The shady character dividing a street

Leafy Wilberforce Street has had its neighbourliness sundered by a plan to retain the streetscape’s character.

A NEIGHBOURHOOD where residents once gathered for Christmas parties has been turned into “a street divided” over new rules to protect the area’s “character”.

Two years ago 52 per cent of residents on Wilberforce Street in Mount Hawthorn called on Vincent council to make their strip a “character area”. 

That’d mean future development would have to respect the community’s favourite aspects of the streetscape, from having architecture that fits the predominant historic style to maintaining an even row of front yards and not building carports right up against the verge.

But now as the process comes to a head there’s 11 residents remaining in favour and 12 are opposed. 

Wilberforce Street resident Tina Ly said the proposal had fractured neighbourly relations on the small street of 25 houses.

“Before the character street proposal was initiated, our street was actually pretty happy, as evidenced by our yearly Christmas party gatherings,” Ms Ly wrote.

“Now, I feel like this whole proposal has completely divided our street.”

She said going ahead with just 11 out of 23 residents in favour “is completely disrespectful to the majority of residents on Wilberforce Street, and appears very, very biased towards the council’s desire to make changes where they can.

“This is preposterous! We live in a democracy, yet I feel like our views and objection are not being heard at all.”

Most of the submissions in favour were based around keeping the street’s historic style and keeping out “cheap grey render” developments.

The council’s report said another benefit was “evidence that the planning framework can improve land value where important character aspects are maintained and enhanced”.

But Ms Ly is doubtful: “Could we please be presented with this evidence? The few real estate agents I have spoken with has said the opposite, that if you place two identical properties side by side – the one where restrictions are in place, the land value is less than the one with no restrictions.”

Vincent council’s character area policy requires at least 40 per cent of owners to nominate an area to get the ball rolling, then after consulting everyone and having experts look at the valuable streetscape elements it’s up to councillors to decide whether to instate the formal character area listing.  

Only councillors Suzanne Worner and Ross Ioppolo voted against making Wilberforce a character area. Cr Ioppolo said: “I want what the community wants, and if the community’s not clear about it – whether it’s 40 or 50 or 60 per cent – where it’s pretty much down the line I’m going to err on no change.”

But most councillors voted to go ahead and the new design guidelines for Wilberforce will be written into the council’s formal planning policies.

Deputy mayor Susan Gontaszewski said there was a lot that went into the final decision, including the advice from streetscape experts, and it wasn’t just a vote of residents in favour or against.

“Council has to consider the results of the consultation, the substantial issues raised, the technical input that we are provided, a raft of other policies,” Cr Gontaszewski said. 

“And also we need to make decisions for the good of the district as a whole even when we’re making decisions that will ultimately, primarily effect one segment of it. And I do know that the City of Vincent as a whole values heritage and values character.”

The council decided not to list a nearby part of Kalgoorlie Street. That strip was nominated with support of 51 per cent of residents in 2021, but now the support level’s dropped to about 23 per cent. 


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