HIGH DENSITY NOT THE SOLUTION
I have a lot of respect for the opinion of architect and urban planner Dr Linley Lutton, who used to be on the City of Fremantle’s Design Advisory Committee until he resigned from it, so I was very interested to read Lutton’s article about infill and density in the POST community newspapers.
Dr Lutton argues that the WA government push for higher density and infill is not working and is outdated and that apartments are the least preferred living options in Perth. He also writes that apartments can’t be adapted and are not family friendly, but that the biggest housing demand by 2031 will be for families and not singles and couples.
The random erection of ugly and big buildings in town centres also worries the city planner and he writes that it is not true that Perth is more low density than other capital cities. In fact we are at similar levels of density as Canberra, Adelaide and Brisbane and not far from that in Melbourne.
While high density is often pushed in older character suburbs it is hard to understand why the WA State Government does not insist on higher density in new suburbs where people are still mainly building one and two storey houses and no apartment blocks or town houses.
The urban myth that people are abandoning their cars is also not supported by facts with tens of thousands abandoning public transport even when they live near public transport, according to government figures.
Linley Lutton says that higher density apartment living can work well, but planners need to take into account that ‘culturally rich street life’ and work opportunities are essential for successful highrise living.
As I and others have often argued the success of city planning and new development is dependent on understanding what the community wants and needs. There is a need for better and more intense collaboration between planning experts and the community, starting as early as possible in the process, so that community opinion is not being dismissed as negative, reactive, NIMBY and anti-development.
I am personally very happy that so much new development is happening in Fremantle and much more planned, but we need to actively discourage ugly, boring, mediocre new buildings ‘designed’ by lazy architects who have no respect for Fremantle’s unique character.
While the urban sprawl is not sustainable the indiscriminate infill targets for older character suburbs also lack reality and need to be reconsidered.