Policy renos

Relieved at finally getting character retention for part of Cleaver Street, West Perth local Marie Slyth chats with Vincent mayor Emma Cole. Photo by David Bell  

AFTER years of disputes, frustrations and delays around Vincent council’s heritage and character area retention scheme, there’s finally some renovations coming to speed things up.

The policy was intended to let people nominate their neighbourhood as a heritage area or character retention area, to ensure future development fitted the existing character.

Owners of at least 40 per cent of properties in a proposed area had to agree to nominate it, then neighbours would gather for council-facilitated workshops to nut out the exact details they liked and discuss what to encode into a policy framework. The council would have the final vote over whether to declare a retention area. 

But in the six years the policy’s been around progress has been achingly slow and has led to heated arguments among neighbours, and only a few small areas have been declared.  

The process “took significant time, did not result in a clear understanding by the community of the proposal and led to disagreement within the community and frustration in the delay of an outcome”, a Vincent council report says. 

Under the new policy locals will still nominate an area and gather the 40 per cent of signatures, but instead of public workshops bogged down with planning policy framework, council officers will do the work of translating what locals like about the street into planning-speak and drafting up rules.

Once guidelines are ready the workshops will be held, with a council vote still the ultimate decider. 

West Perth local Marie Slyth is hopeful a quicker process will mean fewer old houses are demolished while waiting for the nominations to be processed.

“It’s so important we protect this slice of history and hold onto these beautiful homes,” she says.

She’d nominated several streets over the years but said it was always a race against time: In some cases like that of Florence Street, it took so long for the nomination to be finalised that a lot of the old homes had already been demolished or sold to new owners who didn’t like the retention area idea. 

Mayor Emma Cole says “we were losing momentum if we can’t act quickly on a nomination request”. 

She says guidelines stemming from the new system will still be based on the residents’ nomination but be quicker for council staff to draw up and then put out for feedback. 

Rather than tackling whole chunks of a suburb, smaller sections are encouraged to nominate. Then if nearby segments like the idea they can jump onboard too, rather than trying to get a widespread area to reach consensus. 

The policy changes still have to be advertised then it’s hoped five nominated areas in the backlog can be handled. 


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