28/11/2006 - 21:00

Hit and miss on public art

28/11/2006 - 21:00


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Private developers may soon be required to spend up to 1 per cent of their city project budgets on providing public art, following a City of Perth review of its arts policy.

Hit and miss on public art

Private developers may soon be required to spend up to 1 per cent of their city project budgets on providing public art, following a City of Perth review of its arts policy.

The review was initiated due to the difficulty council was having controlling the existing scheme.

Under the scheme, developers can claim entitlements of up to 20 per cent bonus plot ratio on projects, in exchange for providing additional amenity such as public plazas, seating and sculptural installations.

An option available to the council’s planning committee includes launching a ‘percent for art’ scheme, similar to that adopted by the East Perth Redevelopment Authority. This requires 1 per cent of construction costs on projects worth more than $10 million be provided for the commissioning of public art.

Another option is for developers to make tax-deductible donations into a public art fund, with proceeds distributed at council discretion.

Deputy Lord Mayor Michael Sutherland told WA Business News he supported the bonus plot ratio entitlement for art criteria, but said the scheme was “dead” and the planning committee would be meeting shortly to discuss alternatives.

“Some people are complaining that you can buy plot ratio under the guise of providing art and are asking how do you put a value on it,” Mr Sutherland said.

“It’s been hard to police, particularly when a developer spends $50,000 and puts something up in the foyer of a building that has questionable worth, in commercial and aesthetic terms.”

Percentage for art schemes are not new, having been applied to Western Australian capital works over $2 million since 1989.

At a local level, the Town of Vincent has been promoting its own percent for art scheme since 2001, which applies to projects worth more than $500,000.

Mayor Nick Catania said 1 per cent could be a lot of money for a developer to part with but the social dividends of providing art were there for both the developer and the community.

“Art should be seen as a tool to enhance, rather than an added expense. I’d rather see concessions given for low-cost housing, heritage conservation and the retention of heritage fabric,” he said.

Finbar project director Rick Rimington said he would not like to see an end to the bonus plot ratio scheme for art because he believed plot ratios on some sites could be undersized. However, he supported the idea of a public fund for the benefit of the wider community.

“It’s our business to make developments more attractive. One part of the service is making sure the community has life, and art can provide that,” Mr Rimington said.

“In the past, developers have had more control over how the money is spent. The new scenario could mean council decides what’s in the best interests of the community. To get extra plot ratio, you have to earn it.”

Perth Lord Mayor Dr Peter Nattrass said that, in future, bonus plot ratio entitlements would only be on offer for heritage restoration.

“In giving the same plot ratio incentive for art as heritage, we’ll never be successful with our heritage package. We still don’t want to lose art, and this review will provide some means of getting it,” Dr Nattrass said.


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