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Taking urban infill seriously | The West Australian

As Perth and Western Australia plan for a future of population growth, a need for residences – preferably with access to transport and public amenities – is increasing.

Rather than continue the expensive and long process of urban sprawl across the state, which relies on establishing new public transport routes, schools, healthcare services and more, the feasibility of urban infill is finally being taken seriously.

The idea of redeveloping areas already established in the Perth CBD and surrounds is hardly new, with Limnios Property Group Managing Director James Limnios having pushed for state-funded financial incentives for people to move into the city for more than a decade.

During the pandemic, easy accessibility to these services and amenities has been made abundantly clear. Now, with expectations of WA’s population reaching 3.5 million by 2050, it’s no surprise that in order to support sustainable growth, new ideas and purposes for existing land will need to start.

Demand for urban development is high, with the Western Australian Planning Commission’s latest Urban Growth Monitor report reflecting an infill rate for the Perth metropolitan and Peel regions of about 43 per cent in 2019, up from 38 per cent the year before.

Although still below the projected 47 per cent, a shift in strategic land use and planning approaches for areas within the region would open the realities of new urban growth opportunities.

The Perth and Peel region currently stretches 150km, where much of the state population currently lives.

Even though WA is a large state with plenty of open space, the wider the area our population spreads, the more expensive things become.

A report released by the Victorian Government found the cost for infill projects in existing suburbs was $309 million for 1000 homes. In comparison, the cost of fringe developments was $653 million for every 1000 homes.

As the Perth metropolitan area spans 1722sqkm, with more than two million people, the number of people living within the CBD is far less than global cities of similar size.

With the encouragement for our population to grow outwards historically, rather than focus within already-developed areas, Perth now faces the opportunity to follow the shift to urban infill, creating an efficient and liveable city.

Worries from local residents and councils on overcrowding and horizon-filling skyscrapers has been the main argument against changing planning laws in Perth until now but, with WA’s current population projections, it isn’t likely to be the reality, except in those areas where it is appropriate.

The State Government’s Perth and Peel @ 3.5 million suite of land-use planning and infrastructure frameworks were formulated to guide the future growth of the Perth and Peel regions as a compact, consolidated and connected city that can accommodate a population of 3.5 million by 2050.

It has a number of urban consolidation principles that will guide future infill development, including the first principle to provide well-designed higher-density housing that considers local context, siting, form, amenity and the natural environment, with diverse dwelling types to meet the needs of the changing demographics.

A second guiding principle is to ensure attractive character and heritage values within suburbs are retained and to minimise changes to the existing urban fabric where appropriate.

The Perth metropolitan area has enough urban infill areas available to allow an appropriate mix of modest higher-density development to cater for anticipated population growth, as well as larger apartment developments in those areas that can accommodate them.

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