The illusory promise of trees, greening, open space and car parking management in urban infill, and the fudged and false reassurance about the protection of Contributory Items.
Urban Infill Paradise?
There is no doubt that the spin from the State Planning Commission (SPC) and the Department of Planning is becoming more refined and, even, sophisticated.
It is a pity that more effort is not put into making the Code workable and acceptable rather than trying to justify and promote the ongoing mess it is creating.
The latest document ‘Raising the bar on Residential Infill in the Planning and Design Code’ and its accompanying letter from the SPC Chair view the latest proposals around urban infill through rose-tinted glasses.
The original basic criteria for trees, greening, open space, parking, street ‘appeal’ and water management have been embellished with the addition of illusory promises and un- enforceable pseudo-regulations.
There is liberal and disturbing use of the terms ‘deemed to satisfy’, ‘performance outcome’ and ‘performance assessed’ which are code for flexible interpretation of the ‘provisions’ and an invitation to owners and developers to do what they like.
Contributory Item Confusion
A key element of the Planning and Design Code is the failure to transition Contributory Items (CIs) to any sort of identifiable protected status.
CIs are typically part of a group of buildings of historical importance that contribute to the character of an area. The vast majority lie in Historic Conservation Zones or their proposed counterpart, Historic Area Overlays.
Councils have been encouraged to re-designate CIs as Local Heritage, to give them some degree of protection. This will happen for only a minority of Cis.
The remaining large majority will lose whatever specific protections currently exist for these places. This is not clear in the information promulgated by the SPC….to MPs, Councils and the community.
The vague and confusing Historic Area Statements proposed in the Code offer no reassurance of robust protection for CIs.
The, albeit weak, demolition controls protecting Heritage Items do not apply to CIs, but this is not readily apparent in the contrived and misleading verbiage we are fed by the Planning bureaucracy.
This is Planning Policy ‘On the Run’
We must remain suspicious and sceptical about the motivation and process of the SPC as it tries to patch up the mess it has created.
What is happening now is expedient policy making ‘on the run’. It is eight months since the unsuccessful ‘consultation’ process concluded. There has been no further public consulation on the Planning and Design Code since then.
Now we are seeing new, more fanciful and unhelpful reports and documents appearing, in what appears to be a new strategy of the SPC to debate its ill-formed policies in the public arena.
This circuitous process must be brought to an end. The failures, shortcomings and budgetary problems surrounding the Code and the associated e-planning systems must be exposed to the light of day.
What is needed is a strong political directive to defer, consult, correct and repair the damaged Code in order to find a way forward.
A key starting point will be the institution of a new and genuine consultation process which will establish the imperatives for the, eventual, creation of a workable and broadly acceptable Code.
Professor Warren Jones AO is the Convenor of the Protect our Heritage Alliance, a coalition of concerned organisations and individuals, working to protect our built and natural environment. Phone: 0419 852 622 Email: firstname.lastname@example.org