20 February 2013 — The Australian Institute of Architects welcomes the changes proposed in the NSW Government’s planning Green Paper released last July. These changes are in line with the focus on strategic planning that the Institute has been advocating for some years.
The Government has recognised that a fundamental shift in planning culture is required, not just a change in the planning legislation or the planning system. The new system will also be a major change in how design and development will operate in New South Wales.
The Institute considers that complying projects involving architects should be given the highest priority in the new system. This will be a logical extension of the use of architects for SEPP65 projects, which has improved the design quality and amenity of apartment buildings across the state.
The shift in focus from development assessment to strategic planning will require skilled people who can apply design thinking at the strategic scale of the city and the sub-region. The Australian Institute of Architects and the Planning Institute of Australia are keen to work together to produce a generation of architects and planners with these skills. A proposal to conduct a training needs analysis to define and develop these skills is being discussed with the universities.
The Institute welcomes the introduction of a more streamlined system for approving projects which comply with development controls and standards. The Green Paper emphasises the importance of deciding these controls and standards with close community involvement through a strategic design and planning process.
We need to encourage community input at the front end of the development process – the plan making – and away from the back end – the project approvals – where currently so much time and effort are focused and much conflict occurs. Architects, their clients and our communities will all benefit from clearer expectations for development. This will lead to fewer objections when design proposals match these expectations.
Funding, resources and time will be needed to successfully make the transition from the present planning system to the new one. These transitional arrangements will be critical to the new scheme’s success.
The Institute considers that the Government Architect should have a key role in the new system, particularly as a member of the proposed Chief Executive Officers Group, and in assessing contestable public infrastructure. The Government needs to plan for greater density within the existing Sydney metropolitan area without increasing the planned urban footprint for low density urban sprawl.
Through the new planning legislation New South Wales has the opportunity to demonstrate leadership with a design policy that will improve the state’s economic competitiveness and its reputation for good design.
The Government can build on the great success of the decade-old SEPP65 provisions.
Matthew Pullinger is the New South Wales president of the Australian Institute of Architects.