Lane sale irks locals

PERTH councillors have voted to sell a public laneway to a company owned by mining and media magnate Kerry Stokes, amid concerns from locals it might be closed off if sold.

Comserv, a subsidiary of Mr Stokes’ company Australian Capital Equity, made an unsolicited bid earlier this year to buy 177sqm of West Perth’s Altona Laneway.

That strip of the laneway is flanked by two Comserv-owned properties but it’s also used by nearby residents and service vehicles. 

Lord mayor Basil Zempilas was not present during the discussion or the vote, as he disclosed an interest given he’s employed by SevenWest Media, where ACE is a major shareholder.

At their August 29 meeting councillors Liam Gobbert, Clyde Bevan, Rebecca Gordon, and Catherine Lezer voted in favour of the sale, with a price of $675,000.

Councillors Viktor Ko and Sandy Anghie voted against the sale.

Cr Anghie, who’s running against Mr Zempilas for lord mayor in October, said “we have carried out public consultation and the responses that we had were overwhelmingly in the negative… in my view the concerns raised by residents and ratepayers have not been adequately addressed”.

Many locals are concerned about losing access. The council admin’s report says access will be retained for now, pending an upcoming “West Perth Laneways Study” due to start in 2024. 

“The city has never sold a laneway before,” Cr Anghie said. “It does seem a bit back-to-front to be selling the laneway before completing the West Perth laneway review and strategy.”

Cr Anghie noted it was a departure from standard operating procedure, where “we’ve been told that strategy must come first, particularly in relation to the city’s property portfolio”.

The week before nearby apartment resident Heidi Shaddick had said she had “concerns about the lack of transparency in the process and the lack of strategy in respect to the sale… 

“From an outsider’s perspective it appears that the deal is underhand as there has been a lack of information on the details of the proposed purchase.

“While we appreciate the commercial-in-confidence nature of the proposed deal there has been no information provided about which 177sqm of the laneway is being proposed for purchase, or what the purchaser intends to do with the laneway.”

While there’s been no publicly-announced plans for the laneway, some councillors gave hints that a housing development was in store once the two Comserv-owned properties were linked.

Cr Gordon said the sale was “a really exciting opportunity for West Perth, if not the city as a whole, to bring vibrancy by way of greater residential population to West Perth… the outcomes of a possible development there are much more significant than the actual dollar value we will get for the purchase price.”


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