Not just the height, but also the look


p2161-planningWhat sort of CBD do you want? Your reaction to this may well be, “not again!” But you may be encouraged that the Planning Commission wants your views not just on how high you want buildings to be, but also what they should look like.
“Street scapes, design quality, shopfronts and public spaces” are part of the survey starting today. ERWIN CHLANDA spoke to the commission’s chairman Gary Nairn (below, left).
NEWS: The review will be considering quality of the built environment in the town centre and current controls which influence design and development. That seems to go well beyond height limits and basic zoning.
NAIRN: Yes, it does. I give you an example. We talk about tinted windows and reflective glass to encourage interaction between what happens inside a shop and out on the street. There are national standards around these things, for safety, so people can see if there is something criminal or illegal under way. There are many places in the CBD which have just blank walls or advertising.
NEWS: In the northern Mall the eastern facade of the Alice Plaza Shopping Centre is a classic example. They are turning their back on the Mall.
NAIRN: Exactly. The type of thing we would like to encourage is for commercial buildings to be much more interactive with the outside street scape.
NEWS: Could you achieve that with an existing building or only with new ones?
NAIRN: It’s difficult. If existing shops have to go through a development application, that’s when you can incorporate those types of criteria. Over a period of time, peer group pressure doesn’t hurt.
NEWS: So the appearance, the aesthetics, can be regulated? Is this covered by existing legislation or are new laws required?
p2161-Gary-Nairn-7NAIRN: We can include it into the planning schemes, when developments come forward for consideration by the Development Consent Authority. The Darwin CBD has quite substantial criteria whereas in Alice Springs the current Planning Scheme is quite limited. It has restrictions to three storeys but that’s about it.
NEWS: The issue of building height has been a long discussion. It’s now up for comment again. Would you be guided in formulating your recommendations to the Minister by the majority view, as expressed in the current public comment process?
NAIRN: We have put up for discussion a couple of different proposals, one the Planning Commission developed and one put forward by the town council. These are simply on the table.
NEWS: It’s pretty well a yes or no question: Keep the height at three storeys or go higher. Would your recommendation be guided by whatever the majority view is?
NAIRN: It’s like everything in planning. You get different views on issues. The Planning Commission ultimately has to consider the arguments put forward. Should they consider the point made by the noisiest group or what the issues are? We now have many more tools to deal with these issues. We are proposing different heights in different places of the CBD – up to five, up to eight – but with a variety of conditions. At the end of the day all we do is make a recommendation to the Minister who has to take the matter back to the public for further consultations.
NEWS: The heritage precinct and the railway area are part of the current considerations.
NAIRN: We call them areas of influence. As we look at changes in the CBD, how will that impact on that area of influence, [and vice-versa]. For example, what effect would a five storey building have in the railway area at its edge closest to the CBD? [In discussions with the town council] it said it should be lower than that.
NEWS: The revitalisation of the CBD keeps eluding us. The $5m of NT Government money the council has spent on the northern end of the Mall is simply not working.
NAIRN: One thing that would help is more activity outside office and retail hours and that means more people living in the CBD. Because of the lack of space people have put forward the need to go higher than the current three storeys. Like in many inner city areas around the world, the first couple of floors may be office and retail and the upper ones, apartments. More activity around the streets after hours has shown to be a great deterrent to illegal and criminal activities as well. More eyes around.
NEWS: Do you think requiring comments before December 17 is a bit short? We’re sliding into the holiday period.
NAIRN: Most planing exhibitions are for 28 days. We’re going much more than that, well clear of the Christmas period.


  1. It is clear that no one has sat and thought about too much – they just follow the lead like cattle.
    Our icon is the Todd river and the CBD has its back turned on it and it is used for parking.
    What a shame an icon we sell as part of our tourist attraction and there are no cafes no shops just the back entrance to the Mall.
    Would be nice to see developers with money come in. And not only help sell Alice as a tourist destination but also include one of our icons, the Todd River. Set up for Henley on Todd and many more events. Who would not like coffe and food and watch the Todd in flow?

  2. Height of buildings in Alice? Are these people mad?
    The front page of this paper states a new subdivision has no private takers.
    Why would more than a ground floor be needed?
    You have about 1000 miles in any direction to expand, save Tennant.

  3. @ Janet: Couldn’t agree more. The Todd River should be treated as the centre piece of the town.
    It needs to be fully developed and treated as the main artery snaking its way through Alice.
    I would love to see a board walk, adequate lighting, beautiful landscaping, amenities, commercial and tourist information / attractions.

  4. What about the scenery we were protecting, so everyone could see from town, not having to go out of town to see the ranges or the sunset on Mt Gillian.
    A town like Alice is meant to be special, this was the last debate when the Malanka was built, not just another town anywhere is Australia.
    It is hot in the summer in town anywhere, as Janet above mentioned, but shops and a large shade area with cooling available in the Eastside by the river would be perfect at this time.
    As for different heights for different conditions, what a copout.
    Look at all the empty shops and offices already in town, why can not new buildings replace these, not make more empty areas in town.


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