What does it mean to be a good planner?
I still struggle to explain to people what a planner does. Until my friends started buying and renovating their own houses, I’m sure none of them had any idea what I do for a living!
At its simplest, being a good planner is about creating positive outcomes in terms of built form and uses for places that people want to be. There’s no doubt that planning is getting more complex and sophisticated in terms of inputs and considerations so it’s being able to distil what the key issue or consideration is and ensure this is the focus for any application.
Communication with the project team, stakeholders, decision makers and the community is also key to getting support for any application.
What are your areas of speciality and interest?
Being a consultant has exposed me to range of weird and wonderful applications. I always enjoy that old VCAT decision that talks about planners knowing a little about a lot!
My project work tends to revolve around residential and mixed-use developments, educational facilities, major promotional signage and liquor licencing.
Can you tell us a little bit about some of your favourite projects?
Any permit issued is a reason for celebration! Some projects are really involved and require so much work that it’s a massive reward (and sometimes relief) when it all comes off. Sometimes there have been setbacks such as community opposition, VCAT refusals or changes in planning controls so it’s a great result to see a permit come through when you know how much the client has at stake.
Even better than that is seeing the end project, like Capitol Grand, South Yarra, or sampling the goods in a wine bar, like the former South Press on Toorak Road. It’s nice knowing that we’ve played a part in a development being built or a business operating.
Tell us a little bit about your work on the Capitol Grand which has just been shortlisted in the Consultants’ Excellence category of the UDIA awards.
We were first approached to provide due diligence advice on the Toorak Road/Chapel Street location back in 2014. The site already had a lengthy VCAT history and an existing permit, but Larry Kestelman from LK Property Group wanted to create a landmark luxury development.
Council was equally on board with Larry’s vision and challenged us to completely redesign the development to ensure architectural excellence. Architects Bates Smart duly delivered and then, without over-simplifying the issue, the main focus became the building’s height.
Getting the permit through VCAT was the first step and then we focussed on facilitating endorsement of plans, including significant public realm improvements which required negotiations with Council. During construction, we passed amendments through Council, addressing various purchaser variations and detailed design changes from Multiplex.
Towards the end of construction, we started applying for permits for various tenants, including hospitality and a gym. LK Hospitality are running several restaurants, including Omnia and Yugen.
COVID-19 is obviously a challenging time to launch hospitality uses so we’re looking forward to seeing all the uses in full flight once lockdown is over.
What are the biggest challenges facing your industry and role as a planner?
Responding to COVID-19 and its impact on cities, immigration and managing regional growth will continue to be a focus for the industry. Time spent in lockdown (so much time!) has really turned the spotlight on 20-minute neighbourhoods which is great. We should capitalise on this and enhance those areas where the 5km radius may have been a little underwhelming for some residents!
How do you see your career progressing over the next five years?
I’ll be happy continuing to work on great projects that help shape Melbourne. Hopefully an end to lockdown means everyone is keen to hit the town so there might be increase in liquor licencing applications – people gotta drink!
Tell us a fun fact about yourself that your colleagues don’t know?
I have my A.Mus.A. in flute. Oh hang on, that was Simon Martin – Ratio’s own Pied Piper.
I’m always partial to a fun fact but feel like I’m an over sharer and people will already know a bit about me. Here’s three fun facts to go on with:
- I’m a horse racing tragic and currently have shares in three horses, two who are yet to race and one who won a race back in June. Seven’s Horse Racing coverage and Sportsbet have been a big part of lockdown for me (along with Will Bromhead’s weekly tips) and I’m looking forward (hopefully) to getting to Flemington this Cup Carnival.
- The third quarter of this year’s AFL Grand Final was my favourite quarter of football. Apologies to clients who MAYBE didn’t have my undivided attention the week after when I tried to multi-task planning towns while watching replays. Go Dees!
- I grew up on a farm and used to get roped in to rouseabouting in the shearing shed. Being able to throw a fleece on the classing table was a real skill and has prepared me for other important life skills such as throwing a doona on a bed or throwing a tablecloth.