#designperth: confronting the costs of sprawl

Density undoubtedly remains one of the most contentious topic in Perth. From debates on hi-rise to the role of DAPs, density is always in the media and it is a debate that has become unhelpfully fractious.

On one end of the debate there are those like Liam Bartlett railing against density (see his recent article from Perth Now and the Sunday Times here )

On the other end there is the unconventional research collaboration #designperth between Curtin Uni, the Property Council, CODA  and the Greens which quantifies the hidden cost of sprawl to taxpayers, households and the economy.

Late last week these issues were debated at the Property Council’s Future Directions: The Density Debate at which I was a panelist and I came away thinking we are not adequately moving this important issue forward. So over the next few weeks I will write I few articles on density and WA and I’d love your feedback on where we should be going as a city.

I want to start by outlining the findings of the #designperth report.

Many of you would now be aware that Perth now stretches almost 150km along the Swan coastal plain. In fact, ten of Perth’s largest growing suburbs are on average 33km from the CBD. This sees many people having to travel long distanced on increasingly congested roads to get to their jobs.

This low density sprawl also means we are often not getting maximum use and efficiency out of the often expensive new infrastructure government is providing.

To put this in context #designperth estimates the cost to government of providing infrastructure such as roads, water, communications, power, emergency services, health and education to greenfield on the urban fringe sites costs $150,389 per lot, compared with $55,828 in infill sites. This translates to a saving of up to $94.5 million for every 1000 lots developed in infill sites.

To take the logic of these savings further, increasing Perth’s infill target from 47% to 60% (the original target under the previous Network City plan) would save WA $23 billion to 2050. This would pay for the entire Perth Light Rail network as originally proposed 12 times over or 9 new hospitals the size of Fiona Stanley. To put these estimates into perspective, the Western Australian Government has budgeted for a $5.9 billion asset investment program in 2016-17.

It seems all sides of the debate acknowledge that business as usual is not sustainable financially or environmentally but there seems to be little conviction in driving change towards less urban sprawl and more infill. In the next few weeks I will try and unpick this a bit more and flag some possible ways forward.

design perth designing perth table 1 designing perth table 2



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

4 Responses to #designperth: confronting the costs of sprawl

  1. freoview says:

    One of the problems with infill density is that inappropriate heights are being considered for older suburbs instead of putting higher buildings in new suburbs and limiting height in for example the Fremantle CBD to 6-8 storeys.
    Higher buildings would be acceptable to me in the former Knutsford/Amherst Street area for example and other outer suburbs, as it does not impact on the Freo character and on living conditions for locals there, as long as transport is being addressed and people don’t end up with traffic jams.
    The problem is also that there tends to be hubs of density and that creates traffic issues, so density needs to be better spread and decentralisation of the workforce is essential with more government department and agencies and private organisations moving out of the Perth CBD.
    It’s a huge challenge that needs to become a community debate rather than a political one.

    Roel Loopers

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