Some subdivisions don’t add up

Sometimes It all goes wrong with the sub-division; decisions made at a very early development stage that sentence occupants to a lifetime of living in a dark and cold house or expensive energy bills trying to mitigate the environmental misery.

In one northern Perth suburb, two sites have been cleared. On *Smith Street, two houses have been demolished and the land sub-divided into three narrow 12m. wide lots.

The other site on *Brown Street was once a kindergarten, which is now demolished except for the parking  bays, and the land has been subdivided and offered for sale as five narrow lots, also 12m. wide.

This is praiseworthy in respect of upping residential density to meet State Planning recommendations but blameworthy as both street frontages face north, and it is all but impossible to plan an energy efficient house on any of the eight lots. It is no surprise all the lots have remained on the market for over a year, and present to the streets as weed infested, debris dumping grounds.  Recent changes to the Building Act energy requirements will have made the required energy star rating even harder to achieve.

If the narrow sides of the lots faced east and west, there would be no problem but if the ideal orientation cannot be achieved, residential planning codes should be relaxed to enable a sub-division to meet energy efficiency requirements.

The rear boundaries of all eight narrow lots front laneways, two of the old ‘night soil’ lanes so useful in our older suburbs these days as the location for garages and workshops, leaving the streetscape better scaled and free of dominating elements, like double garage doors. Residential planning and dual density draft codes both call for better social engagement between the house and street, more window-to-street surveillance and improved street activation.

One means of achieving better orientation is to ‘square up’ the blocks and front one or two to the laneway. But local authorities in Metropolitan Perth, unlike their Melbourne and Sydney counterparts, seem reluctant to lobby State Planning to allow laneways to be the sole frontage for separate dwellings, or even to start a process of recognising the worth of laneways by naming them.  While Councils across Perth are recognising localities with laneways as suitable for dual density/urban infill development and intend to seek re-zoning to higher densities in the next Town Planning Scheme amendment, this is as far as it goes.

Because of its proximity to Jones Street, the Smith Street rear block (Lot 3) could avoid any changes to lane status or naming problems by taking a Jones Street number (12A or whatever). One Council objection to using laneways is access and insurance problems for wide body refuse/recycling trucks and other service vehicles using non-gazetted roads. In this instance the Lot 3 householders can easily place their bins on Jones Street.

This is not achievable with the Brown Street site, where there is no convenient nearby laneway/street junction. One solution for Brown Street is to site Lots 4 and 5, and their garages, fronting the rear laneway, while allocating Brown Street street numbers to both these rear blocks.  Pedestrian access on the boundaries of Lots1/2 and Lots 2/3 gives Lots 4 and 5 equal Brown Street status.

Some of these solutions are possible under existing codes, with a degree of Council co-operation, and, hopefully, the Council in question is advising these two developers of their planning options.

* The names of streets have been changed .

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One Comment

  1. Freddo
    Posted May 18, 2012 at 6:27 pm | Permalink

    If you look at many new subdivisions, whole estates even, you see very few lots designed for correct orientation.

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