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Urban sprawl not a dirty word as planning review kicks off

Premier Peter Malinauskas says urban sprawl is “not a dirty word” and there is demand for both big new blocks and medium density infill housing, as a new panel begins to review state planning and development rules.

Aug 24, 2022, updated Aug 24, 2022
Houses on Adelaide's suburban fringe. Photo: Nat Rogers/InDaily

Houses on Adelaide's suburban fringe. Photo: Nat Rogers/InDaily

The Premier’s comment was made at last week’s local Urban Development Institute of Australia (UDIA) lunch in Adelaide, where he talked about the state’s current housing demand to more than 400 attendees.

When asked by InDaily about the comment, his response was: “Too often, planning debate in Adelaide is distilled down to urban sprawl: bad, urban infill: good.” 

“My view is there is room for both, in a sensible, balanced way.”

Malinauskas said people should be able to choose to live in “well-regulated” higher density homes close to the city or larger homes with bigger backyards.

“That means developing the outer metropolitan area in a considered way, while ensuring infrastructure keeps up,” he said, adding it was important to preserve existing environment and food production areas like McLaren Vale and the Barossa Valley.

The Premier’s comments come as an independent panel appointed by the State Government begins examining the state’s planning legislation, meeting for the first time yesterday and setting a community comment deadline for December 16.

Panel presiding member John Stimson told InDaily he expected numerous submissions as the four panel members examine legislation and the state’s controversial new Planning and Design Code, focusing its attention on infill policy, trees, character, heritage and car parking.

“We’re in the process of employing a community engagement consultant and will release an engagement plan,” said Stimson, a former UDIA (SA) president and planning and urban design manager for Fairmont Group.

“We are already receiving comments and submissions. I would expect we will get quite a lot of input from the community, community groups, councils, industry bodies, applicants and others.”

John Stimson (left) and Planning Minister Nick Champion at Tuesday’s panel meeting. Photo: Tony Lewis/InDaily

The panel is expecting to deliver its recommendations to the State Government in March next year and its submissions deadline accounts for the local council elections in November.

Stimson is an urban geographer, town planner and project manager and has worked on significant land development projects including Springwood, Burgundy Estate and Parkvale, Heights View and Heights View East.

The panel review follows the introduction last March of the state’s new Planning and Design Code with Stimson saying some 70,000 planning applications had been received since then.

Data related to the new code’s introduction was being assessed by Planning SA and would be provided to the panel as part of its review.

When State Planning Minister Nick Champion announced the review, he said it followed a state election commitment that “draws on clear messages sent by the community since the code was established” to enable “planning decisions that encourage a more liveable, competitive and sustainable long-term growth strategy.”

The panel is tasked with reviewing the Planning, Development and Infrastructure Act 2016 and to focus on infill policy, trees, character, heritage and car parking under the new Planning and Design Code.

Its review will also address the new e-planning system “with a view to ensuring that it is delivering an efficient and user-friendly process and platform” and the PlanSA website.

Stimson said it was likely that there would be less data about larger developments and high-rise buildings for the panel to review.

“There haven’t been that many that have gone through the process,” he said, adding that “not one high rise building approved under the code” would have yet been completed as larger developments had a long planning and construction process.

“The majority coming out of the ground now probably were dealt with under the old rules – it means we have limited projects actually completed for us to look at in terms of results.”

He emphasised that the panel was at the start of the review and was still working out its processes. Its next meeting is on September 5, when the group hoped to finalise a community consultation plan.

Others on the panel include Cate Hart, the president of the Planning Institute of Australia (SA) and a senior public servant in the Department of Environment and Water; Andrew McKeegan,  executive director of transport property in the Victorian Department of Transport and a former senior SA planning bureaucrat; and Lisa Teburea, executive group manager planning and urban policy with the ACT Government.

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