This is the personal blog of Ian Ker, who was Councillor for the South Ward of the Town of Vincent from 1995 to 2009. I have been a resident of this area since 1985. This blog was originally conceived as a way of letting residents of Vincent know what I have been doing and sharing thoughts on important issues. I can now use it to sound off about things that concern me.

If you want to contact me, my e-mail is still ian_ker@hotmail.com or post a comment on this blog.

To post a comment on this blog, select the individual post on which you wish to comment, by clicking on the title in the post or in the list to the left of the blog, and scroll down to the 'Post a Comment' box at the foot.

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Wednesday, December 12, 2018

WA Government Wants More Conflicted 'Experts' in Planning and Design

On 28th November, the WA Government called for nominations for a State Design Review Panel https://www.planning.wa.gov.au/sdrp.aspx. Nominations close on Friday 21 December at 2pm.

Pause to observe the timing of this nomination period when so many people have other things that require their attention - minor things like school holidays, getting ready for Christmas, going on Holiday. Indeed, the last day of sitting for the WA legislative Assembly was 29th November and the Legislative Council 6th December, so our pollies are 'out of session', too - not to say that they're not working in some form, but they're not actually doing the work of governing.

The role of the Panel is described as being to "help improve the design of development and infrastructure proposals, assist with achieving best value from investment, and ensure that projects maximise their contribution to the built environment for the benefit of the community".

Sounds good - but the devil definitely resides in the detail.

In practice, the effect will be to remove consideration of design (and associated development bonuses) from the JDAPs (which have two local council members (out of 5 total), so only require one 'renegade' specialist member to refuse an application). So, having removed all larger development decisions from elected councils, they are now, in effect, to be removed from the JDAPs to hide behind a totally unelected group of specialists whose independence is chronically compromised by their reliance on property, development and landowner interests for so much of their income.

Moreover, despite the Panel's being required to work "for the benefit of the community" there are no community representatives. This poses the considerable question of who determines what is for the benefit of the community?

Then, the membership. The 'core members' of the Panel will be drawn from the same 'specialists' as the majority membership of the Development Assessment Panels: architecture, landscape architecture, urban design and planning. Admittedly, there will also be a number of 'technical specialists' drawn from a wide range of disciplines, but their expertise will only be called upon "for those review sessions where it will be relevant".

It was suggested to me that I should nominate, as my qualifications and experience cover a number of these 'technical specialist' areas, but I have very severe concerns about the Terms of Reference for the Panel.

Most important of my concerns is the draconian requirement for confidentiality which, in effect, prevents Panel members, including technical specialists, from participating in other forums or communities covering matters of urban planning and design - potentially even when they are not specifically dealing with a development for which they have been a party to discussions.

Despite the high-sounding definitions of 'Best Practice' and 'Design Principles', the functioning of the Panel appears to ignore some key aspects.

Best Practice
- Independence. As I have previously noted, JDAP specialist members (and hence 'core members of the DRP) have an unavoidable and systemic conflict of interest, as much of their professional income is derived from large landowners and property developers.
- Accountability.  The advice that the Panel provides "must be clearly seen to work for the benefit of the public" - but all proceedings of the Panel are confidential and there is no mention of Minutes being taken or of their availability if they are.
- Transparency. "The Panel's remit, membership, governance processes and funding should always be in the public domain". Yet all proceedings of the Panel are confidential and there is no mention of Minutes being taken or of their availability if they are.

Design Principles 
- Context and Character. Good design "responds to and enhances the distinctive characteristics of a local area, contributing to a sense of place".  A 'sense of place' is more than just built form - without community input, this will be no more than technical 'experts' making their own judgment rather than being based on actual experience of people in the affected communities, each of which will have its own distinct and potentially very different characteristics.



Monday, November 26, 2018

Token Consultation on Flawed Report in City of Vincent

The City of Vincent Draft Open Space Strategy (https://imagine.vincent.wa.gov.au/public-open-space-strategy) was approved by Council for consultation on 13 November.

Consultation closes 28 November, which is, at best, effectively less than two weeks consultation time. Readers of the City's e-mail newsletter would only have found out 23 November, which gives less than one week to respond.

This is not good enough, no matter how much community involvement there might have been beforehand. Contributions made during the development process are important but do not replace the need for individuals and community organisations, including those who were unable to participate earlier, to be able to comment on the specific proposals and how they have been arrived at.

Some of the basic mapping information is wrong and/or misleading, too - for example, I live immediately opposite Hyde Park and 30m from a pedestrian-friendly crossing that goes directly to an entry path to the Park, but the map shows me being over 200 metres access distance from any public open space.

Maps also don't recognise that high-level parks also serve the functions of lower-level parks. The extreme case of this is that Banks Precinct is shown as being 801-1600 metres from a 'local park' even when just across the road from Banks Reserve, which has a sheltered playground typical of local parks.

I am bemused by Figure 4 (below). How is it that, for example, all properties immediately opposite Hyde Park are shown as being at least 100m for POS and in some cases (including my own house) more than 200m from POS. Even if I go to the nearest formalised pedestrian crossing point, I only have to walk 30 metres to it and then 20 metres across the road.

There's a big difference between 50m and 201-400m!

[Mayor Emma Cole has responded to me saying that the anomaly about Hyde Park will be rectified before further consideration by Council, but the problem with identifying one such anomaly so easily is that one is forced to wonder how many other anomalies/errors there are.]