Report to Built Environment Meets Parliament (BEMP) Partners
by The Allen Consulting Group
From Chapter 1
This project’s aim is to provide a model, principles-based framework about the
shape and form that strategic plans for cities and our communities should take.
These are provided in a form that would be suitable for adoption by the Council of
Australian Governments (COAG) or substantially assist consideration of this
framework by COAG.
The Built Environment Meets Parliament (BEMP) partners have commissioned the
project. The BEMP partners include:
• Association of Consulting Engineers Australia
• Australian Institute of Architects
• Green Building Council of Australia
• Planning Institute of Australia
• Property Council of Australia
It is expected that this project will be an input to discussion at the BEMP event to
be held in Canberra on 12 August 2009.
Planning change and changes to planning
Governments, businesses, community groups, environmentalists, and those with a
professional interest in our urban surroundings or people just aiming to get on with life now see a need to rebuild and reinvest in our cities and communities.
There is broad agreement that reshaping the future development of cities through better integrated infrastructure and land-use planning arrangements will be critical to Australia’s future GDP and productivity growth as well as providing improved access to services for the growing populations of the nation’s cities, enhancing the quality of life and conserving the environment.
While planning is central to changing Australia’s cities and raising sustainability,
there is evidence of some frustration when using the planning information that is to hand at present.
There are suggestions that new intergovernmental institutions such as Infrastructure Australia, responsible for assessing national infrastructure priorities, has found it hard to assess alternative investment proposals in the context of some existing government plans for major and capital cities.
Governments in Australia are now looking at changing planning arrangements for Australia’s major and capital cities. As a first step in improving these arrangements, the COAG agreed to establish a Taskforce to examine existing strategic planning frameworks within jurisdictions at the meeting in Hobart in April 2009. The intent is to ensure they support the ongoing integration of state and national infrastructure in major metropolitan areas with land-use planning and urban development. In terms released in the communiqué:
‘The Commonwealth’s aspiration is that the work of this Taskforce will encourage each jurisdiction to put in place, by the end of June 2010, best practice major strategic corridor and metropolitan planning arrangements that will ensure consistent strategic decision-making, improve the efficiency of infrastructure investment and further contribute to productivity and economic growth.’
The review of planning arrangements is to:
• recognise that the States have clear responsibility for land-use planning within
• that the Commonwealth has an interest in the efficient operation of national
• that efficient infrastructure and improving our cities requires the better
integration in jurisdictions of major city land-use planning with state and
national transport, energy, water and social infrastructure investment plans.
COAG has required that the Taskforce will report by the end of 2009 on review
Links to earlier ideas about sustainable communities
In some ways, it seems that the Prime Minister and COAG have called on the other spheres of government to implement the key elements of an earlier call for action.
This earlier call was built on recognition that:
• A national strategy is needed to improve the competitiveness, social cohesion
and environmental management of Australia’s cities and major urban areas.
Adopting a plan would raise the sustainability of Australia’s urban
communities from which the nation as a whole will benefit.
• A National Action Plan is needed for the sustainable development of urban
communities in much the same way as we needed national strategies and
policies in areas such as competition, salinity, regional development, water and
• The necessary investment and other actions must be guided by specific plans
for specific places to meet specific needs.
• There is a joint responsibility for the development and implementation of the
strategy involving local, state and national governments as well as the
involvement of business and the community at large.
A document Sustainable Communities: A National Action Plan for Urban Australia set out seven propositions to guide action. This was developed through the collaboration of four groups known as the Sustainable Communities Roundtable.
The bodies are the Planning Institute of Australia, the Property Council of
Australia, the Royal Australian Institute of Architects, and the Intergovernmental
Planning Officials Group.
Model planning framework principles
This section outlines 10 guiding principles that should typify Australia’s strategic
Where these principles are adopted, the liveability, productivity, civic and
environmental dividends available to all Australians will be maximised in the most efficient manner.
