Alison De Backer
2022 candidate for City of Prospect.
Heritage survey responses.
Do you think that Councils and community members need to have a greater voice in planning and development decisions affecting their local area?
Note the following answers are my own personal views. I declare that I am a current Elected Member for the City of Prospect seeking re-election. I am a former member of the City of Prospect CAP and DAP, an employee and current member of the National Trust of South Australia. I am also a member of the Prospect Local History Group. Written and authorised by Alison De Backer firstname.lastname@example.org. Where references have been made, I have provided a web reference link in the body of the response. Yes, I believe councils and community members need to have a greater voice in planning and development decisions. During my two terms on Council, the representation on the Council Assessment Panel (previously the Development Assessment Panel) has been reduced from three local Elected Members to one. More development assessments are now conducted by private certifiers who are not employed by Councils and make their income from certifying developments for private industry. Non-complying developments often go through the Council Assessment Panel which consists mostly of independent professionals. Other developments are assessed by the State Commission Assessment Panel (SCAP) . These larger developments often have some of the greatest impact on the area. Though Council can sometimes contribute by way of reports or comment they are not the decision maker so the community feels powerless. ( a State Government Body for developments in the inner Metropolitan Area and when exceeding 4 storeys, when the Minister asks the State Planning Commission to act as the relevant authority or for restricted categories of development (e.g. complex, of unusual scale or form) or performance-assessed category and a representor or Council wants to be heard by the SCAP.) https://www.saplanningcommission.sa.gov.au/scap/about_scap The above assessments are often done as desktop assessments with no requirements for the decision makers to go to the site to see the context and potential impact to a local area. At the moment, I believe that the local voice is not fairly represented in the decision making of local developments, though the impacts of poor planning decisions are felt by locals for generations to come.
What role should Councils play in protecting local heritage places from demolition or inappropriate development?
Councils should play a critical role in protecting local heritage places from demolition and inappropriate development, however, the local representation in decision making has been eroded in recent years. Councils were the custodians of their own Development Plans, consulted with their community over many, many years. They commissioned detailed heritage studies identifying built heritage of significance to the community including contributory items– now representative buildings. These items and future identified items should be given demolition protection by Councils for the communities they represent.
How would you seek to improve protections for heritage places in your area?
I would seek to strengthen clauses to protect heritage places from wilful damage and neglect. I would seek to widen demolition protections from just Local and State Heritage items to also include representative buildings to better protect the local character of the area. I would also lobby the State to change the system to increase notifications on any new proposals and any demolitions.
We rarely see new places added to local heritage listings. Why do you think this is?
We rarely see new places added to local heritage listings. Why do you think this is? Unfortunately, the process for a Council to add new items to the Local Heritage list is unnecessarily bureaucratic, frustrating and costly for Councils and ratepayers alike. The process for State Heritage listing is straightforward and nominations can be received by anyone, at any time. Even if Local Heritage items are put forward in consultation with the local community the decision to list still lies, rightly or wrongly, with the Department of Planning and the Minister. In late 2015, the City of Prospect put forward 80 items for Local Heritage listing after reports by recognised heritage professionals and extensive consultation with the community, yet only 24 items were accepted by the Minister at that time. Refer Special Strategic Planning and Development Policies Committee Tuesday 12 January 2016 Item 10.1 https://www.prospect.sa.gov.au/__data/assets/pdf_file/0025/106549/SPDPC-Agenda-12-01-2016.pdf Note Peter Bell’s report in response to the minister Attachment 76, pg 83 “The Minister has removed 56 out of 80 places, or 70% of the places recommended by Council for inclusion in the schedule. Only 13 of the 56 places had come under objection during the public consultation period. To the best of my knowledge, such a drastic rate of intervention is unprecedented in the history of Heritage DPAs in South Australia.” What benefits do you see in adding to local heritage listings? Local heritage listings protect the identity of an area. Often there is a consistency of mass, scale, materiality, and detail of structures built in a certain area. Local Heritage listing identifies the significance and representative buildings. When new development starts to erode this local fabric and identity, areas become visually homogenous with no distinct character from one area to the next. Many places evolved as villages, early housing estates or areas of industry and the local heritage listings should protect this identity. From a sustainability point of view, heritage listing also makes people think about the value of existing fabric and the embodied energy contained in building materials. This thinking should apply to any existing structure not just those heritage listed. Heritage listing and development don’t have to be mutually exclusive.
