Hotel ‘unapproveable’

Two men entrusted with the long-promised redevelopment of Kings Square are part of a West End project that mayor Brad Pettitt describes as “unapprovable”.

Sirona Capital boss Matthew McNeilly and Sirona project manager Luke Saraceni are board members of Westbridge Property Group, which has applied to transform a 1930s warehouse at 8 Pakenham Street into a five-storey complex of 77 apartments, conference facilities, a cafe and five stacker car bays.

The $7 million project’s utilitarian design has left the mayor—a vocal backer of Sirona’s involvement in Kings Square—scratching his head.

“To be frank, in my view is that this proposed development is not even approvable,” Dr Pettitt told the Herald.

“The height limit of the West End clearly defined as four floors and this is obviously above that.

“I also think the design needs to be improved so it sits more sensitively within the important heritage streetscape of the West End.”

Fremantle Society president Henty Farrar describes the design as “brutal” but salvageable.

“The height is excessive and the impact is dominating, but apart from those major flaws the proposal has merit.

“Staying with the West End conservation area’s height limit is a must.

“The current proposal is excessive in height, inconsistent with predominate height patterns in the locality and,  if constructed as per the current plan, would have a detrimental impact on the amenity of the locality.

Dr Pettitt says the council will work with Westbridge to rejig the plans via its planning committee and design advisory committee, but the fact is the elected council has no power over the project, with the application to be decided by the five-member DAP, of which just two members are elected councillors and three appointed by the Barnett government.

Former deputy mayor John Dowson wasn’t saying “I told you so” but you could hear him thinking it.

He has long warned the Pettitt council about allowing developers too much leeway in return for vague promises of better design that are difficult to enforce.

“The proposal is a gross overdevelopment of its site,” he says.

“The height proposed is 1.8 metres above the maximum allowable.

“There seems now to be an unfortunate acceptance that you can plonk new buildings on top of old ones and that somehow that does not detract from the old building.”


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