Urban planning and design practice RobertsDay is introducing a radical new way of considering local planning proposals, enabling local governments to undertake economic assessments, rationally forecast future revenues and improve their financial capacity to invest back into their communities.

The result, says the practice, allows the “creating happier and healthier neighbourhoods – and more autonomous and fiscally independent local governments.” 

In recent years, there has been a strong focus from state and local governments to ensure the urban design aspects of a proposal are fully considered – the impact of the proposal on its neighbours and broader community. However, the impact from an economic perspective is rarely, if ever, considered.

RobertsDay, together with US partner Urban3 – an urban economics firm – has used a data analytics tool on a Western Australian local government, which harnesses data analytics to predict the fiscal snapshot of a community and understand future earnings. Urban3 is the only company of its kind to offer such in-depth data, with RobertsDay the first urban planning consultancy in Australia to harness the information to create better and more vibrant communities. 

It is the first time such comprehensive analysis has been available in Australia and is being rolled out across WA, ahead of the rest of the country.

RobertsDay Perth director Duane Cole says: “Currently, costs across local governments are rising at a rate that exceeds increases in revenue, raising concern that the ability for local governments to invest in, and create great places, for the community will be heavily constrained. Also, in the future, local governments may need to be less reliant on government funding programs to remain financially sustainable and look at what they may be able to do themselves, by undertaking economic modelling across their planning framework.”

“Particularly for the funding of infrastructure, local governments are relying on development contributions from both property developers and the broader community, in addition to other government funding. There are alternatives, including the use of urban economics, to understand how local governments can become more self-reliant from an economic perspective.”

The work recently undertaken by RobertsDay and Urban3 in a suburb south west of Perth allowed the Council to understand the current productivity of the land, and the data compared the cost of land with actual rate income and was able to identify areas that cost the city more in services and infrastructure than they returned in revenue, as well those areas that were profitable compared to the cost to run.

The Urban3 analytic software is designed to assess the fiscal implications of individual parcels of land, but also at a scale of entire communities. The fine level of detail enables local governments to consider the relative value (rate contribution) from land-use, zoning and development proposals to support increased investment in services and infrastructure, in order to improve and maintain the prosperity of our communities.

 “By identifying the profitability of particular developments to communities, local governments can apply more considered and responsible place-making, such as mixed-use development ahead of single-use development, where appropriate. The resultant revenue can then be re-invested into the community,” says Cole.

RobertsDay says it is rolling out its Urban3 economic modelling analytics to other local government areas across Western Australia.