Disputed claims over Scarborough knock-back
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Conflicting views have emerged over the rejection of a proposed high-rise development on Perth’s coast.
Following last week’s rejection of the $450 million two-tower Iconic Scarborough proposal, the Metropolitan Redevelopment Authority has revealed to Business News details of its public consultation and stakeholder positions.
The MRA has disclosed that the majority of public submissions it received supported the project, but said all government agencies and utilities it consulted, with the sole exception of Tourism WA, opposed it.
3 Oceans Property’s proposal for two mixed-use towers on the former Contacio bar site on the corner of West Coast Highway and Scarborough Beach Road was advertised for public comment in July.
The development application proposed heights of 35 and 43 storeys, comprising 345 apartments, including 41 affordable housing dwellings, as well as 159 hotel rooms, 3,000 square metres of retail space and 834 car-parking bays (328 of these for public use).
In addition, a 2,000sqm convention centre, which would cater for up to 1,000 people, and a rooftop sky gallery were also part of 3 Oceans Property’s vision.
There were about 400 submissions received by the MRA, which found majority in favour of the project: 219 submissions in support, 173 objections and the remaining, neutral.
The MRA also provided details on the stakeholders involved; the Iconic Scarborough proposal was referred to the City of Stirling, Department of Planning, Lands and Heritage, Department of Transport and Public Transport Authority, Main Roads WA, Department of Communities, Tourism WA as well as service providers including Water Corporation, Western Power and ATCO Gas.
According to the MRA, with the exception of Tourism WA, all stakeholders opposed the development based on its scale and traffic impacts.
The MRA subsequently clarified its response and said the Department of Communities noted that the original proposal did not include any affordable housing, which under MRA policy, was required at a minimum of 12 per cent.
The final proposal included 345 apartments, including 41 affordable housing dwellings - which accounts for 11.88 per cent.
As 3 Oceans Property did not meet the 12 per cent minimum requirement the MRA said the original feedback received from the Department of Communities still stood and was not counted as supportive of the development.
“We know the history of high-rise buildings in Perth and that the MRA said gaining community acceptance would be the key to a successful approval,” Mr Zhang told Business News.
“We feel we did bring the community along with us and time and time again heard that people were not opposed to the height of the development.
“Our own public consultation process on Iconic Scarborough received over 900 responses and showed over 80 per cent support for our proposal.
“We understand the MRA’s public comment process, which focused on the proposal’s variations to the planning framework, also demonstrated majority support for the proposal.”
“Whilst there are a number of challenges with a proposal of this significance, in our discussions with agencies we dealt with most of the issues that were raised,” he said.
“Iconic Scarborough had overwhelming public support due to the extensive public benefits, the pedestrian bridge to assist with traffic congestion, the provision of much needed tourism assets and local and state economic benefits including 2000 jobs during construction.”
Its estimated the development would also create 400 jobs long-term.
The development was rejected on the basis that the scale of the project would be a significant overdevelopment of the site and that the critical mass of residents, workers and visitors on one site would have serious impacts on local traffic.
The heights of 35 and 43-storeys exceed the height permissible under the MRA’s Scarborough Planning Framework, which details a base height maximum of 12-storeys, with the taller tower two times the height of the neighbouring Rendezvous Hotel, according to the MRA.
However, developers can apply for additional six-storeys if the development provides significant community benefits including the provision of short-stay accommodation, improving public connectivity, exceeding minimum sustainability requirements and outstanding architectural design - as agreed with the MRA.
Premier Mark McGowan has publicly indicated support for a high-rise development on the site and Planning Minister Rita Saffioti said last week that the state government was disappointed the issues with the project could not be resolved prior to the MRA's decision.
“There are several options available, including the developer resubmitting their applications after addressing some of the issues raised or appealing to the State Administrative Tribunal to review the decision,” Ms Saffioti said.
The decision comes at a time when the state government is finalising members for the planned merge of the MRA and LandCorp, with new members to take effect as of January 1st.
Richard Muirhead, a former state government executive and previous state director for the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting (CHOGM), currently chairs the MRA board.
Other board members include; deputy chairperson Jeff Dowling, a past managing partner of Ernst & Young Western Region; town planner Charles Johnson; former Financial Planning Association of Australia director Nick Bruining; Eric Lumsden, a previous Department of Planning director general; Peet regional general manager of development Paul Lakey; and Town of Cottesloe Mayor Jo Dawkins.
Since the ruling late last week key industry groups have commented on the decision, including Property Council of Australia WA executive director Lino Iacomella, who said the decision was disappointing for local businesses and the community that would benefit from the investment proposal.
“It’s also a set-back for the broader plan to build hubs of high quality entertainment, retail and housing diversity around the Perth metropolitan area,” he said.
“Perth is attracting a lot of interest for investment into the creation of ‘world-class’ precincts, like the proposal for Scarborough. We should celebrate this and take advantage of the broader benefits to WA that would be created.
"However the ‘system’ is not adequately geared up to ensure these iconic projects get off the ground.
“This should be a priority for the review of the planning system that is underway as well as the review of WA’s land agencies.”
Urban Development Institute of Australia WA chief executive Allison Hailes said the rejection of the of the application was a blow to redevelopment of the area and would deter other potential local and interstate investors from looking at WA.
“The decision by the MRA is short sighted and extremely disappointing,” she said.
“The MRA is sending a message to potential developers and investors in the area that we are not open to innovation or vision, we just want more of the same bland development that has stymied many areas in Perth from achieving their potential.”