Council blocks exceptional design

Matthew McNeilly

16th January 2019.

No one should be surprised by the South Perth intervention by WA Planning Commission chairman David Caddy.

I have voiced my concerns about the lack of planning certainty in South Perth and the council’s unpredictable behaviour. Perhaps my public comments have reached Mr Caddy’s office.

Sirona Capital is proposing a 42-storey apartment building at the corner of Labouchere Road and Lyall Street on the South Perth peninsula. It is in a precinct identified for this type of development.

At 137.5m, it would be the 13th tallest residential, hotel or office tower above 100m.

Compared with existing Perth buildings, ours would be the ninth tallest when completed, with less than half the bulk of even the smallest.

What should be central to the future of South Perth development is delivering exemplary design and community benefit rather than the unproductive argument about height alone.

The shorter, bulkier buildings sought by some will simply cast bigger shadows for longer compared with taller, slender towers. Sirona’s development application responds to the prevailing town planning scheme to the letter, while also taking cues from the draft South Perth Peninsula Activity Centre Plan.We asked for nothing more and nothing less than was allowed.

Just weeks before our project was considered by the Metro Central Joint Development Assessment Panel, the City of South Perth voted not to advertise the draft plan for public comment.

In doing so, the council removed a crucial reference document that would have provided essential context for the JDAP to consider our development.

In its absence, JDAP’s only option was to refuse our application.

It took the council and its expert advisers nearly two years to prepare the draft ACP, an ample opportunity for community consultation. The statutory advertising process would have offered more.

Asking the council to advertise the draft plan now is the right call by the WAPC. The City of South Perth has created massive uncertainty.

We are investing because we believe in the peninsula’s future as a near CBD economic, tourism, residential and employment zone.

Residents’ groups who claim they are trying to “save” South Perth are doing the opposite. By rejecting height, they are turning away investment and opportunities for creative community-building activities and events we would bring to South Perth.

If you want to see what we can do, look at our contribution to the cultural and community atmosphere in Fremantle.

Similarly, by rejecting height, the City of South Perth is endorsing Perth’s 150km urban sprawl and pushing young new homebuyers to the fringes of suburbia.

The reality is that nothing changes if nothing changes — which is exactly what the local activists want. It also means more of the same squat and uninteresting buildings on the peninsula, a location which should showcase incredible architectural design.

South Perth has had ample opportunity to put its planning house in order. It is abundantly clear it needs outside help.