Push to fast-track parks

A COUNCIL reference group which has broken new ground in WA’s planning regime, has welcomed Melville’s decision to fast-track two new parks in the Canning Bridge district.

At Melville’s July meeting, councillor Clive Ross moved to set a hard deadline for completion of the first open space on the old riverside senior citizens centre in Mt Pleasant by December 2024.

A staff recommendation had only called for works to start in the 2024/25 financial year.

Cr Ross also called for the second open space, across Canning Highway on the Applecross side, to be brought forward two years so it would be completed by June 2026.

His motion was carried 8/4 with with the support of mayor George Gear and councillors Glynis Barber, Jane Edinger, Katy Mair, Margaret Sandford, Karen Wheatland and Nick Pazolli.

• Christine Rowe, councillors Clive Ross and Margaret Sandford and Rosemary Waldron-Hartfield from the Council Reference Group.

Councillors against included Matthew Woodall, Nicole Robins, Jennifer Spanbroek and Duncan Macphail, who argued that because the Canning Bridge development was expected to take 40 years to complete, there was no hurry to rush the projects.

But the City of Melville Council Reference Group said the Applecross site, on Moreau Mews, would become the suburb’s town centre.

“This public open space will be designed to encourage adjoining developments to open onto the site, such as cafes and restaurants with alfresco dining areas,” the group said in a statement to the Herald.

“The Canning Bridge Plan promised residents a vibrant, lively, attractive Canning Bridge which current developments have failed to deliver.

“The creation of a village centre is a positive step forward and this investment by the city in the public realm is very welcome.

“In addition to providing public open space, green space to combat heat islands created by high-rise development, and replace the loss of trees, is critical for the area.

“Creating a village heart will provide an attractive space where residents and visitors of all ages ot the city of Melville can gather and relax.”

A staff report says turning Moreau Mews into public space will be a “multimillion-dollar project” and suggesting $4 million be tucked away in the city’s long-term financial plan.

Part of the funding was expected to come from rental and parking income currently generated on the site and expected to bring in $1.1m over the next five years, but the new deadline for construction will chip some of that off.

The Herald understands part of the motivation to bring the deadline forward was a fear that staff would drag their feet, as both sites had been earmarked for developments which could have generated millions of dollars for the City’s coffers.

But at the meeting, Cr Ross gave an impassioned speech encouraging his colleagues to support his amendment.

“A town centre is needed now to influence the design of adjoining developments and be a benefit to the community’s health and wellbeing,” Cr Ross said.

His motion was seconded by Cr Margaret Sandford, who also sat on the reference group.

“It is unacceptable for residents to wait 16 years, from the inception of the Canning Bridge Activity Centre Plan in 2013 until 2029, for the City to provide public open space,” Cr Sandford said.

Meanwhile, Melville mayor George Gear said he believed the reference group had created history following the council adopting its recommendations after a review of the Canning Bridge plan.

The council had taken the unusual step of appointing the group to develop its own report while planning firm Hatch RobertsDay took a more formal approach, working with the City’s planning department and the WA Planning Commission.

Although there was criticism that the reference group’s input and recommendations might be rejected outright by the WAPC and lose the City its opportunity to influence changes to the much-maligned plan, Mr Gear said he felt the critics had underestimated the planning authority.

He said the WAPC had agreed to include the reference group in its discussions with the City, the first time he was aware an community group had been afforded this honour.

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