How has the Planning and Design Code impacted on the heritage, amenity, and environment of your area? What changes would you seek to the Code?
How has the Planning and Design Code impacted on the heritage, amenity, and environment of your area? The elimination of the specific desired character statements from the code has taken the document from an aspirational, best practice approach to a prescriptive, lowest common denominator approach. Though the document now calls itself a Planning and Design Code there is little in the code that has ensured good design outcomes. The desired character statements that once had weight over other less subjective criteria such as set- backs and plot ratios, have been removed for lots of vague, homogenous statements on a list of other prescriptive criteria. The design statements instead of being hyper-local and now disappointingly generic. Infill development in areas such as Broadview, Nailsworth and Prospect – particularly those approved under in Established Neighbourhood Zones- often have no reference to the existing streets creating a disjointed street presence. The currently allowed maximum home to plot ratio reduces the opportunity for growing and/ or preserving large trees in front or rear yards. The previous Development Plans were consulted in detail with communities over many, many years. Their replacement with the current Planning and Design Code in effect homogenises requirements. Homogenous development is often inappropriate development. The new code is not nuanced enough to deliver quality design that reflects existing context. Development and heritage protection don’t have to be mutually exclusive. Informed architects, designers, builders and Councils understand this point. In fact, protecting what is unique for future generations makes economic sense as the tourist dollar rewards areas for protecting their uniqueness. See examples - Leigh Street, Rundle Street, Hahndorf, Angaston. It is possible to improve amenity and retain heritage fabric for the betterment of an area. What changes would you seek to the Code? Reinstate desired character statements. Replace guidelines with mandatory requirements – use the word “must” instead of “should” – for criteria such as quality design, landscaping, materiality, bulk and scale and building height. This is what has been consulted with the community and this is what must be adhered to. New changes to the Planning and Design Code should promote ancillary dwellings and dual occupancy of existing dwellings in favour of knock-em-down two-for-ones. The current paper copy of the code is 4930 pages! Surely it makes sense to return to smaller, locally consulted, locally specific Development Plans.
What are the impacts of infill development in your area? What changes would you seek in the rules around infill development?
Subsequent parking shortfalls by new developments have resulted in on-street parking congestion in affected areas. Infill has also resulted in the reduction of tree canopy cover on private land with the reduction in size of front yards and rear yards. Infill has also increased enrolments and traffic around on local schools with many being schools being at or beyond capacity. What changes would you seek in the rules around infill development? Mandatory off-street carparking based on number of bedrooms and rooms that could be potentially turned into bedrooms. More focus on the “missing middle” accommodation as this has not been adequately delivered under the current code. New changes to the Planning and Design Code should promote ancillary dwellings and dual occupancy of existing dwellings in favour of knock-em-down two-for-ones. Ancillary dwellings and dual occupancy of existing dwellings increase population density whilst preserving our loved character streets, front gardens and mature trees. These modes of accommodation also offer affordable housing options and opportunities for aging in place. There are some great ideas in Damian Madigan’s thesis - Alternative Infill: a design study of housing intensification, adaptation and choice in the established suburbs of Adelaide https://au-east.erc.monash.edu.au/fpfiles/7095788/Madigan20161212thesis.pdf
Construction of new housing typically uses 30% labour and 70% materials. Renovation of existing housing stock typically uses 70% labour and 30% materials. What policy changes would you like to see made to encourage people to renovate, rather than demolish and build anew?
