Substantial population growth in WA should not automatically result in expanding the population of the present Perth and its distorted north/south suburban footprint. (The unfortunate result of mainly single-storey sprawling estates on small sites with minimal communal use open space, now crammed into the dominant north/south coastal band will be extraordinarily difficult to intensify in density by any attempted selective ’infill’.) Furthermore, this low-density urban sprawl apparently approved of by the existing planning system – has recently extended south from Perth even to Mandurah and now around the unmanaged, very shallow Peel-Harvey Estuary. (An area of extreme high-value biodiversity to the future of WA) – proving to be environmentally disastrous both from a proven human health risk and asset conservation perspective.
There is now a further risk with the low density plan approval policy still being supported, that the remaining environmentally valuable natural bush ‘breathing spaces’- regional parks, golf courses and the like, inland of those, around Perth that are an invaluable legacy, are now threatened with removal – probably for more poor quality, low-density sprawling residential neighbourhoods ?
Different basic macro planning models should instead, by now be offering more choice of form and density, linked to serious efforts by Planners in the first instance (not commercial developers) responding to changing communal needs and perceptions. –
Some Alternatives could be:-
a) Very high density concentrated communities with all accommodation and services very local – within short walking distance – making personal car ownership less necessary.
b) A network of connected satellite communities each of higher concentration, but with distinct natural environment space (of at least 8kms) between them.
c) New separate and fully self-contained towns including commercial and light industry located to grow rapidly in that form in that location, but away from the Perth Region as now defined.
b) and c) above being provided with high-speed public transit systems to central Metropolitan Perth.
Such initiatives would allow central Perth more space to increase building heights appreciably, with higher average plot-ratios, and sophisticated larger scale plazas between – permitting zones with more visual order and dignity suited to a modern capital city of future world-class. Perth is not, but really should be- developing quickly as a ‘real’ quality City (by international standards), yet it is still beset with small-town parochial thinking, spatially disordered and is already becoming characterised by randomly conceived, visually confusing buildings and advertising trivia; reminiscent of the low-grade outskirts of many minor sprawling cities of no real distinction (except for crime) in the USA.