo: Element.

An emphasis on placemaking has driven an evolution in town planning across Western Australia as developers and landowners strive to achieve a point of difference through activation and engagement.

Element managing director Tony Paduano told Business News the pace of change in the town-planning sector had resulted in a very different firm now to the one he joined in 1993, when it was known as TPG Town Planning & Design.

Mr Paduano, whose firm is the top-ranked business on the BNiQ town and regional planners list, said Perth’s evolution to become a contemporary, modern city had resulted in the company offering a much wider range of services than it did in the 1990s.

“Developers and landowners are looking for that point of difference in the market, and when I look at the cross-section of people we have in the office, we have placemakers, we have journalists, we have graphic designers, we have engagement people who do community consultation, which is really at the forefront now as well, we have planners, economists, and heritage people as well, it’s a real mixture of things now,” Mr Paduano said.

“Placemaking is such a dynamic field in terms of landowners wanting to understand that the whole activation and marketing of space, both at ground level and above, and the interaction and the connectedness of those spaces.

“It’s a really critical element to how a city functions.”

In 2016, TPG merged with placemaking specialists Place Match, and soon after changed its name to Element, embracing the new philosophy of planning with its tagline ‘the art and science of design’.

Mr Paduano described the repositioning of the firm as successful and deliberate, reflecting the increased significance of placemaking in WA’s property development sphere.

“We are positioning ourselves as an advisory consultancy as opposed to a town planning consultancy, and that’s a fundamental change, recognising what is happening in our space,” he said.

“It’s not just about the rulebook, it’s about being imaginative, spontaneous and creative, within a framework of safety and regulation.

“If we can get those balances right we’ll go a long way to continuing to make this place a prosperous place and an interesting place.”

Mr Paduano said in previous decades, town planning was more focused on statutory requirements and local government planning schemes, while today the major focus had shifted to community engagement.

“Engagement is a critical component to any project of any size to be quite honest these days,” he said.

“If you don’t strategically tell the story, if you’re not there engaging with the community and having that conversation, that space gets filled with fear. 

“It’s a hard space to get back when it’s filled with uncertainty and fear.

“The responsibility for firms such as ourselves, the state government, local government and other agencies is to be courageous, go out there and speak to the community, because I think you’ll find that if you engage with the community and involve them early on, they are more than willing to listen and you allay those concerns.

“Planning is about common sense, and really the art about engaging with the community is one that we take seriously here and will continue to do so.”

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