11/06/2008 - 22:00

Developers to foot bill for public art

11/06/2008 - 22:00

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Public art may have been an optional extra for developers in Western Australia in the past, but an increasing number of local governments are making it compulsory to commission art for new projects of a certain size.

Public art may have been an optional extra for developers in Western Australia in the past, but an increasing number of local governments are making it compulsory to commission art for new projects of a certain size.

Since March last year, several councils have adopted a percentage-based model to calculate the amount a developer should pay towards public art, and a number of others are in the process of drafting policies.

It's an approach that seems to be driving demand for local artists.

According to Fremantle-based visual arts body, artsource, the number of businesses using its recruitment arm rose from 51 to 80 after the percentage model was introduced.

The value of projects commissioned has also risen, from $5 million in 2006 to about $9 million last year, although this includes works for private clients and the state government as well as local councils.

Artsource client services manager Jenny Kerr said many governments previously took an ad hoc approach to public art, tied to plot ratio bonuses or building licence applications.

She said artsource had developed its own model of a 1 per cent contribution for every project worth more than $2 million, after consultation with developers, planners and members of parliament.

Several councils have used this pilot model to develop their own.

"This policy is really geared not towards the open meadow developments, but smaller mixed-use commercial and residential projects within the CBD or city, which can be extended to town sites," Ms Kerr said.

The latest council to adopt a formal model is the Town of Victoria Park, which last month introduced a policy for developments worth more than $5 million.

Developers will be required to spend 1 per cent of a project's total value on public art, if the project falls within one of four precincts, including part of Albany Highway and Technology Park near Curtin University.

Previously, the council used a levy of 0.75 per cent on all rates paid to fund public art.

The City of Perth is also in the process of developing a public art policy, as are regional councils in Bunbury and Capel.

Busselton recently adopted a policy which applies to growth zones within the shire, rather than development precincts.

Ms Kerr said the response from developers had been positive.

"A lot of developers don't understand what they can get for their money," she said.

"I think most enjoy the experience of working with an artist."

However, the policy of mandatory contributions based on a percentage of costs has not received support from all quarters.

Urban Development Institute of WA president Warwick Hemsley said there needed to be flexibility to allow developers to make decisions appropriate to their developments.

"While UDIA acknowledges that public art has an important role to play in promoting a sense of place and enhancing local identity, it should primarily be a matter for the individual developer to decide upon, rather than being a requirement of development," Mr Hemsley said.

He said a number of issues needed to be considered, including the impact on affordability.

The move towards public art contributions based on a percentage of costs follows the state government's decision last month to introduce a similar formula for residential developments.

These developer contributions, calculated and managed by local governments, will be used to fund infrastructure projects.

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