OUTRAGE, consternation, dismay. That’s the immediate reaction of local resident Joanne Taggart – and she says of many other homeowners – to the proposed development for the former Woodside hospital site between Dalgety and Fortescue Streets in East Fremantle.
On top of that there is her bitter disappointment at East Fremantle council’s failure to hold a public information meeting on what is arguably a very large commercial aged-care venture slap bang in the middle of an historic residential area.
Ms Taggart was advised recently by council planning officers a public meeting was not on “due to Covid-19”.
In the minds of some it’s a planning process gone mad: it’s strongly encouraged by the WA government, fuelled by the Covid emergency, a serious shortage of diverse housing stock, huge population projections for WA over the next 30 years and a failed effort by the WA government over decades to rein in urban sprawl due to a too-cosy relationship between an over-reaching development industry and the government, at a very real cost to many other property owners throughout Perth and WA.
The proposal by town planners Planning Solutions is for Fresh Fields Projects (WA) PL, a partnership between Hall and Prior an aged care provider and the WA Fire and Emergency Service Superannuation Board, a WA government statutory authority.
The formal development application has been released for public comment with a very short time frame for such a huge and disruptive project, expiring next Friday.
After that the council, currently offering only one-on-one consultations with concerned residents and adjoining property owners, will provide its recommendations on the change of use for the site and the scale of the development to a WA government development assessment panel (DAP).
The DAP, dominated by three WA state planning commission appointees, and with only two council members, is a ploy introduced several years ago by the Barnett Liberal government to bypass local councils and deprive local people of much of the say they used to have.
This process, which heavily favours developers, has been enthusiastically embraced by the WA Labor premier Mark McGowan and WA planning minister Rita Saffioti.
According to Ms Taggart the council’s failure to hold a public meeting is a clear sign the council has already embraced the proposal, has been promoting it in the council’s website and e-newsletters as an integral part of the council strategic development for the town and wants to see it rushed through.
Ms Taggart says her concerns and those of many people she has spoken to are:
• the fact that the site does not appear to be zoned for some of the purposes and height of the development;
• the massive scale of the proposed building – in many parts up four to five storeys;
• the levelling of the ground with infill which worsens the height;
• the diminishing of the original heritage-listed Woodside hospital to be surrounded by the huge buildings proposed;
• the change of use of the site from residential to commercial with what looks like a medical centre with five consulting rooms and other uses not necessarily connected to the dementia-care facility;
• the fate of two homes on the south side of the site purchased by the developers after their owners complained about the scale of the development;
• the huge increase of traffic to and from the facility in all the surrounding streets; and,
• the failure to consider the proposal against the recommendations of the recent Royal Commission into the deplorable state of the aged care sector.
None of these issues, she says, have been fully explained or considered by local home owners.
In a strange twist of planning logic, the two homes to the south are to be absorbed into the project as additional residential space, with the backs of the homes to be demolished and the yards of both places, approximately 1,000 square metres, to be converted to a car park.
Ms Taggart was at great pains to stress she is supportive of residential aged care facilities in the street but not on the scale presented in the application.
editorial comment ANDREW SMITH
• Disclaimer: Andrew Smith lives in Dalgety Stret and is a former mayor of East Fremantle.