The Urban Development Institute of Australia (UDIA WA) was pleased to host the launch of the highly anticipated Design WA (stage one) by the Minister for Planning, Rita Saffioti to a capacity crowd today.

“UDIA WA supports good design outcomes to ensure quality of living standards for residents in WA and we welcome Design WA as a concept that will lift the standard of built form across the board,” UDIA WA CEO Tanya Steinbeck said.

“There are many developers in Western Australia who are already raising the bar for design and liveability in new apartment projects, however there are a small number of projects that don’t meet the high standards that the rest of the industry is setting,” Ms Steinbeck said.

“Therefore it is beneficial to have a consistent standard and expectation across the board,” Ms Steinbeck said.

Stage one of Design WA sets out 10 principles for ‘good design’ and includes the new State Planning Policy 7.0: Design of the Built Environment and Apartment Design Guide along with establishing new ‘design review panels’.

“While stage one focuses on apartment design, we believe that Perth really needs the subsequent stages released as soon as possible, particularly the Medium Density Code, as we see this is where some of the poorer outcomes are emerging, particularly in infill areas,” Ms Steinbeck said.

The 10 principles of Design WA address areas such as safety, aesthetics, landscape, community and sustainability.

“The principles are all important aspects of ensuring quality places to live for future generations,” Ms Steinbeck said. “However, we must not forget the importance of maintaining affordability in all of this.”

“We note that affordability is not addressed by any of the ten principles and that is concerning given that there are a raft of requirements in the Apartment Design Guide that are going to add additional costs to apartments,” Ms Steinbeck said.

“We need to make sure that we are keeping in mind the New South Wales experience, where research has shown that when a similar policy was introduced, it added an average of $150,000 to the cost of an apartment,” Ms Steinbeck said. “That is just not fair or viable for many new home buyers.”

Another area of concern is the interpretation of the guidelines by local governments.

“There is already a lack of consistency across local government’s when it comes to development approvals and dealing with development projects,” Ms Steinbeck said.

“We want to see appropriate support and training provided to local government officers who are going to be interpreting these new guidelines,” Ms Steinbeck said.

“There is capacity for local governments to amend various and very significant parts of the policy document via their local planning policies and we don’t want to see inconsistency reign,” Ms Steinbeck said.

“This will require close monitoring and ensuring that local governments understand the realities of getting a project off the ground,” Ms Steinbeck said.

“Where the guidelines might result in design element objectives that conflict, we need a pragmatic approach by decision makers with a vision for the broader outcomes of a project,” Ms Steinbeck said.

“We can’t have a one-size-fits all decision making process that does not allow for innovative design outcomes and the testing of new ideas,” Ms Steinbeck said.

“A diversity of housing choices in every suburb must be a priority for Perth as we grow to a city of 3.5 million people and see a further rise of infill development in the coming years,” Ms Steinbeck said.

“Design WA will be an important part of assisting in getting the mix right and maintaining good design outcomes,” Ms Steinbeck said.

“It is also critical that we are bringing the people of Perth along with us as the city grows,” Ms Steinbeck said.

“Communities need to see and understand the benefits that quality infill development can bring to an area including increased services and amenities, increased vibrancy, infrastructure upgrades and better transport connectivity,” Ms Steinbeck said.

“Community engagement and education, in conjunction with forward planning and clear policy guidelines and decision making processes will help Perth to evolve into a more vibrant, liveable city that attracts people to want to live here,” Ms Steinbeck said.

“We look forward to continuing to work with the government to ensure the best possible outcomes for the community from a liveability, sustainability and economic perspective as Perth grows,” Ms Steinbeck said.