Community co-design of low carbon precincts for urban regeneration in established suburbs

Urban planning Low carbon precinct Community participation Greyfields Public sector Co-design Australia

The intensification of development that is required in established and occupied inner and middle suburban greyfield areas (retrofit) is the great challenge for our fast-growing Australian cities. The scale of urban regeneration required over the next 30 years has the potential to reduce carbon emissions, improve housing affordability and reduce urban sprawl. It is also financially attractive because it utilizes existing infrastructure and unlocks underutilized land value.

This project aimed to deliver new workable processes, standards and certification procedures, drawing on state-of-the-art design and assessment tools, which enable community groups to work with local governments, state agencies and property developers, to co-design more sustainable, medium density, low carbon housing precincts. These procedures/protocols were designed to enable the type and rate of urban regeneration envisaged in all of the metropolitan strategic plans for Australia’s capital cities (70% infill targets for Sydney and Melbourne) by building trust, reducing conflict and increasing incentives, leading to reduced development costs and more sustainable neighbourhoods.

The project initially aimed to work with industry partners, to develop a detailed business model for low carbon neighbourhood regeneration, researchers and existing tool providers, to develop the certification product, a leading practitioner in precinct regeneration and neighbourhood engagement, to assure compliance with engagement protocols and three communities and their local governments to trial and validate the proposed processes, standards and activation utilisation procedures. However, due to the significant timelines to de-risk the project for the municipalities implementing the process, the project required significant Whole of Government workshops in three municipalities, workshops with state government on the practicalities of statutory change, community engagement in only one municipality (due to the legislative requirements of formal engagement), engagement with industry partners and community engagement experts.

The most significant outcome from the project is a submission for land use change to the Victorian Department of Environment, Land, water and Planning in two pilot areas in the City Maroondah. A new land-use control was identified as a critical component that would allow community engagement to have affect. A key learning of the project has been the timelines, set of skills and legislative processes required to allow this to move forward. Additional outcomes were methodologies for whole of government workshops, community co-design events, community engagement events, precinct design and developer approved financial feasibility modules. Additional outcomes include initial designs and whole of government agreement on precinct scale additionality in the City of Blacktown, and the project spreading to the Victorian City of Knox, where it will be utilised to implement affordable housing. This is the only project at funded by the CRC which has not only tested its methodologies at the state and local government level, but which has also moved towards statutory change that will ultimately affect urban sustainability in Australia. Due to the level of abstraction within the methodologies and the project working across two state boundaries and three municipal boundaries, the project ends with it poised to become the pilot for precinct scale regeneration across Australia.

The methodologies for implementing the statutory reform, and all other aspects of the project, are included in the set of Playbooks (for municipalities, landowners and developers). These playbooks illustrate all of the processes for implementing greyfield precincts in a municipality, the range of legal and financial options available to landowners and the options available to developers. The playbooks are the second major outcome of the project and will be used as an evolving methodology to implement the scheme in new municipalities and states. Accompanying these playbooks is a design guide for residential infill and precinct scale development, including massing guidelines, incorporating precinct scale additionality and community net benefit from infill precincts, and the financial feasibilities associated with the housing typologies therein.

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