The development dilemma


SEVERAL proposed multi-story residential developments on prime beachfront sites have sparked community concerns about coastal development in recent months. And two of the city’s most popular beaches are the prime targets.

The proposals include two apartment developments in Scarborough by Cape Bouvard and Stockland, Multiplex’s redevelopment of the Cottesloe Beach Hotel and rumors for development of the Ocean Beach Hotel.

Whether you believe that higher density residential development is key to housing our increasing population without further urban sprawl, or think that suburbs along the coast should retain their current state, most Western Australians agree with the sentiment that ‘we don’t want another Gold Coast’.  

However, the demand for beach-front property is undeniable, particularly for apartments in the western suburbs, and more development proposals are sure to follow.

This leaves coastal local governments in the tricky position of balancing the community while at the same time managing the development push. While the State Government may be clear in its support of higher density housing as a solution to urban sprawl, higher density developments can spark a viscous community backlash, and as one local mayor suggested: “We are the first to feel the blowtorch on the belly”.

Once mobilised, community groups can become a developer’s worst nightmare, and big business is pouring millions of dollars into community consultation to try and pave the way for developments that are mutually acceptable. 

Town of Cambridge mayor Marlene Ann Anderton said she strongly supported the right for communities to speak out and influence the developments happening on their doorstep.

“It is their right to have an opinion, it’s their home and their community,” she told WA Business News.

City of Stirling mayor Tony Vallelonga said it was the fear of the unknown that caused a portion of the community to “kick and scream” when a higher density development was proposed, but once the development was completed, people could see its benefits.

“There are 185,000 residents in the City of Stirling. I am a leader, I don’t just represent 300 residents,” he said.

Thrown into the equation is the financial burden on local governments to maintain their patches of coastline.

Such responsibilities were previously borne by the State Government, but local authorities now wear the cost and are only supported by dwindling State and Federal government grants.

In the case of Town of Cottesloe, 10 per cent of the rates income goes on coastline maintenance at a cost of about $250,000 a kilometre.

While many of the western suburbs communities will have to be dragged kicking and screaming into today’s world of higher density living, suburbs such as the City of Cockburn are welcoming property developers with open arms.

Mayor Stephen Lee said that, after so many years of tolerating noxious industries along their coastline, the industrial areas are getting cleaned out, opening up myriad possibilities for beachfront developments.

“We don’t want a Gold Coast but there is nothing wrong with good quality medium density residential and commercial development along the coast,” he said.

“It needs to be medium density to allow as many people as possible can enjoy our beautiful coastline.”

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