Each principle is stated in terms that are intended to guide an action program, in
language consistent with land use planning and infrastructure investment strategies.
The 10 principles are summarised below.
Principle 1 — Establish a shared vision.
Strategic planning should shape prosperous, liveable and sustainable urban
communities delivered by governments and their partners working in
This is the thrust of the vision for Australians cities and regions shared by
Australian governments, community groups, non-government organisations and
Principle 2 — Forge a co-ordinated framework.
Planning must occur within a coordinated framework that links national,
regional, and local goals codified by intergovernmental commitments and
Strategic planning should conform with the subsidiarity principle, enabling matters to be handled by the smallest, lowest or least centralised competent authority while maximising coordination and efficiency.
Plans should commit different levels of government to common objectives, agreed actions, incentives and resources for change
Plans should define responsibility and accountability for performance.
Principle 3 — Maximise civic engagement.
Strategic planning must advance community participation and civic
• Building in opportunities for the community, including individuals, people in
business, non-government organisations and others to learn about the specific
options being considered for their community and the likely preferred planning
• Reporting the views, opinions and alternatives raised in community
consultation and directly responding to proposals raised by stakeholders.
Principle 4 — Define targeted outcomes for specific places and times.
These target outcomes must relate to all dimensions of sustainability,
– economic prosperity;
– natural sustainability;
– liveability; and
These target outcomes must be spatially precise – that is, relate to specific
places, regions or areas.
The target outcomes must articulate unambiguous delivery milestones.
Targets should be clear, measurable and include starting position or baseline
Principle 5 — Clearly define how resources are to be used.
• Defining when actions will be taken.
• Indicating the priority of actions to be taken.
• Establishing who is responsible for major actions, especially actions to be
taken by public sector agencies and bodies.
• Indicating how existing rights and resources (such as areas of land) will be
impacted by plans.
Principle 6 — Demonstrate the best use of our collective resources,
including existing resources.
This will involve:
• Ensuring plans reflect strategic choices that are evidence based.
• Conducting objective cost-benefit analysis for both major elements of strategic
planning proposals as well as the total plan.
• Consideration of a wide range of benefits and costs – not just economic, but
also social and environmental using monetary and non-monetary measures, as
part of a commitment to employ world class cost-benefit and RIS
• Committing only to proposals where benefits exceed costs.
• Identification and assessment of alternative solutions to address problems or
achieve targeted outcomes.
• Identification of equity and distributional impacts of specific planning
proposals and the plan at large.
• A rigorous assessment of risks arising from proposed planning initiatives and
the plan in totality.
• Demonstrate the best use of existing – ensure that new and existing
resources/facilities optimise planning outcomes.
• Clear identification of how specific actions (such as investments in
infrastructure or changes in land use) contribute towards plan objectives and
Principle 7 — Adhere to and promote good governance
Strategic plans must be guided by credible institutional arrangements that ensure
plans remain true to their vision and are implemented as promised.
Good governance will maximise transparent, meaningful performance reporting
Good governance will be driven by an evolving suite of decision-making,
monitoring and reporting tools and information technologies.
Principle 8 — Anticipate and address financing hurdles
• Plans should identify sustainable funding programs for all major elements of
the proposed strategy.
• Plans should explore innovative public finance vehicles, including public-
Principle 9 — Strive for and enhance delivery efficiency
Plans must incorporate programs for maximising implementation efficiency.
They should identify and remove implementation barriers in a manner consistent
with a strategic plan’s shared vision.
Principle 10 — Plans must include transparent review and revision cycles.
This would involve:
• Collection and dissemination of performance information collected against
targets and goals for strategies and plans.
• Evaluations to be conducted at predetermined times.
• Assessment of the performance of responsible public sector agencies for major
actions, especially actions to be taken by public sector agencies and bodies
• Proposals for revising strategic plans, including plan outcomes/targets.