Meltham cold-shoulder

NEW Bayswater mayor Dan Bull has lambasted the WA Planning Commission for ignoring the community’s wishes in supporting a new developer-friendly structure plan for Meltham.

The proposed plan was submitted by consultants WA Planning Solutions, on behalf of developer Pindan and land owners with substantial holdings in the area, and permits six-storey buildings.

Bayswater council undertook community consultation about the plan earlier this year and received 355 submissions, with most people opposing it.

Height limit

Eighty three people were in favour because they thought it’d bring more life to the area, improve business and increase public transport use, and another 52 supported it with modifications.

The Voice spoke to many of the people against and found they weren’t the usual “no change ever” or NIMBY crowd.

Many wanted the structure plan to cover a wider area and allow a height limit of about three storeys across a bigger patch of the suburb, instead of allowing six storeys in a small area.

Based on that feedback, Bayswater councillors recommended the WAPC reject the structure plan, or failing that at least include conditions like a lower height, an intersection upgrade to handle the increased traffic and a requirement for more public open space.

Cr Bull says the WAPC ignored that feedback.

• Bayswater mayor Dan Bull and newbie councillor Giorgia Johnson (left) gather with Meltham locals who are furious they were left out of the structure plan guiding the future of their suburb. Photo by Steve Grant

“The WAPC’s approach to growth around activity centres is tantamount to drawing a circle around Meltham Station and marking everything inside as high density—It’s just not that simple,” he says.

“Council and its community have extensive knowledge of the area surrounding Meltham Station. This type of development needs to be considered in a local context, in line with the typography and character of the area.

“The WAPC has ignored the city’s concerns regarding permitted heights, development density and the provision of public open space.

“The WAPC’s approval will allow developments of up to six storeys in some areas which is significantly greater than the height recommended by the city.”

“The approval also ignores council’s request that the structure plan identify new areas of public open space.

“The Meltham Station Precinct does not contain a single area of useable open space. This could leave future residents with limited access to neighbourhood parks.

“That’s contrary to our Garden City ethos and one of the basic amenities expected by all communities.”

The WAPC has recommended the council develop new policies to increase residential densities within a 400 metre walking distance from the station.

The structure plan will now go through another round of amendments before final approval from the WAPC.

Cr Bull says it’s not the first “out of touch” decision by the WAPC recently.

“We also saw it with their decision to ignore council and allow significant development adjacent to the Eric Singleton Bird Sanctuary,” he says.

“We also saw it with the recent decision on a town planning scheme amendment that the city proposed to control the proliferation of out of scale, lookalike apartments through the City’s Character Protection Areas, and now we’ve seen it with the Meltham Station Precinct Structure Plan.

“Why bother consulting with the community and with council if you’re going to ignore the feedback you receive.

“This matter needs to be addressed as a matter of urgency.”

Many residents called in to give us their reasons for opposing the structure plan. Sandra Sjollema said “we are just so disappointed in the outcome”. She says “we never said the area doesn’t need to have density…we are not NIMBYs” but like many locals she’d prefer a three-storey heights throughout the TOD catchment area.

Resident Jan Martin says “we’re smart enough to know [change] has to happen, it’s just about the scale…The fact is we are around a trainstation and we do need to increase density”. She said she’d be happy with three or four storeys across a wider area, but “six storeys on a hill equals an eyesore.”

 by DAVID BELL

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