Should developers seek to be better citizens?

The changing face of Epping Town Centre
The changing face of Epping Town Centre
Damien Tudehope, MP for Epping

Recently I have been attending various planning panels to speak against high-rise developments in Epping town centre, where I joined concerned residents in opposing inappropriate development. I am encouraged by the fact that we have been having some success, and two of these developments have been deferred.

Planning panels have not been approving these developments because of traffic and infrastructure concerns, overshadowing, and the need to wait for the findings of the Epping Planning Review to be made available by the City of Parramatta. However, I can’t help but think that a failure to meet the expectations of the community on the part of landowners has also played a role in this.

Rightly or wrongly, developers have a reputation for being greedy and looking to “make a quick buck”. It is little wonder why developers are often met with anger and opposition from local communities.

You will often hear that a development is “compliant” or “meets the required standards”, but these are only minimum standards and the community expects them to do a lot more.

Interestingly there is a not for profit organisation called the Considerate Constructors Scheme operating in the UK. It is a voluntary register where developers agree to abide by a code of considerate practice.

This code of practice “commits those sites, companies and suppliers registered with the Scheme to care about appearance, respect the community, protect the environment, secure everyone’s safety, and value their workforce.”

In effect, the companies registered with this scheme become an advertisement for best practice in the industry.

As a former business owner, I understand the immense value in having a trusted brand, and a positive reputation for your business. Maintaining a good reputation ensures the long-term success of the company and maximises the potential for future opportunities and repeat customers. So I fail to understand why landowners do not place greater value on generating goodwill with the communities in which they are seeking to become a part.

Just as we expect companies to be good corporate citizens, developers should seek to become better builder citizens.

If landowners don’t want to be at the receiving end of a community which is hostile to their plans and opposing the development at every step, then they ought to make it a priority to give back to those communities that their projects will impact upon.

Put simply, developers need to start valuing the goodwill of local communities and make the necessary alterations to their designs to reflect the expectations of the communities they are seeking to change, and not just make compromises only when forced to do so.

After consulting with local councils and community stakeholders, developers might consider applying the following:

  • Contributing financial aid to community projects
  • Incorporating the existing building fascia and making every possible effort to retain the character and heritage of the suburb
  • Ensuring sufficient parking spaces for residents and visitors and including dedicated car-share spaces
  • Incorporating existing fauna and flora into the design where possible
  • Ensuring when building residential developments in town centres that adequate provision is made for commercial space complete with cafes and restaurants, as well as services and office space.

Instead of clashing against the community, landowners need to realise their projects are part of a bigger picture, with real opportunities to make neighbourhoods family-friendly and places everyone can enjoy.

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