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Media | Call for property industry change


Rothelowman’s Managing Principal Nigel Hobart says the property industry needs to innovate and at times seek solutions outside local planning regulations.

This article was originally published in Business News by Claire Tyrrell. 

Rothelowman boss Nigel Hobart says the property industry should be seeking ways to defy convention to bring on supply in the current constrained environment.

The national architecture practice’s managing principal, Mr Hobart said now was a more important time than ever for industry to look at doing things differently.

Speaking at today’s Property Council of Australia WA Division residential conference, he said it was crucial time for developers to look beyond local planning schemes to achieve better outcomes.

“Rules really should be guidelines, because hard set rules are really only established as scars on previous bad decisions, they’re not really helpful to take things forward,” he said.

He said instead of interpreting regulations around property development literally, the private sector should work with decision makers to achieve the best outcomes for residential development.

“To make better cities, you can’t rely on planning schemes word for word; you can’t put better cities into words and numbers, that just doesn’t work,” he said.

Mr Hobart said the coexistence of strong economic headwinds impacting the sector’s ability to deliver housing and the significant need for this product made it all the more important to act.

“We have got pressures on supply and on demand that are exacerbating the inertia we are seeing in the industry,” Mr Hobart told Business News.

“Demand is going up and supply is going down, often you have one or the other, not both at the same time. When was the last time you had a near recession and property prices were going up? It hasn’t happened for generations.

“That is a clear indicator that it is a unique time [and] when there are difficult or unique times, you have to innovate actively, you can’t just be a bit progressive and a bit patient.”

Mr Hobart said there needed to be a push for collaboration between authorities, contractors and developers.

“The whole industry needs to evolve,” he said.

Mr Hobart said proponents of a project should convince local authorities that going outside the local planning regulations could in many cases lead to better outcomes.

Building orientation, build and scale, passive heating, thermal and acoustic performance were often areas that could go outside of established conventions, he said.

“You’ve got to break the planning rules sometimes to make projects viable,” he said.

Rothelowman, formerly known as Fratelle in WA before the firms merged, is working on several multi-million-dollar projects around the country.

Mr Hobart said his firm’s work on a twin tower residential and commercial development in Brisbane, referred to as Coronation Drive, was an example of where bending the rules yielded better results.

The project, which is yet to be constructed, was designed with the buildings raised above ground level to protect the heritage component.

“It was a pretty simple strategy, but politically sensitive and difficult to get through,” he said.

Mr Hobart said in this instance, the authorities understood the authenticity of what the development was trying to achieve.

Coronation Drive

Mr Hobart added that Brisbane City Council, which was one large local authority rather than multiple smaller ones as was the case in WA and other states, was the most efficient planning system in the country.

He said mutual benefits for developers and authorities could be realised through mechanisms such as developer incentives, which could often be controversial.

“The incentives need to be clear and to be targeted and meaningful,” Mr Hobart said.

“They can’t be token gestures, and they also need to be time bound otherwise they put pressure on the public purse, which is not sustainable.”

Rothelowman’s most recent WA project was the rejuvination of Claremont Hotel, with the practice delivering the interior architecture component.

This article was originally published in Business News by Claire Tyrrell.