August 20, 2012

BCC Planning is currently reviewing their LMR (Low–Medium Residential) Guidelines.

Most in the development industry will be familiar with the SEQ Regional Plan, calling for 150,000+ new dwellings for Brisbane in the next 20 years, the majority of these identified as infill development. If this was delivered as apartments, this would represent around 3,000 x 8 storey buildings, constructed at a rate of 3 buildings per week.

Clearly this is not happening, and alternative development approaches are needed to satisfy demand for quality residential living.

Currently there are in excess of 50,000 lots zoned LMR in Brisbane, and over the last 40 years only 30% of these have been developed into multi-res lots.

Obviously something is not working here.

Anyone who has attempted to develop an LMR site will understand why 70% are still house lots. Current Planning guidelines severely limit development potential, and it is rare for the numbers to stack given the land values.

However, this may all change with the implementation of Brisbane’s new Town Plan which is currently being drafted.

Following investigative work undertaken on the Yeerongpilly TOD site for Growth Management Queensland, Ellivo Architects, Wolter Consulting and DMA Partners recently undertook a joint presentation to BCC planners, suggesting an alternative ‘Low Rise Apartment Code’, proposing how densities could be increased while maintaining appropriate planning outcomes in terms of amenity and streetscape.

The team offered town planning, commercial advisory and design services that tested ways of increasing density while retaining amenity on 800sqm, 600sqm and 400sqm lots.

“It was exciting to see just how much we can fit onto these sites when we challenge current planning requirements and then tested the designs on a range of site sizes.” said Scott Whiteoak, Director Ellivo Architects.

Suggested site densities indicated yields of 10 apartments for an 800 sqm lot, and 6 apartments for a 600 sqm site, with appropriate carparking provisions.

“Even sites as small as 400sqm (10m wide x 40m deep) could yield a duplex with on-site parking for 6 vehicles, within an envelope smaller than many Res A dwellings currently occupy.”

This scale of development would be entirely appropriate for current land owners looking to redevelop their family home, enabling them to generate an income while remaining within the community they love.

At this time, no residential development has taken place within the Yeerongpilly TOD, however appropriate sites have now been created in Ortive Street, ready for exemplar development of the 800, 600, and 400 sqm sites.

It will be interesting to see what the new State Government and Brisbane City Council’s approach will be to this opportunity.

As Scott Whiteoak summarised, “Many are looking for a residential-led recovery from the current economic slowdown, and we want developers to be able to pursue low density development as a viable option, unlocking our city’s infill sites that are currently uneconomical, and removing or reducing planning and commercial risk”.

We all look with interest to the new Brisbane Town Plan to see how well council can balance the conflicting pressures of increasing density in LMR zones while maintaining residential amenity.

Article Written by Scott Whiteoak, Director at Ellivo Architects.