12 April 2021

NT Planning Commission
Northern Territory Government
DARWIN NT 0800

 

Via Email:  ntpc@nt.gov.au

 

Property Council Submission – Designing Better Stage 2 Consultation

 

The Property Council of Australia is the peak body representing the property industry in the Northern Territory.  

The Northern Territory Division collectively represents billions of dollars of commercial investment in the Northern Territory.   The value of the property industry to the NT economy is second only to the resources sector.

The Property Council champions the interests of more than 2200 member companies that represent the full spectrum of the industry, including those who invest, own, manage and develop in all sectors of property, creating landmark projects and environments where people live, work, shop and play.

Led by a powerful board and strong executive leadership team, the Property Council’s vision is a thriving industry creating prosperity, jobs and strong communities.

As an industry, we not only have a keen interest, but also a financial stake in the future development of the Northern Territory.  We appreciate and take seriously the opportunity to provide comment on your Designing Better Stage 2 Consultation Paper.

The Property Council NT’s Central Business Committee has reviewed your Designing Better Stage 2 Consultation Paper.   The following are our comments and recommendations on several matters of interest and concern that have been raised by your consultation paper.

 

Landscaping: 5.2.6 – Clause 4

 

Extract

We believe that a blanketed and mandatory 10% requirement (based upon site area) is not a suitable nor equitable mechanism for the purposes of determining landscaping for Zone CB developments.  Compliance with your proposed approach will unreasonably effect and impact on smaller to medium sized developments in Zone CB.    This is fundamentally due to the square meter cost for compliance of this provision being directly related to the size of the development.     

We instead recommend the following tiered system be incorporated for the purposes of determining landscape requirements in Zone CB:

  1. 1 - 4 stories: no mandated percentage, but merely consideration.
  2. 5 - 9 stories: 5%; and
  3. 10+ stories: 10%.

We further recommend that an additional subclause “4(f)” be inserted that expressly provides for any internal landscaping when determining compliance under clause 4.  This is clearly in line with the overall objective of clause 5.2.6, increasing planting and greening for a development in Zone CB and that “the requirement does not prescribe where or how landscaping is to be undertaken.”

Setbacks for Developments Adjacent to Land in Zones LR, LMR, MR or HR: 5.2.7 – Clause 3 & 4

Extract

 

We believe additional consideration should be required when determining affected sites and their inclusion within the scope of Clauses 3 & 4.   We recommend the inclusion of an exemption for any site that is buttressed by a road wider than 18m wide.

Residential Density and Residential Plot Ratio 5.4.1:

We acknowledge that this proposed change will no doubt be perceived as the most controversial and community sensitive among those contained within your consultation paper.

Whilst we understand the intention and the potential merits behind seeking increased densification and flexibility of residential development in Zone C.  We hold concerns over the impact off increased commercial feasibility of such developments and its negative impact on other aspects of the marketplace.  The Property Council NT has long advocated for a free market approach rather than a mandatory approach when determining the provisioning of commercial and retail space within a development.

The Northern Territory Government has an abysmal track record with distorting market supply in the Northern Territory.  This is primarily due to both forcing developers (via mandatory provisions) to provide unviable commercial spaces in some developments or facilitating large-scale inappropriate and questionable rezoning of land.  In large part, that foregoing was Industry’s understanding, and in fact, the basis for our support for the creation of a Planning Commission.            

Sadly, aspects of the Northern Territory’s Planning Scheme are glaringly out of step with reality, by having no recognition of either the impacts of e-commerce on traditional bricks and mortar nor the current state of commercial vacancy rates in retail/high streets throughout Australia.   The foregoing, coupled with a mandatory regime, will only exacerbate what will be and continue to be a massive planning policy failure of the Northern Territory Government. 

We recommend that mandatory requirements for commercial premises in Zone C be removed to allow developers and the free market to operate as it should.  This change would also be in step with the treatment of non-active frontage areas under the Central Darwin Area Plan for Zone CB.

We further recommend that similar provisions as Zone CB be included for Zone C for the construction (floor heights etc) of ground level premises, to facilitate retrofitting when there is a future viable commercial demand for conversion of that premise.

Street Frontage of Residential Buildings in Zone CB 5.4.X and Design of Commercial and other Non-Residential Developments 5.5.3 Clause 6 and 8 respectively

Extract

The Property Council NT has long advocated against a blanketed and mandatory awnings policy for all developments in Zone CB.  For example, City of Darwin’s recent foray in this policy area (to introduce a standardized awning policy) did not progress, substantially due to our concerns over the Planning Scheme’s current blanketed and mandatory Zone CB requirement.   

We are opposed to the continuation of such a blanketed awning regime, which we believe is impractical, illogical and non-strategic.  We acknowledge and strongly support awnings, however, only in areas that that are designated as highly activated and pedestrian focused in nature.  This strategic approach improves both connectivity and commercial feasibility that underpins having mandatory activation provisions within Zone CB. 

Sadly, by not appropriately channeling pedestrian (i.e. utilizing awning etc) in a strategic and well thought our manner, all of the CBD will continue to suffer from the Planning Scheme’s current shotgun approach to pedestrian movement and connectivity.   

We recommend that the current blanketed approach be substituted with a strategic hierarchy of streets for the purposes of determining mandatory Zone CB awning requirements.

We further recommend that local government authorities and service authorities be directed, for those high pedestrian streets, to have policies that facilitate the relocation of trees and services away from those footpath/awning areas.

Lastly, we also recommend you expressly included a requirement for all local government authorities to formally respond / approve all awning applications within 30 days from their receipt.

Design of Commercial and other Non-Residential Development 5.5.3 Subclause 14

Extract

 

Could you please provide some examples for how this varied provision would operate, i.e. what “within the site” would mean?  Specifically, to the foregoing, how would this updated provision operate on a large site that has multiple buildings?

 

Design of Commercial and other Non-Residential Development 5.5.3 Subclause 17

 

Extract

We understand your intentions, however, such a provision will have major unintended consequences for anti-social behavior and illegal camping in those areas.  We are formally putting you on notice of these concerns, which will affect both the community and our tenant’s safety if introduced.  We recommend removing this provision in its entirety from operating within Zone CB.

 

Active Street Frontage of Commercial and Mixed-Use Buildings in Zone CB, C and HR 5.5.X

Extract

We have some concerns over the operation of this provision and its unequitable effect on smaller sites.  Smaller sites have a corresponding smaller boundary in which to comply with these provisions and other regulatory requirements.  As compliance under this provision for those smaller sites are highly unlikely to be possible, this additional regulatory burden basically imposes mandatory seeking of waivers under subclause 2.  We recommend that further consideration be made to address this obvious inequality.

 

Please contact me either by email (rpalmer@propertycouncil.com.au) or on my mobile (0450 428 314) to facility and organise a mutually agreeable meeting time and date.

 

Yours sincerely
Ruth Palmer
NT Executive Director