We have reached the cliff edge in terms of Perth’s development.
In 2019, during the debate in WA parliament about Ocean Reef Marina, Hon Alison Xamon did not hold back: ‘’I am really concerned—I have been saying this for a decade—that we are seeing a death-by-a-thousand-cuts approach to many of Perth’s precious places, and I do not see any end in sight to that approach’’.
There is no end in sight. There is no opposition in State parliament for the next 4 years.
Metropolitan planning was part of the defining spirit of post-war Australia. Perth was on the cusp of major development.
In 1953, Gordon Stephenson a British planner and civic designer was commissioned with the task of transforming Perth.
The outcome was Stephen’s highly influential Plan for the Metropolitan Region: Perth and Fremantle Western Australia (1955) developed with the assistance of Alistair Hepburn.
The basic outline of the plan was to create decentralised ‘centres of growth’ on the outskirts of the metropolitan area.
Stephensen was no fan of high population density. Having lived in a much denser British city and observed social problems.
His plans provided a new approach to the control of housing density in Perth, with the city as the core from which all else radiated.
Today, Stephenson’s planning legacy is under severe stress.
Perth’s current planning influencers
Perth’s current planning influencers such as Curtin University Professor Peter Newman sit in direct opposition.
Newman is an admirer of high-rise cities such as Vancouver Canada , which has a similar population to Perth and is going through huge growth due to net migration.
Professor Newman has previously worked as director of planning strategies for the WA government.
In the 1990’s, Vancouver planners put in growth boundaries and decided high rise was the best option.
Nearly 50% of Perth’s future growth is planned within growth boundaries.
Mr Newman would like the Perth public to embrace tower blocks. In Newman’s words, “I am in the process of trying to show they can be good”.
All over the UK tower blocks have been demolished, they symbolise the failure of modern urbanism.
UK planners soon realised they were unsuitable for families with children, as parents could not supervise them playing outside from a flat in the sky.
World renowned Danish architect Jan Gehl is also a critic of high rise. He has researched and observed outcomes which led to community isolation.
He argues, ‘’it’s not as easy as walking out your front door, people who live on the high floors of a high-rise are less likely to leave their houses. This separates people from the outdoor’’.