Electors tell council to step up
ABOUT 120 electors packed East Fremantle council’s chamber last Thursday, passing a raft of unanimous motions urging the council to reject a proposed aged care facility at the old Woodside Hospital site until it was scaled back.
Mayor Jim O’Neill and councillors sat quietly as ratepayers picked apart Hall and Prior’s proposed 150-bed “health and aged care precinct”, with Dalgety Street resident Joanne Taggart saying the community felt let down.
“It’s a bit disturbing when we meet with councillors and with council officers and they throw up their hands and say ‘there’s nothing we can do’,” Ms Taggart said.
“There’s been virtually no council participation in community consultation on Woodside; it was done exclusively by Creating Communities, and I’m sure Mr Prior realises from our submissions, we found it totally unsatisfactory,” she said, addressing Prior and Hall founder Graeme Prior who attended the meeting.
“I also undertook to convey the concerns of residents to the council; I provided a discussion paper, I provided a presentation to the annual electors’ meeting and I also met with some of the elected members and planners, but that seems to have no impact whatsoever on any of the process that followed,” Ms Taggart said.
Ms Taggart urged the council to accept the motions put forward at the meeting so that the community could be engaged in a process to reshape the proposal to a “design and scale that’s appropriate to our community”.
Her neighbour Robert Cox said it was “outrageous” Prior and Hall’s application made out there was community support for the proposed four-storey buildings that surround the historic homestead, given just 20 people filled out a survey at an open day run by the developer and 11 indicated their support.
“The notion that 55 per cent – 11 persons – represents significant community support when there were only 20 respondents in a community that has approximately 5,500 electors is outrageous and not worthy of credence,” Mr Cox said.
The residents are pushing for the council and Prior and Hall to initiate a scheme amendment to give them another angle to tackle the proposal, as its currently zoned as residential with a density coding well below the proposed facility, as architect and urban designer Kate Mutzke pointed out.
“I am not opposed to developing the Woodside site for elderly accommodation,” she said.
“In fact I am completely behind supplying quality affordable housing for the elderly.
“I understand the benefits of density and mixed use developments, however, the issue needs to be addressed; this is a proposal with a density of R80 on an R15 zoning.
“And the recently reviewed and updated local planning strategy, which will guide the next review of the local planning scheme, doesn’t show high density on that site into the future either.
“Quite the opposite; it emphasises the importance of protecting the unique qualities of Woodside.”
In a related motion raised by Bronwyn Sibree and supported unanimously, she called for the council to contact the National Trust about the demolition of mid-century maternity buildings, as well as an independent heritage assessment.
A WA Heritage Council letter said “the proposed development will have a substantial impact on the values associated with its period of use as a maternity hospital as a result of this major loss of physical fabric”.
“The Heritage Council advised us this week that they still stand by those comments and concerns,” Ms Sibree said.
“I am struggling to reconcile myself with the heritage consultant’s conclusion in the heritage impact assessment that says, and I quote: ‘the development application drawing set indicates a scheme that does not significantly impact on the stated heritage values, and many of the impacts are on non-original fabric’.”
“This cultural history, this heritage and this streetscape, is a source of immense pride to the residents of Dalgety Street and to East Fremantle residents in general.
“However this will all be not only negatively impacted if this proposed development, with its substantial height, bulk and massive scale, were to go ahead in it its existing form, but destroyed forever.”
The council isn’t the decision-making body, but will have to send a report to the state-controlled JDAP which gets ultimate say.