Bassendean Train Station - Enquiry-by-Design

Bassendean Train Station - Enquiry-by-Design


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Problems and Purpose

In 2001, Bassendean, in the north-east of Perth, was allocated $5.5 million to upgrade its train station, as part of the state government's 'building better stations' program. The overall aim of the upgrade was to make the station an attractive and safe focal point, as well as to provide a catalyst for further renewal of the Bassendean town centre area (WA Planning Commission 2002, p1). The money was available immediately and government authorities sought stakeholder and community input into designing the upgrade and renewal.

To achieve this, the department of planning and infrastructure, Bassendean local council, and the government railway agency worked together along with the local community and stakeholders on a four day enquiry-by-design workshop process. The aims of the process were to produce:

  • "A set of station design centre scenarios, detailed option plans, and design rationales
  • A consensus decision made by the community, together with the Council, on a preferred station precinct 'structure' and station access arrangement
  • Greater understanding and ownership of the outcomes by the community and other key stakeholders" (21st Century Dialogue 2011)

In order to ensure that the community had meaningful input into possible designs, a consensus forum was incorporated into the methodology.


When Labor came to power in WA in 2001, one of their key pledges was to enhance community and participatory decision-making. In particular, the new Minister for Planning and Infrastructure, Alannah MacTiernan, was determined to champion community engagement as a way of encouraging joint decision making and democratic renewal' (Gregory 2008). In order to achieve this, the Minister employed Janette Hartz-Karp, an deliberative democracy scholar and practitioner, to undertake the task. Between 2001 and 2005, Hartz-Karp - founder of 21st Century Dialogue - delivered nearly 40 deliberative processes in WA. At the time this was pretty much unique - where a politician had so whole-heartedly embraced deliberative and participatory decision-making. 

This was not the first enquiry-by-design implemented in WA. The department of planning and infrastructure instigated eight workshops between 1999 and 2001, all based around designs for town centres and other urban development issues around Perth and in other parts of the state (WA Planning Commission 2002, pxi). One such case was the Port Hedland Enquiry-by-Design which incorporated a 21st century town meeting into its deliberative methodology.

Originating Entities and Funding

The process was initiated by the department of planning and infrastructure and organised by 21st Century Dialogue.

Participant Selection

80 people participated in the four day workshop, comprised of stakeholders, community members and technical experts. Letters were sent to a random sample of 1,000 Bassendean residents inviting them to participate. Adverts were also placed in local media to invite interest. Key stakeholder groups were also invited to send representatives, and members from the local council and state agencies also took part.

In total, 40 stakeholder representatives - including a technical team, 20 residents from the random sample and 20 residents who responded to adverts attended the workshop. Not all 80 attended all stages of the workshop - two groups were discerned into community participants and a technical team. The technical team included stakeholders.

Deliberation, Decisions, and Public Interaction

"Enquiry-By-Design is an interactive process over several days (often 3) that seeks win-win solutions, using urban renewal best practice principles and design. It incorporates the values and feedback of the community stakeholders into evolving plans created by a multi disciplinary team of technical experts. Usually, its findings are non binding" (21st Century Dialogue 2011)

The enquiry-by-design process comprised of two phases. The first was four day workshop in late November 2001, followed by a short, one-day workshop in February 2002. The process incorporated both enquiry-by-design and consensus conferences methods. The latter was included to enable community input into the process. Enquiry-by-design's main focus is usually bringing together experts and stakeholders. In this case, the community was given a greater role. 

Day 1

The first meeting was one morning, dedicated to explaining the process to participants and introducing the issue with background and context. Presentation were given on planning issues and getting an idea of what was important for the community in planning around Bassendean and the train station.

Day 2

The second meeting was a full day workshop for the technical team to design strategies and plan options based on the discussions and community input from day 1. In the morning the team went on a site tour and the afternoon was dedicated to planning and design. The group agreed on an overall vision for the design, and divided into sub groups with different focusses including urban renewal, station design and economic revitalisation.

Day 3

On the third meeting, all participants came together again to review the design project and the process so far. The revew took place at the end of the day and was preceded by small group deliberations. Participant sat in groups with each table having a facilitator and a member of the technical team. Each group went through the options that been developed by the team and had the opportunity to think of and share any issues or concerns they had about each. All issues and concerns were written down and table facilitators fed back to the whole group. All these issues were used to assist the technical team in their subsequent work.

Day 4

The aim of the final workshop was to make decisions on specific design options such as access to the station, and structure. Both community and technical participants were present, along with the local council who also met separately to make final decisions. The council were able to veto any of the options and were asked if there were any options they could not live with. Asking people 'could you live with it' is a technique used in many deliberative processes that aims to bring disparate viewpoints together rather than reinforcing division through traditional voting methods which are often perceived to produce a 'winner' and 'loser'. Any vetoed options would not be included in further discussions with the rest of the participants. However, the council decided not to veto any of the options, although not everyone was happy about one option. The council also had the option to add to the pros and cons that had been developed for each option, but did not make any additions.

Following the council's deliberations, the options along with their pros and cons were presented to the whole workshop by distributing them to each table. Groups were able to make any changes they felt were necessary which were then fed back in plenary. Participants discussed and agreed upon criteria to evaluate options against that took into account economic, social and environmental impacts. The options and criteria were then used to form a prioritisation matrix which participants filled in individually, which produced a list of ranked preferences.

Day 5

The final workshop meeting took place in February 2002. All participants from the November workshops were invited to attend. The aim was to give the opportunity for further comment on the designs and make decisions on the appearance of the station. Participants sat in small groups with facilitators again, as with the earlier meetings. An overview of the proceedings so far was given, along with an explanation of what would happening following the workshop. In this case, the chosen option for the station's appearance would form the brief given to the architect. This is different to many enquiry-by-design processes whose decisions are non-binding. However, additional decisions and ideas about other town renewal plans were non-binding.

A prioritisation matrix was given to participants which would be used to calculate the final decision. However, participants were asked to go home, discuss the options with family and friends, and return the form within ten days. The forms were analysed by an independent arbiter and all participants were informed of the outcomes, and details of the vote.

Influence, Outcomes, and Effects

An interim report from January 2002 was integrated into a final workshop report produced by Bassendean council. Not much information is available on the influence or effects of the process, but the Wikipedia page for the station shows that the upgrades were completed and the new station opened in 2004, with the design chosen during the consultation process.

Analysis and Lessons Learned

21st Century Dialogue note that participation dropped off between the November and February meetings. This could have been reduced if less time had passed in between the two meetings. The decision to give participants the final prioritisation matrix to fill in at home was made at the request of some of the older participants who didn't want to be rushed. However, this meant that there was no final forum after the outcome. Moreover, it resulted in a further drop off of the number of forms returned.


Secondary Sources

Gregory, J, Hartz-Karp J and Watson, R. (2008) Using deliberative techniques to engage the community in policy development, Australia and New Zealand Health Policy, 5(16), available at:

Western Australian Planning Commission (2002) Bassendean Enquiry-by-design Workshop [pdf], available at:

External Links

The WA Planning Commission has produced a manual detailing the enquiry-by-design workshopping process:


The following entry was summarised from 21st Century Dialogue's website.

Case Data




Start Date: 
Friday, November 23, 2001
End Date: 
Friday, February 1, 2002
Number of Meeting Days: 



Who paid for the project or initiative?: 
Western Australian Department of Planning and Infrastructure
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