Growth Management Queensland and Council of Mayors (SEQ) have developed new guidelines for neighbourhood, street and housing design in South East Queensland. The Next Generation Planning handbook is intended to help councils plan for future growth, ‘making places great for people, and ensuring they can afford to live there’. The handbook is supported by a short online video to raise awareness about housing choice, good planning and affordable living.
The Next Generation Planning handbook is of special interest to SEQ planners because it uses empirical evidence to inform regionally relevant guidance. As the introduction of the handbook explains, ‘The inspiration for this handbook came from the great places of SEQ, studied in detail in its preparation’. A total of 59 locations in Sunshine Coast, Ipswich, Toowoomba, Gold Coast and Brisbane were studied. Each location was nominated by council planners, as representative of the ‘best of the best’ on their patch.
Affordable living is a term that infers a broader definition of housing affordability than is found in some debates on the issue. The handbook advocates a wide range of housing options for SEQ neighbourhoods and centres, including large and small detached houses, terrace houses, the ‘plexes’ (duplex/triplex/ quadlex/quinplex), as well as ‘fonzie flats’ and apartments. The handbook provides guidance on each housing type, and model provisions suitable for use in planning schemes, to promote and regulate these housing options.
SEQ Place Model
The research underpinning this handbook suggests that settlements in SEQ can be understood as a series of place types, each with common characteristics, similar land use mixes and intensities of development.
The SEQ Place Model identifies eight place types in SEQ from the study of well known locations around the region. Each place type is recognisable by its function, special qualities, intensity, character and housing forms. These include natural areas, rural areas, rural towns, next generation suburban and urban neighbourhoods, mixed use activity centres and CBDs. (Next Generation Planning handbook, p4)
The SEQ Place Model is an adaptation and evolution of the well known transect planning technique, pioneered by North American new urbanists but also used in some Australian developments. What is of note here is the application of the transect to a specific Australian region. This has resulted in some variations from the ‘new urbanist transect’. A rural township place type (a common and meaningful typology in SEQ) has been added. Suburban and urban neighbourhood definitions are also aligned with SEQ Regional Plan policies concerning residential density (suburban neighbourhoods being 15-30 dwellings per hectare, and urban neighbourhoods 30+).
Development of the SEQ Place Model has not been an academic exercise. It is a tool for broad-scale strategic planning across a local government area, a town or a suburb.
The handbook advocates the use of form- based codes in SEQ planning. Form-based codes use graphics as well as words to articulate planning requirements and promote more predictable building designs. Prescriptive, predictable codes might be said to be contrary to performance-based planning, but there is plenty of space for bespoke designs as well as well-considered standard options.
This project was a rare opportunity to undertake research and development on planning and urban design for (predominantly) residential development. It is timely that the handbook has been prepared when new planning schemes are being written or contemplated by many SEQ councils. It is anticipated that the guidance in Next Generation Planning will inform, be adapted and be used in these new planning schemes.