WA Draft Apartment Guidelines

Since the 2013 inception of the 202020 Vision, we’ve worked with councils, state government departments, community groups, Landscape Architects and industry in Western Australia to increase and improve urban green space. Over this time we’ve become keenly aware of the unique barriers facing the maintenance of mature street trees, green spaces and green corridors not only in urban areas, but also across the broader metropolitan parts of Perth. 


While the contentious Roe 8 Transport Project looms large in the media and among conservation groups, we are continually inspired and impressed by the unrelenting work being done at a local government level, especially under the leadership of Fremantle City Council, the City of Vincent, the City of Bayswater, City of Stirling and the City of Belmont (apologies if we’ve left you out, tell us what you’re up to!) to protect and increase urban tree canopy and green space. 


This week we’re talking to Damien Pericles, Founding Director of REALMstudios to gain his perspective on the recently released draft Apartment Design Policy, which - if all goes according to plan - will do more to protect and increase canopy on private land, undergoing densification. 


20V: So some great things are happening to protect canopy and green spaces on public land, how does the change from existing R-Codes into the new Draft Apartment Design Policy help contribute to more green space?

DP: Tree canopies on private developments are most at risk of being cut down through the process of site development. While local government have powers to protect trees on public land, doing the same thing on private land developments can often become too onerous for developers as well as expensive. 

So I see the change in the R-Codes into a more performance based approach (the Draft Apartment Design Policy) as an opportunity to focus on tree retention as a critical early site planning consideration. In part, the policy seeks to address a broader need to raise awareness of the value of trees and through policy as well as influence better analysis, planning, due diligence and technical solutions to enable this. 


20V: So in a practical sense, how does the document help protect trees on development sites?

DP: One example in the Draft Policy includes a ‘Five Year Rule’, that addresses owners/developers clearing trees prior to lodging a development application and avoiding tree replacement. The rule means that site vegetation is considered to be that which has existed and can be identified in an aerial photograph within five years prior to lodgment of the development application. 


20V: does that mean, that much of the mapping undertaken recently is likely to come in handy? Where might people access these maps? 

DP: Yes – in some areas mapping will greatly assist this – where mapping is not available then there are a number of accurate sources to obtain aerial imagery.


20V: What are the ways in which retaining existing trees is incentivised? 


DP: We know that to support expansive canopy, trees require deep soil. There is a new design criteria that states a minimum requirement for deep soil area. This is typically 12% of the lot area or 8% if existing trees are retained. Where sites are in high density locations (such as the CBD, or activity centres) then 25% of the site is to be provided as soft landscaping (on structure).


Where trees cannot be retained, developers are to compensate via payment to the local authority the costs associated with supply, installation, irrigation and two-year maintenance of four 100Lt trees per tree not retained. Trees are to be planted within the immediate project vicinity and to agreement with the local authority. 


20V: So assuming the Draft Policy is adopted by the State Government, and assuming that developers are encouraged to embrace more design-centred thinking, what kinds of new apartments and high density developments do you think we can expect to see in WA?  

My hope is that what has already been outlined in the draft Apartment Design Policy will set new standards of practice and improve the amenity and liveability for residents, especially those living in apartments. 


Further information of the full draft suite of documents can be found at Design WA.

 Tell us what you think about the new Draft Apartment Design Policy via our LinkedIn page.



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