Conventional planning practice follows a linear, compartmentalized, step by step approach. A planning scheme is drafted, followed by state interest review, followed by notification, followed by further state interest review, ultimately followed by a decision. Similarly, development assessment, commences with site investigations and due diligence, followed by concept design, application and supporting report preparation, lodgment, assessment, and ultimately decision. Post decision the approval is used to enable the subsequent steps of development through to asset creation.
Over the length of the process from policy creation through to asset management no one entity has ownership of the entirety of the process from end to end. Government has strategic planning areas, that have strategic infrastructure planners, urban designers, town planners, communications and engagement, engineers, environmental, amongst others, all with responsibility for their part of the process. Often all of these technical specialists are not even physically located or operationally grouped in the same team. Accordingly, the private sector that interfaces with government has divided their resources in similar ways, with some consultants responsible for development assessment, others strategic planning, or plan sealing, effectively specializing in the areas of service that interface with government.
Conventional practice has regularized The Business of Planning to this ‘checklist’ approach, because it manages risk, it is simpler to deploy across large organizations, it is proven in terms of outcome, and importantly people have been able to monetize it. It is simply the way we have always done it, and that is safe.
Yet our communities continue to demand more from The Business of Planning. They demand better built form outcomes, better service delivery, better standards of living and wellbeing, and downward pressure on cost of living. Expectations of value have increased, and in doing so under performance more strikingly highlighted. Yet we continue to engage, organise, structure and deliver services and projects in the same way we always have hoping for different outcomes.
Change however is never simple, particularly when it comes to complex systems like planning, development, and asset management. Many and varied inputs and interests, motivating a multiplicity of stakeholders in often conflicting ways, navigate an imperfect system burdened by complexity, risk management, and time.
In Development Assessment this disconnect structurally, organizationally and procedurally manifests itself many different ways creating challenges for both regulator and applicant alike. Inconsistent advice that conflicts with policy or between practitioners, lack of certainty, unnecessarily expensive, adversarial, poorly constructed contributed assets, upward pressure on rates and or upward pressure on property prices.
In Strategic Planning, a lack of alignment or calibration of policy, unnecessary complexity, lack of readily available evidence-based data, and compromised accessibility and transparency of policy intent ultimately creates uncertainty for investment. Uncertainty for investment motivates the movement of capital from one location to another in favour of more certain locations for investment.
In Place Making, siloed organizational structures, with competing budgetary priorities, that lack an evidenced based and integrated project planning process with community at its centre, ultimately deliver compromised places with shortened useful asset lives, that put upward pressure on operating expense, whilst functionally failing the communities that ultimately have paid for them.
At Infinitum Partners our experience is that the Business of Planning is not linear, rather the Business of Planning is iterative or circular (The Business of Planning +). The solutions we have deployed across decades of public and private practice critically analyse the root cause of operational challenges through multiple lenses and at multiple levels contemporaneously, enabling us to develop in partnership with our clients’ innovative solutions that better respond to community expectation.
In Development Assessment these solutions include digital strategies that makes planning content more accessible, transparent, and efficient to use. At no point in history has ensuring the Business of Planning continues to operate in a contactless, seamless, 24 hour a day 7 day a week online model been more crucial than now. This has supported the ongoing development of communities, supporting the building and construction sector, creating jobs, tax revenue, and economic development and prosperity when the economy needed it most.
Similarly, better understanding the customer, employee sentiment, process and system efficiencies can substantially improve the certainty and timeliness of the development assessment process, bringing forward development and placemaking outcomes much sooner for the communities that aspire to live, work and recreate within them.
Understanding perspective assists all of the stakeholders engaged in the development assessment process. Not considering the complexities and influence of asset management, capital works budgeting and its interface with a Planning Scheme and Local Government Infrastructure Plans on the development assessment process, or just the operational nuances of delegated authorities within government can also create significant impediments to practitioners securing the approvals their clients require.
Correspondingly, not appreciating that a town plan is essentially an economic development tool guiding private sector development within a region, making each applicant a customer, and each project an opportunity to bring forward community creation, creates impediments to economic development and prosperity.
Place Creation is also too often compromised when the operational drivers of an underfunded asset management plan, or ill-conceived asset becoming the driving focus for a project. Consequently, there is an ongoing tension internally within government and with applicants when there is a lack of appreciation of the complexity of the root cause, and how to remedy it before its too late and the project is already delivered, underutilized, and a burden on a balance sheet.
At Infinitum Partners we never stop engaging, interpreting, translating, and delivering. We look at your project through a vastly different set of criteria or lenses than our competitors, because we have had to over decades of experience. Our diversity of experience across years of successful practice in both public and private sector entities enables Infinitum Partners to deliver across every aspect of the Business of Planning in unique and highly successful ways, that’s because we deliver the Business of Planning +. Our commitment to our clients public and private is that we will partner with you, your customers, and the community, to create highly valued outcomes that conventional practice can only aspire to.