By Natalie Rayment
Visit any bar this weekend and the debate will no doubt rage over who should open for Australia in the next test match, who will finish in the top eight of the NRL and are our town planning laws fair.
Well maybe the last one is a bit of a stretch but it’s fair to say development in our cities and regions creates conflict and that conflict ends up costing our communities hundreds of thousands of dollars.
Much of the debate is based on firmly held beliefs, often misguided, and the need to create headlines to further the cause.
The argument rages over height limits being exceeded, developers being allowed to do what they please unchecked, community rights being trampled and no new infrastructure being provided.
This all makes for good copy but very little of it is factual. Yes, Neighbourhood Plans may include a desirable building height for the area but this is not a limit.
Through our performance based planning system, we are able to consider what the best outcome will be and deliver innovative developments with greater community benefit, even if that means exceeding heights the community may believe to be acceptable.
What many don’t consider is the consequence of the alternative – a prescriptive planning system.
Development would stagnate and we would end up living in Lego Land where every building is the same –tick and flick developments that meet the basic requirements, can be approved quickly and therefore built more cheaply. That’s great for affordability but isn’t always inspiring.
Such developments are needed but is that all we want in our cities?
It is the performance based outcomes that become the places the community love, the out of the box solutions, pushing the boundaries but offsetting them with substantial community benefits like more parks and open spaces, public art, excellence in architectural design, urban design, landscaping, green walls and more.
But it is the same outcomes that create the most debate and conflict, usually forcing developers, Councils and protesters into lengthy legal battles.
What we need to do is raise the level of debate beyond the usual ‘not in my back yard’ so we can have real balance in neighbourhoods, not just cookie cutter designs that meet some non-existent limits.
Isn’t this what the community really wants?