I think that the embodied energy contained in existing materials should be considered in policies to promote reuse rather than destroy existing buildings and the building fabric. Adaptive reuse makes sustainable, financial and ethical sense. The cost of disposal from demolition waste should be reviewed and the rules that currently allow demolition should be modified. Penalties for illegal dumping of building waste should also be increased. Illegal dumping of demolition waste has occurred on a large scale in South Australia as reported by the ABC in November 2019 “EPA finds giant 'disturbing' illegal waste dump in SA's Murraylands region” https://www.abc.net.au/news/2019-11-25/illegal-landfill-found-in-murraylands/11735090 with record fines handed out to the carriers as per the media statement by the EPA in September 2022 https://www.epa.sa.gov.au/files/15378_media_21sep2022.pdf No construction companies who provided the demolition waste have been named or implicated in the illegal dumping.
How should the community be informed and involved in decisions about new developments?
With the demise of many local newspapers, it is difficult to raise awareness of local issues including the loss of local heritage and character. Unfortunately, it is only when demolitions start, and new building commences that the local community is made aware of the true scale of approved development…. and by then it is too late. All demolitions and developments should be searchable online irrespective of whether the development is complying or non-complying. It should be common courtesy for the approving authority to notify the community what is happening in their own neighbourhood. I would also reinstate notifications about currently exempt developments – including unnotified demolitions, sheds, carports and complying boundary wall construction.
Do you think there is adequate tree canopy across your local government area?
No, I don’t think that there is adequate tree canopy, and it will only get worse with the current mode of infill development and climate change. Though my local Council has endeavoured to increase tree planting along roads and in parks, the loss of trees in front and rear gardens on private land has reduced canopy cover and increased hard surfaces and runoff into already overloaded storm-water systems.
How would you like to see significant and regulated trees in your area protected from removal?
Increase lists of significant trees must be captured in the P & D register and the nomination process reviewed. Criteria for listing trees should capture more trees on private land and prevent development encroaching on root zones and catchment areas.
What involvement should Councils have in decisions about protecting or removing significant and regulated trees?
Again, I think that Councils as representatives of their community, should be involved in decisions about tree protections. Unfortunately, the laws from State to State are very inconsistent. A recent publication - Comparison of Australia's Tree Laws - revealed that when compared with other jurisdictions that protect trees on private land, metropolitan Adelaide has the worst tree protections in Australia. Read More here https://www.conservationsa.org.au/report_comparison_of_australia_s_tree_laws_2021 I would advocate for adopting tree protection laws that strengthen protections for trees on private land and review listing criteria to consider the following – a smaller circumference than currently adopted and acknowledge the canopy size and the height of the tree.
What actions would you advocate to slow or mitigate the impacts of climate change in your local government area?
Better storm water management and promote policies that encourage stormwater retention, permeable surfaces and incorporate WSUD landscaping in local streets. Support policies that protect existing canopy cover and increase canopy cover with consideration to changing climatic conditions.
What issues are there with traffic and parking in your area?
Parking shortfalls from recent developments have created congestion in affected areas. Off-street parking ratios should be rules, not guidelines. Safety around schools is also a concern as well as rat-runs through to main roads as density increases.
How could transport options be improved in your area?
Recently upgraded local train stations could improve their safety by increasing lighting and passive surveillance along access paths. Increased bike storage and vehicle parking around these stations would also promote greater uptake of train travel in the area. I would support improvements to existing cycle paths and pedestrian routes and installation bus shelters where there currently are none and upgrade existing bus shelters. I am also interested in car-pooling/sharing options and local, electric feeder busses that support travel along the ring route – not just directly into the CBD I acknowledge that some of these projects would be in partnership with State authorities on State owned infrastructure.
What would your top three priorities be for improving planning policy and outcomes in your local government area?
Increase local representation in decision making
Replace guidelines with rules
Improve the process for local heritage listings and widen demolition protections to protect local character and greater sustainability through adaptive reuse of existing buildings.