Now that some time has passed since the now abandoned Victoria Park Town Centre Redevelopment that caused so much local anger it is worth all of us as a community considering the underlying driving forces that led to this proposal.
What is clear is that the forces driving planning changes and increased density will continue to drive planning decisions for the next couple of decades. This will, of course, have a dramatic impact on our own local community. Change brings with it the inevitable upheaval and angst, but as a community we need to ensure that we have a conscious influence on these changes so that they work for the whole community. However, it is vitally important that Government gets it planning, and the assumptions and research behind its decisions, correct.
In 2015, the Barnett Government, through the Western Australian Planning Commission (the ‘WAPC’) released the ‘Towards Perth and Peel @ 3.5million’ (‘Towards Perth and Peel’). This is a land use planning document that is premised on the modelling that in another 35 years, that is, by 2050, the population of the Perth and Peel region will be 3.5million.
This is what is often missed in the debate at local levels around planning and zoning. That is, the targets for housing are set by the State Government and it is up to the local governments to then try and implement planning requirements to achieve those targets. Obviously this then means that whilst the State Government sets targets it is left to the local government to try and address and accommodate local community concerns.
‘Towards Perth and Peel’ is a large and complex document. I have attempted here to outline the main impacts for our Victoria Park community, the responses of the Town of Victoria Park, and made some comments along the way. If you are interested in further detail I recommend you go into the source documents in their entirety.
The ‘Towards Perth and Peel’ documentation can be viewed on the Department of Planning’s website at: http://www.planning.wa.gov.au/publications/3.5million.asp
The Town of Victoria Park submission on the ‘Towards Perth and Peel’ documents can be viewed at: http://www.victoriapark.wa.gov.au/sites/default/files/agenda/150714_OCM_%20Minutes_Web.pdf
As the local Member for Victoria Park, this document is of huge importance to the future of our community and I fear, due to lack of community engagement by the Department of Planning, that most residents would not even know it exists let alone the direction it seeks to drive our future, based on assumptions and targets that have neither been tested, nor put to local residents.
I am keen to ensure that all residents of Victoria Park are familiar with the broad themes of ‘Towards Perth and Peel’ so that we can all be heard on the future of our community.
A broad summary for Victoria Park.
‘Towards Perth and Peel’ includes four ‘sub-regional planning frameworks’.
Victoria Park is within the Central Sub-regional planning framework.
There are a range of key matters within this sub-regional framework that our local community in Victoria Park need to be aware of:
- Residential infill development is expected to provide 47% of all new residential areas.
A couple of points need to be made here:
- 2014 rates of infill development reached 28%. So significant increases in infill will be required.
- What this means for Victoria Park is considerable uptake in infill housing development. As of 2011 there were 15,742 dwellings within the Town of Victoria Park. This is forecast to reach 16,975 by 2016. The ‘Towards Perth and Peel’ planning document will require an additional 19,400 dwellings in Victoria Park by 2050. This equates to approximately another 38,000 people in addition to Victoria Park’s current 38,135 (as at 2014), basically a doubling of the size of the Town of Victoria Park by 2050.
- The entire Central Sub-region includes the local government authorities of Bayswater, Belmont, Perth, Stirling, South Perth, Perth, Subiaco, Melville, Nedlands, Canning, Fremantle, Bassendean, Cambridge, Claremont, Cottesloe, East Fremantle, Mosman Park, Peppermint Grove, Vincent and Victoria Park.
The WAPC estimates that the population of the Central Sub-region will grow from 783,000 people (as at 2011) to 1.2million by 2050.
- ‘Towards Perth and Peel’ also outlines key ‘urban consolidation framework’ elements that include Activity Centres, Corridors, Station precincts, Industrial centres and Green network. These are then further broken down into ‘urban consolidation principles’. In Victoria Park, there are five centres (specialised, secondary and district). There are also 12 corridors within the Town of Victoria Park (Canning Hwy, Albany Hwy, Causeway Precinct, Geddes St, Shepperton Road, Orrong Rd between Archer and Oats St, Archer St, Berwick St (Geddes to Kent St), Berwick St (Hillview Tce to Boundary Rd), Kent St (Berwick St to Jarrah Rd) and the Carlisle Train Station). As outlined in the document, existing or planned high-quality public transport is an important determinant of whether a corridor is suitable for more intensive and diverse development. But these corridors give an outline of where the State Government considers higher density to be appropriate.
- The Town of Victoria Park also has a number of Station Precincts identified in ‘Towards Perth and Peel’. These are areas, obviously, focussed around train stations and other major public transport infrastructure and have the potential to accommodate increased development. ‘Towards Perth and Peel’ have identified areas within 400m of 15 train stations within the Central Sub-region for urban consolidation. The station precincts within the Town of Victoria Park are the northern part of Lathlain adjacent the Burswood station and area surrounding the Victoria Park station.
