03/02/2021 - 08:00

Nedlands apartments back for review

03/02/2021 - 08:00

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The City of Nedlands has urged planning authorities to reject a revised proposal for a $320 million apartment project along Stirling Highway, but the developers remain optimistic.

Nedlands apartments back for review
The developers have reduced the number of dwellings from 301 to 231 apartments. Photo: Elenberg Fraser

The City of Nedlands has urged planning authorities to reject a revised proposal for a $320 million apartment project along Stirling Highway, but the developers remain optimistic. 

The initial plans for 97-105 Stirling Highway, known as the Chellingworth Motors site, lodged by joint-venture partners Grange Development Consulting and Costa Property Group, were knocked back by the Joint Development Assessment Panel last year. 

The proposed project was the tallest residential development the City of Nedlands had ever received, comprising 301 apartments across four buildings, the largest standing at 26 storeys. 

The development application was lodged after a gazettal of the city’s new local planning scheme in April 2019, which involved significant rezoning to key corridors: up to five-storeys within some streets off Stirling Highway; seven storeys permitted along Broadway; and 10- toreys plus along Stirling Highway. 

Height, along with the building’s mass and scale, were some of the main reasons cited in the city’s Responsible Authority Report (RAR) last year, and remain key focuses for the city’s recommendation for refusal a second time round, asking the JDAP to reconsider last year’s decision when it meets to make its decision next week. 

In July 2020, the JDAP panel were almost divided, voting three to two in favour of the city’s refusal. 

The developers then lodged an application with the State Administrative Tribunal (SAT) and went back to the drawing board, which has resulted in a revised proposal featuring a reduction of apartments from 301 to 231. 

Other components of the project include 11 office tenancies (comprising a total 3,434 square metres of Net Lettable Area), two motor vehicle sales tenancies, four retail tenancies, four restaurant and cafe tenancies, as well as 164sqm of space designated for community purpose. 

Grange Development Consulting managing director James Dibble is staying positive.

“Councils position on the RAR was expected, and to be frank, is consistent with almost every development application they receive,” Mr Dibble told Business News

“The reasons for refusal are technically untrue/baseless which is disappointing but we are fortunate that the JDAP panel are experienced enough to look at the hard facts and see what is technically accurate.

“Despite the grandstanding and the campaign of misinformation by council we only missed our initial approval by one vote and with the development significantly scaled back via the SAT mediation we feel positive. 

“Despite these changes we are still delivering the same amount of community benefit, landscape, green credentials and build quality as our initial application and therefore we are feeling confident that common sense will prevail with an approval.”

In addition to the reduced number of apartments, the overall height of the development has been scaled back by 5.1 metres, from a maximum of 26 storeys to 24 storeys; a maximum of 83.3 metres above the natural ground level. 

The remaining buildings have also been reduced by two storeys, with the inner tower now standing at 17 storeys (58.7 metres above natural ground level) and the west tower now at 22 storeys (a maximum of 77 metres above natural ground level).

Revised plans have also addressed the city’s parking concerns, increasing bays from 455 to 504, supported by the creation of a fourth basement level, removing car stackers. 

The revised proposal in comparison to the original plans. Source: JDAP meeting agenda

The developers' advised plot ratio had also been reduced from 5.8 to 5.2, however in the meeting agenda prepared by the City of Nedlands, its officer stated it had identified a plot ratio of 5.5. 

The project’s redesign was advertised for community comment late last year, along with a community information session, attended by 30 residents. 

The City of Nedlands said it received a total of 223 submissions during the public consultation period, with 10 in support of the project and the remaining 213 objecting to the proposal. 

Urbanista Town Planning director Bianca Sandri, who is consulting to the developers, echoed Mr Dibble’s sentiments. 

“The recommendation from the city is unfortunate but expected given the council’s position on progress, change and development with the Nedlands locality,” Ms Sandri told Business News. 

“I am hopeful that the JDAP will support the proposal, which includes 46 per cent being attributed to community benefit, along with the creation of a high-quality anchor development within the Nedlands future town centre along Stirling Highway. 

“The city’s appointed architect, through their design review panel process supported the proposal and expressed it is a high-quality design.”

Height has been a contentious topic for the Nedlands area, following the recent scheme changes but also due to the uncertainty over planning parameters. 

For this particular site, which has been earmarked as a  ‘town centre’, in effect there is no default height guidance to assess development applications and so element objectives, in particular “desired future scale and character of the street”, are instead applied to determine height allowance. 

In forming its reasons for refusal, the city has said the development’s height was inconsistent with the future scale and character of the street and local area, that its rear setback was inconsistent with the desired streetscape character, and that the buildings did not achieve an appropriate transitional scale with adjoining areas. 

The absence of a City of Nedlands Design Review Panel throws another spanner in the works for the local government and developers. 

Unlike other councils, such as the City of Vincent, the City of Nedlands doesn’t have an operating design review panel. 

So the council engaged an independent practicing architect to assess the Chellingworth site development against the principles of ‘good design’ as outlined in State Planning Policy 7.0 Design of the Built Environment. 

“The city undertook this review due to the uncertainty of whether the State Design Review Panel (SDRP) would be able to,” it stated in the meeting agenda. 

Interestingly, the independent architect engaged by the City of Nedlands provided a more favourable review than the SDRP. 

While the SDRP ticked ‘not yet supported’ or ‘pending further attention’ to most criteria (apart from legibility and principle 10, aesthetics) the city’s appointed architect endorsed almost every measure, including; context and character; built form and scale; sustainability; amenity; legibility; community and aesthetics. 

The appointed architect did however select ‘pending further attention’ against landscape quality, functionality and built quality, and safety. 

“It is acknowledged that the two reviews conducted have produced differing outcomes,” the city’s officer stated in the meeting agenda. 

“The SDRP have assessed the current proposal against its previous findings and is a consensus view involving a panel … the single-practitioner review is based on the current proposal only and has focussed on the design elements. 

“The SDRP review is considered to be the more robust of the two and is also in accordance with the design review guide for a range of views to be caucused prior to a consensus response being determined."

The SDRP met in January to discuss the revised proposal for the site, with the meeting agenda citing some of its summary notes. 

It noted that the amendments to the proposal had improved aspects of the development, particularly the ground floor plane, and that the reduction in tower heights enabled greater tower separation. 

However, it said that it did not consider these improvements to significantly alter the recommendations of previous reviews. 

“The panel acknowledges the difficulties of progressing development for this site in the absence of a confirmed local planning framework,” the summary states. 

“However, the panel is concerned that there remains no strategic justification for a building of this scale in this location and the proposal does not deliver the level of amenity appropriate for development of this nature. Addressing bulk and scale will assist with improving the design quality of the project overall.

“The panel advised that previous urban design frameworks have suggested a mid-rise, compact urban form for sites along Stirling Highway. 

“The panel contends that the proposed scale and building typology (podium and tower with nil basement setbacks) is considered suitable for a CBD, or major metropolitan centre but not for (a) Local Town Centre located on an Activity Corridor without a TOD (transit-oriented development) context.” 

The Metro-West JDAP meeting for the project is scheduled for next week. 

STANDING BY BUSINESS. TRUSTED BY BUSINESS.

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