In Western Australia what activities you can and can’t locate on any particular piece of land is governed by zones and land uses within a local planning scheme, each scheme unique to each local government area. Zones dictate the permissibility of different land uses in the area designated. Land uses describe a particular type of activity, such as a warehouse or a shop. Not only are zones and land uses unique to each local government, potentially creating a lot of confusion for someone trying to decide where best to locate a new business, but these traditional development controls may not easily accommodate changing business models for the production and distribution of goods and services.
Take the following examples into consideration:
- The increasing popularity of community-driven farmers and hawkers markets as temporary land uses on school sites and recreation centres.
- The development of hybrid online-physical retail businesses where a customer goes to view or try on products in a shop, then orders them online and has them delivered to their home.
- A combined manufacturing/sales operation in an industrial area, where offices at the front carry out sales, customer liaison and administration, and goods are manufactured in a warehouse out the back.
Zones and land uses are difficult to apply to these, and similar, emerging business models. How is an application for a combined warehouse/office assessed, and the appropriateness of the activity in a particular location understood? Are the uses assessed separately or together? Does a hybrid retail business have the same requirement for car parking as a traditional retail store? Are the negative externalities that arise from new business models the same, or is applying land use definitions developed decades ago impeding innovation, economic growth and economic development in our activity centres?
The 2010 State Planning Policy 4.2: Activity Centres for Perth and Peel attempted to recognise a more holistic definition of activity in order to improve the relationship between where people live and work, rather than just control the amount of retail floorspace allowed in a given location. While this is a step in the right direction to unlock the competitive potential of our activity centres, understanding emerging ways in which enterprises want to provide activity, and customers want to experience it, is critical for the policy to ultimately succeed. Planning controls need to better cater for the needs of our future consumers and encourage enterprises to be competitive in a market becoming more defined by a ‘place experience’ and a need to be competitive on a global scale, rather than consider activity centres simply a location to access goods and services. Alternatives to traditional land use definitions are needed that consider the business model, and associated positive and negative externalities.