Most Local Authorities as part of their own Corporate and organisational and business planning (that sets out their interpretation of roles and purposes) do have a Strategic Community Plan that includes a general methodology for ‘Community Engagement’. The WA Department of Local Government and Communities suggests structures for such engagement on its website (www.dlg.wa.gov.au).
However, the matter of shaping new and modified local neighbourhoods at the physical Planning Approvals stage requires diverse social needs and community preferences to be identified at the outset. That is rarely addressed as an intrinsic vehicle for ‘Community Engagement’ yet the physical form of residential building groups and the spaces between them are in fact major determinants of local social and community convenience, behaviour and sociability that essentially does require ‘engagement’.
The matter of ‘form responding to function and purposes’, that is a fundamental aspect of architectural design within buildings, is similarly relevant to the planning of groups of buildings and the spaces between them. This vital aspect of urban Planning responsiveness to community functions and purposes has recently far too often either been left to chance – or responded too uncritically to commercial-developer proposals for replacement of individual buildings on urban sites developed for different purposes in a previous era.
From a ‘Planning for People’ perspective, urban residential planning and design should specifically contribute-to and enable a future social sense of community identity and cohesion. This can certainly be planned and achieved through the configuration of built forms and communal spaces, and is largely decided and fixed at the Planning Approvals stage, but it must be deliberately designed-for.
Efficient and easy access to all of the normal family lifestyle needs and services for different age-groups and personal circumstances will certainly be essential in future neighbourhoods that have long-term community sustainability; and with sufficient physical flexibility to be self-adjusting over time as local age-structures, personal resources and even lifestyle fashions change.
For this reason Local Authorities with Planning Approval powers in a rapidly growing City Region such as Perth, would be well advised to think in terms of (-and methodically encourage) Comprehensive Development Area Planning and Design. Rather than simple replacement of single buildings on urban gap-sites (particularly in localities that had very different functions in the past) that neither set out to, nor provide-for, future sociability and community cohesion as design-objectives.
Similarly the reinforcement of ‘ribbon development’ by adding new continuous layers of residential building along existing major transportation routes; (a simplistic reaction to recent Planning mistakes in allowing excessive low-density urban sprawl) is seriously counter-productive to creating cohesive local community neighbourhoods. Even more so since the forms of efficient public transportation are themselves changing with rapidly advancing technology.