ACT Planning System Review

Hodyl & Co, in collaboration with Andy Fergus, Adams Urban, OCULUS and Creative Environment Enterprise, have delivered a research report that brings global best practice urban design to the ACT and recommends an effective design governance framework that will raise the quality of all future development and public realm investment.

The Territory commissioned this research into how other national and international planning systems achieve high-quality, contemporary built form, place design and public realm outcomes, and to provide a framework, measures, and mechanisms for delivering design excellence in the ACT. The research will drive reform of government planning policy.

The report investigates and untangles the many convoluted, layered, and variable design regulations that exist within the ACT system and recommends a simple and robust design governance framework that is tailored to the ACT context, and which will support good design outcomes.

Hodyl & Co utilised a mixed methods approach that included historical analysis, literature and policy review, case-studies, benchmarking and industry consultation. Together these methods enabled a clear understanding of local design challenges, the identification of key features of exemplary design outcomes and the necessary conditions for achieving these outcomes.

Positining Design Governance as essential to the delivery of positive urban design outcomes

Research insights were synthesised into seven key recommendations for the ACT to improve design outcomes through planning and to develop a progressive and effective planning framework tailored to the ACT context.

The recommendations and the proposed structure of design governance.

More specifically, the proposed framework demonstrates excellence in the following areas:

Designing for Country
Canberra has a strong connection with and respect for the Burley Griffin plan. Unfortunately, this plan tends to disregard the First Nations peoples of the ACT. The recommendations propose a better balance between First Nations peoples and culture and Burley Griffin’s planning ambitions.

Positioning urban design as central to delivering multiple public benefits
This project positions urban design as essential to delivering social, cultural, economic, and environmental benefits. It provides extensive evidence and justification of the benefits of good design which are diverse and wide-ranging, from increased feelings of belonging, to reduced carbon emissions, to improved health and wellbeing, community pride and sense of belonging.

Elevating the importance of design governance
Good design is focused on process more than product, involving the coordination, implementation, and administration of a suite of initiatives that seek to elevate the quality of design across the development of both the public and private realm. Best practice governance aspires to the alignment of individual initiatives to improve design quality under three spheres of regulating, advocacy, and investment. The Framework provides the gravitas to support good design through these three spheres.

Requiring excellence in building quality in the ACT
This research identified that ACT has the lowest levels of design guidance when compared to other states and territories in Australia. This is impacting the quality of developments that are being built. The new framework will transform the way design is managed and delivered, positioning the ACT as a leader in best practice design approaches.

Creating a consistent public realm quality and character
There is currently insufficient guidance on the preferred public realm design in the ACT. Establishing clear public realm guidance will ensure a more consistent, high-quality outcome whether it is being delivered by the private or public sector.

Reframing how we measure good design
It is critical that any design assessment measures are directly connected to the design outcomes being sought. Too often consistency of design outcomes is more highly regarded than good design.

Brunswick Market

In 2020 Hodyl & Co worked with Nine Buildings on the redevelopment of Brunswick Market - a 3060 sqm site on Sydney Road, Brunswick. The aim of the residential and commercial project was to provide housing types that appeal to a diverse mix of residents and accommodate alternate living arrangements, with commercial offerings shaped to respond to resident need.

Hodyl & Co coordinated a community engagement program designed to capture the Brunswick community's insights to inform the housing types and commercial offering at Brunswick Market. We worked to understand the needs and wants of the local Brunswick community and connect with people of diverse backgrounds to understand perspectives outside of the mainstream. The approach included demographic and spatial analysis of the local area & local populations, design of interactive online surveys, and online and in-person workshops. You can view the Community Engagement Report here.

The findings of Hodyl & Co's spatial and community research were used by Nine Buildings to inform the design of housing typologies and selection of commercial offerings for the Brunswick Market redevelopment which will be released to the public in 2021.

Cultural diversity of commercial spaces around Brunswick Market