In September 2019, the Australian Government published its strategy on planning for the country’s future population. The paper focused on the increase in population and on how to meet the demands of a growing population in terms of better services and new infrastructure. Over three-quarters of the population growth in the last few years has been in Sydney, Melbourne, and South-East Queensland. Concurrently, a number of smaller cities and regions experienced a declining growth or low growth in population.
The Government’s response was to step up big nation-building projects and to review the need for affordable housing as well as regeneration of local communities. State, Territory, and Local Governments all play a vital role in this – and working alongside them to revolutionise our cities are urban planning consultants.
What is urban planning?
Urban planning deals mainly with planning that is involved in creating high and medium-density housing, commercial and residential sites, and heritage dwellings and buildings. Taking existing properties that were considered industrial and turning them into liveable residential properties is not a new concept. In the UK, which has a population of 60 million and growing and lack of space in urban areas, the traditional Victorian industrial buildings such as mills and factories have been given a new lease of life as habitable apartments. As Australia looks to make the best use of habitable space with sustainable developments, the role of bringing together property owners, developers, and councils is one best served by urban planning consultants.
Sustainable and liveable communities
Central to ensuring the cities of the future are liveable and sustainable is good planning, particularly in a country such as Australia. Australians are mainly city-oriented dwellers, with most of the population living along the coastline in the five largest cities. Ensuring that any planned development is going to be fair and reasonable and meet the needs of all of the population starts with looking at use of land. Homeowners, developers, councils, and investors all look at what opportunities are available to develop new dwellings, renovate an existing property, convert brownfield sites to residential property, and many other exciting uses of existing land sites.
Planning issues are complex – especially when thinking about competing needs and interests – and this can clearly be seen when it comes to planning for water. Planners have to look at claims for water from the farmers, from recreationists, from environmentalists, and from the urban residents. Navigating the legislation and jurisdiction linked to this issue alone is complex, but those who work in urban planning have the expertise and know-how to support individuals wanting to develop or renovate their land and property.
Increase in the number of bush fires due to extreme temperatures, hailstones the size of golf balls, flooding – all seen in Australia in the past few years and adverse weather conditions around the globe, and linked to global warming. Governments across the world are having to look at cleaner and greener energy and Australia is no different. New building materials and innovation in urban planning schemes and planning approval systems will be necessary to respond to the impact of climate change the country is witnessing.
This also means a strong focus on urban green areas and greener buildings in order to counteract the effects of current concrete environments which retain heat as well as excess CO2 from burning coal. Reduction in consumption of energy and fuel means an increase in use of public transport and reduction in the use of cars. Therefore, urban planners are looking at planning for community hubs with services and facilities together so reducing the need for excessive travel.
Supporting the developers of the future
Working with an urban planning consultancy firm can help towards ensuring that any proposed development is successful at meeting the needs of the cities of the future. What they can do is to use their specific knowledge of the area – alongside understanding the council strategies for the city of the future – to aid planning applications.
Urban planning consultants do not just provide honest feedback on a planning application but also help to prepare and submit the plan, give relevant advice on how it can be enhanced, and help developers prepare for potential objections. If the application has to go before VCAT, then they also give expert evidence at VCAT panels. Due to the strong links they have with heritage consultants, landscapers, ecologists, and arborists, they can also work to ensure a property developer is provided with a team of specialists. This is of particular importance when it comes to addressing areas of green space or protected land. They also bring together architects to review designs, maximize the use of space, and appropriate building materials, as well as the relevant engineers to provide plans and advice on the facts and features of the land.
To this end, urban planning consultants can save a developer or property owner a lot of time and therefore money when it comes to planning submissions. What they can offer is an expert overview and steer towards developments that will be fit for purpose, meeting both the needs of the developer and the requirements of an urban population. If someone is looking to purchase a property with an eye to converting it from single to multi-occupancy dwellings, again the urban planning consultants will be able to give advice before the property is bought about the viability of the project. With their extensive knowledge of the local area, they can also highlight similar projects that have been successful in getting planning permission and in this way their involvement actually does start to shape the landscape of the urban area.
Planning is not a static process but directs positive urban change linked to the strategies set out at the national level in order to meet the needs of the population and cities of the future. The journey to navigate this ever-changing arena starts by speaking to a local urban or town planning consultants.