Pushing ahead with critical planning reform to unlock Perth’s true potential was the key message at the WA Property Council’s Commercial Conference last week.

Guest speaker John Carey MLA explosively opened the conference, declaring that well designed density is crucial in Perth’s quest to reach its full potential and become and an attractive place for people to visit, work and live.

“Density.. is what our city is lacking,” Mr Carey said. “Density generates vibrancy. People spilling out onto the streets brings them alive, creates foot traffic day and night and provides patronage and support for our commercial precincts.”

“We don’t recognise the clear benefits of density. People visit overseas, love the big cities - New York, London, San Francisco - but they don’t make the connection that the streets where they wander, filled with people, where they take their Instagram shots, are actually the result of high density.

“We need to champion and drive more quality density in the city.

“We want a system that provides density, for a compact, connected, liveable city with greater diversity of housing choice, close to public transport,” he said. “We want a smart, efficient, forward-looking planning system – it’s a big vision.

“If we want our streets and cities to be active, then we need to allow property owners and small business to change swiftly and adapt to changing customer demands and trends.

“I want to champion this change – that we scrap planning approval for a number of uses. This would cut a significant burden on small businesses,” Mr Carey said.

Evan Hall, CEO of Tourism Council of WA had a similar message, explaining that we need to reduce planning restrictions to allow exciting developments that would attract visitors to Perth.

“We have to reactivate our traffic trade markets and we have to work hard using events and branding and marketing to fill the space, to fill Yagan Square, to fill the hotels and to fill the arenas.

“All the capacity is there, prices are good and the value is now extraordinary high. We have the infrastructure to accommodate a significant amount of visitor growth.

“What we need is strong marketing, branding and events and one crucial area that we’ve missed out on and that’s what we call attractions or experiences.

“We have this significant problem, anything unusual…wave parks, ziplines, floating [barges], infinity pools in the Swan River, lots of innovative proposals that (we can’t get planning approval for) but bridge climbs drive people to Sydney and MONA (the Museum of Old and New Art) drives people to Tasmania.

“But we cannot get these things through the approvals process.”

Guest speakers included:  Karen Wright and David Cresp, Directors at Urbis, Phil Rasso, WA CitySwitch Program Manager – Sustainability Unit, City of Perth, Jamie Vine – Liberator/CEO, Liberty Flexible Workspace, Angella Chick – Executive Manager – Practitioner Services WA, PEXA, Darrell Williams – Director, Norman Disney and Young, Beth Morris – Engineering Consultant, HFM Asset Management and Shelley Ritter – Director, Savills.

The WA Property Council Commercial Conference was generously supported by Lavan and HFM.