East Perth slum risk: developer

PERTH’S fashionable inner city residential developments could become the slums of the future.

The warning was sounded Mirvac Group managing director Robert Hamilton who said he believed many urban renewal projects would suffer in the long term because the facilities were inappropriate for good living.

Mr Hamilton used the occasion of the Property Education Foundation’s inaugural Sir James McCusker Memorial Address to highlight his concerns about the direction of inner city development, pointing to examples like Sydney’s Pyrmont Peninsular.

He said Pyrmont was a prime example of how planners forgot about “community needs” in the bid to maximise the occupancy of the area by building low-rise boxes which conformed to strict local government guidelines.

Mr Hamilton said that in Pyrmont planners believed that new residential buildings should take the form of the warehouses and wool-stores that preceded them.

He described them as “ugly buildings with no appeal or amenity and suffering from serious overlooking problems.”

“Let’s face it, warehouses are for warehousing – not for living.

“The problem is that it just keeps happening again and again, but only in different forms. If a building is to be used for a specific purpose, like for living, why should it look like something its not?”

Mr Hamilton reserved special praise for the East Perth Redevelopment Authority’s work, although he said much of the development could have been done better.

“East Perth is a tremendous example of urban renewal and what can be achieved with good planning,” he said.

“However, I believe there still have been some critical mistakes made.

“In particular, the obsession with removing cars from the front of the houses with what I call the back lane syndrome.

“The proliferation of the lanes, in my opinion is a mistake. I understand it’s a solution to the vehicle problem, but the back lane should have disappeared with the horse and cart, if not definitely with the dunny man.

“No one will look after them, they become filled with derelict cars, garbage and become a security problem.

“Although very well treated they are secondary streets, a mass of garage doors, essentially detracting from what is a very good suburb.”

He said one solution that kept cars and the inevitable garage under control was the inclusion of car-courts or courts in association with a variety of housing forms where the cars were essentially spread between the front and the rear of the properties.

“If done properly, the court space can be large enough to become an attractive open space or even a small pocket park – easy, simple and a vast improvement in the back lane” Mr Hamilton said.

Over three decades Mr Hamilton built the Mirvac Group into one of Australia’s largest property developers with assets in excess of $2 billion.

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