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Mar 17, 2015

Rowe Group recently had the privilege of sponsoring the Property Council of Australia’s event ‘Role & Scope of Activity Centres – What’s Next?

The event included presentations by Mr Eric Lumsden (Chairperson of the Western Australian Planning Commission), Mayor Troy Pickard (City of Joondalup and President of the Western Australian Local Government Association) and Mr Brad Osborne (State Manager – Development & Asset Management at Scentre Group).

Mr Lumsden provided an overview of State Planning Policy No. 4.2 – Activity Centres for Perth and Peel.  Mayor Pickard gave a view as both the President of WALGA and the Mayor of the City of Joondalup and identified some of the shortcomings of SPP 4.2 and its implementation.  Mr Osborne provided insight into real projects, both local and national, and the aspects of these projects which had worked well.  Mr Osborne also raised issues relating to our State’s planning system and how the framework can be improved to increase efficiency and reduce costs to developers.  The presentations were followed by a panel discussion between the three presenters and two further panellists; Darren Pateman (Managing Director Finbar) and Sean Fairfoul, who leads our retail team at Rowe Group.

The key panel discussion point was the timing associated with developing activity centres.  More often than not, there is not an appropriate planning framework in place to facilitate the adoption of Activity Centre Structure Plans.  Many local authorities are of the view this triggers the requirement for a Scheme Amendment which can take up to two years.  The preparation of an Activity Centre Structure Plan also adds an additional two years onto this process.  Retail is an ever-changing industry and one which needs to be capable of change so as to respond to contemporary issues, such as online shopping.  The planning framework therefore needs be able to facilitate these changes.  A four year process before a Development Application can even be prepared greatly impacts on an activity centre’s ability to respond to contemporary issues.  We note the WAPC has taken a more proactive approach to the assessment of Development Applications for Activity Centres.

Mayor Pickard and Mr Osborne both suggested new Model Scheme Text provisions are needed to facilitate a standardised method of implementing Activity Centre Structure Plans.  There was consensus amongst the panellist this should occur and local authorities should act promptly to amend their Schemes.

Furthermore, there is an extensive list of government agencies, such as Main Roads, Department of Transport, Department of Planning, Local Government and Public Transport Authority, whose consultation is required during the preparation of an Activity Centre Structure Plan.  There is often a significant difference in priorities between the authorities which sometimes results in conflicting attitudes.  This can also have implications on timing and associated costs for developers.  Mr Osborne raised there needs to be a more holistic approach from government agencies in delivering large scale projects, such as Activity Centres.

There was also consensus the Strata Reform (Community Title) needs to be implemented.  TheStrata Titles Act 1985 is being amended to meet the increasing demands for more and varied housing options.  This reform aims at making shared living and working communities more attractive and improving the way strata schemes work.  Trading and investment co-location will not be widely accepted in Western Australia until the land ownership framework facilitates ownership through stratum.

The outcome of the panel session was a further discussion is to be facilitated between key State Government agencies, shopping centre developers and interest holders, residential developers and local authorities.  This discussion would give further attention to the issues raised during the panel session.

Rowe Group has been a key driver and supporter of the Strata Reform and is proud to also be sponsoring the Property Council’s seminar Strata Title Reforms & the Introduction of Community Titles. Held at Hyatt Regency Perth on Thursday 30th April 2015, the seminar will include discussions with Greg Rowe (Managing Director Rowe Group), along with Mark Atkinson (Director Atkinson Legal), Bruce Roberts (General Manager Landgate) and Tim Urquhart (Project Director Lend Lease). More information about the seminar can be found on the Property Council’s website here.