Towards Perth @3.5 million

This will be my last post with a focus on local issues for a while as I am about to kick off a tour of sustainable and liveable cities with 30 other WA planners from local, state government and the private sector.

It is a good chance to step back from the many local issues that inevitably dominate the day to day life of a as mayor –to reflect on the big issues that are making and breaking cities around the world and what this should mean for planning better futures for Perth and Fremantle.

But while I am in the airport waiting for my flight to the tours starting point in Copenhagen I wanted to reflect on the challenges Perth is facing and why a new approach is going to be essential to Perth’s future if it is to remain a liveable city.  This is inspired by the recent release of the Dept of Planning’s Perth and Peel @ 3.5 million planning strategy.

This new report has some great content and seems to understand that a business as usual approach to planning and urban development is not going to bode well for a liveable Perth future. It kicks off by saying:

Today, the Perth and Peel regions stretch more than 150 kilometres from Two Rocks in the north to Bouvard in the south and are home to more than two million people. And while it took 180 years to reach that population figure, by 2050, it is estimated that more than 3.5 million people will live in Perth and Peel.” (Pg 4)

They state that this new plan aims to: “… guide infill development to deliver a more compact and connected city and promote the connectivity and development of activity centres, corridors, industrial nodes and station precincts to drive employment opportunities outside the Central Business District with the key objective to provide employment options where people live, thereby reducing the need for people to commute long distances for work.” (Pg 8).

Not much to disagree with here. Bring it on! The plan goes on to say:

“If we do not plan for population growth and manage the future urban form of our city, growth pressures and unfavourable patterns of development can have serious impacts on our communities and their environments … New urban areas must be planned to reduce dependency on private vehicle use the thereby reduce greenhouse gas emissions and air pollution. People living in areas with limited access to public transport or jobs will experience increased travel time to access work in other areas, traffic congestion and higher private transport costs to households as well as reduced leisure time, declining community health and increasing obesity as walking and riding become less practical.” (Pg 15)

It is excellent these challenges are been recognised within State Government planning. It would seem to me that this is largely consistent with what the City of Fremantle has been advocating and putting into our planning documents and key actions over the past few years.

At the heart of this strategy is better ways of tackling sprawl and achieving urban density.

Consistent with Directions 2031 the strategy aims for 47% urban consolidation – meaning 800,000 new homes will required within existing urban areas. Fremantle has been given the quite doable target of providing an extra 7100 people and I am confident that we can exceed this through the East End, CBD, Knutsford/Swanbourne Street and transit corridor redevelopments such as South Street.

Perth is currently tracking at around only 28% infill meaning, of course, that 72% of our urban growth (and the 1000 plus people arriving in WA each week) is currently fuelling urban sprawl that is seeing Perth spread unsustainably north and south – bulldozing our biodiversity in the process.

This sprawl is arguably keeping the price of house purchasing down but is creating major liveability and sustainability challenge. There is of course a difference between affordable housing (to buy) and affordable living (running the house and transport costs).

It would be no exaggeration to say that business as usual approach is NOT working. The cost of traffic congestion alone was $1 billion in 2009 and is estimated to rise $2.1 billion per year by 2020

While overall this is a pretty good plan with a reasonably ambitious but doable goals around density and a good understanding that Perth needs to grow differently over the next few decades if it is to stay a liveable city – it’s huge failing is that it provides no mechanisms for change.

While painting a pretty picture for a future Perth – it provides no clear paths on how to get there. It contains no new mechanisms to move Perth beyond the 28% infill the report says we are currently achieving other than the hope that Perthites might development a taste for apartments in coming years.

For it to be more than a postcard of a place that does not and will not exist it needs to provide new tools and new mechanism to slow our tendency towards car-dependent sprawl. This could include:

  • Investment in public transport going to those areas willing to support higher density transit orientated developments (TODs).
  • A discount of stamp duty for new dwellings supporting good urban infill
  • Mandating all new government office investment will be outside the Perth CBD but within 400m of a train station
  • An urban growth boundary to stop future sprawl.
  • Mandating mixed use in new developments

This document will be an important road map for the future of Perth so it is important we get it right. I’ll be taking key lessons from the most sustainable and liveable cities in Europe to see what they can add to the Perth debate.

Public comment is to the end of July.

About Mayor of Fremantle Brad Pettitt's blog
City of Fremantle Mayor

6 Responses to Towards Perth @3.5 million

  1. freoview says:

    I agree with most of the points you make Brad but I think the development of new government offices within 400 metres of a train station is unrealistic and also not necessary, because a e.g. 1000 meter walk only takes a few acceptable minutes to get to work from a bus stop or train station.
    But ideas alone, as you say, is not enough. Tools/incentives need to be given. Developers need to be encouraged to build offices outside the CBD, etc.

    Have a great trip. I hope new and inspiring ideas for Fremantle will come out of it.

    Roel Loopers

  2. Hi Brad,
    Thought you may be inspired by the following transcript from an interview I did with an urban designer working in planning in Seattle –

    Green Factor is based on similar systems in Berlin and Malmo. “It came about through a company called I- Sustain, essentially an eco-tourism company for policy and design nerds. The company took a collaborative group of politicians, planners, architects, urban designers, developers; this whole kind of ecosystem of different types of people involved in development. This group would take them to Singapore to look at water infrastructure, to look at what people are doing there. Or Berlin, or Copenhagen to look at public space improvements. So there was all these specialists in different fields who went to these cities together and learnt about different cities. Then they would come back to Seattle and have this common vocabulary. Lots had been to Berlin and Malmo so were familiar with green factor scoring .So as part of updating development codes in 2006 someone said “Well what about green factor like they do in Berlin and Malmo” and everyone agreed and liked how it worked in those cities, so lets try it here in Seattle. There wasn’t a lot of debate and it happened in relatively a short time There was the social capital to do it.”


    • thanks Jana
      that is fantastic. I get the sense that is what is happening with many of the Perth planners here too

    • Diana Ryan says:

      Actually Jana this sort of tripping has been going on for years, probably going in to or well advanced in to its second decade now, with various disciplines and levels to the parties. Its a lot of trips, often taken again and again and we have huge numbers of people flying here to us as well. What I’d like to see is an alternative developed to the need to have to pay for these trips and to have so many people flying out and often travelling over the areas others have already gone to, reported back on, shared, etc. We also have many academics who fly off to gather this info and teach it to us at university and this has gone on for a very long time – of course! It would be great to see the need for so many to make so many trips reduced, but the will doesn’t appear to be there. Odd how we can’t seem to make do with less travel for “inspriration” or to “learn” how to do things.

      Comment if you will, Brad, but you are hardly an objective person in the matter of that which many have called for: a reduction in the need to fly as much as we are and are continuing to do.

  3. Pingback: Cycling, Planning and Design in Copenhagen | City of Fremantle Mayor Brad Pettitt's Blog

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