Muscling in 

Cr Matthew Woodall fears the community will lose any control over what happens at Canning Bridge under proposed changes to state planning laws. Photo by Steve Grant

MELVILLE council sided with its residents over planning changes around Canning Bridge last week, but it could all be for nought if the WA government muscles in on the precinct, councillor Matthew Woodall has warned. 

At their monthly meeting last Tuesday, councillors chose to send the WA Planning Commission recommendations from a community reference group over those from the City’s hired consultants as part of a review of the Canning Bridge Activity Centre Plan. 

The reference group called for bonus height provisions to be completely scrapped, with key council ally Clive Ross arguing they were sending apartment towers sky-high without delivering any real benefits for the broader community. 

Reference group member Dale Kenny spoke at the meeting and said developers had been arguing that tall, thin towers avoided a bulky skyline, but the reality was that they cast larger and longer shadows across the surrounding community. 

Mr Kenny said the CRG also argued for more generous setbacks between buildings than planning consultants Hatch RobertsDay, as it could create more usable spaces. 

“Eight metres between buildings is an opportunity for deep soil and trees, alfrescos, and super mini-parks,” Mr Kenny said. 

HRD had recommended four metres between buildings at the front, widening to eight metres further back.

Mr Kenny said the pace and scale of development in the precinct was well ahead of targets set by the WAPC, and this was putting pressure on the council.

“The infrastructure is lagging behind,” he said.

“Your community has made it very clear that the current Canning Bridge Activity Centre Plan is not delivering.

“They are suffering emotionally, physically and financially.”

Mr Kenny finished by urging the council to adopt the CRG recommendations, which were overwhelmingly popular during the consultation process.

“Council could do it now and send a message to the community that someone is listening,” he said to applause from the 30-strong public gallery.

The changes weren’t unanimously supported, with veteran councillor Duncan Macphail complaining that Cr Ross’s late amendments left the officer’s recommendation being “guillotined  on the night”.

“With any development, you need the odd carrot as well as the odd stick,” Cr Macphail said in reference to removing bonus heights.

“By throwing the baby out with the bathwater, you lose the ability to affect the type of development you end up with,” he warned.

In the end the CRG’s 11 variations that differ from the consultants were all adopted and will be sent to the WAPC, which holds the final say on whether they get included in the updated plan.

But Cr Woodall said that might mean nothing under changes to the state’s planning laws announced by McGowan government in February.

With Canning Bridge listed as having “state importance”, virtually all major developments in the area could end up being decided by a powerful Special Matters DAP with no community representation and the ability to bypass local planning schemes. It would have the say on projects worth $50m or more – pretty much everything likely to go up in the area.

“This body is a successor to the SDAU originally set up with Covid to assist with approvals at a time of economic uncertainty,” Cr Woodall said.

“It is not clear why it needs to become permanent, and in any event the SDAU has only determined 16 applications in over two years, demonstrating it is ineffective and inefficient.

Unsurprisingly, though, it has approved 100 per cent of applications.

“This should ring alarm bells for residents in the Canning Bridge area, who may lose any protection that a revised CBACP might otherwise bring.”

Cr Woodall also fears that if “state” precincts prove popular with the government, they may start imposing them across other areas of the city.

He successfully moved a motion at last week’s meeting for the City to write to planning minister Rita Saffioti and state politicians opposing the proposed changes to the planning act, saying he was also concerned about more power going to the the state-controlled panels that assess developments between those that go to the council and those that go to the Special Matters DAP.

“In the context of Melville, this will effectively mean that all development applications (except single homes) will be determined by either the DAP or the SMDAP instead of the council,” Cr Woodall said.

“This will reduce the community’s input on developments in our suburbs and adjacent to residential homes.

“Overall the DAP system has failed to meet community expectations regarding new developments.”

His motion passed with unanimous support.


Leave a Reply