Density Wars

The coastal strip where Perth resides is one of 10 Global biodiversity hot spots, it is seriously important for the future ecology of our planet. Lieutenant Governor James Stirling can be forgiven for not knowing this when founding the Swan River Colony in 1829, the local Noongar people knew it was special, but no one asked them. Now we do know the ecological importance, it is incumbent on us to stop the exponential spread of the metropolitan area as a matter of urgency. The Western Australian Planning Commission has released ‘Perth and Peel at 3.5 Million’ in an attempt to reign in urban sprawl, it’s too little too late but is a step in the right direction. The vibrancy of a city is inextricably linked to its population density, that density means not only populist events flourish, but also fringe events as well, these fringe events are the lifeblood of a vibrant, liveable city, think London, Barcelona, Paris etc. Urban sprawl is very expensive, especially for those least able to afford it. The further from the Perth CBD one goes the cheaper the houses, but the more expensive the commute to work and low density housing cannot support good public transport. The result is that the lower paid in our society spend the largest percentage of their wages on running cars. We must stop urban sprawl for environmental, social and economic reasons.

Last night’s decision at the Town of Cambridge to support Scheme Amendment 31 were baby steps in acknowledging the above triple bottom line issues related to urban sprawl. Listening to Community advocate, Keri Shannon one would be sure the sky will now fall in, the garden suburbs will be destroyed and over run with cars and parking issues. Kerri went on to say she is not against infill, only the location Amendment 31 nominates. So what does Amendment 31 nominate? Corner blocks larger than 950 Sqm in areas zoned R12.5 to R20, will be able to include group and multiple dwellings, but limited to 2 stories. The amendment does not recommend changing the density (increasing the R code number) from the current very low ones, and is consistent with the R-Codes for the existing density. In response to Kerri’s concerns, new development will require 2 off-street parking bays for each dwelling, and I think the Garden Suburb has long gone due to boundary-to-boundary very large homes. Kerri, what better place for infill than low-density suburbs close to the CBD and amenity of the ocean?

I congratulate Mayor Simon Withers and his Council for supporting Amendment 31. However as a society we must have the conversations with community to help people understand the greater good is at play here rather than destroying community with endless battles with people who feel they should be immune from changes to make Perth a better place.

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