Nov 16th, 2018

A better way to do development and bring community along

Deliberative development could go a long way to replacing the more typical adversarial approach, argues Panos Miltiadou, managing director of Lucent.

Most people accept that Melbourne needs smart solutions to its population growth. The city’s populace is set to almost double by 2050, and 70 per cent of housing requirements will need to be built as infill in existing suburbs.

Unfortunately, as things stand, the way infill is planned can be a recipe for conflict. Many ethical developers look only to develop properties that have been clearly earmarked within areas of intended growth. But often, home owners have no easy way of finding out how their area is zoned before a development is proposed.

Currently, developers usually begin with a pre-application meeting with a council’s planners. Yet, the problem is that it’s difficult to consult with the community. Residents hear about development proposals way too late – and the stage is set for an adversarial process.

There are more proactive ways to consult within communities, such as erecting signs, telling people where they can find information online, and creating surveys to ask the community and potential buyers what they want to see in a development.

At Nightingale and Lt. Miller for example, the consultation process revealed that sustainability and community were the highest priorities for that market. Purchasers wanted spaces where they could meet each other, talk to neighbours and mingle when sharing facilities. They wanted communal gardens and the best possible ecologically sustainable development (ESD).

All of these things mattered to that particular community – and were aligned with the sustainability and energy expectations of Moreland Council.

Currently, planning applications go through the council process, where representatives of both sides work with a VCAT facilitator to discuss the application. Ultimately you aim to come up with a binding agreement that everyone can sign. Otherwise, it comes down to adjudication when often neither side is the winner.

But what if this process was the beginning, not the end? A truly deliberative process that took place at the earliest stages of the planning process at council level, which increased transparency around zoning expectations. Until we can change the planning system itself, that’s what is worth working for.

by Panos Miltiadou

View original article from the Fifth Estate