City development split

COULD the sinking of Perth railway between the Horseshoe Bridge and Mitchell Freeway offer yet another new lease of life to the East Perth Development Authority?

A recent letter from the West Australian Government Railways Commission has raised suspicions among some City of Perth players that State Government-controlled bureaucracies, particularly EPRA, could take over development planning on railway land.

In the letter, WAGR acting commissioner of railways Reece Waldock wrote that Planning and Infrastructure Minister Alannah MacTiernan had agreed to advertise for expression of interest in mid-2003 to gauge private interest for the development of the subject area.

The City of Perth has been offered a position on a project reference group, which will support a newly established Northbridge rail project team and will operate under the New Metro Rail City Project Office.

The project reference group will include representatives from the City of Perth, Crown Solicitors Office, Department of Housing and Works, EPRA, LandCorp, Western Australian Government Railways Commission and West Australian Planning Commission.

The City of Perth council expressed disappointment at the minor role offered and last week voted to press on with its own expressions of interest, to be advertised from April 12 to May 3.

Reflecting a long history of animosity between EPRA and the council, City of Perth Council’s Railway Committee chair, Councillor Bert Tudori, described the offer as a State Government takeover.

“This is not a true partnership – it’s a takeover,” Mr Tudori said. “It is an example of EPRA empire building continuously.”

He said that, if the City of Perth put up the money to sink the railway, it should get the land.

Northbridge businessman Carl Torre said it was important City of Perth was equally involved to ensure that the project had a civic thrust.

“We don’t want to forsake our planning rights and vision,” he said.

“We only have one chance to do a good or a bad job. Any subdivision we would do we would give 10 per cent to civic space.

Mr Torre said EPRA had a history of trying to squeeze as much profitability out of redevelopment. He said EPRA was looking for its next redevelopment project after The Village Northbridge to avoid becoming redundant.

“This would provide another five years’ work for bureaucrats,” Mr Torre said.

Apart from stating that the organisation was busy working on The Village Northbridge redevelopment, EPRA chief executive Tony Morgan had no comment about any future involvement in the railway project.

Emeritus professor Martyn Webb suggested the State Government was trying to gazump the City of Perth by going ahead with its own expression of interest and only offering the city a minor planning role.

“It is time to bring the referee in – the premier needs to intervene,” Professor Webb said.

“If the City of Perth is to provide all or most of the money to sink the railway it should be treated as an equal partner.”

He said the city would provide a civic response to the railway land development.

“It is not just a question of filling the space between the city and Northbridge,” Professor Webb said.

“Whoever wins this will get to decide the guidelines of development.”

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