19/05/2011 - 00:00

Councils crucial to shops policy success

19/05/2011 - 00:00

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WESTFIELD Group’s ambitious bid to transform the Whitford City shopping centre into a bustling town centre will test the state government’s commitment to its new shopping centre planning policy.

WESTFIELD Group’s ambitious bid to transform the Whitford City shopping centre into a bustling town centre will test the state government’s commitment to its new shopping centre planning policy.

The 20-year plan for Whitford City would double the size of the centre, making it the biggest retail hub outside the CBD as well as introducing new residential, office and high-rise to the development.

The City of Joondalup’s planning and development director, Dale Page, recommended against releasing the proposal for advertising, despite it meeting the requirements of the government’s new activity centres policy.

Joondalup’s stance on the proposal reveals the importance of local council support for the government’s policy, which was developed to encourage a greater mix of property uses around retail centres, particularly housing.

The Whitford City structure plan is the first proposal to be assessed under the new policy and, as such, represents an important test case for the government.

However, Planning Minister John Day said it was still important that the local community was engaged in the process through local governments.

The likely standoff between the City of Joondalup and Westfield – which is expected to appeal any knock-back from the council – has renewed calls for local authorities to support the activity centres policy.

The Shopping Centre Council of Australia said the new policy was vital to ongoing investment in Perth’s retail centres.

The council represents the heavyweights of the Australian retail property sector, including Lend Lease, Colonial First State Property and Westfield.

Its deputy director, Angus Nardi, said there was a risk local councils could frustrate the planning process with unnecessary costs and delays.

“The critical issue here is for local councils to take a strategic view to working with the government and industry to enable activity centres to grow,” Mr Nardi said.

The integration of residential development into expanded retail precincts was the only way Perth could meet future demand for housing, according to the WA division of the Property Council of Australia.

“But it does require local governments to support rezonings and this is an earlier hurdle and it is where the policy will either succeed or fail,” Property Council deputy executive director Lino Iacomella said.

“In the long run most local authorities will come on board because it will deliver a new generation of shopping centres that will be town centres rather than shopping centres.”

Alternatively, he said, the state government needed to compel local governments to adopt the new policy.

But this could be complicated in situations where a redevelopment proposal doesn’t garner community support.

Getting that balance between the aspirations of a property owner or developer and the needs of the community is at the heart of many planning disputes, and the new shopping centre policy does not provide any instant solutions to these common impasses.

“What we are calling on local governments to do is have a close look at the policy, look at the benefits it will deliver, and a number of local authorities are already doing that such as the City of Stirling with Dianella (Plaza),” Mr Iacomella said.

The City of Stirling’s concept for the aging Dianella Plaza would lead to it being reshaped as a retail, commercial and residential hub, encompassing the Dianella library and some former council buildings.

And according to the city’s major, David Boothman, the proposal already had community support.

He said the development of nodes of higher density housing, such as the residential element proposed for the Dianella site, were vital to providing affording housing for first home buyers and reducing reliance on cars.

 

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