Discretionary guidelines and prescribed planning rules - it's a discussion we need to have. That's the view I formed after attending the Melbourne Conversations Urban Heritage / New Architect - where to now? event held on Monday night at the Capitol Theatre.
In many more words that what I have used above, an audience member posed that question to the panel toward the end of the 90 minute session. It was prefaced by a discussion on the sheer number of development proposals which were called in for Ministerial approval along with widespread tut-tutting when a graphic produced in Monday's Age was also displayed.
It's fair to say there weren't many Matthew Guy fans in the audience yet conversely I thought it unfair that the audience - judging by the collective groan any time a reference to the current Planning Minister was made - appeared to categorise all development approved by Guy as somewhat sub-standard. Which is quite frankly - to use a fantastic Scottish vulgarity - pish.
In his answer to the discretionary guidelines versus prescribed planning rules question, Rob Moore from the City of Melbourne explained that much like the community, developers want certainty. That certainty wasn't necessarily just planning-related but also financial.
What is the core component a developer requires in order to do what they do? Buyers? Architects? Planning Consultants? Marketers? No, it's land - the acquisition and price of land is key.
Rob Moore told the audience a story of an experience he had in a meeting with a developer where they believed more defined planning controls would have a positive, stabilising impact on land prices and would help cut out wild land speculation which currently occurs.
There were a few awkward moments of disbelief from the audience after that story however as Professor Kate Darian-Smith appealed to the audience shortly thereafter, we should continue this conversation.
If we accept our current planning system won't dramatically change (who wants to go through yet another tear-it-up-and-write-another-strategy process?), how can it change to give both industry and community certainty?
Much criticism was heaped on Plan Melbourne for its lack of any controls to compel the inclusion of affordable housing in new development - is that the only area which needs to have serious debate prior to the first review of Plan Melbourne?
When is the best time to add planning controls so the market players can adjust their business models?
Should we give anti-change organisations like Planning Backlash a voice or treat them like a Sydney radio shock-jock (best ignored)?
Can we have our cake and eat it too?
The floor (and comment thread below) is open.
Lead image credit: Wikipedia.