Planning, like all professions in the broader development industry, has been subject to the vagaries of the market.
This year’s Planning Excellence Victoria Awards, run by the Planning Institute of Australia, reflect the impact of economic constraint but also showcase brilliant creativity, adapting to circumstances and resilience in a changing climate.
The awards are supported by both the Victorian Coalition Government and the opposition.
“Planning is an important economic driver, and excellence in planning ensures our cities are globally competitive, productive, sustainable and well placed to meet future challenges and growth,” said Minister for Planning Matthew Guy.
Brian Tee, Shadow Minister for Planning echoed these sentiments.
“Government policies must enhance the character of our built heritage by promoting design that improves the liveability of each neighbourhood,” he said. “Now is not the time for ad hoc and uncoordinated development. Now is the time to tackle liveability, social isolation and the health implications associated with inactive lifestyles.”
The winners certainly demonstrate how the planning industry is rising to these challenges from large strategic projects to small suburban developments.
The ‘Brooklyn Evolution’ Project, for example, “represents a triumph of persistence” according to jurors.
The project was borne from local pressure over many years about dust, odour and noise impacts from the Brooklyn Industrial Precinct. The community had lost confidence in the planning system and was increasingly frustrated with the lack of action by the state and local levels of government.
Since 2008, council has taken ownership of the issues, working collaboratively with EPA, the community and businesses to achieve significant improvements in the Brooklyn Industrial area. This has culminated in a Precinct Structure Plan developed with full community and stakeholder consultation. The shared vision is for the precinct “to evolve into a key employment node and destination of choice for new ‘clean and green’ investment and development.”
“Working with a sceptical and hostile community that had lost faith in the capacity of any level of government to address a series of seemingly intractable problems associated with the conduct and operation of a whole of series of industrial uses, City of Brimbank, in partnership with Meinhardt, EPA Victoria and MGS has demonstrated that planning using sound processes of engagement can provide actions that will deliver real gains – an exemplary ‘hard won victory,’” the judges said.
And it is not just large, strategic projects making a difference. Creative thinking has been particularly evident in the ‘Best Planning Ideas: Small Projects’ category.
The Heller Street project in inner suburban Brunswick represents a successful collaboration between council, community and a highly creative team of consultancies, who have produced an innovative model for new inner urban development and communal living.
Instead of rolling out the same, well-worn carpet of suburban subdivision on this difficult industrial site in need of expensive remediation, they reserved two-thirds of the site for new public parkland, developed the remaining third as densely packed terrace housing, and ensured the housing stock is ample to accommodate families, who will enjoy their front yard ‘public common’ to its full capacity.
Hansen Partnership led successful consultations with the local community and steered the proposal through the planning process. Simon Taylor Landart created terraformed the public common, while Six Degrees Architects designed the housing, with a completely fresh re-think of the private/communal front porch interface. McCorkell Constructions built the whole thing to budget.
The judges were wholehearted in their praise.
“The project has retained its sense of idealism and originality from its initial conception all the way through to final delivery. It has proven its viability on all counts. It will stand as a model of inspired decision-making, and of visionary support for the realisation of an extraordinary and beautiful design for communal living,” they said.
Winners from all 17 categories will be submitted into the PIA National Awards which will be announced early in 2013.