Younghusband Woolstore Community Engagement

The Young Husband woolstore is a cherished heritage building located in Kensington in Melbourne's inner-north. It accommodates a wide range of creative businesses including photographers, dance studios, artists studios, web designers, recording studios and furniture manufacturers.

Community members during a tour of the Younghusband Woolstore.

In 2011, the previous owners proposed to demolish much of the building and construct residential towers. This was met with outrage from the community and almost 400 objections to the plans. The development proposal was subsequently rejected based on the need to protect neighbouring industrial business rather than community concern.

In 2016, the Impact Investment Group (IIG) purchased the site and commenced a master plan and planning permit for Stage 1 of the rejuvenation of the woolstore. Their proposal included retention and upgrades of the heritage buildings and adaptive re-use of the interior spaces for an expanded mix of creative industries and other commercial tenants. IIG are focused on delivering positive social impact and prioritised community consolation in their planning processes.

View of the Younghusband Woolstore with the local community garden in the foreground.

Hodyl & Co became involved in the Younghusband development at a point where community confidence had been undermined by the traditional planning process which only required developers to engage with the community at the time of lodging a planning permit. This project presented an opportunity to re-assert the community into the beginning of the planning process which ultimately assisted IIG to deliver their vision for the regeneration of the site.

Hodyl & Co, collaborating with Renton & Co, established a ‘fit for purpose’ community engagement plan, aimed at regaining trust and establishing long-term relationships with local affected residents, businesses and tenants. The community were invited to guided walking tours, listening sessions and design workshops all focused on sharing the community's stories of the 100 year old woolstore and their aspirations for the community. This informed the master plan for the site.

This approach resulted in community proposals that were incorporated into the master plan, including community gardens, potential road closures and an emphasis on local businesses procurement. In broader terms, the process led to increased community trust in planning processes and a more connected community.

Community members during a tour of the Younghusband Woolstore.

It is unusual for all parties (developer, community and Council) to be unanimous and satisfied with the outcome of a planning permit process. The community overwhelmingly endorsed the new approach with no objections lodged to the planning permit. The success of the public engagement process was recognised by Councillors considering the planning permit for Stage 1 of the master plan. The engagement process also significantly reduced planning costs for our client and ensured the planning permit was secured in a timely way.

‘This is one of, if not, the finest planning applications I have had to consider since I was elected…the consultation on all of those stages was remarkable but the way that conversations were held with all stakeholders, not just residents, is truly wonderful to see. I certainly hope we see a lot more of it in other areas in the the future.’

—Rohan Leppert, City of Melbourne Councillor

The Younghusband Public Engagement and Community Planning process transformed community outrage into support, through a best-practice consultative model than can be adapted and replicated in other development contexts.

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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.