A fresh look at Residential Planning and Design – Perth Region

The site of Perth is relatively recently ‘settled’ and has many natural assets. Compared to most overseas cities we don’t have to cope with the urban aftermath of a couple of centuries of industrial and social revolution that drew millions of people from the land to live in squalor, that then became ‘rotten at the core’ and had to struggle to recover a sense of decency.

It is far too easy, as we have recently, to squander our rare natural assets, by unattractive sprawling low-density development that lacks any serious comprehensive and creative design vision for socially balanced community development.

As discussed in various sections of this website, future planning the City and Region of Perth should really be about and for all of the people who live here, particularly the young people who will be our future.  In the Perth region we are certainly not yet providing suitable 21st century urban residential environments for them to develop as creative, balanced and socially-connected individuals.

The majority of our young families are now obliged, against price competition from local and overseas property investors, to live in cramped, visually boring and inadequately serviced outer suburban ‘estates’. Typically we are ‘flat-clearing’ vast areas of existing varied and bio-diverse coastal and inland areas to provide just ‘house and land packages.’  Standardised boxes on tiny blocks crammed together with no semblance of creatively designed streetscapes, very few outdoor areas, and inadequately serviced with the necessary facilities at walkable distance, for a future family life. These are not in any sense creatively designed, comprehensive, liveable community neighbourhoods.

These new sprawling outer suburbs being planned and built are doing nothing for the children who are our future. They need to be liberated outdoors, to run, explore, climb, participate freely in team sports, pursue individual interests, socialise face to face on their own terms and be helped to develop identity and respect for others as part of a living community; complementary to formal supervised learning they experience at  schools. Pre-primary and Primary Schools should also be planned and designed and built to operate from the outset as integral parts of genuine community focussed residential neighbourhoods throughout WA , not as much later ‘add-ons’ well out of walking range from home as most are today in the newer outer suburbs.

Urgent action is needed now in WA to reverse the disturbing negative trend in urban residential development. Failure to act will only increase the anti-social behaviour of disenchanted, socially disconnected young teenagers that are not receiving collective support from parents who are themselves becoming more disconnected from each other.( Even the WA Police Commissioner has recently been motivated to explain what is really happening, hoping that large numbers of currently ‘disconnected’ parents will be listening).

If community funded Government agencies at all levels are unwilling or unable to reverse this damaging trend through actively supporting and devising more people-focussed urban planning and design systems, then as a Community in WA must take direct action ourselves.-

That should not be needed, but is still possible  e.g. Through very small self-help local and neighbourhood building co-operatives; privately organised community housing associations; church groups etc. Also importantly, most large business and industrial enterprises are constantly seeking to enhance their community image, visibility and to create wider supportive ‘constituency.’ – Their help, at negligible cost to them, in-kind or in many diverse ways can be engaged in common cause, if sought by community-minded citizens.

We must start with the simple objective that – whatever the income level people have and/or collective living density they prefer – they must be offered living environment choices that are planned and creatively designed to be genuine community-focussed, comprehensively serviced and enjoyable places to live.

Much more usable outdoor space is essential  and must be reserved, allowing everyone access to living natural environments  and parkland; parents with young children must be provided with all essential services  normally needed on a daily basis for families with young children and within easy walking distance, BEFORE planning approvals are given to new residential developments.

Even at very high urban densities the ‘urban village’ residential neighbourhood concept is eminently feasible. Furthermore with imaginative future planning, that concept could be multiplied and extended into an urban/ rural network of largely self-contained satellite settlements. Not only providing enhanced living environments for people, but also reducing the current large-scale blanket-destruction of rare natural ecosystems that have existed for millennia in WA.


  1. It seems amazing in a rapidly growing city like Perth, that the responsible Planning Departments of the State Government and Local Authorities with all the power they have to control development, are allowing crowded single storey housing sprawl on tiny blocks to go on and on unchecked, filling most of the land between Yanchep and Mandurah. It now seems like the real professional ‘planners’ wherever they are have been out to a very long lunch?

    It is mainly young couples starting families, now priced out of older leafy inner city suburbs, that will have to live in these sprawling ‘ghettos’ that really are badly planned and unsuitable to rear families. Surely Town Planning powers should be used to produce far better results? Most of these new areas of housing crammed on tiny blocks have hardly any open space either at home or close by for children. No convenience shop, pharmacy, clinic, community meeting places or even sports ovals.

    If these areas were imaginatively planned as community-friendly ‘urban villages’ with even the minimum services traditional villages have to serve their local community, they might be marginally acceptable, but not as being built now. WA used to be the ‘State of Excitement’ but that seems long gone in these new ‘burbs.

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