WA aims for better apartments with first stage of Design WA policy

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Knutsford Stage 1 by Spaceagency Architects.

Knutsford Stage 1 by Spaceagency Architects. Image: Robert Frith

The WA government has introduced the first stage of a new set of policies intended to foster good design for the built environment. 

The first stage of the Design WA initiative splits its focus between mandating design principles for the built environment on the whole and a narrower concentration on better apartment design. It includes State Planning Policy 7.0 – Design of the Built Environment, an updated Apartment Design policy and a Design Review Guide. Future stages will focus on house design, as well as medium-density, neighbourhood and precinct design.

The policies, which apply to all levels of planning and development, come into effect on 24 May. State Planning Policy 7.0 is “the lead policy that elevates the importance of design quality across the whole built environment. It includes 10 principles for good design and establishes the framework for integrating design review as a part of the evaluation process.”

The 10 principles, which are intended to “establish a definition of ‘good design,” are context and character, landscape quality, sustainability, functionality and build quality, community, amenity, legibility, built form and scale, safety and aesthetics. The policy itself says it is “to be used to inform and guide landowners, proponents, designers, reviewers, referral agencies and decision-makers to achieve good design outcomes in the built environment.”

Planning minister Rita Saffioti said, “Design WA addresses community concerns around higher density developments and infill throughout Perth.

“By raising the bar for the quality of developments around Perth, I believe we will see a wider acceptance of apartment living and infill developments which improve neighbourhoods when done well.

“Good design is not just about appearance, taste and style – it improves the urban environment, benefits local communities and leaves a positive legacy for future generations.”

The updated apartment design policy (State Planning Policy 7.3 Volume 2) aims to create liveable apartments by fostering well-sized, functional living rooms, access to natural light and ventilation, communal spaces and a mix of apartment types.

A set of draft Design WA policies was released in October 2016, as a collaboration between the Office of the Government Architect, the Western Australian Planning Commission and the planning department. The Office of the Government Architect was later transferred to the planning department from the Department of Finance in March 2018.

John Carey, parliamentary secretary for the Minister for Planning, said Design WA was about “ensuring density is done well.”

For more information, go here.


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