- As outlined above, 47% of all new dwellings is targeted to come from infill, with the remaining 53% being from green-field development. The target set by ‘Towards Perth and Peel’ is for 75% of the new infill development to occur within urban consolidation areas of activity centres, corridors and precincts. That is, in Victoria Park, a significant percentage of the dramatic increase in infill will be along the corridors outlined above and around the station precincts also outlined above.
The Town of Victoria Park has considered the ‘Towards Perth and Peel’ and the Council meeting of June 2015 considered this document at length (http://www.victoriapark.wa.gov.au/sites/default/files/agenda/150714_OCM_%20Minutes_Web.pdf)
The Town of Victoria Park has identified considerable flaws in the ‘Towards Perth and Peel’ document, particularly around opaque language used, and has raised important questions about how such significant planning issues can be implemented ‘without impacting on the valued way of life, the natural environment and social and physical infrastructure’.
The Town, quite correctly, identified the impact of the Barnett Government’s changes to the multiple dwelling provisions of the R Codes in 2010 in ‘undermining and to a large extent the acceptance of medium-density housing in many inner city areas’. The Town went on the state that ‘[t]he ability to now develop multiple dwellings in areas coded as low as R30 without an actual density limit, has been counter-productive in obtaining local government and community support for medium density housing, outside of areas designated as being acceptable for urban consolidation area, such as activity centres’. (Perhaps recognising this critique by the Town of Victoria Park, these R codes have since been amended).
The Town also highlights perhaps one of the greatest weaknesses of the ‘Towards Perth and Peel’ document in that it fails to identify the locations ‘where new public transport service will be needed to meet long-term growth’. Incredibly there is no reference at all to the light rail routes which were identified in the Draft Public Transport for Perth in 2031 and which have been the basis for ongoing planning of areas within the Town of Victoria Park.
There is also a lack of clarity around the appropriate development adjacent to the ‘corridors’. Similarly, the ‘Towards Perth and Peel’ seem to have a complete misunderstanding of the Albany Highway ‘strip’ and the difference between East Victoria Park and Victoria Park. Wisely, the Town has recommended that the ‘whole of Albany Highway be identified as a single activity centre’.
Similarly, the ‘Towards Perth and Peel’ appears to have no consistency and clarity about how it has identified ‘Station precincts’. While the document has identified the northern part of Lathlain adjacent to the Burswood station and the area surrounding Victoria Park station as ‘Station precincts’, it is unclear why Carlisle train station has also not been so identified. No consideration has been taken by the WAPC of the fact that part of the Victoria Park station is within the Residential Character Study Area or that Lathlain is a low density area and no increase in density has been considered previously.
Of huge alarm is that, despite the fact that the Barnett Government, through the ‘Towards Perth and Peel’ document is proposing to double the size of the Town, the ‘infill housing target was not the subject of any discussion between officers of the Department of Planning and the Town prior to the release of Towards Perth and Peel’. Importantly, the Town, in its submission, states that:
‘It is not reasonable that Council agree to a housing target in the absence of engaging with the community in relation to developing a spatial plan of urban consolidation opportunities and preparing housing targets as part of that process. The housing target should be a negotiated and agreed figure’.
Urban Development Institute of Australia (Western Australia) Inc Submission.
The UDIA has also provided a submission regarding ‘Towards Perth and Peel’. The UDIA’s submission is, to be frank, scathing of the Barnett Government’s key planning document. This submission can be viewed at:
In its summary of its submission the UDIA states that the ‘Towards Perth and Peel’ document:
‘..will create catastrophic land supply shortages, act to dramatically increase house prices and create a negative dragon the broader economy’.
The UDIA also share the concerns expressed by the Town of Victoria Park about the lack of consultation around the target that have been set, with the UDIA stating:
‘With consequences as grave as these there needs to be transparency of information and strong engagement with the community, as well as industry, which has not been the case in the development of the [Towards Perth and Peel]. Indeed it has been more secretive than any other planning process that UDIA has observed since the [UDIA’s] establishment in 1972’.
The UDIA is also scathing about the date and assumptions used by the Barnett Government describing them as ‘flawed’, ‘very dated’ and ‘not validated by the evidence’.
As the local Member for Victoria Park I am aware, as we are all, of the enormous benefits that we have living in an inner-city area, close to the CBD with a well-established train line. I think all people understand that our community will grow significantly over the coming decades. However, I have very grave concerns about the rigour that has gone into the Barnett Governments ‘Towards Perth and Peel’ and am keen to hear from my residents regarding this key planning document.
Of particular concern is the lack of detail around public transport centres. The Barnett Government has shown a great proclivity for making commitments around public transport only for them to be abandoned. Yet, one of the premises of the ‘Towards Perth and Peel’ is for public transport corridors and infrastructure to be created by the State Government.
Our community must take control of its own future and whilst ‘Towards Perth and Peel’ has been created by the Barnett Government without any consultation with residents, I am keen to hear from all members of our community as to their views about our future.
I look forward to hearing from you!