26/02/2016 - 05:10

South Perth high-rise stoush builds

26/02/2016 - 05:10


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The ongoing battle over high-density development in South Perth has stepped up a notch in recent weeks.

South Perth high-rise stoush builds
SET FOR CHANGE: The South Perth peninsula could look very different in a few years’ time, if developers get their way. Photo: Attila Csaszar

The ongoing battle over high-density development in South Perth has stepped up a notch in recent weeks.

A dispute over a riverside development proposal is escalating into one of Perth’s biggest building bust-ups.

The battle over high-rise development in South Perth has been simmering for months, with resident groups clashing with developers over plans to super-size the suburb with nine apartment towers.

But the groundswell of opposition to came to a boiling point yesterday, courtesy of the Supreme Court of Western Australia.

On Thursday, the court ruled on a challenge to an approval issued in May last year for the 29-storey Lumiere apartment tower at 74 Mill Point Road.

The proposal, by developer Edge Visionary Living, drew the ire of the Save South Perth Peninsula Action Group, a collection of local residents who claimed the building was wholly inappropriate for the area.

That led to legal action against the proposal’s approval being brought to the Supreme Court by South Perth residents Karyl Nairn and Ric Hawley, who make up part of the action group.

The challenge was based on 12 grounds, ranging from the building’s height and interaction with the street, to the metropolitan central development assessment panel’s jurisdiction to approve it, and whether the proposed development was in line with planning guidelines in the area.

The court ruled that two of the grounds for challenge were valid – both of them regarding the mix of residential and non-residential uses, ordering the approval to be set aside and reconsidered by the DAP.

While the action group claimed that was a victory, the court’s decision backed the DAP’s approval of building’s scale and built form, which is what caused most of the consternation.

However, prior to the Supreme Court’s decision, Edge Visionary Living lodged a new development application to take the project to 44 storeys, a proposal yet to be assessed by the DAP.

That fresh proposal is understood to satisfy a requirement for 50 per cent of the building to be commercial use, through short-stay apartment product; as such, the developer expects to be able to resolve the issue.

The Supreme Court fight is not the only flashpoint in South Perth, with the Save South Perth Peninsula Action Group lobbying to block high-rise apartment towers in the northern-most part of the peninsula, where the current stock of buildings stand around eight or nine storeys.

In 2013, the City of South Perth altered its planning scheme to encourage developers to pursue large projects in the suburb, in an attempt to achieve the density required to facilitate the construction of a train station at Richardson Street.

But the action group lobbied the City of South Perth to roll back those planning guidelines for the area of the peninsula north of Mill Point Road, in order to remove the possibility of apartment towers over 12 storeys being built.

Residents were given the opportunity to voice their opinions on those proposed changes to the town planning scheme, known as Amendment 46, during recent months.

The City of South Perth is now evaluating more than 900 submissions, but a decision is not expected until April.

TPG Town Planning Urban Design and Heritage executive chairman David Caddy, whose firm has worked with developers on eight apartment projects in the South Perth area, said the council was making a knee-jerk response to amend the scheme and reduce the potential for development in the suburb.

“What’s happening at the moment is you have land that is zoned for this type of mixed-use development and obviously those landowners are taking advantage of that zoning,” Mr Caddy told Business News.

“The council put it in place to encourage the development and now they’re trying to backpedal as fast as they can.

“Essentially, what they’re saying is ‘we’re not mature enough to amend the scheme and then wait for the consequences to play out’.

“If you’re going to have a change in your planning scheme and your planning regime, then you’ve got to allow it to happen.”

Edge Visionary Living managing director Gavin Hawkins said the developer had garnered a significant amount of support from the broader South Perth community.

Mr Hawkins is part of the Better South Perth taskforce, a group of developers, town planners, architects and local residents lobbying for the council to stay the course on high-density development.

More than 4,300 people had ‘liked’ the Better South Perth Facebook page at time of writing, compared to 233 likes for the Save the South Perth Peninsula Group, backing Mr Hawkins’ claim of broad support.

“There is a rulebook that we were playing to and the issue has been that they are trying to change that rulebook without the appropriate studies or justification for it,” Mr Hawkins said.

“The scheme itself was developed over a number of years; there was a huge amount of planning and studies that went into the scheme, which effectively allowed for no plot ratio and no caps on height through this special design area, so we’ve just built to that, to those specifications.

“Without any real planning studies or strategic guidance, they are looking to amend it on the back of a very localised action group.”

The prospect of opposition hasn’t stopped developers from putting forward new projects, however.

Hillam Architects, which designed the Lumiere project, has lodged two development applications in recent weeks, one at 1-3 Lyall Street for two towers of 40 and 50 storeys, respectively, and another for a 50-storey tower at 76 Mill Point Road.

Meanwhile, other proposed developments across South Perth are achieving solid results.

Finbar Group’s Aurelia has started emerging from the ground, with 98 of the 118 apartments or commercial units having been sold.

Its flagship Civic Heart project will likely be next, with 85 of the near-300 apartments having been sold.

Sales of Finbar’s third new South Perth project, Harper Terrace, will be launched in May, following its recent planning approval.

Across the road, Chinese developer Zone Q Investments has closed construction tenders for its second project in the suburb at 88 Mill Point Road.

The core of its first project, Pinnacle, is steadily emerging above the suburb from its prominent location across Labouchere Road from Perth Zoo.

Elsewhere in South Perth, work has stopped at Devwest Group’s One Richardson complex, with contractor Probuild having left the site and its workers redeployed to other projects.

Devwest was the first developer to break ground in the South Perth development precinct, with building starting early last year on the $85 million, 75-apartment complex.

While Probuild has left the site, Devwest director Chad Ferguson said a new finance facility was being finalised and the construction contract had been re-tendered.

Mr Ferguson said there were two contractors left in the race, with work expected to restart next month.


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