Ruah appeals drop-in knockback

A NORTHBRIDGE drop-in centre for people living homeless that was denied an application to move will appeal Perth city council’s rejection. 

Homeless services operator Ruah wanted to move its Shenton Street drop-in centre 270 metres away – about the distance of a Minjee Lee tee shot – to James Street, as the Shenton Street site’s being turned into a seven-storey women and children’s refuge.

Perth councillors rejected the move at the May 31 council meeting after complaints from James Street residents and business owners who feared for security and the amenity of their street (“Homeless centre move voted down,” Voice, June 4, 2022).

Invested

The ‘no’ vote was unanimous save for Cr Viktor Ko, who abstained due to working as a doctor for Homeless Healthcare which provides medical services to Ruah.

Lord mayor Basil Zempilas said existing locals had invested a lot in the area and it was fair that homeless services be more spread out, and not all stuck in Northbridge and the CBD.

Ruah has decided to appeal the rejection and has a hearing listed at the State Administrative Tribunal for June 24. 

Perth council’s planning experts had recommended councillors approve Ruah’s move, which only required a pretty simple change to the planning use of the new premises to a “cultural and community centre”. 

The planners warned councillors they might face an appeal if they rejected it despite concerns about amenity, crime, or falling property values as “none of these matters form solid planning grounds upon which the proposal could reasonably be refused”.

The council’s own town planning scheme said a cultural or community centre was welcome in Northbridge, putting them on shaky ground. 

The council’s decision was slammed by state homelessness minister John Carey, who said the vote was “deeply saddening, and in effect, may shut down one of only two critical drop-in centres for our city. 

Worst fears

“This decision confirms our worst fears about people’s attitudes to social housing and homelessness. Everyone is happy to support social housing or homeless services, so long as it is not located close to their business or home.”

The previous council, which was suspended due to a state government-initiated inquiry, were sharply criticised for making some populist decisions that were counter to planning rules and that were later overturned by the SAT. Such decisions can prompt a “lengthy and unnecessary SAT process” taking more than six months, the inquiry report said.

The inquiry final report stated: “Council members do not have the luxury or flexibility to make decisions on legitimate applications just to appease or benefit an interested party, whether it is the developer or a group of objectors. Decisions should be based on the relevant planning framework and sound planning principles.”

by DAVID BELL

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