Does SA have an effective Planning System?

State bank facade| Pirie St| Image: Nicolette DiLernia

Recent debate regarding two significant developments in Pirie Street and Wright St raise serious questions regarding the effectiveness of our planning system and its ability to deliver outcomes that meet community expectations and support public confidence. This is a highly relevant given that we are in the process of transition to the new planning system, which has design quality as one of its core policy objectives.  In both cases the Government Architect has objected to the developments on design grounds and community amenity.

Our system of State Design Review provides applicants with support for development that exceeds the intent of the planning regulations.  This support is qualified by a requirement to deliver a high-quality outcome benefiting not only the client but also adding value for the broader community.

The current reality is that design review does not deliver the intended benefits. Improvements that deliver design quality agreed to in the review process are often removed later as an amendment to the approval. The outcome has significant impact on the city and provides poor environmental outcomes in terms of amenity, connection with the street and visual interest.

If we are serious about design review we need to consider mandating recommendations of the review so that they are not reduced by amendments to the agreed design post approval.  We also need to remove options for over-height development and demolition of heritage listed fabric on the basis of design quality when it may not be delivered in the constructed outcome.

In order to meaningfully support the objectives of the new planning system, development needs to deliver real public benefit through delivery of quality public space, facilities that are genuinely accessible to the community and improved environmental performance. They should also contribute positively to the character and quality of the city and respect our existing heritage.  Adelaide has a long history of these developments from the Darling Building to the Allied Health Building at Lot 14 and we should celebrate and promote this approach.

Buildings are long term investments and have significant impact on our environment and how we live in our city.  Cities are responsible for almost 70% of our carbon emissions and are home to a growing proportion of our population.  Every building contributes, either positively or negatively, to this complex urban ecosystem.

The community has a right to query the effectiveness of the planning system and its ability to deliver quality outcomes.  Public confidence will be built on outcomes not promises.  

Nicolette Di Lernia
Executive Director, SA Chapter