Good design at the heart of new planning system

The ACT Chapter of the Australian Institute of Architects welcomes the release today of the ACT Government’s wide-ranging new Planning Bill consultation package.

Chapter President Jane Cassidy said these reforms are a once in a generation opportunity to create a better planning system that facilitates certainty, equity, affordability, sustainability, housing choice, active transport and design quality for a compact city.

“Canberra is a fast-growing city and we need a fit-for-purpose planning system that puts people first through a strong focus on great design,” Ms Cassidy says.

“Our preliminary review of the consultation materials provided by government is encouraging. It is particularly welcome to see the principle of high-quality design embedded in the new Planning Bill.

“We will however be seeking further information on exactly how the new planning system will facilitate good design in practice.

“As with all such reform, the details are critically important and we look forward to working through these with government over the coming months.

“It is vitally important that professional associations advocating in the public interest have meaningful input during the consultation period, alongside the broader community consultation.

“The switch from a rules-based system to an outcomes-focussed approach must not come at the expense of good design or the best interests of the community.”

Ms Cassidy said the object of the planning system should be to set not only the minimum standard but also the great design and sustainability aspirations for our city.

“The Institute is championing a planning system where more authority is given to the design review panel to promote good design outcomes and facilitate fast and efficient approvals, while maintaining appropriate checks and balances.

“Such safeguards will be particularly important when it comes to ‘exempt developments’; an area of the proposed legislation we will be scrutinising closely.

“This is the ideal opportunity to strengthen the role of the design review panel and give it more power.

“Importantly, we need to ensure this is a planning system that facilitates a fast and economical transition to net-zero emissions and builds our resilience in the face of worsening climate change impacts.”

The Institute notes the establishment of a new Territory Planning Authority to be led by the Chief Planner with a mandate that includes promoting “high-quality design and good planning outcomes” but will seek further information on its relationship with the design review panel and ACT Government Architect.

“The Institute will be looking to ensure that there is a requirement to consider the professional advice of either or both of the design review panel and the ACT Government Architect,” Ms Cassidy said. 

It will also seek clarification regarding the decision making process for Territory Priority Projects to ensure that significant decisions made with respect to design are made by appropriately qualified professionals.

“We would also like to see the Territory come into line with other jurisdictions in recognising that an appropriately qualified and registered architect is required to deliver on design quality for significant projects.”

For media enquiries contact:

Fiona Scott | on behalf of the Australian Institute of Architects

M. +61 (0) 407 294 620 |