At the end of last month the Department of Planning here in WA in conjunction with the WA Planning Commission released Directions 2031 which focuses on the projected and recommended growth strategy for the Perth metropolitan area for the next 21 years. There has been considerable local press (especially in the local community newspapers such as the Post) about the recommendations mainly focusing on the issues of ‘where will the houses go?’ types of questions.
This is challenging the status quo of residents and councils throughout the metro area, however this is really what has to be done to start the discussion and planning for the future. It is not conceivable that we can continue to expand the periphery of the metropolitan area creating an ever increasing footprint with a network of infrastructure spidering out across the landscape to service it without greater costs especially in infrastructure maintenance and transportation costs.
The ‘D’ word – Density
I have the pleasure of living in the western suburbs – they are often described as the leafy green suburbs or garden suburbs. There will be strong opposition to the recommendations in Directions 2031 for increased numbers of houses in these (and no doubt) other areas – i.e. density. I find that there is some great fear us Western Australians have when anyone starts talking about increasing density anywhere near to where we live. The Not-In-My-BackYard (NIMBY) culture kicks in and density is seen as fine – just not around where you live – let’s agree that it is needed – but make it someone else’s problem. It is time for some change in our thinking and in the way it gets communicated to out communities (i.e. not like the article above!).
In the next 20 years Perth will have an extra half a million residents and they will have to live somewhere. The city as a whole will still need to run – i.e. transport etc. Just look at one small dose of ‘blue flu’ has on driving anywhere in or near the CBD yesterday – it was faster to walk most places. Imagine this scenario in 20 years time… things have to change and radically.
Lets start by trying to look at the need to higher density in a new light – it does not mean 5 story 1950’s council flats, it does not mean everyone will have to subdivide their block – it needs to be done wisely – lets bring back the concept of a high street along transportation routes with shops, businesses, cafe’s etc. with high density accommodation… just one possibility to start the creative juices flowing…
So Directions 2031 provides a framework for talking about the Planning side of the issues the state faces – however there are many dimensions to this and it cannot be all placed on the Department of Planning…